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Finding Balance in College: #1 Priorities

December 24, 2021

Aishwarya Krishnaswamy ’23

As a prospective student, this is the romantic picture of Oberlin I had in my head: a tiny little college town in the middle of nowhere (only half true!). With a bunch of weirdos (I say it very affectionately!) who live to try new things and love every nuance of life. Where you could be a Chemistry and Creative Writing double major, taking secondary piano lessons (from one of the best conservatories in the U.S.), learning life skills like cooking & cleaning in the co-ops, throwing a disc when the sun is out, taking the rock-climbing exco having never done it before, and having a fun night with friends at the ‘sco or enjoying one of the many musical performances at Finney. 

If there is one word to describe Obies, I would say ‘well-rounded,' among a bunch of other things, but let’s go with that one for now. At Oberlin, most of us live ‘3D’ lives. We pursue our academic goals and responsibilities as students, foster our hobbies, and learn to enjoy life through social activites. One of the big reasons I chose Oberlin is because I grew up learning classical dance, playing the piano, public speaking, doing a bunch of art, along with my academics. So I wanted to go to a place where I at least had the opportunity to foster these skills if I so chose and learn new ones along the way.
Oberlin lived up to this romanticized version in my head, but with a caveat. While Oberlin is this melting pot of opportunities to grow in every way possible, laying the bricks right was key for me to not feel overwhelmed here. There is a delicate balance between getting too excited and taking on too much or feeling too nervous and not exploring just enough. Here is the river analogy my boss, Monique, gives me: Be like water, twist and turn with every challenge in your way but keep flowing. Over the past five semesters, I have hit my fair share of troughs and found a way to continue flowing; I am not perfect, far from it, but here is just an insight into my process. 

  1. Identify priorities 
  2. Experiment + attention
  3. Reflect & re-evaluate 
  4. Build a support network 
  5. Plan B time 


Numero Uno: Identify Priorities

Sorry but not sorry for being such a psych major, but there is no way I can effectively talk about priorities without referencing our little buddy boi Maslow's hierarchy of needs. My boss/inspiration/Yeofit instructor Debra always reminds me to 'keep my priorities in line.' One of the ways I ensure to keep my priorities in line is when I feel like I don't know where to start & there is so much to do (classes, jobs, clubs, and social life). Here is how I keep things straight: 

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

1. Human: There is no way I can do the 100 things I need to do without taking care of myself first. Here is how I make sure my basic needs are met: 

  • Food: I don't compromise on my meals, and eating in the co-op takes care of getting fresh & nutritious meals each day. I make sure to keep fruits/nut snacks to munch on during study grind. Keeping a couple quick meals is also handy on days I have no time to go out of my way to grab a meal. Our dining halls also offer grab 'n' go options if it's a multi-tasking kinda day. 
  • Sleep: I strive to get 7 -8 hours of sleep each night; it's definitely the hardest to keep up and the easiest to ignore until it catches up with you. On days when I can't reach my optimal amount, I try to sneak in a nap or two to keep me going (but I keep these days to a minimum).
  • Wellbeing: I meet my physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing needs in the following ways: 
    • Physical: I hit those Yeofit classes at least 3- 4 times every week, and when there is just too much to do, I try to sneak in a good long walk by taking the longer route than usual.
    • Emotional: I make sure to attend my meditation club every Sunday at 11 am for an hour which not only helps me calm my nerves, develop mindfulness, and tap into my spirituality but also feeds into philosophical questions and discussions that I enjoy. 
    • Mental: Oberlin provides ample resources for mental wellbeing; right from the counseling center to the peer support center, there are multiple resources on campus to care for your mental wellbeing. I personally make sure to hit up the counseling center for my monthly check-ins.   

2. Student first: When I need to prioritize my activities, I remind myself I am a student first. This means my classwork comes before campus job or club activities because to be a 'student-worker,' I need to be a 'student,' which means I need to meet the minimum GPA requirement. And let's be honest, we are all paying a shit ton of tuition fees; might as well learn as much and as well as we can while we are at it. 

3. Student worker: Taking on-campus jobs helps me not only meet my financial/security needs as a student but also enriches my learning experience. Through on-campus jobs, I have learned time management, managing expectations, collaboration, and communication skills, which are not necessarily taught inside the classroom.

4. Make time to play HARD: This is something I definately learned the hard way! I defintely have had a semester where I have taken on too much, to a point where I could barely squeeze in time for the homies. While this works for a bit I don't think it's sustainable and is an eventual path to burnout and resentment. It's no doubt we are here to develop the best version of ourselves and devote time in learning and growing, but a big part of that is fostering relationships, so make time for them cause life is so much easier when you got a bud alongside you :) 

5. Fight to keep your hobbies: I think it's safe to say as the semester progresses, if there is one thing that falls on the wayside it is our hobbies. But I have realised that hobbies make my life just that much more meaningful and have shown to have cognitive benefits. While figuring out my calendar for the semester, I try to squeeze in at least 4 hours a week to pursue a hobby. In the summer term, it was pottery; this term it was painting.

And with that we have come to a close with numero uno! Keep an eye out for the remaining ones. 

cow paining
This is the paint by numbers I finished recently. 

cow painting close up

Cow painting in dorm
That's the painting hung on my wall in Burton Hall. 


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