Oberlin Blogs

Resolve to Action: Winter Term + Opportunity

February 7, 2015

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

The beginning of a new year is often an opportunity for resolutions--promises to improve, inspire and invigorate our lives. However, resolutions are shortly forgotten and, well, promises are broken all the time. As well-intentioned as our resolutions may be, perhaps focused goals are more useful.

Every six months, I hand write my personal and academic goals to help me focus on my ambitions and priorities. As I plan out these goals, I consider my support systems and resources for accomplishing these goals at least four times a year. On campus it can be extremely difficult to do this kind of self-love/mental health check in for all kinds of reasons (see my post Back At It), so opportunities to mentally escape campus are fantastic.

College is not a place to only focus on developing one part of yourself. It is about discovering and encouraging the multitude of identities and interests you have. A huge component of achieving this is to be good to yourself! Admittedly, in only the prime of my 20s and the near-end of my undergraduate career "being good to myself" is still a working concept. However, breaks during the academic year are some of the best mental re-set time I have so I make the most of it.

Flight screen with a map of England indicating that the flight is approaching London

My current escape has been London, England, as of the last day of Winter Term.


Winter Term is the one-month gap between fall and spring semester where classes are suspended. While my mind makes its gradual return to my body, I use Winter Term as a time to express some creative part of myself that is not as well nurtured as it should be during the academic year. As a result, my three required projects have focused on reflection, community support and lots of writing.

Switchin' It Up and Movin' It Down South helped me to decide what my final project needed to focus on more: creativity. I spent last January traveling to New Orleans with the hopes of beginning my research and building stronger relationships with friends, mentors and myself. Strangely enough, this Winter Term is amazingly similar yet distinct for a few important reasons.

  1. Firstly, *surprise* I'm in London, England, right now! It took a lot to prepare for this trip mentally, spiritually, financially, etc. and I wanted my project to reflect that process in some form.
  2. Aside from my love of writing, photography is something I have admired from a distance despite my deep passion for visual representations of narratives.
  3. Despite recognizing my own creative pursuits, poetry and photography are two ideal fields that I would love to dabble in more so I created a Winter Term project that allows me to do a little bit of both.
  4. I applied for funding through our 1835 Fund (1835 is the year that Oberlin, as an institution, committed itself to educating the children of enslaved people) and secured money to purchase a professional-grade camera. My project, Phototerm, required me to spend the month writing, taking photos and preparing for my semester in London.
  5. Now that I am finally in London, I *try* to take photos every day and upload them to a blog site (and here as well!) where my family and friends can both see and read what I am up to. The best part of it is that I can trace my personal growth in two highly creative ways and it has been a beautiful process thus far.

My broader point in this post is connecting resolutions to goals and finally to actions is that all ideas start and end somewhere. Personally, I wanted to take up photography years ago, and I finally took the time and space to identify opportunities and resources to do something purely for myself.

However, I commit myself to making sure that my creative energies extend beyond myself by ensuring that the things that I write and photos that I take are shared and connected to other things that I do because if my identities are deeply intertwined, then so is the product of my creative and academic work. With that sharing spirit in mind, here are some of the photos taken with my new camera so graciously funded by the 1835 Fund.


This is a part of the road of the historic City of London--it was built by the Romans when London was still called Londinium.

Classic London street

This is Oxford Street near Oxford Circus (Tube Station). It has so many shops, sidewalk carts with food and stores like H&M.


The british museum front with many columns

The British Museum is near the town of Bloomsbury and this is the grand entrance to the museum.


The author takes a selfie
Finally, I think it is fitting that as you read my own self-narrated growth on the Blogs, you should also have a chance to see me too! One of the goals of my Winter Term project this time around was to appreciate the rawness of my own inner beauty in both my writing and my photography :)

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