Oberlin Blogs

Reflections on 2nd Semester Courses

March 31, 2024

Ida Rosenstein '26

This semester has definitely been one of the more intensive ones in terms of sheer workload. Three 300-level classes can be a lot to manage! With so many different classes being offered each semester, I thought that I would provide some insight on my own experiences with certain classes. And for fun, I’ve included a mini-playlist for each class!  

ENGL 302—The Wild West, the New West, and the Weird West:

If you’ve seen me on campus, you’ve likely seen me in a cowboy-themed shirt, earrings, or noticed the “howdy” stickers on my computer. I happen to have a penchant for the cowboy aesthetic. And while I’m not the most familiar with the Western genre, I have enjoyed the odd Western film/novel from time to time. This was my first 300-level English course I have taken at Oberlin and I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised! I prepared myself for long descriptions of the frontier land, cattle, and ranching, but, underneath all the tumbleweeds and brooding horsemen, I have discovered fascinating explorations of an American mythology. This is one of my larger-sized classes and it certainly has been an adjustment getting into the pattern of reading a book per week. It seems that we will be tracing the evolution of the Western genre from its foundational beginnings to the more modern revisionist Western. I’m definitely keen to put some actual knowledge behind my so-called cowboy fascination. 

Personal Class Playlist:

Settin the Woods on Fire by Hank Williams

Take You Back (The Iron Hoof Cattle Call) by Orville Peck

The Outlaw Josey Wales by Zella Day


HIST 301—The Politics of Gender in Medieval and Early Modern Europe:

Okay, honestly, this might be my favorite class of the semester. I’ve been planning on pursuing history as just a minor but this class has certainly been swaying me to, instead, take it up as a third major. The readings thus far have been incredibly interesting, covering topics from medieval beauty standards to the fasting practices of female saints. One thing that I really appreciate about this class is the emphasis on moving away from classification of “women’s studies,” to exploring concepts of masculinity and intersex people as well in the period. The topics of our various units delve into specific areas such as housekeeping, but the breadth is great enough for us to have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of aspects. Basically, if there’s something you’re especially interested in, you have the freedom and space to delve into it as much as you’d like. 

Personal Class Playlist:

King by Florence and the Machine

Joan of Arc by In This Moment

Same Old Energy by Kiki Rockwell


ASTR 100—Introductory Astronomy:

While I have always found stars and the night sky fascinating, frankly, I chose to take astronomy to fulfill the last of my QFR and NSMA credits. I am very much a humanities-focused student; STEM courses have never been my strongest subject. Astronomy feels like a much more standard return to the form of the classes I took in high school. Think lecture and note-intensive, weekly problem sets summarizing the material (a kind of homework I haven’t done since leaving high school), pen and paper exams, and review sessions. The main difference that I had to adjust to was how quickly we went over the material. There are a lot of different concepts covered in each class and I am often scrambling to take notes fast enough to keep up. But I can’t complain too much; I’m taking the class with a few friends of mine so I always have people to work through problem sets with and help me catch up on any material I may have missed. The planetarium labs are also significantly shorter than other science labs!

Personal Class Playlist:

Cosmic Love by Florence and the Machine

Andromeda by Weyes Blood

Planetary Ambience by Japanese Breakfast


CRWR 320—Fiction Workshop:

From the bottom of my heart, thank you Fiction Workshop for getting me on a (semi)regular writing schedule! This class is only once a week and clocks in at almost three hours, so while it can be a bit tiring sometimes, the length guarantees that everyone gets specific and extensive feedback on their work. I was initially somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer creative freedom this class afforded me. Up until now, all of my other creative writing classes had provided prompts and guidance for the direction of the piece to write, and a shorter timespan to complete that piece. With this general fiction workshop, however, I have a much longer amount of time to complete my work and significantly more creative freedom. I decided to go all-in with this opportunity and try writing weirder and more experimental pieces — the beauty of this is that many other peers are doing the same, so I don’t feel so alone in my messy attempts to try new techniques and methods. As most people taking 300-level workshops are intending to pick up a creative writing major or minor, there isn’t any pressure to play it safe or try to adhere to a certain style. I haven’t always felt comfortable presenting some of my more surreal work, but this class has allowed me to do so and without judgment! 

Personal Class Playlist

(since I realized I know very few songs actually about writing, these are some songs that inspire me in my own writing):

Famous Last Words (An Ode to Eaters) by 1017 ALYX 9SM and Ethel Cain

Spiracle by Flower Face

Paper Bag by Fiona Apple

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