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My first Winter Term at Oberlin: The Ups and the Downs.

January 27, 2024

Daniela Sueiro '27

Picture this: you’re wrapping up a successful office hours session with your Politics professor, and she politely asks you what your plans are for Winter Term (it’s currently early December). You respond happily, saying that you have a remote internship with a local nonprofit organization, so you’ll be staying on campus to occasionally visit the office and help out. The response you get: “Why on earth would you do that??”

Jarring, to say the least! To be fair, my professor was referring to the Ohio winter (warning me of what she saw as the coming wintry misery), but needless to say, I was a little shaken after that. Now, however, I am no longer a naive first-year blindly navigating the Winter Term selection process, but an experienced and hardened adventurer who has braved…well… Winter Term in Ohio. 

My Winter Term experience was full of ups and downs, some universal and some personal, but today I will bare it all for you, dear reader, so you can be informed in your Winter Term decisions in the future. And, hey, maybe some of these can be your future defenses against any faculty member who dares question your choice. Stand your ground!

Up No.1: Close(r) community!

Not many people stay on campus for Winter Term, so in January Oberlin goes from a small liberal arts school to a tiny wee college! There’s only one dining hall (Stevenson, a.k.a Stevie) and one cafe (Azariah’s, a.k.a Azzie’s) open during Winter Term, and both have limited hours, so you’re guaranteed to be bumping into people you know everywhere (even more than during the semester, which is already a lot).  You’ll likely have one or two friends you know well on campus, but the rest of the people you’ll bump into are acquaintances brought into closer proximity, so you’ll likely be strengthening connections with a broader group of people than you’d expect! At least, that’s been my (very enjoyable) experience. It also feels nice to have all that socialization under your belt heading into Spring semester, so you don’t have to fear being totally out of contact with everyone as you return from both winter break and Winter Term off-campus. I feel a real sense of community here during Winter Term, and it’s been genuinely heartwarming. I had a remote internship, so much of my days were spent at my desk in my dorm, but there were still very few days I felt alone. 

Down No.1: Dining :(

As much as the densely populated hours at Stevie provided social opportunities abound, it did not necessarily make the dining experience very enjoyable. Stevie is probably the least loved dining hall on campus (though I’ll defend its breakfast buffets to the end of time). When it was the only option for a hearty meal, it got a little exhausting trying to sift for… well, not gold, but anything flavorful amongst the classic dining hall food. For context, I am a vegetarian/pescatarian, and much of the variety at Stevie comes from a rotating cast of meat dishes, so I felt doubly limited in my options. I genuinely had to consciously refrain from resorting to a pizza/salad combo for every meal. During the semester, the variety of foods at Oberlin is seriously impressive, and my vegetarianism has never caused an issue here, so it was frustrating to encounter barriers in my eating habits for the first time here. So, people with dietary restrictions, be warned! Winter Term here may take some extra effort. 

Up No.2: Fulfilling work!

On a more personal note, my internship was the highlight of my Winter Term. The people at the Community Foundation of Lorain County were so kind, flexible, and inspiring to work with. I helped facilitate the Toni Morrison Essay Contest for school-aged children in our surrounding Lorain County, and it was just as fulfilling as I hear other people’s projects are: whether an internship, group project, or personal pursuit, you’re guaranteed to be immersed in something you love. Being on campus has the extra perk of seeing other people’s projects, and being able to engage with them!

Down No. 2: Too much of a good thing is a bad thing?

As lovely as it is to be on campus when there’s nothing to do besides one project (so much less stressful than four courses, extracurriculars, and personal projects all at once), sometimes there’s simply too much free time. Make sure you’ve sharpened your hobbies before coming to campus for Winter Term, because you’ll be leaning on them during the weekends! Be careful in choosing them, too! For example, it can get really nasty outside, so my overambitious resolution to go on a walk every day was quickly thrown out the window. Instead, I crocheted while watching Good Girls on Netflix, read three books I’d been meaning to get to, and hosted movie nights with friends! It can be done, but it can also be claustrophobic to be inside all Saturday with little to do. The office of Winter Term does a great job of providing optional activities most days, but no matter how many one goes to, there will always be stretches of time with little to do. I never appreciated the constant activity, and especially concerts, of the semesters more. 

Up No.3: SNOW!

Okay, so, I’m from New York City, right? But even my East Coast butt had never seen so much snow before! We had a whole week and a half where it snowed pretty much every day, and campus looked utterly magical. Frolicking, snowmen, and snowball fights filled various empty nights. You definitely have to be strategically bundled up, as I like to put it, but it is so worth it to go outside and be a part of nature’s most stunning miracle. Every time it snowed, I got giddier. Seriously, I think my roommate (who is from Ohio) was a little sick of it. Now, it’s rainier and warmer, but still lovely outside. I had no idea slush wasn’t as common here, and, believe me, I was elated upon seeing the snow simply dissolve gently into oversaturated grasses instead of forming slippery mounds of questionably brown mush. Such heaven I’d never known. 

Down No.3: Not happening. 

You thought I was ending this on a sad note? No way. Still, I hope this has provided the information you need for making Winter Term decisions in the future! And, if need be, I hope it's debate fodder to defend on-campus Winter Terms forever. I hope you’re staying warm, wherever you are this January; and trust that I will be waiting with bated breath for my Californian friends to get back on campus so I can torture them with long walks in the below-freezing weather. 

Much love, 

-Daniela <3

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