Oberlin Blogs

Classes I've Taken as a History Minor

February 12, 2020

Jason Hewitt ’20

Now that I am "officially" declared as a history minor, it felt appropriate for me to write about all the history classes I have taken at Oberlin College.

While I major in English, I have a fond relationship with the Oberlin history department. Initially, I didn't even know if I wanted to minor in any study. There is such a wide variety of avenues I could have taken during the past four years, and I'm happy to say that I explored a lot of them. During my junior year, I noticed that I took a lot of history classes during my time at Oberlin. Luckily, I enjoyed the history classes I took and performed well. I eventually said, "Why not?" and decided to take on the minor. With all that being said, here are the classes I decided to take in order to complete my history minor:

One of the first classes I have ever taken was "American History to 1877" during my freshman year.

Fun fact: this was the first collegiate class I had ever attended in my life. I honestly did not know what I wanted to major or minor in at the time. I just knew that I loved history and that I was looking forward to learning "actual" history without a skewed view. Growing up in two southern states (Georgia and Texas), it was pretty difficult for me to believe that the history lessons I was exposed to were properly taught. That led me to "American History to 1877"! I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first engaged with the class. I never signed up for a first-year seminar, so I jumped straight into the water with this class filled with freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The class proved to be really interesting and appropriately challenging. I was just ecstatic to learn about American history from a less biased perspective, and that class did exactly that for me.

In the second semester of my freshman year, I took "Russian History II" followed by "Russian History I" during the first semester of my sophomore year. Allow me to explain...

Class registration was... rough to say the least. That is a circumstance that most freshmen can relate to, since they are the last students who are able to register for classes. I did not have many options and I was undecided on the direction I wanted to go with my coursework. I enjoyed "American History to 1877" quite a lot, so I decided to take one of the last 100-level history classes available: "Russian History II." I chose this class because I was always intrigued with the Cold War and I wanted to learn more about it. Luckily for me, I learned a lot more than just the Cold War. The most significant assignment I remember from this class was my final project on how the Soviet Union left the Afghan War. Like many of the assignments in that class, I had to put a lot of effort into it, but I thoroughly enjoyed everything I learned from it.

Because of my positive experience in "Russian History II," I decided to take "Russian History I" with the same professor. I mean, what can I say? I thought Russian history was really enjoyable, so I figured that going back in time to Russia's origins would be just as interesting, if not more so. It turned out that I was correct! That class was... wow. Let me remind y'all about the fact that before my time at Oberlin, I barely knew anything about Russian history. I knew about the Soviet Union, Cold War, Stalin, etc. While I learned about those topics in detail from "Russian History II," I had this desire to learn even more about Russia. So, there I was, a sophomore taking "Russian History I," ready to be educated about all the chaos that occurred prior to everything I learned. It was just as enjoyable, and I'm glad I was able to have a greater knowledge of Russian history, especially in today's context.

The next history class I took was "History of the Holocaust," and it was even more saddening than I had initially anticipated.

This time around, I actually knew what I was getting into. I was fairly knowledgeable on the atrocities that occurred in Nazi Germany, but I was unaware of many of the horrible war crimes that were committed by the Germans. Thanks to this class, I have a much greater understanding of what victims of the Holocaust had endured and I also gained a lot more awareness on the rise of German nationalism prior to World War II. My professor was also extremely supportive during class and in office hours. *Cough* Office hours make a huge difference in class experiences! *Cough* 

This is just how I feel about my college experience and my experience alone, but as a black person, it felt like an obligation to take a course that focused on Africana Studies, which leads me to... "History of the Caribbean"!

I took this course during my junior year at Oberlin, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most enjoyable classes I have ever taken here. Before I took this class, I knew absolutely nothing about the African diaspora in the Caribbean and how black people dealt with colonialism there. Every session felt like an enlightenment for me, because there was just so much to take in. The professor was always really cooperative and enjoyable to listen to during lectures, and the content was almost always really interesting to read about. Even the novels (most notably, The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat) were fantastic. I would recommend every single history class I have ever taken at Oberlin, but if I could only recommend one history class, I would definitely pick this one.

The last class I am taking in order to fulfill the requirements for my history minor is a class that I'm taking right now, which is called "Crusades: Contact and Conflict in the Mediterranean World."

At the time in which this post will be published, I will have only been in this class for about two weeks. However, I can tell you all that I am enjoying it so far and will probably enjoy it even more as the semester continues. This is a seminar class, which means that the topics will be more in-depth than ever before. Fortunately, the classes I took prior to this one have trained me well enough to engage with the complicated texts and lectures that come with it. Things are going really well in there so far! *Knocks on wood* Hopefully, the rest of the semester goes smoothly.

This is the last history class I'm ever taking at Oberlin, so I'm looking forward to seeing how my learning experience in the history department comes to a close.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Oberlin as a history minor. I encourage anybody who is reading this to try a history class here if you haven't yet. Will it be a challenge? Absolutely, but that's Oberlin for you. Plus, the payoff in learning history is very rewarding. There's so much knowledge in this field of study that is just waiting to be absorbed! Do yourself a favor and engage with it while you can.

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