Oberlin Blogs


September 23, 2014

Emily Wilkerson ’15

I haven't kept it a secret that I was nervous to return to Oberlin after studying abroad. I love Oberlin and missed my friends while I was away, but a lot can change in a year and I hadn't really prioritized keeping up with what was going on in the Oberlin bubble. Although I was ready to come back by the end of my time abroad, in the weeks leading up to my return to Oberlin, my list of worries included the following:

  • I would forget where things are located on campus

  • I would bore my friends by talking about study abroad all the time

  • I would feel out of step with my friends more generally

  • I wouldn't be able to get my work done

  • My professors would forget who I am

  • People generally would forget who I am

  • I would feel lonely

Some of these worries were hilariously unfounded. Ok, one in particular - seriously, how did I think I'd forget where things are on a campus this small? For the most part, though, things have turned out to be more complicated than I anticipated. For example, some of my fellow fourth-years have told me that they like walking around campus and feeling like they know a lot of people and, in turn, a lot of people know who they are, but until a few weeks ago I had never even seen half of Oberlin's student population. I'm regularly asked if I'm a first-year. I don't think people have forgotten who I am exactly, but I feel somewhat anonymous and sometimes I do feel lonely. Luckily my friends have been really excellent. I think they understand that I've been feeling a bit out of the loop and they've definitely made the extra effort to keep me included (thanks guys!).

As for getting work done, that was a bit of a struggle at first, but after some missteps (ending up in the ER on the first day of classes, turning in my first essay of the year a few hours late), I think I'm back in my Oberlin groove, which at the moment means I'm taking the following classes:

English/Comp lit 372 - Contemporary Literary Theory with Pat Day
I'm confused a lot in this class, but I also feel like I'm learning a lot, so I suppose it's a trade off.

Astronomy 101 - Introductory Astronomy with Dan Stinebring
Because I have to get my Quantitative Requirement. Fun fact: one of aerospace engineer friends has started calling me "little star gazer" because I'm in this class.

German 312 - Introduction to German Literature with Robin Ellis
I took a class that claimed to be an introduction to German literature while in Germany; this one is much better.

German 423 - Reading Kafka with Gabriel Cooper
I'm also confused a lot of the time in this class, but I'm confused in German!

Collegium Musicum with Steven Plank
Just as wonderful and fulfilling as I remembered it being.

Beginning Swing EXCO (not for credit)
On my third attempt to register for this class, I finally got in! Swing dancing is kind of hard but really, really fun thus far. Plus the Charleston looks really cool.

In addition to classes (which I will write more about once I get to know them a bit better) and Nothing But Treble rehearsals, I've had some bureaucratic and work stuff to sort through. I applied for, got, and am currently training for my new job as a tour guide, I'm nearly done with a fellowship application, I only need one more signature before I can get my study abroad credits transferred, and as of a few hours ago I've officially declared my German major!

I decided to document this momentous occasion with an instagram, obviously

I don't think I've ever mentioned my intention to declare a German major on the blog, but the idea's been brewing since registration period last spring, when I realized that I would only have to take one more German class this year than I was planning on to have a major. I only waited so long to declare because of some uninteresting advisor-related stuff, but that was easy to sort out once I got back to Oberlin. As I was signing and dating the form, I realized that it was exactly a year ago today that I got on a plane to Munich and began my German adventure. Timing my major declaration this way definitely seems like something I'd do intentionally, but instead life just took a turn for the novelistic1 without me doing anything to help it get there.2 I think I like it better this way, because frankly, I've had enough to think about these past few weeks without trying to make my life into a novel.


1 From the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera:

Early in the novel [Anna Karenina], Anna meets Vronsky in curious circumstances: they are at the railway station when someone is run over by a train. At the end of the novel, Anna throws herself under a train. This symmetrical composition -- the same motif appears at the beginning and the end -- may seem quite "novelistic" to you, and I am willing to agree, but only on condition that you refrain from reading such notions as "fictive," "fabricated," and "untrue to life" into the word "novelistic." Because human lives are composed in precisely such a fashion. They are composed like music. Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence (Beethoven's music, death under a train) into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual's life. Anna could have chosen another way to take her life. But the motif of death and the railway station, unforgettably bound to the birth of love, enticed her in her hour of despair with its dark beauty. Without realizing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of greatest distress. It is wrong, then, to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences. ... But it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.

2 You can trust that I would own up to planning this because while I was packing to go back to the US, I actually stopped to consider the metaphorical resonance of taking items with me or leaving them behind. I sort of wish I were joking.

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