Oberlin Blogs

Power, Politics, and Pastries

February 13, 2024

Chloe Martin '27

Before I applied to Oberlin, one of the questions I would always ask current students was how they would recommend students make the most out of their first year at Oberlin. Even after I applied to Oberlin, and was admitted, I asked the same question. The answers were always the same; build relationships with your peers, engage in extracurriculars, get the egg and cheese bagel at Slow Train, and take a first-year seminar

Originally, I wasn’t completely won over by this idea.  I liked the idea of jumping into classes that aligned directly with personal interests or could apply towards potential majors. I also liked the idea of taking classes with students of varying years because I thought that this would add to greater diversity of experience and interest. 

Yet so many people recommended taking a seminar that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity without feeling a bit of regret. So when Oberlin released the catalog of first-year seminars being offered, I immediately zeroed in on my top choices for first-year seminar, with my top pick being Power, Politics, and Pastries. Much to my luck I was placed in the class.

Prior to the start of school, something that I didn’t realize was how helpful my seminar would be in forming connections with my classmates and making friends. Before coming to campus and having orientation all new students are assigned a small peer advising group and leader, called PAL, which they meet with prior to arriving on campus as well as throughout the entire first semester. This same group is also the exact same group of students that will be in your first-year seminar.

This way, you can already start meeting your classmates and learning about life at Oberlin before even stepping foot on campus! I found that being with the same cohort of people throughout the first semester was really helpful. I liked being around fellow first-years who easily understood the excitement and worries new students have, as well as having a class that emphasized familiarizing new students with campus resources. 

During my first-year seminar I got to travel to the school library, bakeries in town, the art museum, the Oberlin special collections, and so much more! Because of this I learned about resources on campus that I otherwise wouldn’t have, as well as how to utilize these resources to my advantage. 

Something else I really appreciated about my first-year seminar experience was that my seminar was classified as writing-intensive. Nearly everything we wrote we got direct feedback on from both classmates as well as the professor. For me I found high-school and college writing to be pretty different from each other, so this was a huge help as I adjusted to the differences in writing style.

In my seminar, we learned about how to effectively manage our time, how to approach reading academic journals, and how to write college-level pieces of varying genres. Not only was this helpful in my seminar, but it has also helped me in every college class I have taken since. 

I have made my closest friends in my first-year seminar, as well as some of the very best memories. It helped me to challenge my thinking process, try new academic topics, and be immersed in diverse thoughts. Something not many people appreciate is that many people in their seminars have very different academic and personal backgrounds. Hardly anyone in my seminar was majoring in the topics that the seminar most closely aligned with: politics and history. Some students were hoping to be geoscience majors, while others were pursuing biochemistry or creative writing. This led to our class discussions being super interesting, as well as allowing us to get to know people that are on different academic paths than our own! 

I knew Oberlin would be a place of collective thought and experience, and I feel like my first-year seminar represented that perfectly. While we all had different majors, interests, backgrounds, and hobbies, we got to experience the transition into college together. While initially a skeptic, I can safely say I’ve been entirely converted into being a first-year seminar enthusiast. If you get the chance, I highly recommend rising first-years take a seminar, regardless of topic. Of course, you should be curious about the course you're taking, but the liberal arts experience is about trying new things and stepping out of your comfort zone. The first-year seminar is the perfect time to try that, so don't be hesitant of trying a seminar in a topic you're unfamiliar with! While I'm now in my second semester at Oberlin, I still carry with me a big lesson that my first-year seminar taught me; if you are open to new experiences and ideas you will thrive in any environment. Don't be afraid to try new things; not only is that celebrated at Oberlin, but it is also encouraged.  

Me and my friends that I made in my first year seminar.
Me and the friends that I made in my first-year seminar!


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