The Oberlin Stories Project

On supportive friendships

Anna Band ’13

“Among the many things I’ve learned from my best friend is to be proactive about my life. You can’t just sit around and wait for opportunities to come to you - you have to take matters into your own hands.”

Anna at a Chicago bus stop

When it comes to your academic career, sometimes it’s your friends who give the best advice.

Upon returning from winter term—which I spent solely doing thesis research—my friends and I, like most conscientious students, began to worry about what we would do over the summer. As a rising senior double majoring in history and Jewish studies, I knew I needed hands-on university level research experience to prepare me for graduate work in the field of Jewish history. Of course, I had done plenty of my own research for my honors thesis, but I had never formally worked for a professor in the field. After searching for summer research positions on the internet, time after time I kept coming up with dead ends.

My three roommates were in similar situations. Some were rejected from programs and others simply didn’t know where to begin. Suddenly my best friend Emma Robertson said, “Well, why don’t we take matters into our own hands. Let’s all just e-mail individual professors to see if they have any opportunities, attach our resumes, and be proactive about this.”

I didn’t really know what kind of answers to expect, but I went along with it and e-mailed about 30 professors whose work I was familiar with all over the country. In due process, I received ‘no’ after ‘no’ after no.’ Dismayed as I was, Emma kept supporting me and convinced me to e-mail 30 more professors. Finally, I received a promising response from a Jewish history professor at Northwestern...and just like that, I was hired for a paid research assistantship that was initially designed for a graduate student! Listening to my best friend’s advice was one of the best decisions I’ve made at Oberlin. As I write these words, I now have valuable and very real research experience behind me.

As a research assistant for two Northwestern professors, I had the opportunity to participate in the selection of primary documents for a premiere upcoming sourcebook of Early Modern Jewish History. I spent most of my days pouring through material and selecting relevant passages from letters, memoirs and autobiographies, diaries and personal chronicles, court proclamations, legislative documents, travelogues, ethical works, etc. and explaining how each has its place in the book. For the first time, I truly felt that I was able to put part of my Oberlin education to use in the broader world of academia. I have Professor Shulamit Magnus and her many Jewish history classes to thank for that.

But I really have Emma to thank for supporting me through the whole process and pushing me to take that extra step. She ended up scoring a research assistantship of her own in Michigan, and my other two roommates worked for a psychology professor at Boston University. Emma pushed us to take a risk—to put ourselves out there—and it worked. My time in Chicago has been incredibly valuable for my future career and I owe that to Emma.

Since the two of us met at the beginning of our Oberlin careers as hall-mates a few short years ago, our friendship has blossomed into something that will last a lifetime. Emma always has my best interest at heart, and I trust her like a sister. Among the many things I’ve learned from Emma, my best friend taught me to be proactive about my life. You can’t just sit around and wait for opportunities to come to you—you have to take matters into your own hands.