Students find places for belonging and community

by Elise Higgins | 7/27/17 5:40pm

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by Zachary Benjamin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Going away to college is many students’ first experience away from their families for an extended period of time, which can often lead to a difficult transition. Many students look to join various groups and communities on campus. These groups can range from friends to more structured organizations, such as cultural houses, sports teams or performance groups. By becoming a member of a particular community on campus, students can feel as if they have found their new home away from home. The Dartmouth asked seven students about their thoughts on family and communities at Dartmouth.

Simrit Singh ’19 is an economics and Asian and Middle Eastern studies major. During the fall of 2016, she went on the Chinese language LSA+ to Beijing. Singh said she plans to continue studying Chinese.

What was it like adjusting to campus without close family members nearby?

SS: It was weird at first. I’m really close to my family and I call them every single day. My family is super important to me, so finding families here on campus was something I had to do as well.

What makes the your LSA+ group like a family?

SS: I didn’t expect my study abroad to be so close, but it’s definitely like a family [when] we get together. Everyone has their own role and their own voice that they bring to the group.

India Perdue ’19 is a member of the Christian Union. This summer, she is involved with the Summer Christian Fellowship, where different Christian groups come together.

What is the main goal of the Dartmouth Christian Fellowship this summer?

IP: One of our main goals of the summer is to facilitate unity between the groups. I think there’s beauty in having different groups with a different focus, but it’s also cool to come together as one.

What makes the Christian Fellowships like a family?

IP: Christianity has a lot of rhetoric around being brothers and sisters to each other ... There’s this deep investment in each other and deep value for each other.

Sydney Zhou ’19 plays the bassoon for the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra. She take music lessons in addition to her coursework as an engineering science major.

What was it like adjusting to campus without close family members nearby?

SZ: It wasn’t that hard initially, but as the term went on, and I didn’t have lots of friends yet, and with my parents being miles and miles away, it was kind of hard. It’s nice to talk to them over the phone, but it’s not the same as having them in real life.

What was it like to find people who you were able to connect to?

SZ: You really are like a family. Not only do you spend so much time together each week, you also go on hikes, you have other social events. It’s just having people there to do stuff with.

Julia Feinstein ’19 is majoring in biology and classical languages and literatures. She joined Hillel freshman fall and has served as various roles, including communications coordinator and vice president of programming. This summer, she is the president of Hillel.

What was it like adjusting to campus without close family members nearby?

JF: It was particularly hard at first because the high holidays fell during orientation, which were always holidays I spent with my family and friends, but that’s when I took the opportunity to first go to Hillel. I found a welcoming community with open arms.

What was it like to find people who you were able to connect to?

JF: I connected with them because we shared such a similar background. It’s nice to sort of have that community and I love telling that to any prospective students who are joining.

What makes the group you’re part of like a family?

JF: We’re definitely a family because we all have that shared culture, that shared community, and we consider the Roth Center our home because we can just sit there and do anything. They’re people that I can always talk to and have that one thing in common with that bonds us together.

Spring Yu ’19 is a studio art major. She joined Street Soul her freshman fall and has become increasingly involved in the group. In addition to hip-hop, Yu has always taken ballet classes at Dartmouth, as well as classes hosted by Street Soul and Sugarplum.

What was it like to find people who you were able to connect to?

SY: Our old director was a really great mentor for dance specifically, but also with life. Also, a lot of the ’19s ended up being able to jive really well with their personalities and at practice together.

What makes the group you’re part of like a family?

SY: We’re trying to communicate a lot between members and have a lot of transparency, and I think that really helps the whole dynamic, not having a hierarchy. Everyone gets input and that way it’s a little more cohesive. I feel like people can put in input and feel like it’s being heard.

Todd Huang ’19 is majoring in geography and biochemistry. He is a member of Asian/American Students for Action as well as the Asian and Asian American Living Learning Community.

What was it like adjusting to campus without close family members nearby?

TH: It felt kind of freeing. I took a gap year so I was away from my family for a year already, so it wasn’t a huge deal when I got here.

What was it like to find people you were able to connect to?

TH: I didn’t adjust completely freshman fall. Everyone is shifting friends and groups, and it wasn’t until winter that I found [Asian/American Students for Action and the Asian and Asian American LLC]. It’s just a very comforting feeling to be around people of similar backgrounds and experiences, both cultural and spiritual sense.

Samantha Bozoian ’19 is a member of the women’s volleyball team and a French major on campus.

What was it like adjusting to campus without close family members nearby?

SB: It was weird but it was also kind of like I had a new family right when I got here because I had someone to eat with all the time, I had someone to hang out with, people were going to the same things as me ... I did get homesick, don’t get me wrong, but having a team and having that other aspect of family made it so much easier to adjust.

What makes the group you’re part of like a family?

SB: I think as you go through the years, you just feel more and more like family. You’re always there for each other, if you need anything, say something and they’ll be there.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.