I just got back to Oberlin from Atlanta, where I spent my Winter Term. There were lots of things I loved about Winter Term, but there were a few particular things about Winter Term I thought deserved special mention. In no particular order, those reasons are:
1. You can do pretty much anything
The great thing about Winter Term is that you can do pretty much whatever you want, as long as you can get a faculty member to sign off on it. You can find awesome lists of a wide variety of Winter Term projects on the blogs, but those lists are by no means complete - between Oberlin Switchboard, the Career Center, and your own ingenuity, your options are wide open.
I'm planning on being a theater and economics double major, and chose to do an internship related to theater for my Winter Term. I interned for a lighting designer in Atlanta (who I got in contact with through Oberlin Switchboard), and stayed with two Oberlin alumni (also met through Switchboard). I had an awesome time with my internship, spending all day in a theater, exploring Atlanta, meeting Oberlin alumni who were out and about in the real world, and getting to live more independently than you do in a college dorm.
While I chose to do my Winter Term away from Oberlin or home, there are also plenty of things you can do at Oberlin, at home, or somewhere else entirely. If you live somewhere that's warm (or at least warmer than Oberlin), Winter Term can be a wonderful time to defrost and thaw out before returning to Ohio.
If you're interested in theater, dance, musicals, or other types of performance Oberlin is a great place to be during Winter Term. There are student shows, department shows for theater and dance, and lots of things happening in the Conservatory. This Winter Term there was Dessa Rose, an incredible musical put on by the Theater Department, The Last Five Years put on by OMTA, a student theater organization, dance shows put on by the department, and two devised theater pieces that are site-specific and performed in Warner basement, just to name a few.
2. Go somewhere warmer
Ohio gets cold.
Really cold. Winter Term is a great time to find a project somewhere tropical, or at least somewhere warmer than Ohio. As a California transplant, I was very happy to have missed the worst of the Ohio cold, and to have been somewhere at least slightly warmer.
3. See What You're Working Towards
Oberlin can be a bubble, and I've found it's easy to forget what exactly you're working towards when you're here. As a first-year, it seems like both a long time and an incredibly short time until I'll be leaving Oberlin, and I found it very useful to talk to Oberlin alumni about how they had navigated the world after leaving Oberlin, and how they had ended up in their careers and various locations.
I'm planning on majoring in theater, specifically technical theater, and there are times when sitting in a classroom and discussing theater can be frustrating, when I just want to get out and do theater. During Winter Term, I was continually surprised at how often something that had been talked about in a class came up, and how many of the high level things I was watching relied heavily on things that I had learned about or discussed in a class or at work. It made me excited to go back to Oberlin and start rehearsals for a show that I'm Assistant Stage Managing this semester, Bertolt Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle.
During the semester, it's also easy to get tired or overwhelmed and forget what you're working towards when you have homework, work, shows to see, and you want to spend time with friends. I've definitely gotten to the point where what I had to do seemed like too much, and didn't seem worth the stress it was causing. Having Winter Term lets you get a taste of what exactly it is that you're working so hard for, and at least for me, reminded me why I wanted to come to Oberlin in the first place.
Winter Term Post-Mortem
The night before I flew back to Oberlin, I texted my parents that it was the only time I had been anything less than fully excited to come back to Oberlin. That wasn't because Oberlin had changed, or my feelings toward it had changed - I certainly missed my friends, my bed, and classes, but I had such an incredible Winter Term that the idea of doing anything else was strange to me. Now that I've been back and the first week of classes has started, I'm happy to be back. I have shows starting up, I love my classes (more to come on those), and I'm completely back in rhythm with my friends.