Oberlin Blogs


March 14, 2015

Brendan Nuse ’17 and Frances Casey ’17

Today is March 14th, 2015. This is a momentous day. It's the first anniversary of my and Frances's blogging debut! In order to commemorate such an exciting occasion, we decided to make a list of some ways that our lives have changed over the past year.

When I was applying to colleges, I had this weird idea that after I got into and went to college, my life would pretty much be set, and would be pretty much the same until I graduated from college. I don't have any idea what put that idea into my head, but I was definitely incorrect. Besides the fact that pretty much everyone's life changes in some way in any given year, there are a lot of changes that go along with the transition from the first to second year of college. This means that there might be some considerable overlap between our lists, so bear with us - hopefully we'll each bring our own insight to any shared experiences. Anyway, here's my list of the 10 (great) ways my life has changed from pi day in 2014 to pi day in 2015!


View of the snowy ground looking out of a Burton window

As I briefly mentioned in our last post, Frances and I both spent almost all of our time in Barrows (our dorm) last year. Many of our earliest posts were written and posted in the Barrows kitchen, the Barrows lounge, or the Barrows lobby. However, as Barrows is a part of FYRE (First-Year Residential Experience), and therefore only open to first-year students, this lifestyle had to come to an end.

So it happened. I moved from Barrows to Burton. It was a very strenuous move - a whole two buildings away. I love Burton, and I am so happy that I did not have the opportunity to live in Barrows a second time. My room is about twice as large as it was last year (and much cleaner). The bathrooms not only have special flush toilets to save water, but also have large enough stalls that one can get in and out of them without any trouble! There are T.V.s that work, and there is always hot water in the showers. Basically, Burton is awesome and my standard of living is much higher this year than it was last year.

Despite my happiness with my current living situation, I am also glad that I lived in Barrows last year. In Barrows I could always go down the hall to the kitchen or downstairs to the lobby and find someone to talk to. I knew pretty much everyone who lived around me, and I felt like I had a good network of people around me at all times. Conversely, in Burton this year I have yet to speak to anyone that I did not know before living in Burton. If I was on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and the million-dollar question was the name of the people living in the room next to me, I would go home without $1,000,000.

This all might sound a little negative, but in reality it's the complete opposite. While both of the dorms I've lived in have had their pros and cons, they were each the perfect experience for that point in my life. I didn't mind how run-down Barrows was because it was easy to make friends there. Now that I've been at college for a while, I'm not as concerned with making friends, so I find the comfortable living situation in Burton preferable.

2.New Roommate

Along with my new dorm, I also have a new roommate! I would put some pictures of him here (I have more than I probably should), but he would probably be convinced that someone was going to steal his identity - he's the type of person who gets angry when people use emojis or send Snapchats. Despite essentially being a 60-year-old in a 20-year-old's body, he's definitely a good person to live with.

When I was getting ready to come to Oberlin, I chose to fill out a form to be matched with a roommate. The people I know who did this had mixed results. (Side note: everyone I know who chose roommates based on people they had "met" through the Oberlin 2017 Facebook page had a bad rooming experience, so I would not recommend this.) Two of my friends were matched up as roommates last year, and they immediately became best friends. They chose to room together again this year, and they are closer than ever. Most people I know had roommates who they lived well with even though they did not become close friends. As for me, I'm glad I had the opportunity to choose my roommate this year. However, convincing my indecisive roommate to live with me was somewhat of a challenge. I decided to throw all self-respect out the window and give him a PowerPoint presentation on why we should room together (in the Barrows lounge - where else?). Once he finally realized that we were roommates who were meant to be (like Joey and Chandler or Bert and Ernie), this beautiful roommateship was born.

In all seriousness, this roommate pairing has worked out well for the both of us (as much as you might not think it would work out for him based on the fact that I was crazy enough to make a PowerPoint to convince him to room with me). I'm very type-A, while he is very laid-back, and that really makes it so that we balance each other out and live well together.

3.Declared Some Majors

When we first made this blog, about 99% of my unscheduled time was spent worrying about what I should major in. I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do with my life (who is?), but at least I have one thing (well, two) figured out.

