Oberlin Blogs

From a Chilean Summer to an Oberlin Winter Term

January 30, 2017

Lilah Drafts-Johnson ’18

Winter Term is always an interesting time. I've spent my past winter terms in very different ways. My first year, I spent the two weeks volunteering for a domestic violence prevention organization in my hometown. The second two weeks I completed a training with the Lorain County Rape Crisis Center, in order to receive certification to work their crisis hotline. My second year, I went to Guadalajara, Mexico, and spent the month living with a homestay family and taking intensive Spanish classes. One philosophy I've heard with winter term is to spend one year in your hometown, one year on campus, one year in a new city, and one year abroad. I've done a little of each of these, but this year I opted to spend the entire term on campus.

I decided to do this for a few reasons - first of all, I really missed Oberlin. After spending a semester abroad, I was eager to get back on campus and catch up with old friends. I also hoped to settle back into my Oberlin routine before the hectic add-drop week that has now arrived. I'm also a track and field captain, and as a good chunk of the indoor season takes place during the month of January, it made sense to be on-campus and training with the team.

My winter term project this year was through the Bonner Center for Service and Learning. Initially, I had planned to help develop a mentorship program for student athletes at the high school. When I was a senior in high school and deciding whether or not to run in college, it was a difficult decision. College coaches would call me as a part of the recruitment process, and I was frequently overwhelmed by all the decisions I had to make, and figuring out the balance of choosing a school I liked as well as a school I could run at. When I look back at that time, I feel like I would have appreciated a mentor - someone older (and wiser) than me who had gone through the recruitment process and could talk to me about their experience as a collegiate athlete. I was hoping that creating a partnership between the high school in town and the college athletes at Oberlin would be a way to use the resources the colleges has to benefit high school students.

To cut to the chase - my project definitely did not go as expected. First of all, I was much busier than anticipated. Being away for a semester meant that I had a lot of loose ends to tie up/untie. I had to make sure my classes transfer from abroad, make sure I'm registered to be on campus, and unpack my things from storage to move into my room, to list a few things. I also had a lot of people to catch up with - professors, coaches, teammates and friends. There were also several early January deadlines I had, and I ended up spending the first half of winter term working on an application for a scholarship for grad school things. This, combined with track practice and navigating my new position as a captain, took up a lot of my free time. Whew. As I write about all this, I realize how unmanageable this schedule was. Just typing about it makes me exhausted. A snapshot of a typical day this winter term is:

7:00-8:00am - Wake up, eat breakfast, etc.
8:00-10:00am - 2 hours of work at my job
10:00-11:00am - Weightlifting with the track team
11:00-12:00pm - Try to get an hour of work done on my WT project
12:00-1:00pm - Lunch
1:00-3:00pm - Try to get work done on my WT project OR miscellaneous meeting
3:00-5:30pm - Track practice.
5:30-7:00pm - Stretching, showering, eat dinner
7:00-9:00pm - More WT project work OR socializing with friends/playing music/writing
9:00-10:00pm - Writing and getting ready for next day, hopefully in bed before 11.

Usually you can count on one or two meetings being thrown in there as well. I really enjoyed my Winter Term, but I could have used some more free time.

My actual project has been re-directed and re-shaped and has ended up being a lot more about personal learning and understanding of the town and college dynamic than the implementation of a new program. I'm happy with all that I learned, but also a little disappointed in myself that I didn't get as much done. I would still call this Winter Term a success, though. I was able to re-connect with old friends, work a lot on my writing, and put in good work with the track team. If my Winter Term is an indication of how the semester will go, it will be a crazy but fulfilling semester.

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