Summertime, Summertime Gladness

by Nick Rodriguez | 2/25/16 7:30pm

As an ’18 stuck in the drudgery of winter term, I often day dream about my upcoming sophomore summer. Trudging through the muddy or icy Green in freezing temperatures, looking at the bleak campus before me, I picture myself lounging on the inevitably greener grass that will be there in just five months. It’s hard to not get lost in this idyllic image of campus.

And sophomore summer’s reputation only reinforces this picturesque ideal, often labeled students’ “happiest term” here at Dartmouth. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard upperclassmen wistfully say how much they miss how relaxing, beautiful and carefree the term is. I’ve often heard people call it their glory days.

Like many ’18s, including myself, Kanani Tapaha ’18 said that she anticipates her sophomore summer to be her best term at Dartmouth. Ernie Pichardo ’18 echoed this sentiment, saying he predicts the term will be unforgettable.

“I’m excited for sophomore summer,” Pichardo said. “I think it’s going to be a really memorable experience.”

Angel Saavedra ’16 spoke with me about students’ eager anticipation before the start of the term, and how it can create a lot of hype, which might be unwarranted.

“When you’re a sophomore, everyone will talk about that the whole year,” Saavedra said. “You kind of build it up in your mind as it being one of the best terms and a lot of people also tell you it’s a great term to do things that are on the bucket list, things you’ll remember forever.”

I spoke to students who had gone through sophomore summer already to get an idea about whether it lived up to these expectations ­— was it really their happiest term at Dartmouth? We’ve all heard the stereotypical version of sophomore summer — a laid back period during which you can take two classes, bond with your class and spent all your free time tanning by the Connecticut River.

Shivang Sethi ’17 said that he had a quintessential sophomore summer. Like many students, he elected to take only two classes and spent a lot of time appreciating and utilizing the outdoors.

“I did do the more ideal sophomore summer in the sense that I took two classes,” Sethi said. “[Organic chemistry] was not one of them so I had a lot of time to go around and explore New Hampshire. And visit these crazy waterfalls and just do things that were outside.”

Although he enjoyed sophomore summer, Sethi said it wasn’t his favorite term at Dartmouth. It came second to his term studying abroad, a sentiment that he said is shared by many upperclassmen who have also studied abroad.

Despite this, he said he still enjoyed the summer and attributes his happiness during it to the laid back schedule many students seem to opt for, which allowed everyone more freedom to spend time together.

I asked Saavedra about his sophomore summer to get another perspective. Interestingly, like Sethi, he also said it was one of his top two happiest terms in college. He reminisced happily about the term, explaining that the gorgeous weather and earlier class times provided a lot of opportunity to spend time in nature during the afternoons. Like Sethi, too, he said the more laid back schedule is a huge contributing factor to the reputed happiness of the summer.

“It was just consistently sunny. Classes ended early,” Saavedra said. “Most students had morning classes in the summer just by planning so that we could get out of class and go to the river. A lot of people went to the copper mines or to the ledges.”

Like Sethi too, though, he put a huge disclaimer on his proclamation that sophomore summer lived up to expectations. He opined that your course load can have a huge impact on your experience. He said that like any other term, if you have a lot of work, it can have a negative impact on your happiness. In fact, he said the summer’s beautiful weather can sometimes exacerbate frustration with work.

“Some would say sophomore summer wasn’t one of their happier terms because it’s kind of rigorous and its not the best feeling to be looking out of the window from the library every day, seeing all your friends running around having fun and you’re stuck inside studying,” Saavedra said. “I think the degree with which you’re preoccupied with heavy classwork is pretty important.”

Andreas Tzavelis ’17 echoed this sentiment. Tzavelis, who took the notoriously difficult organic chemistry during his sophomore summer, described it as a term filled with highs and lows. He said that it, overall, did not live up to its positive reputation; he was stressed out by his workload, he said, and also by a constant fear of missing out on enjoyable activities.

“It didn’t live up to the hype. Only because I was intent on getting the most out of it and I couldn’t do it because of all the time I had to spend doing work,” Tzavelis said. “If I was happy with one thing, I’d be necessarily neglecting something else. I was prioritizing in a way that put work first so that was fine, but you always knew you were missing out on something.”

Tzavelis said that the summer really doesn’t differ much from any other term, but his inability to live up to these high expectations was disappointing and caused him more stress than usual.

Kenneth Amaya ’15 also took a difficult course load, including organic chemistry, during his sophomore summer. As with Tzavelis, the infamously stressful class was only made worse by the fact that he took the class during his sophomore summer. Although he said he really enjoyed the hallmarks of sophomore summer — swimming in the river, spending time outdoors and bonding with friends — he said his fear of missing out was intensified.

“Someone might invite you to the river or to do something outside, go on a hike or something and you’re going to have to say no,” Amaya said. “Because you have that lab report or you have to study for that midterm that’s coming up and I think that’s pretty true of all the other terms but I feel like I might be a little magnified during summer term.”

That’s not to say that Amaya and Tzavelis necessarily recommend taking an easy course load during summer at all costs. Rather, they suggested controlling one’s expectations and keeping them realistic, which will help you avoid disappointment and disillusionment.

“Everyone has this expectation for sophomore summer to be the happiest term and the best term, but if you go into sophomore summer with that expectation, I’m not sure it can be lived up to,” Amaya said. “If you go into it thinking it’ll be like any other term, then you’ll be happy.”

Sethi expressed a similar sentiment, explaining that your perception of the term is totally within your control.

“I think its definitely hyped so you might expect more than there is, but the drawback only comes from our own perception of the term,” Sethi said. “People should go into it knowing it’s going to be a fun term, but don’t expect it to be Universal Studios or Disneyland.”

Despite the stressful pressure to make the most of the summer and have fun, it’s hard to discount the positive aspects of summer. The upperclassmen that I spoke too all spoke fondly of the weather and the general atmosphere during sophomore summer. Despite their warnings to keep low expectations, I couldn’t help but feel excited at the prospect of what’s to come.