Sophomore slump. It's a term that came up a lot last year as I prepared to enter my second year of college. They told me "You'll be bored." They stressed how it felt like a weird, often lonely, in between period. Were they right? Kind of. But not in the way I expected them to be.
Writer's block is a beast I've been trying to conquer for a few weeks now, and I think that statement is rather reflective of Fall 2016 as a whole. I could easily describe the first semester of my sophomore year as a "roller coaster," saying it had its "ups and downs" and "highs and lows." That would all be true, but I think it's too simple of an analysis to accurately represent what was actually an extremely transformative period.
Looking back on it, I'd say I'm "sophomore slumped." I tried to avoid. Like I said, I was warned of it last year, so I wanted to find a way to beat it. Of course I did what any reasonable millennial would do--I Googled it. In my search, the two answers that sounded most viable to overcome sophomore slump were to study abroad and get an internship. I took that to heart, and decided to do both.
Studying abroad was something I always figured I would want to do in college. I love traveling and will usually take every opportunity I can to fly to a new place (or return to an old fave). It was important to me that I find a program that reflected this spirit, and I was ecstatic when I discovered Semester at Sea. Honestly, I found Semester at Sea on a side ad of a Google search. It looked like spam, but the idea sounded pretty awesome. Who wouldn't want to take a semester to Iive like Zack and Cody on the Suite Life on Deck? I started to do more research on the program and was comforted to find that it was a legitimate, credible opportunity, and I went for it. Now after months of preparation, in just a few days I will be embarking on my greatest journey yet. I was even awarded a scholarship from DiversityAbroad.com to lessen the burden of tuition and flight costs.
The other half of the anti-sophomore slump plan was to find an internship. As a Bonner Scholar, I'm expected to complete at least 126 hours of community service every semester. Last year, I was not very happy with my service sites. I realized that the less engaged I was with the purpose and mission of my partner organization, the less enthusiasm I had for it. This year I set out to find something that would fulfill my personal, professional, and spiritual interests. And boy did I hit the jackpot.
My Politics majors leads me to interests in government. Knowing this, one of my friends recommended that I look for local political office to work in. After applying and going through a few interviews and screenings, I was brought on as a fall intern in the office of United States Senator Sherrod Brown. It was an amazing experience. I witnessed first-hand some of the challenges and benefits of work in the Senate. Ohioans from all over the state, and people from all over the nation, regularly called into the office to voice concerns, find resources, and get connected with their government through various mediums. My particular office staff was amazing. I consistently worked with two dedicated individuals, passionate about service to others and genuinely committed to helping constituents in whatever ways they could.
Fall 2016 had a lot of really great moments.
The first thing that popped into my head was the Hillary For America concert hosted in Cleveland. Seeing Beyoncé (twice in one year!!), Jay-Z, Chance the Rapper, J. Cole, and Big Sean all in one night, for free, was an amazing experience. Couple that with the spirit of campaign season--it was a night I will never forget.
Last spring I applied to join the Alumni Leadership Council as a student representative for my class year. I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into, but I really wanted an opportunity to engage with Oberlin alumni in meaningful ways. After attending my first meeting this fall, I can attest to my experience being exactly that. Plus, I got to see Fun Home in Cleveland at Connor Palace with some other ALC members!
Another one of my focuses this semester was developing my writing portfolio, and I'm happy to say that I've made steps forward in doing so. Towards the end of the summer, I was hired as a Campus Editor at Large for The Huffington Post. I was specifically hired to write and curate content oriented towards campus life and the presidential election. So far, I've been able to write several different pieces spanning different styles and genres, and am slowly working to build a following. Before being hired to the Post, I was brought on as the Staff Writer for The Grape, Oberlin's alternative student newspaper. Being able to shine light on some of Oberlin's biggest stories, and offer a platform to some of our best but often underrepresented groups, was a true pleasure.
In that same editing vein, I took Teaching and Tutoring Writing Across the Disciplines this semester, which meant I started working in the Writing Center! Working in the Writing Center has been a truly incredible experience. It's been an opportunity for me to share my passion for words with others in meaningful ways. This course also aided in furthering my passion for the Rhetoric and Composition department.
The pinnacle of my writing development this semester took form in a published letter in The New York Times. This semester marked my first time serving on Student Senate. My role was communications director, and I enjoyed every moment of it. It wasn't easy. Senate is usually one of the first groups to respond when crises hit. Yet even the stressful moments ended up being rewarding, rich experiences for growth.
Towards the end of the semester Nick Kristof's research assistant reached out to me. As comms director, I, along with the liaison, have the privilege of representing Senate officially in public matters. The research assistant wanted to clarify the details of a story that involved Senate.
To make a long story short, I disagreed with the way Kristof represented the situation, and decided to write a piece defending Obies on The Huffington Post. Under the encouragement of my bosses at work, I submitted a version of that letter as a letter to the New York Times. Amazingly, it was actually published; a great cap to an amazing semester.
Everything wasn't cookies and cream, though. I suffered some hard times. Doctors found a tumor in my jaw, and I endured two surgeries over the semester. For some reason, I completely underestimated the impact that the surgery would have on my ability to function. I survived, but it wasn't without some less-than-fun. One day I ended up going to a professor's office hours and, out of nowhere, burst into tears. It wasn't pretty.
Maybe a little bit. Luckily I had friends who knew how to balance out all the sad times with great experiences and company. Crocker Park is a mall/shopping center relatively close to Oberlin with some decent stores and tasty restaurants. A few of my friends, Cole, Juan, and Austin, and I went to eat on the weekends when we were tired of Stevie being the only dining hall option and had already exhausted the Kim's Chicken Curry Bowl enough that week.
During one of our Convocation Lectures, journalist and media personality Michelle Norris mentioned food as being one avenue to the heart and mind of another. This couldn't be more true. Whether it was at The Cheesecake Factory, Vieng's Asian Bistro, or Bonefish Grill, I grew closer to my friends by furthering my understanding of our common goals and shared commitments.
This post could really go on infinitely, as my experiences this past semester supported me in infinite growth. So many more great moments I'm thinking of: inviting and having renowned historian Angus Johnston come to speak at Oberlin, making my own website (which was my personal 2016 resolution), all the long nights in Mudd shared with friends, the highlights and pain from the election cycle, serving on my first committee, drawing nearer to myself, and furthering my own truth.
As 2016 comes to an end, and as I start to anticipate what 2017 will bring, all I can think about is all the love and experiences waiting to be shared. Here's to you Fall 2016, 2016 as a whole, and to any experience or person I may have left out in this reflection. Y'all are the why.
I think I am sophomore slumped, but not in the way I thought I would be.