Stories of Change
Sheryl Crow once sang, “A change would do you good.” No offense to Sheryl, but what she forgot to say in her 1996 jam is that while a change would do you good, it might also scare the hell out of you. This week is dedicated to the changes that smack us in the face and the ones that curl up on our lap when we aren’t looking, the ones that hurt and the ones that heal.
The biggest change I’ve experienced at Dartmouth was having the seemingly simple realization of what it means to be a woman. I went to an all-girls high school, which meant four years of wonderful friends, supportive classmates, inspiring teachers and piles and piles of cupcakes. I kid you not — if there was an opportunity to bring cupcakes to class, we seized it. My school made a big effort to bring in feminist speakers, and at least once a week someone stood before the entire school — be it a female woodworker, attorney or author — and told us we could do anything. These women warned us not to let anyone limit us or make us feel inferior.
To be honest, it got annoying after a few years. I remember thinking, “Duh, I can do anything. Next!” Then I got to Dartmouth. For the first time, I realized there were actually people out there who didn’t think women were capable of everything. There were guys who would tell me not to wear certain outfits because, “Nobody’s going to be attracted to you if you wear that,” and people who scoffed at the idea of me going to business school. I’m now aware that these sorts of comments are made all the time, and it’s my job to help create a world where they aren’t because women, men and those who do not to identify with a gender must be treated with equal respect.
— Mary Liza Hartong ’16
I’ve learned spontaneity. I went from hearing my brothers shouting “dinner time” to walking absentmindedly toward FoCo when my stomach-clock strikes hungry; I went from my room, where I lived comfortably for 11 years, to a roommate randomly assigned based on our propensity for tidiness and habit of waking up around 10. Instead of taking six classes because my school said I should, I took education and screenwriting — because why not? I’ve learned to enjoy the weekends with the least thorough planning, to embrace sudden conversation and to partake in the Greek scene that before I had only seen painted in a bad light. Suddenly, I’m okay not being sure which the path I’m on — knowing I’m on any path at all is enough. I’m no longer certain where my interests lie, and I’m not sure what I’m doing this weekend or who I may meet tomorrow. This unknowing that induced anxiety in high school now excites me. Now I can ask, “Why not,” and know that these experiences are the ones I’ll remember.
—Zach Schnell ’18
The one thing that has most altered my Dartmouth experience in the most meaningful way came my junior year when my little sister followed me. The two of us are so alike, and for our entire lives we have shared everything. So when people ask me, “Is it weird having you sister here?” I always tell them, not at all — it only makes sense that we would share this, too. Not only did my sister’s move to Hanover change my experience by giving me a constant companion and connection to home, but forever changed my perspective on the place I’ve come to love. Sometimes it’s easy for me to become complacent about issues when I become to used to a certain place or culture, when I’m only thinking about myself. Now that Catherine has come to the College, though, I think about her. My standards skyrocket, and I want to change this place to be the best possible place for her. Every day I learn something from Catherine as we attempt to navigate this college experience side by side. She shows me what it means to be a friend in the way she understands me completely but always pushes me to be better. And I know that our time together here will connect us for the rest of our lives.
—Julia Kannam ’15
I’d always had an idea of who I was. I knew how I felt about myself, about others, about my friends and my family. I was sure about who I was — until I came to Dartmouth. I’m the eldest daughter in a Caribbean-American family situated in the Bronx, a first-generation college student and an older sister trying to create a new name for a family rife with urban stereotypes. I believed I was everything contradictory to my family, the opposite of them. I liked rock music. I watched anime. I hated wearing sneakers, and I read books in my free time. I was a nerd, an emo and an “Oreo,” the one who was really smart, the one who would make it rich. After three years of Dartmouth — sleeping in the VAC, meeting many new people, the first time studying abroad or skiing, hating snow, loving KAF and learning the importance of a well-balanced meal plan — I found myself finding more in common with my family than ever. I still hate wearing sneakers, and I listen to rock from time to time, but I can “turn-up” with the best of them. Now I find sweet memories in the presence of hip-hop.
—Pauline Lewis ’16
During orientation week, I was an environmental engineer with a secret dream of writing a novel some day. Now, two and a half years later and like so many others, my concentration changed drastically. I’m an English major with a minor in women’s and gender studies who wants to work in student affairs. What has changed the most in the short time I’ve been here, however, is my perspective. I had no idea what the world around me was really about before I came to Dartmouth, and I rarely thought about how what hurts me also hurts others on so many levels. In other words, oppression is oppression, and it affects people from incredibly varied backgrounds and experiences. Coming to Hanover opened my eyes to what motivated me, what made me want to pursue my passion for literature and my drive for doing everything I can to make equality and empathy just a little more commonplace than I have found them to be here. The wonderful friends I have made and inspiring professors and faculty with whom I have been able to interact have thankfully outshone the even greater multitudes that showed me exactly what I’m trying to reshape — and that’s what’s changed the most during my time at Dartmouth.
—Gustavo Mercado Muñiz ’16