Freshmen end their first term upbeat

by Maggie Shnayerson | 11/22/00 6:00am

As the end of their first term at Dartmouth draws to a close, members of the Class of 2004 are breathing a sigh of relief -- they made it.

Not only did students in The Dartmouth's focus group avoid getting Parkhursted -- a concern to a surprisingly large portion of freshman -- but they will bring home to parents and family members stories of an overwhelmingly successful beginning to their college experience.

They will also be bringing home dark circles under their eyes as well as mismatched and holey socks from the washing machines in their dorm basements. But the slight drawbacks to being a college student haven't decreased the excitement with which the freshmen speak of the College, even with the small roadblocks -- such as rigorous academics -- they discovered along the way.

"It's been tough to adjust to the speed of the term," says James Lamb '04. "It's also been interesting to adjust to doing everything for myself. For the first time, for instance, I shrunk an entire load of laundry and almost ruined my favorite pair of pants."

"I love college life, though," Lamb continued.

"Yes, there have been a few long nights, but hey, it's college, right?" laughed Hannah Fries '04.

The controversial move by the College to convert dormitories in the River Cluster into all-freshman housing has not marred the experiences of those in that cluster nor the first terms of students not placed in single-class housing.

In fact, members of both the all-freshman housing group and the mixed-housing group The Dartmouth has interviewed throughout the course of the term said they cherished their own individual housing experiences.

"It's great to live in mixed housing because I'm able to make a few upperclass contacts," said Lamb. "Now, I have a few friends outside my class who can offer advice about classes and student life."

Not all freshmen have enjoyed such valuable encounters with upperclass students.

"All of the people I've met here are exceptionally intelligent," says ChienWen Kung '04. "Some of them, however, not the majority, thankfully, are also exceptionally stuffed-up. Like big fat Thanksgiving turkeys ... I have several upperclassmen in mind when I say this."

Students placed in mixed housing in the beginning of the year generally felt it was the best method with which to assimilate incoming students with the College, while those in all-freshman housing felt that after a term of interaction with their fellow classmates, they are now better connected to the students in the Class of 2004.

"I think mixed housing is the way to go," said Brian Kent '04. "We have upperclassmen as a resource. We can ask questions or get helpful advice from an upperclassman, and at the same time enjoy the many benefits of chilling with our own kind."

Some students did have run-ins with the long green arms of the Safety & Security department, as David Seidman '04 remembered, recalling his "encounter" with S & S officers who broke up a party in his room during orientation.

Even that event seems to have been stitched into an overall positive patchwork quilt of Dartmouth experiences for Siedman.

"They're nice people," he said of his apprehenders.

Freshmen The Dartmouth kept in touch with throughout the course of the term turned lemons into lemonade, noting as Seidman did, that despite the cold weather and difficulties adjusting to the ten-week term, "Dartmouth rocks."

"I'm trying to get all my senior friends from back home to apply here; I can't wait for next term. If I don't get Parkhursted by then," Seidman continued wryly.

For most, Dartmouth has become an extension of life with parents and siblings.

"I went away for a weekend from Dartmouth, and on the one hand I was relieved to get out of Hanover, but then when I returned, I felt like I was coming home," noted Hane Kim, '04.

"I can't imagine not knowing all the people on my floor whom I've learned to love so well," wrote Melana Yanos '04 in a Blitzmail message. "We just mesh together, like our own little village society."

Life at Dartmouth has been "an eye-opening experience" for Lamb, a native of Utah, who noted his introduction to differing lifestyles has been one of the most valuable assets of his Dartmouth career thus far.

"I love all the new people I'm meeting here from all over the country and the world," he said. "It's especially great for me because in Utah there wasn't much diversity, and out here already I've been exposed to all sorts of different lifestyles, beliefs, and personalities."

The largest challenge this year's freshman may have to face is choosing which activities and which aspects of Dartmouth to take advantage of.

"I have been overwhelmed by the endless lists of things to see and do and be involved in," Fries said. "It's a good thing I have four years to cram in as much as possible!"

"My biggest problem is facing the huge amount of options in front of me every week," agreed Carl DeSelm '04.

Echoing the frantic voices of students across campus as the holidays -- and exams -- loom large, Sheila Hicks '04 noted the hecticness of her Dartmouth life may be best expressed through the status of her laundry.

"I have no time to do laundry, yet I am all out of socks so I will probably wear pantyhose under jeans tomorrow," Hicks said.