Oberlin Blogs

What I Did and What I'm Going to Do

September 4, 2014

Alison Kronstadt ’16

"But Alison, you say, clutching your keyboard (which I don't think would work as well as it would for pearls), the title of this blog doesn't start with the words 'I Try.' What gives?"

Not so much. Still, I've decided to shift the way I blog, and the stickler in me is compelling me to explain what and why. As those of you who have been with this blog from the beginning - Hi Mom and Dad! - will know, my goal in writing this is to try new things at Oberlin, to push myself out of the routines that I usually fall into and to have as many new experiences as possible while I'm here. That's still true. I realized, however, that I have way too much to say about the other parts of Oberlin life to restrict myself to such a narrow subject matter. If I don't blog about the best ways to chase geese off of North Fields before a frisbee scrimmage, or the three best options for vegans at your average 4th meal (a salad, a bagel, or a salad and a bagel), who will?

Also, one of my new-school-year's resolutions is to learn how to do things in moderation. When I felt like every blog post had to be a revolutionary experience that completely changed the way I saw Oberlin, they ended up being 1) insanely long and 2) pretty infrequent. I want to be able to write blog posts that I'm proud of without writing a novel every time, and this seems like a great way to do that.

All this to say: a lot of the things I did this summer were not new - one, living at home, is about as old as habits get for me - but I still think they're worth mentioning. My summer split into three parts, so let's list, shall we?

1. Come on and slam

For the first half of the summer, I interned at Split this Rock, an amazing organization based in DC that exists at the intersection of poetry, education, and activism. Since I love all three of those things, it was a fantastic time. I got to write curriculum for, and lead, a ton of poetry workshops for high schoolers from all over the city. After a year of leading workshops for college students, I learned a lot about how to tailor prompts, readings and discussions for different age groups.

Even within the high school groups, there was a ton of variation. I got to work with the amazing DC Youth Slam Team (who WON Brave New Voices, the largest youth poetry slam in the world, this year, so definitely go check out their YouTube channel if you have about 5 hours to spare and a lot of tissues), but I also taught a two-hour workshop to two fourteen-year-old boys who'd never written a slam poem before. One of my favorite parts of slam poetry is that it makes an art form that can feel impossibly complex more accessible to anyone. Watching my students realize that poetry belongs to them to was one of the highlights of this experience, and my summer. I definitely plan to take what I learned at Split This Rock and apply it to OSlam! this year.

2. New York. No, not THAT New York.

I spent about three weeks this summer in the Adirondack mountains in New York. One of those weeks was spent backpacking with my little brother, and it's definitely getting its own blog post. The other two were spent at my grandparents' house on Saranac Lake, enjoying the scenery, spending as much time outside as possible, getting my booster shot of mountains before heading back to the Land of the Flat, and hanging out with my family.

There's no internet at the house, and I was happy to spend some time unplugged with myself. I love having all my friends around at school, but I'm a firm believer in being able to hang out with yourself, and I took advantage of the chance to go for walks, swims, or paddles by myself. It's hard to be anything but happy when you're in such a beautiful place!

3. In which I forget how to have an adult conversation.

I spent the second half of July and all of August working as a counselor at my Tae Kwon Do studio's summer camp. I don't do a lot of martial arts at Oberlin - something I'm hoping to change this year - and it was great to spend some time getting back in the swing of it. I've been doing Tae Kwon Do since I was seven; I have a lot of friends and mentors at my studio, and it's a huge part of my growth as an athlete, a teacher and a person.

Unlike blogging, working at the studio is not a peaceful job. Often, it felt like triage: by the time you finish explaining to the youngest camper that his friend didn't lose his GameBoy game on purpose because he hates him, two red belts will be in a fight about the infinite number of ways to interpret the rules of foursquare, and by the time that's sorted out it's time to start Tae Kwon Do again and you've eaten three bites of a sandwich for lunch. Lather, rinse, repeat.

My instructor reminds me every time I come back to visit that this studio is my second home. When I think about Tae Kwon Do, it's more about a community than an extracurricular. Seeing other kids - born athletes, kids like me who couldn't kick without falling down when they started - become at home there is worth a rumbling stomach. And that four-year-old's classmates will be very, very grateful that I taught him the difference between a Transformers accident and Transformers sabotage.

And now for something completely different!

By the end of the summer, Oberlin always feels like a surreal, half-fictional place; by the end of my first week back, summer had already started to fade into memory. As I start up classes and activities (expect a belated orientation/first-year blog!), though, I want to keep the summer's lessons with me.

Between roughing it in the woods on my own, getting myself to and from my job/internship every day, and being responsible for 30-odd children, this was one of the most grown-up summers I've ever had. I love that college can take some of that weight off, but I don't want to forget what I did - and can do - as I start my third year here.

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