Oberlin Blogs

I Try...Sophomore Year?

June 1, 2014

Alison Kronstadt ’16

I am halfway done with college.

Three hours later, after I have completed the appropriate response to that fact - which, in case you were wondering, is about an hour of existential angst, an hour of yummy dinner with my family, and an hour of mucking around on the Internet - I am ready to reflect on it.

This school year has been one of the hardest I've ever experienced, but it's also probably been the year where my life looked the most like I wanted it to. It was imperfect, relentlessly educational, and full of - as this blog can attest - new things. Looking back on some of those new things that weren't easily expressed in one post seems like the best way to sum up this year, so here goes.

Who run the world?

Not me. But this year did involve an unprecedented amount of leadership positions for me in such a small span of time. Between founding and co-presidenting OSlam! and captaining the B team for frisbee (hey! I just wrote a blog about this), I had leadership roles in the organizations I devote the most time to on campus.

This was an exercise in balance, as I constantly had to assess which group needed my time or effort more, and it also represented a shift in the way I see myself and my abilities. I'd never really thought of myself as a leader before, and even beyond that both roles required me to do a lot of things I think I'm bad at - namely, immense amounts of planning and logistics - to the point where I had to reimagine my skill set. I could've missed some of the late nights, but both of those paradigm shifts have redefined how I look at my future.

Hablo, hablé, hablare...

This year, but specifically this semester, I spoke far more Spanish at a far higher level than I ever have in a classroom. I took two Hispanic Studies classes, which between them meant that I had a class in Spanish every day. I wrote a ten-page paper in Spanish, and learned how to articulate more complicated thoughts on the fly, in the classroom. Some days, on the walk from whichever Spanish class I had that day to my co-op, I would catch myself thinking in Spanish, and it always made me smile.

Beyond that, I started the Oberlin SITES (Spanish in the Elementary Schools) program this year, teaching a Spanish class twice a week to the rowdiest group of fourth graders I've seen since I was in fourth grade. Both those experiences made my Spanish a lot better, while simultaneously revealing how much I still have to learn. There's nothing to keep you humble like the Mexican student in the Spanish class you teach coming up to you and whispering in your ear that you made a grammar mistake. I learned so much, though, about teaching, Spanish, and the ways those two best intersect. Next year, I hope I can bring my more thorough grasp of the language and the skills I learned in the class and be an even better teacher.

And on a related note...

Major Major

I declared my majors! In Hispanic Studies and Creative Writing, which prompted a lot of nostalgia about being sixteen and deciding that I would only go to a college with a Creative Writing major. Many anxiety-filled nights and print dollars later, that dream is written on my transcript. Declaring was mostly just paperwork, but after the stress of applying to workshops (which other Oberlin bloggers have written about but I'll probably end up writing my own take on it at some point), it felt like reaching the finish line of a two-year (or maybe four-year)-long race.

Now, with official things like concentrations and Capstones on the horizon, I'm a little anxious that I won't get to fulfill that glorious liberal-arts tradition, so reviled when I had to take QFR classes, of exploring areas of study that fall all over the academic map. But then I remember that I'm planning on taking Intro to Astronomy and a blues dancing ExCo next year, and I feel a little better.

It's a co-op knock life, for me

I'm no chef, and as such never really thought I would get into OSCA during my time here. However, curiosity and a lack of good vegan food in CDS drove me towards OSCA, and I haven't looked back. This year, I ate (and made tofu!) in both Keep and Pyle, all the while learning about things like consensus, food safety, and how large groups of people can make decisions that make sense for everyone. The answer is often "slowly and stumblingly," but there's nothing like that moment when you realize that yes, the discussion is actually moving towards a decision, and that it's a decision you support - and never would have thought of on your own.

I came away from the year with a serious appreciation for how good at cooking some of my fellow Obies are, but even more than that, with some new friends that I might never have met otherwise. Co-operation and community more or less have to coexist in order for both to exist, but I didn't expect the two co-ops I ate in this year to foster so many new friendships. It was silly not to, in retrospect, but in this instance I'm happy to be surprised.

Started from the bottom now we have a budget

By far the biggest, scariest, newest thing I did this year was starting OSlam!. I had no idea what co-founding a new organization on campus would entail, and even when I felt like I was barely treading water in a sea of obligations there was this sense that the work I was doing was necessary for more people than myself, that it would pave the way for important things down the road.

I'm confident that next year will prove that to be even more true, but I saw a lot of those important things come to fruition this year. CUPSI was an experience I'll never forget (check out my blog post about it if you're curious), and OSlam! did such amazing things close to home. Biased though I am, I really believe that we changed the performing arts landscape on this campus (not to belittle all the amazing performance groups that already exist here), and started some conversations that were nothing short of music to my ears.

The expression "a whirlwind year" didn't really make sense to me until I and my suitcases made it back to my house a few days ago. This summer promises some relaxation, along with plenty of new things to write about, and when it's over - which'll be any minute, if time keeps sprinting along like it's been doing - I'll be headed back to Oberlin, ready for junior year!

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