A Comedian's Words of Wisdom

by Lee Cooper | 12/4/07 1:11am

This weekend I had the unfortunate experience of being kicked out of the library on a Saturday night. Naturally, the frigid walk home -- during which I was still hyped-up on "Rockstar" and the liberal arts -- was quite uncomfortable. The discomfort was only compounded by the two-daylong blitz bombardment by campus groups and offices, all of which snowballed into a colossal "don't" list in my mind:

Don't forget to register for spring housing. Don't forget to pick courses. Don't wear clothing with logos. (This made very little sense. "Hand-me-downs" do not magically lose logos, nor do non-sweatshop clothes.) Don't miss ChuckEasy's new album dropping next week. Don't wear shoes when you play soccer, otherwise you can't help needy children in Africa.

Upon returning to my soon-to-be-demolished room in New Hampshire hall (read: ORL needs to sponsor a "Destroy New Hamp" study break before the end of the term), I decided to turn on Comedy Central for a little pick-me-up. Thankfully, Lewis Black saved me. During his famous "Black on Broadway" routine, he says, "The most important part of travel is when you come home, (pause/laughter) because (pause) that's when you see your country with new eyes." As often is the case, Black's sarcastic, over-embellished delivery contains a nugget of good advice, and one that is pertinent to many Dartmouth students: get out of here!

A headline on the Dartmouth homepage last week proudly announced that Dartmouth sat atop the Ivy League for undergraduate study abroad participation. It was a headline I was pleased to read, particularly because Dartmouth rarely sits atop the Ivy League in anything other than geography, and because our own Off-Campus Programs office deserves high praise for the programs it offers. I participated in last winter's Spanish LSA to Puebla, Mexico, and it was my best decision at Dartmouth. Simply, Dartmouth's off-campus programs are unrivaled, and they promote the sort of experience that I deem vital to our educations.

By venturing abroad with an open mind we ultimately improve the atmosphere and dialogue on campus. Being away is a time for aspiring economists to live in restricted markets and it is a time for aspiring thinkers to confront the challenges of continental philosophy. It is a time for artists to see the Sistine Chapel or watch the St. Petersburg Ballet. It is a time for substance abusers to explore new methods for altering their state of reality. It is a time for frat boys to learn how to take women out on a proper date and how to pick up women who don't just "want to check blitz upstairs." It is a time for frat-haters to learn how to create "equality" without blindly stabbing at the social fabric of this campus. It is a time for athletes to avoid morning lift, and it is a time for stereotype propogators to find new boxes to put people in. And, it is a time for environmentalists to visit countries high in "smug" but low in CO2.

I have taken Lewis Black's advice myself, and my parents hate me for it. But I have zero regrets. I can only speak for my friends on campus, yet a willingness to try new things has been one of the defining characteristics that make my peers at Dartmouth interesting, and the D-plan helps facilitate it. At home, most people balk at my plans to work in a foreign country this winter, but at Dartmouth I am more accustomed to hearing "Sounds awesome" than I am to "Why?" I find this to be a key part of the Dartmouth mentality that sets this place apart from other experiences in my life. When else will we have the opportunity to go on adventures and travel independently? Yes, I have had to make some personal sacrifices, but they pale in comparison to anything I will likely have to give up in 10 years in order to "see my country with new eyes."

So join the party, and I don't mean the 1902 scene on Saturday night. If you are an underclassman, sign up to study abroad. If you are an upperclassman caught somewhere in between the high of sophomore summer and the sobering reality of graduation, then find a job somewhere new or defer your corporate job to travel for a bit. Most of us will be at least moderately tied down for the rest of our lives, so let's take two months now to freely explore the world.

That's what I'll tell my parents: "Sorry Mom, sorry Dad. I love you and want to be home with you and I know that I need to be making more money right now, but I'm just livin' the dream..."