Fishbein: Explore Your Options

by Daniel Fishbein | 8/11/16 10:30pm

I’ve sat at my computer for a while, trying to think of some piece of overarching wisdom that I, with one year of college under my belt, can share with you Dartmouth newbies. But as I’m sure you’ll discover soon enough, when you inevitably end up in the stacks at 4 a.m. having just drunk the last dregs from your Red Bull and with three pages left in that seemingly pointless essay for the freshman writing course you got stuck with because all the others filled up, sometimes the words just don’t come to you.

Well, I guess I do have one thing to say. First of all, welcome to Dartmouth. I haven’t met any of you yet, but I can’t wait to see all of you around campus. You’re all unique and bring something of your own to the Dartmouth community.

That uniqueness you all possess makes it difficult to come up with one piece of advice, one motto for you to live by as you acclimate to Dartmouth. For me, my favorite part of my first year wasn’t the informative classes, the incredible professors, the famed Dartmouth traditions or even the frat parties. Rather, I learned and grew so much as a person by being around so many different types of people. The friends I made come from all over the world, have majors that range from chemistry to theater and spend their free time climbing mountains, developing business projects and even writing their own books.

People will tell you not to take on too much your freshman fall, and they have a valid point. You will probably not be able to attend the meetings for all 26 clubs you signed up for at the activity fair, work a job, and get straight A’s like you did in high school. If you somehow manage to pull that off, you need to a) talk to someone at Dick’s House about the fact that you haven’t slept in two weeks, and b) let me use one of those 20 meal swipes each week that you don’t have the time to use.

However, there is a benefit flip side to taking on as much as you can. Pretty quickly into my freshman year, I found myself sticking mainly to the same friend group. I’m still good friends with a lot of those people, and had a lot of fun with them as I settled into Dartmouth. But when I went home for winterim, part of me felt unfulfilled. My high school friends told me about the new activities they had taken on that were unavailable in my small hometown. I had been so stressed by all the new experiences during fall term that, instead of taking on new opportunities, I had settled into the same routine at Dartmouth, spending each day around the same people without really pushing myself to explore new academic subjects.

I didn’t regret how I spent my fall term, but for the next term I made it my goal to branch out a little more. I met some new people, took a Russian literature course (I’m now pursuing a minor in the subject) and later joined Divest Dartmouth, a climate activism group on campus. By branching out, I felt like I got to experience more of what Dartmouth has to offer, beyond the more widely discussed access to frats and long pong lines. In pushing myself to take outside-of-the-box courses, I found a passion for a new academic subject. Socially, I met people with backgrounds and identities I had never come across before, and discovered a lot about myself through getting to know them.

Looking back at my freshman year, I guess my piece of advice would be to embrace yourself. As our most cherished alum, Dr. Seuss, said, “there is no one alive who is youer than you.” I would add to this, there is no one around you who is “themer than them.” Everyone at Dartmouth brings something of their own to campus, and that’s really what’s special about coming to college.

So when you see new faces in Foco or sit next to new people in classes, introduce yourself. At the activity fair, find something you’ve always sort of been interested in but had never pursued, and go to a meeting even if none of your friends are going. And when you stare down at that empty Red Bull can at 4 a.m., toss it out. That class might not be for you, but there are so many other things at Dartmouth that could be.