By spring break of last year, I had my options narrowed down to four possibilities: East Asian Studies, Economics, Environmental Studies, and Geology. On my way home from Oberlin for break, I entertained my parents by explaining the pros and cons of every possible combination of majors and minors of those four departments. That great effort did not lead me to an answer. Eventually, a few weeks after break I stopped trying to convince myself that I had the math ability to have a successful future as an economist or geologist (did you know most geology PhD programs require students to have taken multivariable calculus, linear algebra, and a year of physics? I didn't, and I certainly don't want to put myself through any of those things, let alone all of them). So, after a lot of stress, I ended up choosing the two majors I was most considering when I came to college in the first place: Environmental Studies and East Asian Studies.

I could probably spend an entire post talking about each of the departments I'm majoring in (maybe that's a post in our future?), but I'm going to talk about both of them briefly here. The Environmental Studies department is one of the most popular departments here on campus. After all, Oberlin tends to attract a lot of people interested in environmental protection. The Environmental Studies major itself is super interdisciplinary - unless I'm mistaken, it's the only major that requires courses in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. In the two years I've been here, I've taken courses for my Environmental Studies major in geology, biology, economics, and a variety of other disciplines. The interdisciplinary nature (haha) of the major was a large part of what attracted me to it initially. I was (and still am) interested in so many different subjects that I wanted to major in something that allowed me to study as many of them as possible. I'm still glad that I have the opportunity to take a lot of different courses, but I'm sometimes worried that the structure of the major will make it so that I end up with a basic grounding in many different subjects, but no strong knowledge of anything at all. I would go more into how the department tries to confront this problem through various methods like pathways and capstones, but that's a post for a different day. In my case, I know that I will leave college with at least one field of deep study because of my East Asian Studies major. Basically, I'm going to keep taking Chinese until the end of time. I'm a little wary about talking about the Chinese department because I know that if I start talking about my love for them I'll end up using way more space than I have, so I'll just keep it at this: I love the Chinese department and they're perhaps my favorite thing about Oberlin. The East Asian Studies major isn't just language (you can also take Japanese) work, though. We also have to take courses about our country of interest (in my case, China) and East Asia as a whole. So far, I've taken history and politics courses, but there are also courses on literature, cinema, religion, art history, and a variety of other topics.

I'm really happy that I chose two awesome departments to major in, and I doubt that I could have made a better choice. However, that doesn't stop me from wondering about what could have been. I loved English and History classes in high school - why did I never consider either of those majors? Or maybe I would have fallen in love with Anthropology or Philosophy or Comparative American Studies if I had taken some courses in one of those departments. I guess I'll never know. However, all of this could theoretically change in the future - I've taken two awesome (environmental) economics courses this year, so I'm still vaguely considering minoring in Economics, and I recently found out that I could theoretically end up accidentally minoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. This year has brought some huge changes in figuring out what I'm doing with my academic career, so who knows what new awesome subject I may have discovered a year from now? I'm excited to find out.

4.No More Meat :)

This year, I finally went through with my long-held desire to stop eating meat. I haven't had any problems with this at Oberlin, and it has been easier to eat fewer to no dairy products as well, now that I am in a co-op and have constant access to plant-based protein sources like chickpeas, beans of many varieties, lentils, soy milk, and tofu. I have honestly never been happier with any decision I have made in my entire life, and it has impacted my life in so many ways, including even my academic interests. Hooray!

5.The Co-op Life

Two students posing with matching sweaters
Pyle pals!

Speaking of food, I finally wised up this semester and started eating in a co-op. Specifically, I eat in Pyle, which is a co-op located in Asia House. I don't want to get too much into the details of Pyle or OSCA as a whole, because that's really something we should leave for another post (and something that was previously addressed when we talked about food). However, I have really enjoyed eating in Pyle. At first I was worried that I would not be able to find food that I like, since I tend to be quite picky, but as it turns out there has never been a time where I was completely disappointed in the type or quality of food at a meal. Maybe it helps that I actually really like rice and beans.

In addition to the food itself, I've also gotten closer to a few of my friends who are also eating in Pyle, learned some co-op jargon, and became a Tofu Maker. It's a great time.

6.Wised Up and Had a Warm Winter Term

We've already blogged extensively about Winter Term, but I would just like to point out the great personal growth that I made. In my naïve life as a first-year, I thought that it would be a good idea to stay in Oberlin since I love Oberlin sooooo much. However, there's nothing to make you like Oberlin less than being stuck there in the middle of a polar vortex. A month of getting emails about how I shouldn't go outside because I could die due to -45°F wind chill.

