Sophia Bamert ’13
“Oberlin gave me the push that I needed to pursue my goals, to see myself as an actor in the world rather than a mere collector of personae.”
I came to college prepared to discover new things about myself. I had heard countless stories about people who switch majors many times or experiment with extracurricular activities they’ve never heard of, and I was open to that happening to me. In light of that, it is surprising to realize that at Oberlin I have followed through with the majority of the plans I had when I graduated high school. It turns out that I had a pretty clear picture of myself before I entered college.
Nevertheless, today I am a markedly different person. Even though I understood my interests — the cliched “what makes me tick” of the college admissions essay — I wasn’t truly in touch with how I operate as a person, if I thought that I would passively wait for new experiences and passions to come to me. Oberlin gave me the push that I needed to pursue my goals, to see myself as an actor in the world rather than a mere collector of personae: dancer, grammarphile, vegetarian, environmentalist, reader.
I have been dancing since I was a little girl, and I knew that I would continue to dance at Oberlin. As I surfed the web researching Oberlin the summer before first moving in, I discovered that there was a thriving swing dance scene on campus, and happily noted that there would be a welcome dance my first weekend. My knowledge of swing was limited to a week’s worth of basic lessons taught by my high school gym teacher, but I loved the style of swing dance and knew that I could quickly pick up more.
I made it my mission to get into the beginning swing ExCo (which I did, after showing up to the first class even though I had not gotten in through the lottery). My first semester, I went to every weekly swing dance. Again with no luck in the ExCo instructors’ lottery, I religiously attended the continuing swing class without being enrolled in the course. Needless to say, I became obsessed. Now entering my junior year, I am going to be co-teaching the continuing swing ExCo, hopefully passing on my enthusiasm to future generations of Obie swing dancers.
Also in the summer before entering Oberlin, I discovered that the *Oberlin Review* was hiring production staff. Throughout high school I had loved writing (and become a bit of a grammar nerd), and had always silently longed to be on one of my high school newspapers. I mustered up the courage to apply for a job as a copy editor at the Review, and I’ve never looked back. I note deviations from Review style when reading articles in other publications, in novels, and in my own writing. I make jokes about em dashes and italicized periods. I love the time that I spend in our Burton basement office every week; before Oberlin I had only ever dreamt about what working for a student newspaper could be like.
While swing dancing and copy editing are activities that I learned about — and decided to get involved in — after being accepted to Oberlin, I knew even before applying that I wanted to eat in a co-op. Until my fourth semester in Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA), however, I never had the courage to run for an elected position in my co-op. I enjoyed cooking for others and absorbing all of the knowledge that I could from my more experienced OSCA friends. OSCA was the one part of my Oberlin life where I didn’t assert myself; in my freshman year I had learned how to go after my goals, but was not yet embracing that role. Finally, I became a co-head cook and co-yogurt maker in one semester. I felt like I was taking on a responsibility that, had I been bolder, I could have assumed earlier on. Although the self-consciousness and 3:20 p.m. stress of being head cook will not go away anytime soon, I plan to continue doing it and trying different elected positions in my co-op.
My newfound determination became academic in my sophomore year, as I went in search of an advisor and declared my majors. I came to Oberlin planning on majoring in environmental studies and considering a double major in English. It was only in actually declaring and making a plan for these majors that I realized that I could study environmental literature, and that is in fact what I am passionate about. I have always loved school and learning about a wide variety of subjects, so it has come as a surprise to me how much one specific idea can be so academically exciting — and that what excites me was connected to what, for so long, I had claimed to be my interests.
Everything about Oberlin — its people, its atmosphere, its mission — has fostered this development within me, as I’ve felt encouraged and supported in acting on my ideas. Although I did know myself quite well on the surface before getting to Oberlin, being here has taught me how to actually be me.
You may also like
On the Asia House dragon
“It would have been tedious work except that it was ambitious, self-directed, and had nothing to do with classes or credits. What made it something to look forward to was the enjoyment of working...
Bill Heinrich ’81
On a second home
“In addition to the rewarding experiences I’ve gotten from my service sites, over the past two years, the little house known as the Bonner Center became my go-to place.”
Eint Kyi ’16
On Oberlin family history
“If I stare carefully at the ceiling of the turret and employ my imagination, I can see the mural mosaic that was painted while my father lived in the room.”
Julia Maier ’12