Perez: Her Spell On Them Remains

by Sarah Perez | 5/11/15 6:33pm

When I first set foot in Hanover in summer 2012, the Green was actually green, the sky was clear and sundresses and salmon-colored shorts abounded. I had not even begun my senior year of high school, but I was sold. As a native of southern Florida, basing my college decision on a single, summertime visit to New Hampshire may seem questionable. Yet to this day, I have no regrets. After participating in the Dartmouth Bound summer program, I was convinced that there was absolutely no other place in which I would rather spend four years. While each season at the College has its own unique beauty, there is something truly magical about a Hanover summer that I think every student should experience. Despite complaints of condensed course offerings and other grievances, sophomore summer is a tradition that the College should never let fail.

Perhaps the greatest strike against sophomore summer is limited course availability, which many columnists in this paper have noted. While this concern is valid, this limitation can actually benefit students willing to take an intellectual risk. For many, scheduling summer courses involves a careful calculus of “layups” and more rigorous courses. Indeed, many sophomores each year try their hand at “Exploration of the Solar System” and “Ecological Agriculture.” Though considered by some to be easy ways to fulfill distributive requirements, summer courses like these afford students valuable opportunities to explore outside their major. While afternoons harvesting organic produce and evenings stargazing are memorable experiences in and of themselves, students may discover a new academic passion. What summer course offerings may lack in variety, they make up for by encouraging intellectual risks — regardless of a course’s perceived level of rigor.

Objections to the shortage of course offerings are sometimes accompanied by the sentiment that sophomore summer is a wasted term, with fewer opportunities for personal and professional growth. Some students feel that their time would be better served accruing “real-world” experience through an internship. These students, though, fail to recognize all that “Camp Dartmouth” has to offer. Students on campus can work for the College during class reunions, a unique opportunity to meet alumni, practice networking and potentially land an internship for a future term. Moreover, many organizations on campus offer summer programming, such as the Rockefeller Center’s Summer Startup Experience. Over two days, the workshop challenges students to polish their problem-solving and leadership skills. Moreover, sophomore summer allows rising juniors to assume leadership positions in their teams, clubs and Greek houses. As a transitional period between academic years, the summer term is a crucial opportunity to experiment with leadership styles and ultimately become better leaders.

Furthermore, sophomore summer is a invaluable opportunity for members of the sophomore class to reconvene midway through their Dartmouth careers. In the onslaught of papers and exams that accompanies a 10-week term, many students fall out of touch with the friendships they developed during their first year. Spending the summer in Hanover allows students to reconnect with acquaintances and forge new relationships before their junior year through impromptu adventures to Ice Cream Fore-U and afternoons on the river. This is aided by another common criticism of sophomore summer, when only a few residence halls are kept open. While some consider this restrictive, living in such close quarters can promote unity and brings members of the class together. In the same way, students living in Greek houses, living learning communities or affinity housing have an opportunity to become better acquainted with members of their class.

Even before submitting my Dartmouth application, I had heard a great deal about sophomore summer. At each alumni event, members of all classes would smile and laugh as they swapped memories of a summer in Hanover. A family friend from back home described it as “the best 10 weeks of his life.” Sophomore summer has been a long time coming, and despite my excitement, I can’t be certain it will live up to the hype. Yet it would be a mistake to simply toss out a tradition that many feel strongly about. Sophomore summer should remain mandatory — and a seminal part of the Dartmouth experience.