This year, I was smart enough to take myself to Florida, where I got to experience temperatures in the 70s during January - if you think about it, that's a difference of over 100 degrees between my two Winter Term experiences. Good job making good decisions, Brendan.

7.Confirmed the Existence of Ariana Grande

I recently had a conversation with some fellow bloggers about how lots of people at Oberlin have very similar music taste. I am not one of those people. This time last year, I was annoying all my friends by constantly playing Ariana Grande music. This year, I'm annoying all my friends by constantly talking about how I SAW ARIANA GRANDE IN THE FLESH.

On March 5th, Ariana Grande came to Cleveland, and I had the good fortune of getting to hear her LIVE. Now I have confirmation that she is real. This experience was my first time actually making the trip into Cleveland. I remember a lot of times on college tours, people would ask whether or not colleges were close enough to cities to take advantage of the opportunities they hold. I had always found that weird, especially after coming to Oberlin and realizing that I never have any need to leave campus. However, now I've realized the truth. If Cleveland were further away, I couldn't have seen ARIANA GRANDE. That would have been truly tragic.

8.Started Taking ExCos

Last year, I had too many credits to take any ExCos, and, quite frankly, I wasn't that interested in taking any. However, this year I decided that I needed to take advantage of a unique Oberlin opportunity. For those of you who don't know, ExCo stands for Experimental College. ExCos are courses taught by Oberlin students, staff, or community members for credit. Kind of like how Winter Term can be a project about pretty much anything, ExCos can be taught about pretty much anything. They range from academic ("Alternate Schools of Economic Thought") to not very academic ("Introduction to Pottery"). There are athletic courses ("Beginning Fencing"), foreign language courses ("Elementary Korean I & II"), and courses about video games ("SmashCo"). I've found that ExCos are a great opportunity to get involved with something that you've never tried or something that you already know you enjoy.

Last semester, I took Eastwood Outdoor Classroom. For that ExCo, we designed lesson plans and taught lessons about (very, very, very basic) environmental science for kindergarteners at the local K-3 elementary school. This was a good way for me to start taking ExCos, as I was interested in the environmental aspect of it and I also wanted to get involved with the community. The class ended up being a good experience, as I got to make some very small friends over in the elementary school, and I learned more about teaching, too. I'm generally for any activity that brings the college and the town closer together, so I was happy to be involved with something like EOC.

This semester, I'm actually taking two awesome ExCos. The first of these is Chinese Economy and Culture. Since I'm studying China and will (hopefully) be going there in the fall, I thought that I should make sure to get some more insight into it before I'm thrown into it. The three international students from China who teach the class are all really nice and very enthusiastic. The class is particularly interesting because of the variety of students - there are some students who are East Asian Studies majors like I am, but there are also some students who have pretty much no knowledge of China at all. This makes our class discussions pretty interesting to listen to and participate in. I've also been introduced to a lot of Chinese television shows (one of our teachers loves Chinese reality T.V.), as well as a lot of Chinese singers. It's interesting to learn about my main field of study in a class outside of the coursework I'm formally taking for my major.

"Animorphs" gameboy game disk
Did you know that there is an Animorphs video game that's a really bad knock-off of the Pokemon games? Now you do.

The other ExCo I'm taking is the love of my life. The...drumroll...ANIMORPHS EXCO. That's right. An ExCo about Animorphs. If you don't know what Animorphs is...I feel sorry for you. Also it's a SciFi book (and apparently television) series about middle to high school students who can morph into animals fighting alien invaders called the Yeerks. I could go into a lot more depth, but there are 54 books in the main series plus 10 companion novels, so that's really not something we want to get into. Basically, it's a series that I loved in ~2nd-5th grade. I don't love it any less now (though I have found that my favorite and least favorite characters have changed drastically over the past decade). This class is amazing and everything an ExCo should be. It's super fun - I look forward to it all week, but it's also extremely well organized. The syllabus features some really deep discussion questions, and we always hit on some interesting themes in class. Also, for my midterm I can either write an essay about Animorphs, or write fanfiction about Animorphs. I don't really know what to do because I really want to write both of those things - honestly, I'll probably end up doing just that.

