The Oberlin Stories Project

On the connections between college and the future

Thanisa Durongkaveroj ’18

“I start to see my college experience as part of my overall life experience; classes become more applicable, and I become more competent to enter the professional world.”

Thanisa plays piano on stage.

As an international student from Thailand who never went on a college visit, I chose Oberlin based on my admiration for the wonderful Oberlin alumni I came in contact with: my piano teacher, an Oberlin graduate from the class of 1992; and my high school advisor, an Oberlin graduate from the class of 2003. The fact that my piano teacher (with whom I studied for 10 years) was one of the best musicians in Thailand affirmed that Oberlin was a prestigious music school and that anyone should be honored if admitted. I was convinced of its potential greatness by an amazing college advising session with my high school advisor, who quickly adjusted to the foreign city of Bangkok and needed no time to thrive at her new job. She gave us an overview of U.S. higher education, introduced us to potential college fits, and walked us through the application process. With the positive impression I had with my two Oberlin connections, plus some further research, I applied for Oberlin as my top choice.

The moment I got admitted to Oberlin’s Double Degree Program, I thought, “My dream has come true! I can study music properly as I indulge in the liberal arts education—the circumstance I’ve wished for my whole life. Furthermore, it’s at Oberlin!” My passion for the Double Degree Program enthused me to work hard and appreciate my classmates who major in different fields. However, I did not comprehend the true value of the liberal arts education until later on.

Now, as a rising fourth-year majoring in piano performance and visual arts—with a minor in politics and concentrations in theater and education—I’ve learned massively from classes, friends, and the environment. A size of six square blocks, Oberlin offers dynamic classroom experiences, with professors’ doors always open when students need help. I’m surrounded by supportive and inspiring friends who acknowledge my different background. Student organizations and student jobs are welcoming of new members to work and grow together, and as a co-chair of the International Student Organization and an employee in the conservatory deans and admissions offices, I try to make a similar space for my peers as I learn too. The well-rounded college experience that Oberlin offers allows me to see the world through many different lenses—a view that is much more substantial than my initial romance for the Double Degree Program (which I still have). The new ideas and values I learn help me redefine my life goals to ones that can have a positive impact on society while reflecting my passion and needs.

Every time I return to Oberlin from a fall break, spring break, winter break, winter term, or summer break, I am excited to tell my friends about my “life-changing experience.” It varies from volunteering at an orphanage in Bangkok to directing a musician-themed movie, organizing a public concert at Yamaha Auditorium in Bangkok, spending a month independently in Ireland, and interning on Wall Street. These experiences are more meaningful because of what Oberlin has given me: academic proficiency, an appreciation for teamwork, a productive routine, and communication skills. The Oberlin alumni connection has also been extremely helpful in offering opportunities and connecting me to the professional world, even though I am still an undergraduate student.

When I come back from breaks, I bring new approaches and strategies with me. What is it that I want to achieve this semester? Do I want to participate more in class? Make more friends? Read more? Practice piano more effectively? Cook more? Work harder? A little bit of everything? What should I prioritize, and what should I put on hold? I start to see my college experience as part of my overall life experience; classes become more applicable, and I become more competent to enter the professional world.

Oberlin has heightened and broadened my knowledge, relationships, and life goals. I currently aspire to become a social entrepreneur who use the arts in ways that foster relationships and empathy among individuals from diverse backgrounds. And I am definitely not alone! The Oberlin community is a lifelong connection, and we will keep working together to make the world a better place, one way or another.