Finding Community through Commiserating: My Honors Seminar
December 10, 2022
Meredith Warden ’23
One of the highlights of my semester has been the History Honors seminar. For those unfamiliar with the Honors system at Oberlin, some academic departments have Honors, in which senior students work on an original research project for their entire last year at Oberlin. While I was excited to do Honors this year, it was also daunting. History Honors students write essentially an undergraduate thesis, conducting research, visiting archives, and producing a paper usually about 60-70 pages long. I’ve never worked on such a big individual project before, so going into this semester, I was nervous. Fortunately, one of my favorite things about Honors has been the seminar.
This seminar is made up of me and the other History honors students (there are five of us this year) and the honors professor, which rotates every year. We meet once a week to talk about how our research and writing is going. Having others hold me accountable to writing has definitely helped me continue my research—I know that if I didn’t have this class, I would definitely not be as far into Honors as I currently am. The seminar also has helped me approach my writing from new angles, as having other people critique your work can do.
But my favorite thing about the Honors seminar so far has been the sense of community I’ve gotten from it. On a certain level, the other students and I are all fantastic researchers and writers—you have to be in order to do Honors well. But, on another level, none of us really know what we’re doing. This level of individual research is something new to all of us. Many of our classes have become us commiserating and sharing our frustrations with doing research, or not really feeling like we’re getting anywhere. We complain a lot, but it's all in good fun.
This shared process—both the good and bad of doing Honors—has given me a really strong sense of community and joy this past semester. While I knew everyone in the seminar before this semester (Oberlin is a small school, and by your fourth year you tend to be familiar with most people, especially those in your major), I’ve gotten closer to all of them through this class. It feels tight knit, productive, and fun. We bring snacks every week, talk about each other's work, and often get to listen to our professor share funny stories about her own experience doing research. We had our last seminar a few days ago, and I’m definitely going to miss it. But Honors is a year-long process, so I only have to wait until the spring semester for the seminar to begin again!