9.Got Involved

My first year at Oberlin, while I did do things, I never really felt like I did anything. In high school I was always involved in a lot of things, and I often felt pretty overwhelmed. I wanted to avoid running into the same problem in college, so I toned it down. While I was involved in a few activities, most of my life revolved around my classes and my campus jobs. The prospies that I hosted often asked me what I did on campus, and I always felt like I had to desperately scramble for responses in order to not look pathetic.

This year, I tried to get involved in some more activities that I was interested in. In addition to the activities I had before (like Oberlin College Choir! Represent!) and taking some fun ExCos and joining a co-op, I joined Oberlin Animal Rights (which I will hopefully talk about more in a future blog post), started hosting a radio show, and even had a short-lived slam poetry career, among other activities. Doing some more things with my life made me feel a lot better about my Oberlin experience. I went from never leaving Barrows to seeing people I know while walking from class to a workgroup to a group meeting to work. While I'm glad I didn't overwhelm myself with activities initially, as it made it a lot easier to adjust to college academically, my whole life is a lot more in balance now that I have things I like doing here besides class.

10.Had a Whole Year of Blogging!

Two students in four different picture posing for photos
A beautiful collage of a beautiful friendship

That's right! It's been a whole year. It's weird to think about, given that I have been reading these blogs since I first found out about Oberlin during my sophomore year of high school. For my Driver's Education final project, I had to plan an itinerary for a road trip, and, being the nerdy teenager I was and still am, I chose to make my trip college-visit themed. When I (of course) stopped at Oberlin, I factored in time to walk around the campus looking for some of the bloggers whose blogs I read so frequently (some of whom I have actually met now!). It's crazy to think that now I am one of those people, and even crazier to think that I have been for an entire year. Like pretty much everything else on this list, it's been both a pretty big and a pretty awesome change.

March 14, 2015. What a glorious day. (Side note: Can y'all believe it's 2015 already? I still feel like it should be 2012 - I'm also feeling really old these days.) It's not only the ultimate Pi day. On this day, one year ago, Brendan and I published our first blog post. I remember sitting in Stevenson dining hall with Brendan one afternoon, making a joke about how we should apply for an Oberlin blog called "The Bromigos" (stupid inside joke that's not actually funny, sorry)...and deciding to do it. Who knew that the two of us would end up where we are today--campus celebrities! Other students bow before us and present us with gifts at every occasion. Our posts have truly touched the heart of the Oberlin community.

Just kidding--we get furtive glances from first-years that indicate that they know who we are, but unfortunately, our blog hasn't brought Brendan and I much campus fame.
A lot has changed in the last year. Being a first-year is a pretty unique experience, and I suppose it's natural to experience some changes as one transitions into being an upperclassman. Here are some changes I've noticed:
Student sits on a tree swing in Tappan

Here's baby Frances during Orientation.

1. I've figured out how to pick classes.

Choosing classes is more difficult during your first semester than at any other time. First-years have the opportunity to choose two classes over the summer, and choose a second two after arriving on campus. Usually, during the add-drop period (the first two weeks of class), it's pretty easy to change your classes and schedule around, if you decide you aren't into what you signed up for. During add-drop during my first semester, I was still figuring everything out; finding my way around campus, who I would sit with in the dining hall, and how to live with a roommate--and I wasn't down to add classes to that ever-growing list. I just stayed in the classes I had picked blindly over the summer/on my computer during orientation, and that ended up being a mistake.

I really liked two of the classes I picked, and the others...not so much. From the first couple of classes, it would have been clear to me now that these courses were not for me. Unfortunately, I was still in this high school mindset that made me think that I didn't need to like all of my classes. I thought that taking a class that seemed too hard or not interesting was acceptable. I know better now. After a rocky first semester, classes-wise, I now know that I should be taking classes that I like, because I'm here to learn what I want to learn, and I deserve it.

Having chosen sixteen classes now, I have a better idea of what I like to have in a professor, a course's content, and I have a better understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses. I'm no longer scared of add-drop, and have achieved great feats of schedule-switchery after classes have already started. Picking classes has also gotten easier now that I have a better idea of what I want to study. I totally encourage those who want to use their first semesters to take a bunch of different classes from different departments to do so--exploration is so important! By taking time to explore early on, you'll be surer of your choice of major later. Which brings me to...

