Oberlin Blogs

Year Five

October 30, 2021

Megan McLaughlin ’22

I’ve spent the past four years trying not to think about what my last year at Oberlin would be like— this is my fifth year of college, which means that most of the people I started school with my first year have graduated and left Ohio. There’s a saying among double-degree students: “fifth year, best year.” It does not rhyme, and it is not catchy, but it’s what we have. The saying is meant to be ironic, because a lot of fifth-years are kind of lonely after the friends they’ve bonded with for four years leave them.

I am not particularly lonely and sad, in part because this year more than usual, there are a lot of fifth-years. Because of the pandemic, a lot of people took a semester or a year off, so I haven’t lost too many close friends. Additionally, some of my closest friends are fourth-year double-degree students, so they’re the ones who will be sad next year when I leave.

And also, this year is my victory lap— full credit for the phrase victory lap goes to my friend Melinda, who is also a fifth-year double-degree student. I’ve worked very hard the past four years, and without boasting all of my accomplishments, I just want to say that I’m quite proud of myself. I spent the past four years going through college on a spreadsheet, carefully planning out what classes I would take which semesters, and being paranoid about falling behind on requirements and not being able to graduate on time. Now I find myself in my second to last semester, barely a full-time student, and leisurely wrapping up the last of my degree requirements. There are certainly things I would have changed if I could go back, but I’m happy with the hard work I put in that resulted in me not having to break my back trying to graduate this year.

I finished all of the requirements for my English major last year, so now I’m finishing up a few loose ends in the Conservatory and doing some of my distribution requirements in the College. On the docket for classes this semester is “Sociology of Popular Culture” and a physics class called “Einstein and Relativity.” I’m also taking the Beginning Tap ExCo— my triumphant return to the dance floor, long awaited since middle school. In the Conservatory, I’m back in orchestra after a few semesters off, and I’m doing a horn trio with two of my closest friends. Perhaps most importantly, I have returned to my beloved Conservatory Library Circulation Desk after a long, pandemic-ridden year. This is no doubt one of the places I will miss the most when I leave. 

In short, this is shaping up to be a good year for me. Still, it is strange to think about being a fifth-year and leaving Oberlin. This is not a groundbreaking thought in the slightest; every graduating senior goes through it, but now it’s my turn to go through it and blog about it. I recently realized that I’m now the oldest blogger— wild. I’ve had to start putting '22 after my name instead of '21, which I preferred because it clearly indicated the class I entered with, as opposed to people thinking I’m a year younger because fifth-years are often forgotten— devastating. And given the fact that most of the classes I took last year were virtual, I don’t recognize any of the current first-years or sophomores walking around campus— bananas. I’m 22, but all of these things and more make me feel older.

I’m also applying to graduate school this year, so I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about schools other than Oberlin, and where I’ll be this time next year. It’s an odd feeling, and not a very fun process— applying to graduate school is nothing like applying to undergrad. There’s no Common Application and every school has a very different program. Five years ago when I was applying to undergrad, it was hard to be enthusiastic about looking at and applying to other schools because Oberlin was far and away the one I wanted to attend. Applying to graduate school, I’m kind of in the same boat. I don’t want to say which school, because I most certainly believe in jinxes, but hopefully I have good news come January or February. Degree program and school reveal forthcoming.

It’s a good year so far, but I am proceeding with caution. A careful victory lap, if you will.

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