Sophomore year was not what I expected it to be.
When I boarded an airplane to Ohio in August, I did not know what to expect. I came into the 2017-18 school year with an optimistic perspective, but I had no idea what the year would consist of. There were so many variables for me to consider. Will my classes be too difficult? How will I manage my finances? How was the football season going to turn out? Which platforms will I be writing for? Where will I be a couple of semesters from now? These were all questions that were racing through my mind as I traveled back to Obieland.
Fortunately, the experiences I had this year answered all of those questions and more. I learned so much more about my studies, relationships, and this school as a whole. I feel like I "know how this game works" now. In other words, I feel more knowledgeable about school than ever before. Actually, I'll take this one step further. I believe that I am in the best place I have ever been intellectually, and I am grateful to Oberlin College for challenging me to this point. Without the challenges I have endured here, I would not be the man I am today.
Football was so much better this year, but we still have work to do.
My freshman year probably takes the cake at having the worst football season I have ever experienced. The Oberlin football team went winless. That's right. We were the Cleveland Browns of our conference. Yeo and 10. That’s the common phrase said across campus when referring to the Oberlin football team last year. I was a member of that football team who endured that atrocious 0-10 season. As a freshman, it felt like I walked into a catastrophe. It didn’t feel “right” to me. Sure, I liked my coaches for the most part. I liked a lot of my teammates. Getting along with people wasn’t the main issue with me. I just loathed the idea of losing. Allow me to show you the world I lived in before I became an Oberlin College football player. I came from a high school program in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, that just came off a 10 win season my senior year. The movie Friday Night Lights comes to mind when I think of my life in high school. The whole town would know about the North Mesquite Stallions (my high school). People with various backgrounds would often stop and talk to me and my teammates, from police officers to store managers. It may seem quite conceited to say, but it felt like I was a celebrity there. We celebrated success pretty often, because we barely lost. That was the mentality. Ahh, senior year, the good old days….Fast forward to October 2016….Wow. Things are… different.
Many people care about football on campus, but not nearly as many as I had anticipated. Sure, the athletic facilities are gorgeous. As I stated before, I liked my teammates and coaches. The problem was that we just kept losing. Game after game, my morale decreased. I knew about Oberlin’s history of losing, but my ego was so big at the time that I thought I could change that by myself. LOL. That didn’t work out so well for me. There were points during the season where I wouldn’t even enjoy the game of football anymore, and that was a depressing time for me. I love football so much; it’s done so much for my maturation and has helped me develop so many relationships with wonderful people. I never thought I would feel the same about it again. Then, the season ended. Phew! Good riddance. The offseason came along, and I began to appreciate the hard work everyone on the team had put in. I could tell that everyone in this football program felt tired of being a laughing stock. It was apparent that change was going to come my sophomore year. We ended up winning four games and losing six games. This was definitely an improvement, but I am not satisfied by that record either. My team has been working really hard over the offseason, and we plan on winning even more games in the 2018 football season. Whenever I am around my teammates, I look around and see how much stronger everyone has gotten. I feel a different energy; it's more intense. I, too, have that energy when it comes to the upcoming season. The Yeomen are tired of not receiving respect from all the other teams in our conference. Hopefully, this will translate onto the football field so we can win more games. I'm looking forward to the challenge, and you should, too. Stay tuned!
Academically, things got a lot better for me.
Let's just say I struggled a bit during my freshman year on the academic side of things. I had a lot of trouble adjusting to Oberlin. There were so many times when I would consider transferring to another college. The environment was a LOT different from anything I was used to, and it affected my mental health quite a bit. It felt like I didn't fit in when I first arrived to Oberlin. Before I came to Oberlin, everything I knew about the place came from either my overnight visit, online information, and Oberlin students. I had no idea that I would feel so isolated at times. I would often find myself struggling with my classes, because I could not focus.
Luckily, I didn't struggle to the point where I had to take a year off or anything like that. However, I knew I needed to perform a lot better in the classroom if I wanted to have a good GPA by the time I graduate. This year, I performed SO much better in the classroom, and my grades showed it. I understood how to manage my time in a more effective way, and I dealt with stress in a much healthier way. I believe that the difference between my academics this year and last year is that I prioritized my mental health a LOT more, and that allowed me to be more successful in the classroom and life in general.
I made some new connections...
One of my previous articles focuses on the importance of networking at Oberlin, and I say that because networking made my sophomore year a great one. There are so many wonderful people to meet on this campus, y'all. If it wasn't for them, my year would not have been as enjoyable or productive. I am so grateful for the students, professors, and faculty members who have elevated my experience at Oberlin College. It's nice to have those relationships to rely on whenever you need assistance with anything.
I also met many students from the Class of 2021 who have thrived at Oberlin. Many of them see me as somebody they could look up to, which is very humbling to me. It feels like I have Imposter Syndrome when it comes to being a role model. Like, who am I to have this much influence on a person? Do I even deserve to have a relationship like this with younger people? However, I overcome this by understanding that the people who look up to me also have admirable traits that allow me to look up to them in a way. The honor and respect is reciprocated, and it allows the relationship to be even greater.
Being on the OHOP board was SO much fun!
Working with the Oberlin Hip-Hop collective (OHOP) has been a wonderful experience as well. I met some extremely talented artists and producers through this incredibly awesome organization. I got the chance to watch Saba perform... for FREE. Not too many people have the privilege to say that. I'm grateful for that experience and many others that occurred because of OHOP. I was able to contribute to many critical decisions that brought many hip hop artists out to Obieland. Another cool aspect of this organization is that it has allowed me to provide support for Oberlin's local hip hop artists such as Spice Lo and Chiekh the Message. This place has so much talent, y'all. SO. MUCH. TALENT.
It's unbelievable to see the level of artistry that I see from these individuals on a day-to-day basis. I understand that Oberlin is a world-class music school, but that label pertains more to classical and jazz music. Oberlin College and hip-hop are not phrases that usually go together, but that is why we do what we do at OHOP. It's nice to be able to say that I'm on a board, too. It makes me feel extra professional.
It's INSANE to believe that I only have two years left at Oberlin College.
These past two years flew by. I can't believe I am about to be a junior. The experiences I've been a part of at Oberlin have been absolutely life-changing. If I could travel back in time to my senior year of high school, I would not change my decision to go to Oberlin. Sure, I've had transfer ideas fly through my mind in the past, but they don't pop up anymore. My sophomore year solidified the fact that I belong at this institution.
Wow, there are only two years left for me. That... that is crazy. However, there is still work for me to do. These next two years will not be easy, but I believe that I will make it through. I am looking forward to sharing my upper-class experiences with you all in the very near future!