2. I have a major now!

During the last four semesters, I've considered majoring or minoring in Environmental Studies, Art History, Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Middle East and North African Studies, and what I'm now actually majoring in, History. I'd say that this indecisiveness is pretty typical of the liberal arts experience. I know very few people (for real--like two) who came to campus knowing exactly what they wanted to major in. I always liked history in school, but I never really considered majoring in it until I realized that 50% of the classes I was taking were in the History department, and that my subconscious was probably trying to tell me something. I'll probably end up with a minor, because I couldn't possibly just study one thing, but I haven't decided what that will be yet. Sometimes, I'll hear that somebody else is majoring in Classical Civilizations or Sociology, and I'll think wow, I should do that. But then I remember how much I like thinking about African youth social movements or birth control in colonial America, and I remain convinced that I've picked the right major for me.

3. I've changed my mind about studying abroad.

A year ago, I was pretty sure I didn't want to take a semester abroad. The combination of not knowing what I was majoring in or where I wanted to go stressed me out, and the whole idea of living abroad is about 1,000 miles outside my comfort zone. But last semester, I came to the realization that I would probably regret not going abroad more than I would regret going. It seems stupid not to take advantage of this opportunity. Also, I remember Eleanor Roosevelt saying something about doing stuff that scares you,. So, I decided to go abroad next spring, probably to Amsterdam or Copenhagen. I won't know for sure where I'll be going, or what program I'll be a part of until the fall, so stay tuned.
Brendan is going to China in the fall, and since I'm going to be abroad in the spring, we won't both be on campus for a whole year! This is true for a bunch of other people I know, too. It's strange to realize that the people you see all the time will suddenly be gone for so long. Then again, with social media, nobody is ever really gone. I know that I'll enjoy seeing pictures and updates from all the places around the world.

4. My life no longer revolves around my dorm.

Last year, I made the majority of my fellow-first-year friends in my dorm, Barrows Hall. Barrows is a First Year Residential Experience (FYRE) hall, meaning that only first-years live there. Since most of my friends also lived there, Barrows was the de facto meeting place, the place to do homework together, and the place where we would watch movies, play Cards Against Humanity, and the place where I knew that I could walk upstairs and find somebody I knew in two minutes.

I really liked having this experience my first year, because I really valued having friends nearby and the community that it fostered. As I was just starting college, living in a FYRE dorm made me feel more comfortable during the transition time during my first semester. It was also nice to know that everyone in Barrows was experiencing things for the first time together: midterms, finals, Winter Term, snow, etc.

This year I moved to Noah, which is a dorm right next door to Barrows, but with only sophomores, juniors, and seniors living there. I live with my friend Emma (whom I met in Barrows!) in a room much bigger than those in Barrows. Living in Noah has been pretty great so far, but it doesn't have the same community feel as Barrows did. I don't know a lot of people in the building, and most of my friends from my freshman year are scattered around campus in other dorms.

There is totally an upside to this, though! I have met a lot of new people, from Noah, Harkness (the co-op I joined last fall), and from the dorms my friends live in. There's more variety in spending time in different places, and I feel comfortable in more spaces on campus.
A snowy ground and a pink and orange sky

Here's the view out of my window from my current room.

5. I figured out how to Winter.

As a tender Californian, my first winter here in Ohio was brutal; and I missed out on the worst of it (the infamous Polar Vortex hit during Winter Term). Still, it took me some time to learn that long underwear is always a good idea, gloves are a must, and if you aren't wearing a hat, you're just asking for your ears to fall off. As my dad says, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." That's easy for him to say over in the Bay Area, where the temperature occasionally dips into the 40s, but it holds true on the wild tundra of the Midwest as well. Dressing correctly is the key to ensuring that all of your extremities make it to spring.

I remember this one time, probably last February, I was walking across Tappan Square one night with my roommate, as it snowed sideways into my face (this is literally the worst) and the wind chill felt like it was permeating into my core, and thinking, This is literally the coldest I have ever been in my life. If I was wearing long underwear and had layered more creatively, that would not have been the case! I'm so wise now, guys.
This winter, armed with my new knowledge, I was much better off. We had a couple of weeks in February during which the temperature didn't exceed eight degrees or so, and I survived! I invested in a quality fleece sweatshirt (for over a sweater and under my parka, of course), I wore leggings under my jeans every day, and I put all the lip balm on. I am here to tell the tale.

If I do end up studying in Denmark next year, at least I'll be prepared.


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