When I began teaching at Oberlin, in 1999, I had only lived in the United States for four years. I'd never really been to the Midwest. My graduate school was in California, and I was born and raised in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Until I applied for the job here I'd actually never heard of the place, nor did I have any clear notion of what a liberal arts college was. In short, I had no idea what I was getting into. But joining the Oberlin faculty is one of the best decisions I've made in my life. Why? Well, I kind of explain that here, and here — oh, and here, too.
I almost always teach in Spanish. Although I was trained as a literary scholar, in my classes we read fiction, poetry, theater, and essays from Spain and Latin America alongside history, film, and politics to get to larger questions: What is the connection between literary form and social change? How do ideologies manifest themselves in particular kinds of texts or behaviors? What function can literature and film fulfill in situations of social and political crisis, such as war, dictatorship and exile? These are also the questions that I try to answer in my own scholarship. Every class is a collective adventure.
I strongly feel that Oberlin is more than just a college. It's a thriving intellectual community. My students and my colleagues leave me in constant awe. The couple of opportunities I've have had to team-teach a class - be it in a two-week minicourse on transitions to democracy, or a semester-long course on twentieth-century Spain and Yugoslavia - were amazingly enriching. But even when it's just me teaching, I encourage students to make connections with other classes and interests, and in the end they teach me as much as I teach them.
Making connections is in the end what it is all about. It is also what drives the work of the Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures and its ObieMAPS project [link no longer available]. Give it a whirl!