I graduated from high school a year and a day ago. Since then, I've moved over 2,000 miles from home; written over a hundred pages of stories, essays, and articles; developed a healthy obsession with the Indigo Girls; found friends that feel like family; and declared a minor in Rhetoric and Composition. I can't believe my first year of college is over!
I've already learned so much! Here are some major takeaways:
1) You can try your best and not get an A.
In high school, I was very focused on getting good grades, because I wanted to keep my college options as open as possible. I came to Oberlin with the same mindset, but soon began to wonder who I was trying to get good grades for. Wasn't it more important that I was learning and producing work that I felt satisfied with? I started to understand that teachers often give lower grades to challenge students to work harder! It's true, I'll never write a perfect paper - it's always possible to delve more deeply and take bigger risks. Of course, I still want A's, but that's not what academic success means to me anymore. Rather, my success is grounded in feeling fulfilled and excited about the research I'm doing!
2) The Midwest is pretty neat.
Though school got out a while ago, I'm just going home today! I'm currently sitting in the aisle seat of an airplane - I typically hate the aisle seat, but I'm trying to learn how to go with the flow, and it seems to be working out so far. I've been in Wisconsin for the past two weeks with my boyfriend Joey (who I met during the second day of orientation!), exploring his hometown and taking day trips to other areas. If you had told me a year ago that I would travel to Wisconsin, I would've been pretty surprised. I knew practically nothing about it! When I met Joey, he told me he was from Milwaukee, and I actually asked him if that was in Minnesota... But Wisconsin is so beautiful! I love the art museum and the cheese curds and riding the bus by the lake!
This trip has made me frustrated with the way Californians generally portray the Midwest. When I told people I was going to college in Ohio, they often scrunched up their faces and muttered, "Why?" Well, though the why began as "Oberlin is an amazing school with progressive values and I don't care where it is," it now sounds more like, "I'm seeing a whole new part of the country!" Not only do I get to study at Oberlin, but I get to explore a huge region and meet people who grew up far from the coast. Who knew that the Great Lakes look like tiny oceans? With all the opportunities for travel it brings, Oberlin's location is as much a part of my educational experience as my classes are.
3) Don't wait!
At the end of the semester, my favorite professor announced that she's leaving Oberlin. It affected me emotionally more than I expected - I hadn't realized how much her mentorship had figured into my vision of the rest of college. But through my sadness, I also felt incredibly lucky. I almost hadn't taken her class, thinking, "Maybe I'm not ready. I can take it another semester." Thank goodness I didn't wait! I'm figuring out that if I want to do something at Oberlin, I should do it. What's the point of waiting? Part of college is throwing myself into situations and classes that I don't think I'm ready for, and rising to the occasion. Nancy, if you're reading this, THANK YOU! You have inspired me to find stories everywhere I go. I know Oberlin will miss you very much!!
4) Homesickness doesn't go away, but it becomes much more manageable.
My first blog post was titled "On Getting Used to College," and throughout the year I've had to hold myself back from writing countless variations on it. Leaving home was hard for me. At the beginning of this semester, there were a few weeks when I never wanted to leave my room or interact with people. I was overwhelmed - college didn't feel like summer camp anymore. Handling the transition back from Winter Term took tears and many hugs from my hallmates, but I learned coping skills in the process. I noticed that I felt best when my day was pretty busy, with time built in for rest. During my alone time, I drew in my notebook or worked out or watched TV. When spring came, I took as many walks as I could.
Little things still bring a sudden wave of homesickness, like hearing one of my sister's favorite songs or seeing pictures of my hometown's parade. Now I know I can call my moms, spill my feelings to them, take a few deep breaths, and continue my day. Though I miss home all the time, it doesn't bring me out of the present moment as much as it used to.
I'm really happy most of the time. That wasn't always the case in high school or middle school. I'm often in disbelief that I get to spend my days learning about journalism and revolutions, and going to incredible lectures, and singing with my acapella group, and eating pizza at midnight in the hall lounge. To everyone who has been a comfort and a friend, thank you so much. Sometimes I laugh to myself because I can't hold all this joy in.