Oberlin Blogs

Diving Head First into Dipping My Toes In

March 10, 2022

Ariel Roberts ’25

In just the first weeks of the spring semester, I’ve found myself quite busy, running around campus and working hard on my various responsibilities. Luckily, after a refreshing and relaxing Winter Term, I’m ready to dive head first back into a full class schedule. 

When registering for classes in November, I found myself choosing a variety of classes, at least a bit more than I had had in the fall. In my first semester, I chose classes that most excited me and related to what I was thinking about majoring in, and this was because I was just excited to be able to choose what classes I took and to stack my schedule with my favorite subjects! This semester, though, I’m dipping my toes in a little bit of everything, to the point that I’m swimming in wide waters! From continuing my interest in Cinema Studies with a media studies class, to exploring the Journalism Integrative Concentration (JIC), to taking classes in my two least favorite subjects, science and history, I’m casting a wide net this semester, both fulfilling some graduation requirements and exploring possible majors and minors. I wanted to tell you a little bit about some of the classes and other new activities I’m doing this semester, and how they’ve already surprised, challenged, and invigorated me!

Korea & East Asia: From Ancient Times to the Present

The class that’s most surprised me is my aforementioned history class, an East Asian Studies class about Korea’s history from the very beginning up to current times. I greatly enjoyed taking Contemporary East Asian Cinema as my First Year Seminar last semester, and I wanted to continue exploring East Asian Studies since I’m considering minoring in it. I was a bit worried about taking a history class, though, as I’ve never been the biggest fan of memorizing dates and digging through complicated politics. Despite this, this class is turning out to be my favorite this semester, as the readings and lectures of the class, though dense, are fascinating, and I’m already learning a surplus about the multilayered, contradictory-to-common-thought development of ancient East Asian dynasties and kingdoms. This is just the start, though, as eventually we’ll be moving to the more recent past, and as the name suggests, present!

Introduction to Psychological Science

This class has me participating in a department I have no intention of studying further, but am nonetheless curious about. My sister studied IB Psych in high school, so I thought that if she’d liked it, I might have a fun or at least interesting time learning about the way our brains work. So far the best part of the class has been, surprisingly, acquiring the required Supplemental Activity (SA) credits. When they were introduced in the syllabus, I couldn’t help but internally groan at the need of extra work, but so far it's actually proven fun and informative. My favorite SA method is participating in faculty and student research studies. I can’t describe in detail the ones I’ve participated in due to confidentiality purposes, but every study I’ve done has been intriguing, especially when you go in somewhat blind and are only debriefed on what the study is actually investigating after. Moreover, each one was far less intimidating and much simpler than I worried they would be. Even if you aren’t in a psych class and need SA credits, everyone is still welcome to participate in the studies, as you can be paid for your participation, and, if nothing else, help researchers learn more about how the human brain functions!

Journalism Basics

This journalism class has already proven to be a great exercise in my writing, time management, and communication skills. The class has had me anxiously searching for the next big thing happening on campus or in the wider Oberlin area for what I might write my next story on. I took a similar but more simplistic journalism class in high school, and at the time found myself interested by the writing style so different from my usual academic and fiction writing. I think the JIC is a really cool thing the college offers, and it might be something I'll want to pursue. This class has really helped me get a better sense of what the concentration might be like, or even just writing for the Oberlin Review as an extracurricular or paid position. It can sometimes be stressful managing the time crunch of news reporting and interviewing strangers for stories, but it's definitely pushing me in a way that’s helping me grow.

ExCo: Tolkien 101

I’m also taking an Experimental College (ExCo) class for the first time. When I first arrived at Oberlin, I loved the concept of ExCos and thought many of the classes showcased at the ExCo fair looked like a lot of fun, but I had my LEAD class with my PAL (an introductory, 1-credit class that many first-years take to help them adjust to Oberlin) and did not have enough time. I promised myself that next semester, though, if I wasn’t too busy, I would take one. To be honest, I am quite busy, but I wanted to take an ExCo badly enough that I was willing to sacrifice the time. I don’t really feel like the time spent is a sacrifice, though, because I’m taking a class about something I truly enjoy and want to learn about. As you might know from my Winter Term post, during February I read The Lord of the Rings and quickly found a new obsession in the world of Middle-earth. To cultivate this interest, I decided to take Tolkien 101, an ExCo where students can learn about the author and the depth of his fantasy world through reading and discussing The Silmarillion. I’ve been wanting to read this book anyway, so it felt like a perfect opportunity for me to dig deeper into one of my interests and to interact with people with a shared passion. It’s all the better that what feels like a hobby and casual activity is for college credit! 

Musical Union

Speaking of hobbies, I’ve also joined a choir this semester, the Musical Union. I’ve been singing in choir since I was a kid, so I knew I had to join one once I got to Oberlin, but because of a confusion with information, and also being a little intimidated about joining a Conservatory choir (even though this particular one is low pressure and open to all), I didn’t initially join MU in the fall. Now, though, I finally get to exercise my vocal chords and learn some new songs. Choir is kind of my form of participating in a sport, utilizing my body and muscles in a way that engages, challenges, and de-stresses me. Because of the pandemic, I’ve missed the excitement and community of getting to sing with others and the thrill of presenting a concert culminating all of our hard work at the end of the semester. I can’t wait to hear our songs at their fullest!

Your first year is probably the best time to participate in a variety of classes and activities, exploring different majors you might be interested in if you're undecided, and even if you aren't! The year is all about exploring Oberlin and learning what it has to offer, dipping your toes in a little bit of everything and testing the waters. Registering for classes in a variety of departments also allows you to get those Curriculum Exploration requirements out of the way so you don’t have to worry about them in your upperclassmen years when you’re most concerned about fulfilling the requirements for your major! So take that class in your least favorite subject, because who knows how it might widen your horizons or resonate with you!

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