Fall 2014: Semester in Review
Now that classes are over, I'm almost completely finished with my first semester at college. It's been a very interesting run, that's for sure. I've learned a lot from my classes. I've learned about the transition from Maoism to structural reform in China, about the adjustment of Jewish immigrants to the modernism of American culture, the verb conjugations in Ancient Greek, and the historiography of world history.
But I haven't just learned from my readings, homework, and lectures. I've learned about myself, too, from my experiences. I've learned about my habits, my tendencies, my quirks, my study style (whatever that means). I've started learning how to balance my time between schoolwork, personal time, and social time.
College is a difficult and multi-faceted experience. Honestly, it's hard to even get out of bed sometimes. There's so much going on. You get worn out easily, especially if you're like me and deal with mental illness. Plus, if you're a freshman, your body probably isn't used to living in such close quarters with other people. In the first semester, I was sick almost every other week, if not more. You can wash your hands until they're raw, folks, but sometimes your body just needs a while to adjust.
I've found that I needed a lot of reassurance this semester, from friends, RAs, classmates, and family. I had a lot of doubts that Oberlin was even the place for me. I've always been a big fish in a little pond; I grew up in a community in which I was one of the smartest, most driven people. To be surrounded by so many people as smart (and much smarter!) than myself was really intimidating. I felt like my identity of being "the smart girl" was kind of lost. I never felt resentful about this, just confused and a little disoriented.
Because Oberlin is so full of brilliant minds, the academics are difficult. You can't coast here like you may have in high school. Professors expect a lot from you, and that's how it should be. That doesn't mean it's easy, though. My anxiety peaked in midterm week, when I had seven panic attacks in one weekend. Still, I managed. I did what I had to do, when I had to do it, and I was okay. Still, I wondered a lot whether it was worth all the mental anguish to be here. Maybe I would be better off transferring to an "easier" university. I wouldn't get the same kind of education, but I might be healthier.
After a while, I realized that transferring would be ridiculous. I love it at Oberlin. It's challenging--sometimes absurdly so--but I love it here. It's my home. I could never find another place where I feel so welcome and in place. Oberlin isn't "too hard," it's just hard enough, because it compels you to push your limits and become stronger for it.