Winter Term Takes Obies Near and Far

Annual period of immersive study energizes Oberlin’s campus—and the far corners of the earth.

January 9, 2023

Amanda Nagy

Students play in an inflatable snow ball.
The Winter Term carnival in January 2020.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

The month of January at Oberlin is anything but winter slumber. Many students return to campus to learn a completely new skill or dive into an academic interest; others travel abroad for immersive experiences in language, culture, arts, and music. Some are gaining pre-professional skills through micro-internships sponsored by Oberlin alumni and friends of the college.

This year, some 2,500 students are engaged in projects through a four-week immersive venture of their choosing, individually or with a group, known as Winter Term

Although a winter or January term is common at other colleges and universities, Oberlin’s Winter Term, now in its 55th year, isn’t confined to the classroom. Students use this time to explore a personal interest, develop new skills, conduct intensive research, prepare for careers, or expand an academic focus. Students are required to complete three Winter Term projects throughout their time at Oberlin, with 100 hours of work going toward each project.

Oberlin’s Winter Term takes many forms. An ever-growing catalog offers faculty- and staff-led group projects, both domestically and abroad. Students are also free to design individual projects. For those who choose to stay on campus, Oberlin offers a robust calendar of social events for the month of January that includes planned activities, outings, and excursions, so those who choose to stay in Oberlin can easily engage with the community and build connections with fellow students. The on-campus experience culminates in a symposium-style festival of ideas, a Winter Term ball, and a winter-themed carnival.

Here’s a sampling of where Winter Term will take Obies this month:

  • Students in Oberlin Conservatory ensembles will present notable programs in New York City’s iconic venues January 19 and 20. Leading the way on Thursday, January 19, is the Oberlin Sonny Rollins Jazz Ensemble at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. Oberlin’s choral ensembles join forces with the Oberlin Orchestra on Friday, January 20, at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium in a program that includes Nathaniel Dett’s (Oberlin Conservatory Class of 1908) oratorio “The Ordering of Moses.”
  • Oberlin Theater is producing its mainstage production of Ophelia: A Prism by Meiko Gavia ’11, directed by H. Harvey ’11, with performances February 2-5.
  • The Ashby Business Scholars will travel to Cleveland, Boston, and New York City to learn from alumni and parents who work in business and finance. 
  • Students enrolled in the StudiOC learning community “Arab & Islamic Historical Memory” will travel to Cairo and other parts of Egypt to investigate issues of historical memory through the lens of the country’s museums. 
  • Professors Kirk Ormand and Jennifer Bryan are leading a 17-day study tour of archaeological sites and museums of mainland Greece, with emphasis on the architectural and artistic remains of major sanctuaries and cult sites.
  • Sixteen students will spend half the month in London to experience the city’s rich musical life. This project includes eight to 10 concerts and performances with the class, daily lectures and discussions on the history of music in London, and museum visits and tours devoted to music in London (such as the Handel House Museum, Westminster Abbey, the English National Opera, Royal Albert Hall, and the Barbican Centre).
  • On campus, students can take intensive introductions to Greek, Latin, or Russian; learn how to use and build a 3-D printer; explore the history of the Mail Art movement and research Oberlin’s vast Mail Art collection; participate in a studio intensive on papermaking and book art; and learn the basics of hand-sewing and quilt-making. 

In the sciences, Winter Term is an ideal time for student researchers to work on focused projects with their faculty mentors. 

Oberlin’s Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) has invited students to design cradle-to-grave waste management and waste minimization programs as part of the college’s effort to reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025; other students will be working with OES to plan and implement a relaunch of the annual campus resource reduction competition, also known as EcoOlympics, planned for this spring. 

Want to know more about what Winter Term looks like? Watch a recap of experiences from January 2022, or scroll through this photo story.

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