Larin: Forgetting the "Right" Way

by Carla Larin | 6/13/15 5:42am

From a young age we are taught to distinguish between right and wrong. I’m not talking about in the moral sense, but rather the notion that there is a correct way of doing or experiencing particular things. For example, preschool-aged Carla was taught not to put gum in that girl’s hair and that she should always say thank you to the school bus driver. As I check off the final items on my senior bucket list, I can’t help but wonder — did I have the “right” Dartmouth Experience?

There’s no typical Dartmouth Experience, but one common vein to being a part of the multitude of young folks on this campus is to share in the solidarity. Dartmouth is a cult. My cousins in El Salvador don’t understand this strange “corporate recruiting” phenomenon I was stressed about over Christmas break. My friends from home think it’s lame that I spend far too much time in frat basements as opposed to bars. My family gets confused as to why I pressure myself fanatically to keep my grades up. Frankly, they probably screen my calls when I call them unshowered and on the verge of nervous breakdown from the 1902 room during finals period.

We came to Dartmouth for an education. But will I remember the details of the home voter’s hypothesis in 10 years or the names of the quarks in the Standard Model? Let’s be honest — no. Most of my learning at Dartmouth occurred outside the classroom. I learned how to make babaofan at the Chinese Language House with my thesis advisor. I learned not to wear running sneakers when hiking in the snow one sunny May afternoon. Freshman year I sat in the back of the classroom and remained silent. Senior year I raise my hand emphatically so that even if you wanted to you couldn’t ignore me.

But above all, I learned that you can’t get through life alone. I am just not as independent as I once thought. Without that professor who first made me comfortable enough to contribute in class or that older friend who encouraged me to get involved on campus, I would have stood still these past years, frozen in a teenage version of myself.

I characterize my Dartmouth Experience by the people I’ve met along the way. I’ve made so many friends at Dartmouth, but most of the time they don’t stick around. Luckily, it’s worth the disappointment because the friends who have really are something special. Dartmouth has taught me that I am strong enough to admit when I’m in trouble and can’t do it alone. Confronting problems with relentless determination and fortitude is a skill that most of us have come to share.

The Dartmouth Experience leaves no room for regrets. I survived an internship in Hong Kong as the only non-Chinese junior banker. I went to the river with friends instead of editing this column. I must admit there were moments when I wavered. But I came out the other end and am stronger (and ultimately more human) for having faltered.

Dedicating my junior year to The Dartmouth was no walk in the park. I can vividly recall my frustration after advocating the abolishment of the Greek system. I received threats and praise alike, and I let it all rain down on me as I sat in my office alone in the dark with the door locked, contemplating the magnitude of my putative social suicide. I gained enormous confidence leading the business operations of The D during such a tumultuous year at Dartmouth. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some of the people I respect and admire most on campus. Together, we contributed to something so much greater than ourselves.

Last Sunday, I was lying in bed on a lazy senior spring evening with friends. We were sipping wine, listening to my sophomore summer playlist and laughing at something silly my friend did the other night. Our limbs were sprawled every which way -— it was carefree, comfortable and happy. I remember feeling like the luckiest girl in the world: friends and family who love me, a job and apartment lined up for after I graduate and an Ivy League education. Reflections and feelings are not my strong point, but that memory will remain with me for years to come.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered, my Dartmouth Experience was neither “right” nor “wrong.” Everyone struggles to carve their own path and define their individual Dartmouth Experience. Looking back on these past four years reminds me how grateful I am to have been a part of this network of brilliant young minds. I’m humbled, honored and proud to be a member of the Class of 2015. These people are my family, and this campus is my home.

Carla Larin is the former publisher of The Dartmouth.