Beyond the Dartmouth Stereotype

by Marie-Capucine Pineau-Valencienne | 3/7/17 2:10am

Dartmouth students are known for having prep in their step. It is no secret that the College is known as one of the preppiest of Ivy League schools. Stereotypes of Dartmouth students generally depict a sporty and attractive econ major wearing Sperry topsiders or L.L. Bean boots, depending on the season. Campus attire can seem like an amalgamation of green varsity sports attire and Greek organization gear. Then again, this is only a stereotype, and students often defy the norm.

Remember the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” At Dartmouth, this saying rings true.

I, like many affiliated students, wear my Greek gear around campus, more often than not have a KAF cup in my hand and think that Patagonia fuzzies are a chic way to get away with wearing sweats to class. I am all too aware that my exterior may cause some to categorize me as a “stereotypical Dartmouth student.”

But the image that I inadvertently exude does not encompass my entire identity as a Dartmouth student because, unlike my appearance, my path to Dartmouth has been anything but typical. I was one of the 19 students who transferred to Dartmouth in the fall of 2016. I’m also an international student, which most people cannot tell from a quick glance in my direction. Only eight percent of students in the Class of 2019 are not from the United States, and this blonde is one them. I, like most international students, encountered a learning curve when I arrived at Dartmouth. For the first time, I was introduced to Greek life, varsity sports and general collegiate enthusiasm. Coming from Paris, I was surprised when students I didn’t know said hello to me in passing. Maybe they thought I was someone else … or are people just nice here?

Hattie Van Metre ’17, another transfer student, shared her experience transitioning from Marquette University to Dartmouth after her freshman year.

“That extra push to get involved ended up making my Dartmouth experience way more enjoyable because I was forced into finding a community on campus a lot quicker,” Van Metre said.

Van Metre said she noticed the difference of being a transfer student in “small things that might seem trivial to a lot of people, like not having a freshman floor or not having tripees.”

To top it off, I did not take the common path of heading straight to university after high school. Upon graduating from my traveling boarding school, I decided to take a gap year to pursue a passion for acting before starting my university studies. The beauty of Dartmouth is that there are many students with unconventional paths to college. The characteristics that made my path so unique are — in Hanover at least — not unique at all.

Mahnoor Maqsood ’18, a fellow international student, explained how she also experienced a considerable amount of culture shock when she arrived at Dartmouth from her native Pakistan.

Coming to Dartmouth, she struggled with “social norms,” such as the “hookup culture” and the differences between the British and American education systems. Even dinner time was different here. Having dinner at 8:00 p.m. is considered “early” in Pakistan, while it is on the later side here in the states.

But nonetheless Maqsood testified to Dartmouth’s diversity.

“There are so many different kinds of people at Dartmouth,” Maqsood said.

Maqsood said that she thought one of the most positive things about Dartmouth is that she, as an international student, knows she is just as much of a Dartmouth student as any other student on campus.

“I’m able to connect with [friends] on more than just being from the same place,” Maqsood said.

“That’s [what’s] so special about Dartmouth, that there’s so many different people ... You bond over who you are as humans and what you enjoy rather than your national identity or your cultural identity,” Maqsood said.

Although not all students may have the same interests, trajectories or even dinner times, there is a common sense of dynamism that is typical to all Dartmouth students. The conventionality of Dartmouth students lies in our unconventionality. Each student’s unique perspective, drive and set of interests are the common threads between us, not the preppy exterior you may see at first glance.

Some students split their time between multiple educational institutions. Ellie Toll ’17, a fifth year engineering student, is a part of the 3-2 engineering program with Bates College. Having finished her freshman and sophomore years at Bates, she came to Dartmouth as a junior.

Not only did she attend two different schools but her attendance was also split over her five-year college career. After junior year at Dartmouth, she went back to Bates for senior year and is now back at Dartmouth this year to finish her engineering degree.

Although she explained that she identified as more of a Bates student than as a Dartmouth student, she said she was shocked at how seamless her transition was.

“I felt welcomed at Dartmouth,” Toll said. “It’s a pretty great community.”

Toll found that joining Greek life during her first year at Dartmouth was a big reason why she found the transition so easy.

“Joining Greek life was really helpful,” Toll said. “I was immediately able to connect with people and find a community.”

Kylie Simpson ’18 also took part in the 3-2 engineering program, but at Colby College. She also felt that Greek life helped ease the transition.

“Socially, I’m very glad I rushed,” Simpson said. “I don’t know how many other 3-2’s do that because I think they feel like their time is limited. I guess it would be a little easier to be a girl going into rush, not knowing people, as opposed to a boy, so maybe they would be less likely to get involved with a different community outside Thayer [School of Engineering.]”

Simpson explained that being involved with things outside of schoolwork and meeting people outside of your classes helps build your sense of community.