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My Spring Semester Classes

March 18, 2016

Jules Greene ’19

The spring semester has gone off to a pretty great start for me! It freaked me out a little bit how seamlessly I transitioned back into my Oberlin state-of-being and routine the moment I got back on campus. It was like I had never left, as I didn't actively have to will myself to get ready for classes starting up. I guess I subconsciously was really looking to get back into the swing of things after I had spent Winter Term at home, and my brain switched back to Oberlin-mode on the bus ride over.

I would say my class choices for this semester are indicative of my decision to go the liberal arts route rather than the undergraduate film school route that I might've mentioned in one of my earlier posts. But in case you need clarification and don't want to go searching around, I'll quickly summarize the backstory on this. Even though I applied Regular Decision to three different undergrad screenwriting/filmmaking programs out of six schools in total, I chose to prioritize a liberal arts education such as Oberlin's in my decision to apply Early Decision II here. This is just stemming from my perspective that there's a lot of stuff, largely within the realm of history, that I only got to learn on a superficial level in high school, and I can't stand having historical blind spots, or not knowing things that I feel I should. This is why I took a Russian History class last semester: because my knowledge of Russian history was mostly grounded in the 20th century when I was registering for classes, and I felt that in order to better understand what I already knew, I needed to study everything that came before (from roughly the year 800 to 1850). That said, I'm frustrated that there isn't anything pertaining to Irish history here (at the moment), but that is a story for another time.

So what am I taking this semester? Surprisingly, no classes in the Cinema Studies department, even though I came here planning to major in that field. This is all part of that liberal arts thing I was talking about earlier. But without further delay, these are the classes I'm taking:

Introduction to Sociology: Social Problems: Sociology is a field I have quite a bit of interest in, especially in the work of W.E.B. DuBois. Though this class hasn't focused so much on the history of sociology's development as a discipline and the individual theories of pioneering sociologists like DuBois, it's been an entertaining exploration into the strange things that we as a society do, and why we do those things. The textbook that accompanies this class has talked about DuBois and his theories, along with those of other sociologists, so it has satisfied me in that respect. On the first day of class, my professor asked all of us to, along with introducing our names and pronouns, give a particular artist or album that we had recently been listening to on the first day of class. After a multitude of emergency alarms went off in my head as I tried to visualize my Spotify playlists, I remembered I had been listening to The Revenant soundtrack non-stop. Crisis averted.

Intro to Writing Fiction: I'm so glad I was able to get into this class, because there were fifty or so people on the waitlist and only twenty-five people in the class overall. I'll come out and say that I registered for this class as a stand-in for practicing my screenwriting skills, but after writing the 113 pages and a total of 23,588 words for the feature length screenplay I wrote over Winter Term, maybe it was best that I took a break from writing

(in this)
Format. Like I did from the end of December
until the beginning of February, almost every day.

This class has been a good exercise for me as a writer and storyteller in general, because the weekly writing assignments that we've been assigned to do have strengthened my writing stamina. Before I took this class, I would almost always begin one story and then stick with it until I had finished it. But with the weekly assignments, I've had to merely start a story (and come up with the characters, the setting, the problem, etc.) and depending on the assignment's length, which can either be a page, three pages, or three to five pages, stop writing when I've reached the page number of the assignment. This was a lot to get used to at first, because it can take me hours on end to come up with just one name for a character sometimes. As a result, I've since amassed a collection of stories that don't have endings yet. This was a little stressful at first, as I was worried that I wouldn't be able to finish them later on because I wouldn't be able to get back into the groove that I had when I first began writing them. However, I'm not really worried about that anymore because after I hand in the beginning of assignments now, I almost immediately go back to writing them that same day. Needless today, this class has been a wonderful, exciting experience for me.

I've also enjoyed the books and short stories that we've been reading and learning from. In particular, Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid and Children of the Sea by Edwige Danticat both slew me.

Intro to Psychological Science: Psychology! I love the brain even if I don't like looking at diagrams of it for very long because the shape of the brainstem freaks me out. This is the largest out of all of my classes since it's a big lecture one. But so far it's been working out much better for me than Organismal Biology did last semester, given that one of my professors made a Batman reference on the first day of classes (I loved Batman as a kid so this was quite comforting to me). I've found success in terms of grades, which feels nice because it affirms that I can actually do science really well when I'm in the right kind of class. It's interesting to see this unfold because the format of the course is more-or-less identical to how Organismal Biology was, minus the lab class that came with the latter, so I suppose what it comes down to is that the psychology course material just "sticks" in my brain. (How meta is that?)

Asian American History: This has been a really wonderful class for me to take. As a Chinese-American, I never really learned my own history or those of other Asian-Americans in a traditional academic setting. Yes, I knew about the Chinese Exclusion Act and that it was passed under Chester Alan Arthur, but that was mostly because I remember being appalled when I saw it in a book in fifth grade. But the majority of the things I learned about Asian American history before I took this class came from anecdotes of my grandparents' immigration and Wikipedia articles. I didn't know anything about the push for Ethnic Studies to be established as a legitimate academic field in the 1960s before I took this class, so knowing that now, I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to take class in an area that students of color like me have previously fought for the existence of. I would highly recommend this class to anyone, Asian American or not, because Asian American history is a part of American history as the name suggests, so having an understanding of it is more or less beneficial to one's knowledge of US history in general. Also, the reason why everyone born in America has birthright citizenship is because of an American-born Chinese man named Wong Kim Ark who won a Supreme Court case in 1898! I didn't realize just how much Asian Americans have contributed to key aspects of our country, and I can't wait to learn more.

Another way that this class has been important to me is that I can use the material we've learned and write a story or screenplay about it later on. I'm the type of writer that rarely ever writes a story without researching something, whether it be the exact type of gun a sheriff would've used in the 1960s or the density of the Caledonian Forest in Scotland, just because I don't like the thought of writing something that's inaccurate (whereas the mainstream television and film industries seem to not mind, on the whole, but that's another story). When I was chatting with an admissions officer here a few months ago, he observed that I was "interested in stories" based on my academic interests in history, creative writing, and cinema. This spurred a small revelation in me and I realized, "Wait, I know all of this stuff about history to the point where I rant to my mother about it quite frequently. Why haven't I been employing my historical knowledge in my writing all this time?" Thus, I've benefitted from this class from not only knowing my own people's history, but also gathering stories that I won't have to independently research for hours on end because I would have already learned about them in this class. It's a win-win situation!

So, that about wraps things up. Sociology, Creative Writing, Psychology, and History. I'm considering doing a double major or minoring in one of those areas along with Cinema Studies, but we'll see where this goes!

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