07X: The Point of No Return

by Amanda Cohen | 8/10/07 3:55am

Inspired by Astro 3 lectures that force exploration beyond our familiar world, about three weeks ago, a few friends and I left the comforts of home sweet Hanover -- where frat basements serve as social meccas, pong skills are lauded and pick up lines reference Astro exams -- for a weekend escape to New York City.

Seventy-two hours later, my friend remarked, "We really need to decide how much Dartmouth we want in our post-grad lives now, because if we don't consciously recognize it, we'll never escape the Dartmouth universe."

The night before, I had been asked by a stranger in a bar if he could introduce me to his friend, a "great, stand up guy" who, although he didn't ask to be set up, the stranger believed really needed to "talk to a girl tonight." I glanced over his shoulder before I would answer; his friend happened to be a recently-graduated member of Chi Heorot, sweaty and dancing shirtless with one of his frat brothers, both seemingly unaware they were the only ones grooving to the music with such exaggerated motions.

The duo had effectively relocated the post-hockey victory dance party to a downtown New York City bar. When the shorter of the two slammed his hand on the bar for a mid-jazzercize pick-me-up, I half expected it to flip like a pong table and create more room for dancing in anticipation of "Shout" blaring on the speakers.

The Dartmouth atmosphere was so potent that, when leaving, I wondered if Dartmouth has become such a self-sustaining universe that even once graduated, when bar tabs replace house dues and beer is served chilled in glasses, we make the minimum necessary adjustments to fit them into our Dartmouth frame. Now, having been here long enough to consider this our culture, we need to evaluate where on the Dartmouth spectrum we would like to fall in two years.

Should we let go of the word "blitz" in favor of e-mail?

Should we begin to consider booting a turn-off even if the guy performs a really great rally afterward?

Should we use an i-banking job as a means to return to Dartmouth often and each time a little sweeter? I wish I were kidding here, but two recent grads told me last winter about the party bus they secured for their Deutsche Bank recruiting trip to Hanover, equipped with a smoke machine and mirrored ceiling. They planned to "roll up to Theta Delt in that shit" and insisted that "everbody's gonna want to join our firm!"

So, if this is the fate led to by the path of least resistance, I imagine sophomore summer is the time when we need to consider if we'd rather move in a different direction. I've been warned that this may be the last term the decision is really ours: junior year off-terms in the city are a preview of this post-grad life; FSPs serve to solidify the Dartmouth identification on non-Dartmouth grounds. If Dartmouth's omnipresence goes unchecked, will Dartmouth really permeate our lives in cosmic proportions? This term, then, is our event horizon -- we orbit precariously on the cusp of the big city universe and the Dartmouth black(out) hole.

Imagine we allow the gravity to suck us in, and we accelerate quickly into the timeless, spaceless Dartmouth life. Is there really an all-encompassing Big Green universe on the other side? Taking a note from my kindergarten teacher, I suggest the students are the stars in this universe. We have our supernova explosions (this I learned after seeing the Theta Delt toilets following the Pig Roast of Green Key '06), our more elusive white dwarf explosions (see: pasty introvert catches a glimpse as his roommate's girlfriend's nipple) and their counterpart, the brown dwarfs, which can't get hot enough to rise and enter the main sequence. (Thanks Keystone!)

We have satellites -- they're the alums who never seem to leave campus and those who take too long to graduate. Pong balls pass like comets and save-to-sinks are their atmospheric deterrents. It seems this universe fuels each student with a Green identity that, growing internally as we grow intellectually, becomes an expansive part of our adult selves.

Let's say, taking a note from our most famous transfer, Robert Frost, we take the road less traveled and lead a life in which the only elements of Dartmouth that move forward with us are those that were taught in the classroom. When we begin our careers post-college, will we really remember the chemical process of nuclear fusion? Will we still be upset that the median Astro 3 exam grade is in the low 70s?

Dartmouth, I've been told repeatedly, is a school that aims to teach us not how to do, but how to think. During sophomore summer, increased familiarity with the kids in your class leads to more honest discussion and more exchanging of thoughts. Our education -- the cultivation of how-to-think skills -- comes from our classmates.

Even if we make the conscious decision to live outside our Dartmouth Bubble, it seems that after this point in our Dartmouth careers, we can never really escape the influence of the institution and all who have passed through its doors.

As sophomore summer draws to an end, lets take the time to weigh our options carefully. If, while glamorously vomiting the unfamiliar taste of tap beer in the middle of a busy intersection, we're hit by the Deutsche Bank party bus, will we bleed Green?

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