Oberlin Blogs

Winter Term, or lack thereof

January 29, 2020

Claire O’Brocta ’23

It’s a relaxing Wednesday evening (January 29th to be precise), and I’m writing this while reclining in a comfy chair back in New York, enjoying my last 19 hours at home before I return to Ohio for my fourth semester of college. After this semester, most of the classmates with whom I started my college journey will be halfway done with theirs, and I’ll be sitting at a solid 40%. The life of a double-degree! It’s okay, though, because being at Oberlin for five years has its advantages too. Outside of the obvious second degree that we get compared to our single-degree counterparts, we get a Winter Term perk. Like everyone else at Oberlin, double-degree students have to complete three full Winter Term projects. However, since the majority of us tack on a fifth year to our time in college, we get two Januaries off, the first of which I took this year!

Taking the month off wasn’t my original intention for 2020. I went to the Winter Term fair in October, signed up for more information on a few projects, and researched some outside opportunities. Even after all that, nothing felt like it was the right project to do, and I had a difficult decision to make. I decided to wait a little longer before making my final choice (the deadline for sign up isn’t until early December) in case an opportunity came to me out of the blue. Nothing ever came. Thinking about it more, I figured I’d likely have a greater chance in future years (rather than future weeks), to find what I truly want to use my two precious remaining Winter Terms for. I didn’t feel that it was worth it to waste one this year when I didn’t feel drawn in any particular direction.

The only problem was, what would I do with my January without a project? I was nervous that without a designated task to keep me on track, I wouldn’t feel motivated. This fear inspired me to create mini, unofficial projects for myself to stay occupied. These projects included visiting family, spending time with old friends, digitally organizing old photos, playing my instruments (more often than I have time to do that during the semester), and partaking in other random music-related tasks. An unexpected broken laptop set me back on my goals at the beginning, but I was still able to have a productive month overall. The broken laptop also made me thankful I wasn’t doing an official project. My project last year, for example, wouldn’t have worked without a computer, but this year when it happened, I wasn’t in the face of a daunting, laptop-requiring deadline, so it didn’t hit me as hard as it could have. I took that early January experience as a final sign that not doing a project is what was right for me.

As the sun sets on my time off from school, I’m more glad than I originally thought I’d be that I made the decision to take this year off from Winter Term. It was a much needed time of both relaxation and independent accomplishment, and I was able to spend it with a lot of people I care about. I am excited to get back to doing real projects, though, so here’s to hoping I find a great one next year!

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