This year I am at Oberlin during Winter Term. The month of January at Oberlin is devoted to personal projects, internships, or jobs before classes resume in February. I am spending the month working on my thesis paper for art history. Since returning to campus I have formed a routine that I really enjoy. I’m trying to balance enjoying campus and many of my friends also being back in Oberlin while remaining productive with my thesis research and writing. To give a better sense of what campus is like when only a fourth of the student body is here in the winter, or give a better idea of what winter term can look like for students returning to campus, the following blog is a day in my life.
I woke up around 9 and snow had coated the streets. I rushed to get ready and ran out the door to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, where I would be giving a tour for an hour. Though my primary work this month is thesis writing, because I am on campus I also continue to work as a gallery guide at the museum. I led 8 six-year-olds through the galleries and spoke with them about artworks related to religion for an hour.
Because I live so close to the museum, I went back to my apartment to cook lunch. I’ve really enjoyed having the time to prepare and cook meals for myself now that my schedule is not filled to the brim with classes, rugby, jobs and extracurriculars. While I boiled rice on the stove I sat down at the table to finish up a final reading I couldn’t finish yesterday. I cut up and seasoned a veggie stir fry and packed up a backpack with all the essentials for a study session. By 1pm I was back out the door on the way to our weekly art history honors meeting with Professor Inglis.
The meeting is a good time to ask any questions, gain feedback from the two other students currently also doing a thesis in art history, and voice any challenges or successes from the week. Writing in isolation or beginning a large paper can be a daunting task, so the department aims to support us with personal and group meetings as much as possible as a means of checking in not only on our work but also on us as students and people. There wasn’t much to report this week, so after thirty minutes of chatting, asking a few questions, and going over goals for the month I was back out in the snow headed towards the Slow Train.
While waiting for a stovetop coffee maker to arrive in the mail, I couldn't tear myself away from the Slow Train lattes. During winter term the coffee shop is usually much less crowded and full of hubbub in comparison to the semester. Often, the large tables are open and today I set up a little workspace near an outlet in case of sudden computer failure. With a coffee on the table I worked consistently for about four hours. A couple breaks were necessary, but by 5pm, when Slow Train closed, I felt good about the writing I had completed. As I trudged back home, sending pictures of the snow to my parents back in California, I saw that a few people were making a trip to Aldi.
I hadn’t been grocery shopping in a while but had grand plans for future meals and homemade coffees, so I piled in the car with 4 friends and we set off into the snow. The drive wasn’t long, and when we arrived we meandered through the aisles trying to remember what we needed as we shared shopping carts. When I got home I changed into comfy clothes, put on some music and unpacked my groceries. With a few leftovers from lunch I doctored the recipe to resemble dinner and set a timer for an hour and a half devoted to anything but working.
I spent the hour and a half watching Netflix, working on underpaintings for two artworks I hope to complete in the next few months and eating chocolate-covered almonds. When the alarm blared at the hour and a half mark, I finished up the episode of the show I was watching and went to the dining room to work. I find writing at night to be difficult, and working at home to be even more extraneous, but the limited library hours prevent me from dragging myself outside again to study anywhere on campus after dark.
Instead, I set an attainable goal for my nightly work session, then put some music conducive to studying on the speaker and turn on all my favorite lamps. The work sessions never feel as focused as the daytime hours, but I like going to bed at a reasonable hour after completing a last smidge of work for the day. Because I’m about to enter my last semester at Oberlin, some of the work I do at this point of the day is related to my thesis while another portion of the work goes to job applications. Though both the thesis and the idea of getting a job can be terrifying, both are also exciting, and that fine balance between dread and thrill is one I tread very carefully by allowing myself time to work at my own pace while staying motivated to actually complete my work.
Usually I try to go to bed before midnight, and spend a little time reading. Though every day is not exactly uniform, I like the routine I’ve settled into so far and hope it offers a little insight into what a day in Winter Term at Oberlin looks like for me.