Oberlin Blogs

Inside Scoop: Part One

February 12, 2019

Hanne Williams-Baron ’19

As I type this, I’m a mere two days away from the end of my final Add/Drop! It’s been a bit tricky so far, because I feel very protective over my remaining course slots and want to have the perfect schedule for my final semester. I’ll write again soon once I have my final schedule locked down, but until then, I’m sharing a two-part mega-post on the magic of course-selection at Oberlin!

I asked friends from every class year at Oberlin to share their experiences picking classes, experimenting in new subjects, and more. In this post, part one, you’ll meet two of the friendliest Obies out there: Giulia Chiappetta and Gio Donovan! Giulia is a third-year English and Environmental Studies major. She also has a phenomenal bandcamp which you should definitely check out! Gio is a second-year Africana Studies major. She is the campus’s greatest PAL (peer advising leader) of all time, and also my wonderful co-worker at HIV Peer testing!

Read on for our answers to my questions...and stay tuned for part 2, featuring Amy, David, and Joey!

 What's your favorite class you've taken at Oberlin? What made it so special?

Giulia:  My favorite class at Oberlin was English 299 (Introduction to the Advanced Study of Literature) with Laura Baudot! First off, Baudot is a great professor who works hard to encourage meaningful discussion and she'd curated a great syllabus that included everything from Fun Home to Faulkner. Aside from the professor and the content, the class was enjoyable because everyone was an English major (the class is a requirement) and I had a few good friends in there with me, which honestly made a world of difference. (Honorable mentions: ENVS 201, ENGL 320, any Italian class.)

Gio: My favorite class I've taken so far is Intro to Africana Studies with Ms. Caroline. This class means the world to me and so does Ms. Caroline because it was there I discovered I wanted to be an Africana Studies major. Since then, every AAST class I've taken has just further confirmed that majoring was the right decision and I can't wait to learn more!

Hanne: My favorite class I’ve taken so far is Medical Anthropology with Cal Biruk! It was an incredibly rich class that covered everything from new frameworks for theorizing sickness/health to the history of soap and colonialism. I got to give a presentation deconstructing the Obesity Epidemic and Prof. Biruk let my partner and I use the entire class period because we had so much to say! That class comes up in my life almost every day and has genuinely shifted my thought patterns around “health” and the body.

What's the most ~out of your comfort zone~ class you've taken?  Did you continue on in similar classes afterwards? Why or why not?

Giulia:  As an ENVS major, I've had to take a few natural science courses, all of which have definitely tested me. The worst thus far was Environmental Chemistry, which, in the grand scheme of science, definitely wasn't that hard, but I still struggled. It was also one of the largest classes that I've taken, which didn't help. I have not taken a chemistry class since, and do not plan to.

Gio:  I think Arabic has been the most out of my comfort zone class I've taken. Learning languages is super hard, but also super rewarding! So I decided to continue with Arabic.

Hanne: I took Understanding Networks with Elizabeth Wilmer my sophomore year for a math QFR. It was honestly pretty fun! She made it really accessible and easy to comprehend - the class was targeted at humanities majors who needed to get their QFR done, haha. I can’t say I’ve taken any math classes since, but if I had wanted to I definitely would have tried to work with Prof. Wilmer again.

Who are some of your top 3 fave professors at Oberlin? Why do they stand out?

Giulia: Janet Fiskio, Jan Cooper and Laura Baudot. I don't know if it's possible to dislike Janet - she's incredibly smart, passionate and kind, both in the classroom and outside of it. Same goes for Jan and Laura - they all do a great job of fostering a comfortable and productive classroom environment. Janet and Laura in particular are quite creative in terms of their curriculum, and all three professors seem to genuinely respect and value their students.  (Honorable mentions: Ivana Di Siena, Natasha Tessone, David Walker.)

Gio: My top three professors are Ms. Gadsby, Ms. Johns, and Ms. Caroline. If I didn't have to pick just 3, I would truly say the whole Africana Studies department. Every professor in that department I've had a class with has gone above and beyond to show me how powerful and smart I am, as well as valued in this community.

Hanne: Janet Fiskio, Cal Biruk, and Gillian Johns are definitely some of the greatest of all time. But I have loved so many of my professors at this darn institution! These three stand out for complicating my assumptions the most and creating classroom environments where everyone was excited to come to class, engaged, and deeply curious about the subject matter. The classes they teach are in different departments (ENVS, ANTH, and ENGL), and I have only taken one class with each of them! But I can safely say that these are professors I rave about to everyone.

How have you gone about finding classes at Oberlin? Any tips for prospies in terms of planning/not planning out their academic path at Oberlin?

Giulia: Ask your friends! Ask your advisors! After my first year, I mapped out all of the credits I need to graduate, which was also very helpful. Remember that add/drop, while annoying and pretty stressful, is a good time to shop around for classes if you are still unsure. Follow your gut and take classes you're interested in!

Gio: I honestly scrolled through all the "first year appropriate" classes the Oberlin website recommended before I got here and that was how I registered. I took a range of classes my first semester, so after then I kind of just went with the ones that seem the most interesting to me and were going to be in ~styles~ I felt comfortable in.

Hanne: I made sure to ask seniors about their favorite professors when I was first year! I think choosing classes based off of the professor and the dynamic of students in the class is a surefire way to find classes that *spark joy* and push you outside your comfortable/knowledgeable zone. I also think that the few general requirements we have at Oberlin do a good job of expanding your class schedule! I’m so glad I took classes like Astronomy and History of Whiteness, because they really pushed my work ethic and I was super proud of what I’d accomplished by the end of the class, even when they took many extra hours of work outside of class time. Finally: if you’re looking at an upper-level course that has pre-reqs and you are worried you aren’t qualified to take the class, but you are really excited about the material, try to go to the professor’s office hours and advocate for yourself! Many professors will make an exception for you if they feel that you will put the work in and contribute to class.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon, and to all who are waiting to hear back about Oberlin and other college acceptances: deep breaths! You’re going to be frantically re-arranging your gcal to find the perfect combo of late-morning and early-afternoon classes before you know it ;)

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