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The Dartmouth
March 4, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Nomads and Loners: The D-Plan Lifestyle

For the over half of College students who choose to study abroad, the mentality to go, go and go can take over.

Erica Jones '08 said she has moved every three months since her sophomore spring, when she participated in the Mexico LSA. She returned for sophomore summer, headed to Copenhagen for the fall and then to Northern California for a Summer Enrichment At Dartmouth internship in the winter. Although it was a whirlwind, Jones said her Dartmouth experience wouldn't have been the same if she hadn't participated in abroad programs, and that all of her experiences were meaningful.

"I would not be the person I am now without these experiences," Jones said.

Her experience as a SEAD intern helped Jones decide her future career. "Working as a SEAD intern placed me in a school where I was able to see educational injustice up close," Jones said. She believes the experience encouraged her desire to attend law school and work as a civil rights attorney.

Ediz Tiyansan '09 has also worked out a busy D-plan; he will be the first student in Dartmouth history to participate in four study abroad programs. Tiyansan hails from Turkey and attended an international school in South Africa before his arrival in Hanover, and hopes his international experiences will aid his future career.

"I'm considering doing interpretation and translation work after I graduate. I'm especially interested in attending grad school to focus on international relations or global development, definitely leaning towards work with NGOs," he said.

This past year he spent time in Germany and Argentina.

"I already to some extent spoke German and Spanish before I came here and I believed it was sadly ironic to learn a language and never go to the nations where the language is spoken," Tiyansan said.

The summer term before the German FSP, he spent time in Berlin researching the integration of Turkish immigrants in Germany for the first-year summer research program. During his sophomore summer, after spending the spring on the Argentina FSP, he traveled throughout South America on Che Guvera's historical route.

"I sometimes feel we just read books here, which you can do any time, but to go to these places and get stimulated visually, I realized how biased I was," Tiyansan said. "It made me more aware and informed."

Tiyansan and Jones are confident that their D-plans provided them with perspectives that could not have been gleaned from a textbook or classroom at Dartmouth.

Class of 2008 Dean Lisa Thum said that it's not typical to have those experiences as an adult, "so I'm biased because I think students should take advantage of going abroad," she said. "Junior year is the time students can really go out and explore a country they have great interest in or a career option," Thum said. "Overall they can learn more about themselves and what they want in life."

Students who stay on campus can learn to embrace their experiences as well, different as they may be from the 'shmobbing ways of previous years.

"I'm not going to sit in my room pathetically, and say 'My friends aren't here, this is terrible.' I'm going to go out and take the steps necessary to meet more people," Pete Mathias '09 said.

He believes junior winter will be an opportunity for him to widen his social circle and have the chance to get to know more of his class.

"I'll adapt because you have to when things change. When I came to college I didn't know anyone, so I think I can be okay those nine weeks getting to know new people and I know my friends will be coming back soon," Mathias said. "This term has been fine and I have a ton of friends on, but next term it just means I'm going to have to do a lot of reaching out."

He has decided to stay on campus his entire junior year after taking sophomore summer off to record a sixth album with his band Filigar. The group performed throughout Chicago and held an East Coast tour. This year, Mathias plans on staying busy with classes, individual research he is currently working on and his involvement with musical ensembles on campus.

Some students can see the silver lining in staying on campus junior year, but not all, according to Thum.

"The junior winter experience depends on the student because some outgoing students can extend themselves and meet more people, but for some who have one or two key supports once those friends are gone it may be really depressing," Thum said.

The D-plan nomad experience can also be trying for friendships.

Tiyansan will participate in an FSP in Morocco his junior spring and will jet to Beijing for the Chinese FSP in the summer, but he regrets missing time with his friends while he's away.

"I haven't seen most of my good friends from freshman year for five terms. I basically have to find new friends every time," Tiyansan said. "I realized what I've missed at Dartmouth is the relationships with my friends, which I now realize is the whole point of college."

Thum hopes students do not miss out on what they may really want out of the College in the process of trying to fit everything in.

"Sometimes people get caught in the Dartmouth mentality and are in this rush to do everything and start to believe the more the better," Thum said. "Spending time reflecting on all these experiences are important because it's sad when you aren't able to have the time to really understand what you've accomplished."

Jones used Skype to stay in touch and took advantage of the opportunity to visit friends studying abroad in other countries.

A native of Portland, Ore., Jones found it hard to return to tiny Hanover after an exciting, high-energy city life.

"It took me a long time to adjust coming back to the bubble after being all around the world -- it was disappointing," Jones said. "Things that were important to me before weren't as important to me when I came back."

Students from cities are sometimes excited to return home for leave terms or go abroad on a program located in a cosmopolitan city, Thum said.

"Many aspects play into the D-plan, and it's based on your experience. It's key for some people to leave Hanover for an urban environment," Thum said. "I also love to go off to a city sometimes."

Tiyansan said he ultimately has no regrets about being a D-plan nomad, and believes it has made his college experience rich.

Although Tiyansan will graduate on time, some students choose a D-plan so jam-packed that they are not able to -- an even more difficult path, because many students seem attached to the belief that graduating with one's class is more respectable.

"There are students who take a whole year off to do amazing things. I think they must have a lot of confidence to choose to do something for themselves that doesn't fit the Dartmouth norm," Thum said. "It's admirable."

Rarely are two D-plans exactly alike, which can make for some headaches and some heartache. Traveling around the world and returning to Hanover (and vice versa the next term) can be jarring, but really, it's more interesting that way.