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Intentions for my last semester at Oberlin

February 15, 2023

Aishwarya Krishnaswamy ’23

This is my eighth and final semester at Oberlin!! It’s the start of a new semester so I want to channel the wisdom that freshman, sophomore, and junior year Aishwarya has taught me. In honor of that, in this blog I am sharing my intentions for my final semester at Oberlin. Whether you’re in your first semester or your final semester at college, perhaps some of these intentions will speak to you too. 

1. Start slow and steady 

Underclassman Aishwarya always wanted to start the semester at full speed. Now, upperclassman Aishwarya knows that going too fast too soon is unsustainable over the course of the semester. True to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I usually like to give myself at least two weeks to just settle and breathe in a new space. I make sure my room is set up, I have a plan for my meals, and know where my classes are. It’s really hard to resist the urge to sign up for all the different events, clubs, and excos on campus from the get-go. However, I circle back to ‘I am a student first’. Meeting my basic human and student needs comes first. There is always going to be more to do on campus. Starting slowly at the beginning of the term gives me a chance to feel grounded. Starting the semester at a steady pace allows me to align my actions with my priorities and spend my energy wisely. 

2. Ask for help early and often

At Oberlin, I have felt seen and heard during my amazing highs and devastating lows. During freshman year someone told me, “only open mouths get fed” (an inversion of the original saying). Earlier in my college journey, it was challenging to ask for help when I needed it. I felt shame and fear in even acknowledging I needed help. Semester after semester I found myself overcommitting and feeling very distressed over the course of the term.  Only when things were a level ten bad (everything felt like it was coming at me all at once) would I ask for help. Junior year was the last straw, and I burned out rather badly. Since then, I have been taking things slowly. This gives me a chance to check in with myself and progress from a place of intentionality. I make sure to keep my friends and mentors in the loop not only when things are going well but especially when things are going downhill. Getting an outside perspective early on prevents the catastrophe snowball effect. Some resources on campus that have helped me are the counseling center, the SHARE office, and wise mentors I’ve met along the way. 

3. Boundaries are beautiful 

The core of my journey at Oberlin has been about learning my boundaries and my boundary communication style. Being beautifully boundaried is especially important at Oberlin because as Obies we care a lot about the injustice around us and want to actively contribute to making the world a better place. However, without checking in with myself and accepting my boundaries, it is easy to get carried away in my visions at my expense. Overcommitting, passion fatigue, and burnout ultimately are counterproductive to making the world a better place. I cannot contribute meaningfully without a good night’s sleep or nourishing myself. I also cannot contribute as an Obie if I don’t pass my classes. There is always more that I can do. There is always one more shift I can take at my co-op, there is one more organization on campus I can support, or another place to volunteer, but if it comes at the expense of me, am I really helping? Sometimes doing less is just enough! 

4. Turning weaknesses into strengths 

Procrastination is my personal hell. I am tempted to dismiss this as a personal problem. However, working as an executive functioning tutor at Oberlin has taught me that so many Obies struggle with procrastination. While the reason for procrastination depends on the situation and the task, most of my deadliest bouts of procrastination come from a place of wanting to submit quality work. In the past I have criticised myself for my perfectionistic tendencies. While there may be some truth to that, in honor of turning my weaknesses into strengths my last term at Oberlin, I am learning to embrace that precision and thoroughness are not bad things. In fact, my perfectionistic streak has helped me do some of the work I am most proud of. That being said, the stress that comes with putting things off until I can’t anymore is not worth it either. So this term I am going to approach my procrastination tendencies with more compassion. I am reminding myself that taking time to do things well is a strength and meeting deadlines aids me to stay on track. Start early, slow and steady! 

Time management is another area of improvement for me. At times, I end up running late to things because I am juggling too many tasks. Time management is an important skill I am learning in college. This semester, I am more intentional and committed to managing my time well and being on time to my best capacity. 

5. Make time to savour 

As a sentimental senior, I shed a tear every time I walk across campus in anticipatory nostalgia. It takes me almost twice as long to get places because I slow down and get distracted soaking in the sunshine, sniffing flowers, and touching tree trunks on my walk. I have been running around for most of my time here. I am tired and I want to make the time to savour all the memories bittersweet before I leave. This semester I give myself permission to have some empty blocks of time on my google calendar in honor of savoring my last few months on campus. 

Box-breathing… one, two, three, four… hope you are remembering to breathe ;) 

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