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October in Oberlin: A Mixed Bag

November 4, 2022

Yuhki Ueda ’24

October was the month of midterms, fall break, and baked goods, and it marked the slow but sure transition into the season of fall.

Midterms took place right before fall break, and this semester I had one “official” midterm exam, which was for my Arthurian Fictions class. It was challenging to prepare for because I had to re-familiarize myself with all of the readings we had done up until that point (which there were quite a few of) and make sure I remembered important details of each story as well as the historical context surrounding these literary works, but I ended up doing all right! Midterms season was a good opportunity for me to reflect on what has been working well and what hasn’t been working so well in terms of my study and work habits, so I plan to apply what I’ve learned about myself to the rest of the semester, including finals season, which will take place in December.

Eventually, much to my relief, fall break started. It was a much-needed break from the busyness of the first half of the semester. The Japanese Student Association hosted a potluck that my fellow officers and I had arranged for students who were staying on campus for the break. I made onigiri (Japanese rice balls) using different fillings, and other students brought a variety of food and drink such as pasta, apple crumble, sunomono (a Japanese cucumber salad made with vinegar and wakame seaweed), buckeye chocolates (peanut butter covered in chocolate, made to look like a buckeye — these sweets are apparently an Ohio staple), Japanese rice crackers, and tea. The potluck was a fun gathering where we got to chat, enjoy the different foods that people contributed, and just spent some quality time with fellow JSA members. 

A loaf of bread I baked
Homemade bread :)

While I’m on the topic of food, I have to mention the baking I did over fall break and the rest of the month. I baked several things, including bread (for the first time!), mini apple pies, banana butter mochi, banana bread muffins, and chocolate chip cookies. There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked goods wafting through the house! I find baking to be quite relaxing and even meditative, so it's a good way for me to unwind and relax.

Homemade banana butter mochi
Homemade banana butter mochi

 

 

Eventually, fall break ended and classes started again, and since then it’s been a busy but rewarding two weeks. I’ve been learning a lot in my classes, particularly in my Asian American Psychology seminar. This class meets once a week and each week, we discuss different aspects of the Asian American experience. We recently started doing “diverse Asian American facilitations,” which are basically student-led/guided discussions focusing on a specific subgroup of the Asian American population (e.g., multiracial Asian Americans, transracial Asian American adoptees, or South Asian Americans). For one of this week’s facilitations, I, along with my partner Allison (a.k.a. my friend and housemate, as mentioned in my last blog post!), was assigned to lead a discussion on LGBTQ+ Asian Americans. We  read several research articles on the subgroup beforehand so we could have a more thorough understanding of the existing literature, and we came up with several discussion questions that could be used to guide the class discussion. When reading the articles, I found it particularly interesting how LGBTQ+ Asian Americans have to learn how to navigate their identity while balancing the sometimes opposing values and attitudes of White American culture and Asian or Asian American culture, which can be very difficult to do. I really enjoyed hearing my classmates’ ideas and perspectives on this Asian American subgroup, and the facilitation reminded me of why I find the class so meaningful and why I’m always excited to see what students will bring to our discussions each week (which, along with reading about the existing psychological research on Asian Americans, helps me expand my own knowledge, understanding, and perspectives on both my own experiences as well as other people’s experiences). 

This month, I also performed a piano piece I’ve been working on for the first time during my studio class. For Conservatory students, weekly studio classes are an opportunity to practice performing in front of an audience and to give and receive feedback from our peers (this allows us to develop a more critical ear when listening to performances, which can help us develop a better understanding of how to improve our own playing). I was a little nervous while performing, but I was able to play through the piece. It has lots of large chords and big leaps, so it’s been quite challenging to work on since I have smaller hands, but I have been learning different techniques and strategies from my piano professor to be able to play the piece with more ease and without putting too much physical strain on my hands, wrists, and arms. I am looking forward to reaching a point where I can perform the piece well and more confidently. 

For the month of November, I am hoping to establish a more regular piano practice routine (sometimes I feel overwhelmed about having to practice on days when I’m particularly busy with academic work, so I end up not practicing at all even though I could, realistically, spend at least a good, focused 30 minutes practicing a small section of a piece  — it’s better to show up regularly for smaller intervals of time than to get overwhelmed by the idea of a long practice session and end up not spending any time practicing, which is something I have to remind myself of from time to time). I am also looking forward to a Friendsgiving gathering a couple of my friends and I are planning to host, as well as attending more student recitals and concerts  — I attended a PI (Performance & Improvisation) Ensemble concert last weekend for the first time, which was a really cool experience, so I’m hoping to further expand my concert-going experience since there are so many different types of music and ensembles here at Oberlin. Until next time!

Dusk in Oberlin, a photo taken in Tappan Square
A photo I took at dusk the other day, while standing in Tappan Square!

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