Alumni Connect as Lifelong Learners on Switchboard

Every college hopes to instill its students with a sense of curiosity that endures beyond the classroom.

Ida '14 found their passion in linguistics at Oberlin. When they were sad to leave Oberlin after graduation, they turned to Switchboard to share that passion and reconnect with the Oberlin community at the same time.

Ida has connected with many students and alumni to discuss linguistics since they posted their offer last year. Their story is a tribute to the spirit of inquiry that shines throughout the Oberlin community, and to lifelong learners everywhere.

Why did you start using the Oberlin Switchboard?

Ma'ayan [the stupendous Oberlin Switchboard operator] told me to check it out right around when I was graduating last year. I trust Ma'ayan's recommendations to be excellent, and I was really sad about leaving Oberlin and was curious about other ways of community-building, so I wrote my first post last June!

You offered to talk to Obies about linguistics. How did that go?

It's been a delight to get to share my linguistics love!

I had a friend ask through Switchboard just for kicks; I've had strangers come with random little curiosities; I had a student ask about building an Individual Major in ling at Oberlin (which I did, and have a lot to say about); I even had a '67 grad come for advice about the implications of a PNW farmworker's association using written Mixtec—a language indigenous to Mexico—on a banner, which kind of stumped me, I have to say.

The questions have varied widely in topic and depth, but it's always been fun to see if I can rise to the challenge.

It's also honestly pretty nice to get small questions from laypeople—sometimes I feel like there's so much left in linguistics for me to learn, even in my tiny corner of my tiny subfield, that I'll never achieve anything like competency and will never have anything meaningful to contribute.

But then I get an ask here and have so much to say! 

And then I remember that actually, yes, I do know things, and yes, the world would be a better place if more people understood some of the things I understand about language, so I should keep talking.

Would you recommend Switchboard to other Obies?

Heck yeah!

On the offering end, you get to do that very Oberlin thing of sharing what you love and brightening someone's day in the process; on the asking end, it's a fantastic middle ground between just hitting up your friends for help (reliable but very limited) and casting your net into the depths of the unknown internet (vastly resourceful, but yikes).

I think if more people used it regularly, it could strike a singular balance of in-group trust and widely sourced help and thereby reach holy-grail levels of utility—so yeah, I would be all for more Obies getting on board!