Oberlin Blogs

An Economics Major (Part 2)

August 3, 2021

Charlize Villasenor ’23

It's official! I'm finally an economics major. (For the most part). Since my last post, I've submitted my paperwork, and it's been approved by the chair of the department; it just needs to be approved by my new advisor and the registrar's office now! As a result, I've decided to make part two of my previous post. This time, I'll be writing about the classes I've taken at Oberlin that aren't necessarily part of my major. Though they aren't required for the economics major, they have helped me meet my institutional requirements, such as writing-intensive courses, cultural diversity, arts & humanities courses, and more. So without further ado, here are the rest of the classes I've taken so far in my time at Oberlin!

  • Avant-Garde Japanese Literature & Film: This class was a pretty content-heavy seminar as it required many readings, looking at art, and watching various films. Regardless of the workload, it has easily been one of my favorite classes I've taken. I was exposed to a different aspect of a culture I was already interested in learning about, and I was able to tie it back to my other interests and increase my knowledge about our world as it is today. Though I'm not the biggest fan of writing papers, the reading and research I did to complete my final report for this exam will forever stay with me because of its impact on me and my impression of the world. If you ever see me on campus, feel free to ask me to lend you a copy of The Factory Ship and The Absentee Landlord by Takiji Kobayashi. Though it wasn't required reading for the class, I would never have read it without the expansion of knowledge and interests this class led me to. 
  • Japanese 201, 202, & 301: I took Japanese language courses for four years in high school, with a bit of trouble during my senior year since the teacher had changed and there was not much support for the program. Regardless of losing about a year's worth of practice, I decided to take the placement exam when I registered for classes my first year. I tested into 200-level Japanese, and I will forever be grateful for that! I knew enough Japanese to feel confident in my reading, writing, and speaking skills, but I could still learn throughout the course. Additionally, I met some upperclassmen who I became close friends with and were able to guide me through things I didn't know much about and couldn't learn from other first years. The professor for 201 taught Avant-Garde Japanese Literature & Film as well, so gaining that connection was beneficial as first-year students can sometimes face difficulties getting into 300-level courses or seminars if they do not meet all of the prerequisites. Building genuine relationships and connections will always be an essential skill to have, so don't be afraid to reach out and speak with your professors about your courses, interests, and life from time to time!
  • Muslim Oral Culture: When I took this course, it was completely brand new. The professor had never taught this course before, but when he pitched it as an idea, I supposed the faculty had loved it, so it became a First-Year Seminar course! If you don't know what a first-year seminar is, it's essentially a class you will take in your first semester with a cohort of other first-year students. It helped me fulfill half of my requirements for writing-intensive courses and one of three of my required cultural diversity courses. Besides the institutional benefits of taking a first-year seminar, I found that it broadened my interests as well! I was exposed to Persian poetry, music, calligraphy, and art, and I probably would have never explored it (and definitely not to the extent we did in class) without the guidance of my professor. Before this course, I wasn't a big fan of poetry, but now I have a piece of my heart reserved for anyone who can recite Rumi or Khayyam. It was a fantastic insight into the courses available at Oberlin and helped me get out of my economics-based comfort zone. You might or might not be placed into the first-year seminar of your choice based on its popularity and the number of seats available, but it will be a positive learning experience regardless. You might also make great friends and relationships with other students, and that's always helpful when you're in a new environment!
  • Introduction to Oberlin Life/Learning: This course is taught by upperclassmen and designed to assist first-year and transfer students past the first week of orientation. The more you know about something, the more questions there tend to be, so this allows students to learn about different aspects of life at Oberlin, such as winter term, resources on and off-campus, and more. The course is only for the first module/first half of the semester during the fall of your first year. It is graded Pass/No Pass, meaning you don't receive a letter grade, but you receive credit for it once the course is completed (as long as you passed, which isn't difficult since it's just about adjusting to life at Oberlin). Unless there are scheduling issues, you are with the same students as your first-year seminar, so there's a chance for those relationships to become stronger and for you to meet an upperclassman who can help answer questions that are often answered and fully understood with experience. 
  • Strength Training I: I can not express how easy it was to become so focused on the school work that I neglected other parts of my well-being. Since I was younger, I've wanted to attend law school and become an attorney, meaning I've sometimes put immense pressure on myself to be the perfect student. I'll tell you right now: the perfect student does not exist. Even when you think your roommate or peer has their life completely together, there's a good chance they're struggling with something. Signing up for Strength Training I was easily one of the best decisions I made my first year since I could get credit for it as a Pass/No Pass course, forcing me to schedule time for myself. I love working out, especially lifting, and it's easily my favorite form of self-care. Regardless of my love for it, it's easy to let it be put on the back burner and ignore it in favor of a few extra points on an assignment or exam. Even though strength training/lifting might not be for everyone, I strongly encourage you to make time for something you love and make time to take care of yourself. There might not be perfect students, but I still encourage you to do what you can to be the best version of yourself you can be, and often a solid sleep schedule, some regular exercise, and a nutritious diet can do wonders for your grades. Even though it might sound like generic advice, I can almost promise that 8 hours of sleep and three meals a day will help your grades just as much (if not more) than pulling all-nighters every week, and you'll feel much better with the first option. So schedule in something you love so you can take care of yourself, even if it doesn't necessarily go towards your major.
  • Introduction to Epidemiology: This course was one of the last-minute choices Oberlin presented to students when the pandemic forced students to go into remote learning. A few classes were not going to transition well into an online course (such as Strength Training I), so Oberlin created options for students so they would not lose out on credits they needed to stay on track to graduate. Though I didn't need to add a course to maintain my status as a full-time student, I decided to add this course anyway out of pure interest. This class was taught as a second module course through the statistics department, with Pass/No Entry grading introduced for the COVID-19 pandemic. This grading system means that if a student does not pass the course, it will be removed from their official transcript and only be used in unofficial transcripts for advising purposes. This grading system has been used for the 2020-2021 academic year. I took this course to get a taste of what classes in the statistics department would be like since I knew I had to take an introduction to statistics course for my major anyway, and it was relevant to the period it was offered in as it covered how diseases like COVID-19 spread and how that data was found and used. Though I can say statistics isn't the field I'm most passionate about, taking this class allowed me to explore what statisticians and epidemiologists do and see other options I had at Oberlin.

So there you have it! Even though none of these courses are in the department of my major, as you can see, I'm very passionate about every one of the classes I've taken, and they've all added value to my life and my time as a student. Overall, I've built plenty of relationships and have bettered myself through these courses, so I understand why Oberlin emphasizes taking classes outside of your major since you can learn plenty about yourself and others. And who knows? Maybe you'll realize a newfound love for another language or area of study in the meantime. Until next time! (and perhaps I'll post an updated list in a few semesters!)

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