Oberlin Blogs

When I'm Home, Everything Seems to Feel Right

December 15, 2011

Emily Wilkerson ’15

While most high school seniors are either waiting anxiously for an envelope to arrive or "finishing up" applications, I am experiencing my first-ever reading period. Reading period is an interesting thing, it feels like a mini-break before finals, but in reality, it is a precious gift, given with the intent that we Obies will spend our days studying, practicing, and typing furiously. In order to give myself a break from sitting at my computer, paralyzed by my probably needless anxiety, I will write about a simpler time, a time when finals were a distant specter and winter break was eons away - last week.

In case you don't remember from my first post, the First-Year Seminar that I took this semester was Tolstoy's War and Peace and my professor was Tom Newlin, a member of the Russian department. One could say that Tom is the General Kutuzov to our Russian Army, our fearless leader and our guide to the vast world that is War and Peace.

It would not be an understatement to say that I adored my FYS. Until a few days ago, I kept my battered copy of War and Peace on my person at all times, just in case. If I was doing work in my hall's lounge, there was a 95% chance that I had War and Peace open in my lap and a pen in my hand. As far as I can see, there were only two downsides to taking the class, the first being that it required a lot of reading and the second being that when I read a book the first time, I want to talk about it with everyone I know. This wasn't an issue when I read The Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice for the first time, but (understandably) there aren't too many people who have read War and Peace, so I just spend a lot of my time thinking about it and re-reading my favorite passages.

The upsides, however, are many. The biggest upside is the simple fact that I got to read War and Peace in an intellectually stimulating setting. Based on how much time the adults in my life have to read, it seems to me that college is the time to read the "great books," so I'm glad that I had a chance to read what is arguably one of the greatest. Another plus is the following conversation, which happened countless times over the course of the semester and made me feel pretty smart*:

Curious Onlooker: What are you reading?
Me: War and Peace
Curious Onlooker: *impressed silence*

So naturally, when my professor invited the entire class to come over to his house for brunch, I was pretty thrilled. I didn't really expect that we would talk about Tolstoy, but the prospect of getting together with my classmates and eating a home-cooked meal sounded great. As it turns out, it was just what the doctor ordered.

I am generally pretty happy here in Oberlin, but as Christmas approaches, I find myself missing everything about home - and that includes being in a home. Simply going to someone's cozy house, eating normal, non-dining hall food and playing with a pet was almost therapeutic. Plus, it was nice to talk with everyone in a more relaxed way. Instead of sticking to Andrei's existential crises, our conversation ranged from our winter term projects to feminist performance art to our favorite children's books. Overall, it was the cherry on top of a great semester. Now that we've all finished the book (even the second epilogue) and classes are over, I just have to finish my final project.

And just like that, I'm brought back down to earth and reminded that I probably should be doing schoolwork right now. I hope that the next few days bring good news for you ED applicants and that everyone has a great winter break!

*I am mostly joking.

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