Oberlin and Beyond: Audrey Tran '22
This is the first edition of Oberlin and Beyond, a series in which I will interview Oberlin students, faculty, and alumni to capture their personal Oberlin experience. This edition will spotlight Audrey Tran, an Economics and Cinema Studies double major. Tran is an international student from Vietnam. In our interview, we discuss adjusting to life in Oberlin, improving one’s mental health, and her Winter Term plans, among other things. I hope you enjoy.
TM: Coming from Vietnam, what colleges were you looking to attend? What made you decide on Oberlin?
AT: Coming from Vietnam, I was looking for a small college academic environment as I felt the lack of individuality and care from both the teachers and the students in my high school years. I was hoping to get to know people whom I could really talk and relate to, like around whom I could have a sense of deep understanding, intellectually and personally. I chose Oberlin because I heard it was an artistic and liberal college with open-minded people alongside great diversity in social perspectives and academic choices.
TM: As an international student, how do you feel your Oberlin experience differs from students coming from the States? What does Oberlin do to help you adjust to life so far away from home?
AT: As an international student, initially I felt like I was failing to catch up with the academic coursework -- everyone was already used to reading textbooks with big words or felt at ease with speaking up in class. I've always been a shy student and rarely participated in group discussions solely because I didn't know what would be a suitable/appropriate thing to say about a given topic of discussion. I've improved a lot in this regard, thanks to the great professors I've had and the friends I've made in my classes. What's more, I really appreciate the school breaks at Oberlin -- I've visited some big cities in the first 2 years in the States, and the frequent breaks do help me a lot in working through a semester without being exhausted or burned out.
TM: One of the longer breaks from Oberlin is Winter Term; what were your projects for Winter Term the past two years and how did you decide on them?
AT: My first Winter Term was spent in New Zealand. It was such a peculiar chance that I could never have expected to come. I was taking a New Zealand Cinema class whose professor had lived in New Zealand for a while and she wanted us to also have an opportunity to explore the amazing country, so she decided to put together that two-week trip. This year, I'm taking a cooking class in Vietnam with an attempt to make some basic dishes for myself in case I have to be away from home in the summer. My professor asked me to write a reflection essay on how my expectations of cooking would differ from the reality of cooking. I'm not so sure what to write yet, but I hope it turns out fine afterward.
TM: I understand that you are a Cinema Studies and Economics double major. What are some of the challenges that come with this? What field do you see yourself working in post-grad?
AT: One of the best things I find in Oberlin is that people are very unique. I've seen a lot of people who have vastly different interests work their way through the college experience by majoring in whatever they are passionate about - jazz and neuroscience, French and cinema, studio arts and economics, etc. I'm not a very determined/unchanging person in terms of what I like, so I decided to major in one thing that is stable, which is Economics, and another thing that is more of a hobby, Cinema Studies. I hope to use what I learn in Econ classes to work in the future, while at the same time, to make films as a way to add something different to my life.
TM: How has Oberlin developed you as a person outside of the classroom? Have you learned anything new about yourself due to such a unique college experience?
AT: After a year and a half at Oberlin, I've learned to communicate better with people and with myself. I've had more opportunities to engage myself in stimulating conversations about things that I'm really interested in, in Oberlin and outside of it, than before I came here. What's more important is I understand myself better. In my high school years, I barely took care of my mental health, thinking I had no right to be stressed, thus my stresses were barely acknowledged, or I would feel undervalued for being oversensitive because I was paying too much attention to what other people would think of me instead of how I actually felt internally. Going to Oberlin was a good decision in this regard -- it has helped me acknowledge all the ups and downs in life without me feeling I don't deserve to take a pause to take care of my mental health. Hence, I appreciate the efforts people here put into making you know your worth so you don't have to overwork yourself.