Expanding My Horizons
December 2, 2021
Yuhki Ueda ’24
As a double-degree student, managing my commitments and being able to prioritize my tasks is especially important to me. I have to make sure I’m not overextending myself and doing too much. At the same time, though, I want to make sure I am challenging myself and exploring a wide range of opportunities, whether they be related to my academics or career interests, or more personal interests or hobbies. I love learning new things and have a multitude of interests and passions, so I’m always striving to live a life that is fulfilling in as many ways as possible, which is why I have been making the effort to branch out and try new things this semester. I spent my first two years at Oberlin focusing mainly on my classes, but now that I am a junior, I have started to make the conscious decision to broaden my horizons and explore a wider variety of experiences and opportunities — Oberlin has so much to offer, so why not make the most out of my time here?
Earlier in the semester, I applied to be a production editor for The Oberlin Review, which is Oberlin’s local, student-run newspaper. And I got the job! I had not had any work experience other than working in Campus Dining Services for a couple of weeks in the spring of 2020 (it got cut short because that was when the pandemic started), so this is my second official job ever. This is my first semester as a production editor, and it has been exciting and eye-opening. Essentially, my job is to fact-check and spot and correct stylistic errors, typos, etc. (it’s not as boring as it sounds — I promise!) in the Review articles before the newspaper gets published every Friday. I also got to write my very first article for the Review back in October, so feel free to check it out if you’re interested! Working at the Review is such a unique and collaborative experience, and I love the passion that everyone there brings to the group. In hindsight, I’m glad I took the step to send in my application because I was initially debating whether or not to apply for the job. I was worried it would be too much for me to handle on top of my classes, but all of my commitments have been quite manageable so far, so I don’t regret my decision.
Something else I wanted to try this semester was to audition for one of the student a cappella groups on campus. I ended up auditioning for Nothing But Treble (NBT), Oberlin’s oldest women and nonbinary a cappella group. The first step of the audition process was a brief preliminary audition where I had to prepare and perform a one-minute excerpt of a song and do some pitch recall exercises. I have always enjoyed singing, but I have never really sung in front of other people, so this was a new and slightly scary (!) experience for me. I knew, though, that it would be better to give it a try and see what would happen than to not try at all. I ended up passing the preliminary round and was invited to the callbacks. In the callbacks, my fellow auditionees and I learned and sang some solo excerpts, learned different parts of an arrangement of a song, and performed the song a cappella in front of the members who were already a part of NBT (prior to this year’s auditions). We also got to hear a couple of performances they had prepared for us, which was a treat! I will admit that the callbacks were a little bit nerve-racking since we had to sing in front of so many people and learn and perform new music in a limited amount of time, but it was a good experience nonetheless. Ultimately, I didn’t get selected to join the group. Am I glad I still auditioned, though? Yes! Even if I didn’t get in, it was a fun experience to be able to meet new people, sing a few things with them, and enjoy our common interest in music together, even if it was just for a couple of hours. And although I won’t be singing in an a cappella group this year, I’ll still be able to sing in an ensemble because I decided to join the Musical Union, a choir consisting of Oberlin students and community members. We are currently working on a number of choral works, including Francis Poulenc’s Gloria and Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Crucifixus” from his Mass in B minor. It has been great singing in a choir again, something I had not done since high school.
I also decided to (re-)join and be a more active member of Oberlin’s Japanese Student Association this year. The first time I attended a JSA meeting was in my first year at Oberlin. I ended up only attending a couple of meetings, but now that JSA is back in full swing after the “pandemic school year” last year, I have been attending meetings and activities regularly — in fact, I am now one of the secretaries for the club. Through joining JSA, I have made new friends and had the chance to connect with fellow students who share a Japanese background. And although we have a certain shared sense of culture, we also have unique and varied experiences and perspectives, so it has been really interesting getting to know everyone.
Of course, aside from pursuing my artistic, personal, and other extracurricular interests, I have also been exploring my academic interests. This semester, I decided to register for Supervised Research under the mentorship of one of Psychology professors. Working in the research lab requires a myriad of skills, so it will be good training for any research I might do after my undergraduate career. My first task was to code a large set of data that was collected last year for a study on people’s memories regarding the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. Currently, I am working on a sort of literature review (technically, more of an annotated bibliography), searching for and reading up on past research that might be relevant to this study. Through joining the research lab, I have also had the chance to learn about individual or personal research projects that my fellow labmates have been working on, which has been quite inspiring! I hope to eventually conduct research on my own interests in the field of psychology, which might start sooner than I had anticipated because I am going to be conducting a literature review for a potential individual research project during Winter Term this year.
This list will continue to grow and change as I continue on my journey at Oberlin and beyond, but I think I am happy with what I have chosen to explore this semester. The pandemic made me realize that time doesn’t wait around for anyone and that it is important to pursue my dreams and passions, however big or small, without so much fear of judgment or failure. I think that taking on new experiences and opportunities (in a safe and healthy way, of course) will only help me grow. And that’s why I’m trying to get more comfortable with discomfort, to embrace the changes in my life, to explore my passions and interests and create/find a sense of community, and to try some things that might scare me a little (we miss 100% of the shots we don’t take, after all!).
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