Oberlin Blogs

Letters To Sammie pt.2

July 17, 2017

Samantha Smylie ’17

Dear Self,

On May 22, 2017, you graduated from Oberlin College with a major in History and a minor in Politics. I saw you walk across the stage with the biggest smile and a little fist pump. Yes, you made it! You should be proud of yourself! The world post-graduation seems scary because you don't know what your next steps will be since you decided that graduate school was not for you at the moment. Do you remember how scared you were before you arrived at Oberlin as a freshman the fall of 2013? The number of times you cried before you walked on campus? The moments you shouted to your parents that you were scared and they gathered around you and hugged you? You should know by now that change is hard, but it is going to be okay. Now you have a second family who is holding your hand on your next journey. They have a blanket to catch you when you fall and words to give you to motivate you to stand back up.

Wait, before we talk about the future we have to talk about your greatest accomplishment – you found your voice. Ever since you stepped on campus, you've been trying to gain confidence to speak in classes. For a year and a half, you remained silent in your classes. The only time you would talk is if a teacher called you out in class. You had a suspicion that the only reason they did that was to prove that you did not do the required reading for the day. However, you did. Every night. You would read all the readings – or the ones that mattered to you the most. You would go to bed feeling guilty if you didn't. Not everyone can read all the readings, all of the time. You would struggle with asking for help if you had a hard time getting through a dense reading. You feared that asking for help would affirm that you did not belong at Oberlin. Even though you would go to class the next day and realize that a large portion of your class had trouble with the readings as well. This was a relief to you-- and I'm sure so many others in the class. Anyways, in your second year you found your voice. It must have been a mix of circumstances that happened that year. It was the beginning of your political awakening, it was the conversations that you were having with your peers, the questions you were asking, it was the professors that you came in contact with and the classes you took. It was scary to take those steps to talking in class, but you did it! I hope that you gain more confidence in your voice and continue to speak up. Your questions are important. Your ideas are important. Your experiences are important. Your voice is important.

Well, I'm happy for you, Sammie. I'm glad that you made it through Oberlin College. I can't wait to see what your next adventure will be.


So, I would like to thank a few people at Oberlin:

Thank you, Brenda Grier-Miller, for your kindness and being a light in the dark. All the lives you've touched at Oberlin is amazing and I hope to be like you when I grow up.

Thank you, Caroline Jackson-Smith, for being another mentor for me at Oberlin. I really enjoyed taking the African American film class in the spring of my 2nd year!

Thank you, Pam Brooks. You were the one who made me feel confident in my voice at Oberlin. You were the one that taught me that it was okay to speak up in classes and you challenged me. Thank you for believing in me and encouraging me when I told you that I wanted to go into public radio. You were one of the few people who believed in me when I decided that this was the career path that I wanted to take. I'm so happy that I ended my time at Oberlin with one of your classes.

Thank you, Danielle Terrazas-Williams and Tamika Nunley. I took classes with you all in my first semester, senior year. At that time, I had lost my voice because I had experienced a very traumatic event on campus. I didn't speak in my classes because of it. Anyways, it was nice to have two incredible Black women in the history department at Oberlin to take classes with for my last year. You both left me with questions to explore after graduation.

Thank you, Zeinab Abul-Magd. You had so much energy in classes, I was never bored in your classes. I really don't know how to continued to smile throughout the semester, but I always felt like I was at home in your classes. Thank you for being supportive in my last year and giving me the opportunity to create an audio story for a class assignment. It was really fun for me to create.

Thank you, Kristina Mani. You were the only professor at Oberlin who encouraged me to talk about how U.S media influences the way citizens think about political events. My last paper focused on how news programs on ABC, NBC, and CBS influenced public opinion on the Iran Hostage Crisis (1979-1981). That paper became my research child and I know that I want to pursue this research further in graduate school. Also, I really enjoyed your transitional justice class in the politics department. I didn't have much knowledge about the subject before starting the class, but I learned so much while in class.

Thank you Ma'ayan. You always have so many amazing ideas to share. You've always supported me and my ideas since my second year. You were another person at Oberlin who believed me when I said that I wanted to pursue public radio and you've been supporting me since. Now you're a part of the public radio world and it is so nice to have a friend and mentor there.

I have so many people I want to thank, but this post is becoming longer than I anticipated. So, shout out to Steve Volk, Kim Jackson-Davidson (Ombudsperson), Tanya Aydelott (works in Admissions), Joy Karega for improving my writing, WOBC News, and my friends (some who are still at Oberlin). I hope that I will be able to visit campus to thank you all in person.

This isn't a goodbye, but I hope to see you later.

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