Freshmen keep up with College traditions

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

They came anticipating Phi Beta Kappa honors and organized planners, intellectual discussions about Freud and Goethe and brisk morning jogs framed by New England scenery.

Instead -- whether they are housed in freshman-only housing or mixed-class dormitories -- the Class of 2004 is wandering zombie-like through their hallways at 3 a.m., cursing the existence of the 10-week term and waking up with hangovers on the weekends -- and loving it.

That, at least, seems to be the consensus of most of the freshmen in two focus groups set up by The Dartmouth at the beginning of the fall term.

With the exception of a few '04s who have stuck to their pre-orientation decisions to abstain from drinking at college, most of the freshmen The Dartmouth spoke with admitted to drinking alcohol at fraternities and sororites as well as in their dorm rooms, despite the College's mandate forbidding freshmen from entering Greek houses during their first term on campus.

"[Safety and Security] runs stings in our dorm," David Seidelman '04 said jokingly about his residence, Ripley Hall.

Though some '04s complain about the lack of a bustling city nearby offering vast social options, on the whole they agree that life at Dartmouth is more entertaining than life at home.

"I mean, think about it: in high school, you probably just sat around with your friends," Carl DeSelm '04 said.

Plenty of freshmen still do just that.

"The weekends for me are just a time to relax," native Virginian Owen Brennan '04 said. "They're so many cool people here, I love relaxing with them."

"I love going to frats," James Lamb '04, who hails from Utah, said. "I'm not a drinker, I go for the dance parties."

Other social options freshmen have explored include weekend trips to Boston and Montreal.

"You can always figure out something to do," Lamb continued.

Homecoming Weekend provided many distractions for the Class of 2004, cementing the general agreement that the College is a "fantastic place," according to several students.

After Homecoming, said Seidelman, throwing his hands up in the air, "we might as well all go home, it's all over."

"Two thumbs up," Hinman resident Katie Lieberg '04 gave the weekend, a la Siskel and Ebert.

"I studied very little," ChienWen Kung '04 said.

The bonfire's flames enticed many fleet-footed freshmen, with nearly all the members of the focus groups saying they participated in running around the conflagration, keeping with College tradition.

"I dropped when I got home, but I did it, I ran for like two hours," Seidelman said.

"I got jacked by the rugby team," Lamb said, chuckling.

Sheila Hicks '04, a member of the Dartmouth Women's Rugby Club and an all-freshman housing resident noted she could not have enjoyed the bonfire more.

"I'm sorry if I ran any of you guys over," she apologized, grinning.

The '04s say they are looking forward to the day when, as Lamb put it, "we get to heckle the freshmen."

"Yeah," agreed Brian Kent '04, a Brown Hall resident. "But it was definitely fun to be heckled," he added.

At this insight, 10 freshman heads nodded around the table, issuing forth murmurs of accordance.

Dartmouth is not the only educational institution with traditions, and freshmen told The Dartmouth they missed some customs from high school and home.

"The homecoming dance in high school was fun, I missed that," said Seidelman, noting he would definitely attend such a function were the College to organize one for next year's Homecoming Weekend.

Freshmen thoughts are now turning from college life to life at home, as the first official College break looms in the horizon. Students in The Dartmouth's focus groups agreed that their first visits home would be "weird."

"My parents are strict, I don't want to go home," Hane Kim '04 said.

"I think I'm going to feel like I don't belong," DeSelm noted.

For freshmen who have visited home already this term, the one aspect of home life which they must reorient themselves to is driving.

"I like, forgot that you don't have to slam the gas on to move forward," laughed Julia Noether '04, recalling her first venture into a vehicle a few weeks ago at home.

Noether highlighted an issue that many freshmen agreed was troubling for them.

"When you come back here, you're not sure if you're leaving home or going home," she said. "Now you have two homes, two families."

"All my stuff is here, physically. My room will be empty when I go home!" Elizabeth Leonard '04 commented.

"It will be weird to chill by myself, here I'm always surrounded by people," Leonard continued.

"I'm going to miss my MP3s," Seidelman lamented.

Of course, the comforts of home do not go unrecognized by these '04s.

"There has been something sitting in the corner of my dorm bathroom for two and a half weeks now and I'm not about to check it out," Brennan said, straight-faced.

"The college mentality is going to make you think 'free food!' all the time," noted Hicks.

Not all freshmen will return home as different people, changed by their college experiences, according to Kung.

"I don't think I've been here long enough for this place to have a truly profound effect on me."

Hicks, who recently came out as a bisexual to her parents and to classmates, disagreed with Kung, noting if she had not come to Dartmouth, she probably would not have come out at all.

"I just love this school, how could I not have wanted to come here?" asked Hicks, who originally had doubts about Dartmouth as being too conservative for her tastes.

"Now I try to tell prospective students about what it's really like here," she added, noting Dartmouth's reputation as a bastion of right-wing ideologies is not accurate in her view.

Hannah Fries '04 agreed, noting she remembers visiting the College as a prospective student and seeing students "cornering prospies," lauding Dartmouth.

"All of a sudden I find myself cornering prospies and chiming in with those students I saw then. I never thought I'd be selling Dartmouth so much," she added.

Upperclassmen who live in residences with freshmen tend to still be a mystery to '04s who say they are better acquainted with older students they know from extracurricular activities than those who live in the same building.

"I mean, you're thrown together, you have stuff in common with them," Seidelman said of upperclassmen he knows from his non-academic activities.

"What are you going to say to someone who lives in your dorm -- 'Hey, isn't this a great dorm?'" he continued.

"They already have their own thing going on," pointed out Lamb. "You have to introduce yourself to them."

Students who live in all-freshmen housing in the River Cluster note there are drawbacks and benefits to living far away from the center of campus.

"No one ever comes to visit me," moaned Hicks.

However, said Fries, the long trek that separates her from her classmates across the campus can be helpful come midterms.

"It's actually kind of nice, I can actually do my homework," she said.

Though she lives in all-freshman housing, Melana Yanos '04 pointed out she has not seen many of her peers, because everyone's lives seem to be increasingly busier throughout the term.

"I'm really in this mode of doing work, I don't get to hang out with my friends that much anymore," Yanos noted.

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