Harary: Small Town, Big Community

by Paul Harary | 8/21/15 6:08pm

When I ask friends about what drew them to Dartmouth — and what makes the College stand out amongst the other Ivy League universities — they often refer to the strong outdoor culture and the appeal of the down-to-earth atmosphere. As I progress in my own Dartmouth experience, I am realizing more and more that this appraisal is right on the mark. The opportunity to take advantage of the outdoors — whether it be a day on the slopes at the Dartmouth Skiway or a weekend trip to Moosilauke Lodge — often proves to be the perfect antidote to a taxing week of studying for midterms or writing essays. The New Hampshire landscape is an inextricable part of the College’s ethos and as such continues to play an integral part in the Dartmouth student experience. This is reflected in the symbol of the Lone Pine proudly emblazoned on the College’s flag, as well as in the motto “vox clamantis in deserto,” or “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.” It is nearly impossible to leave the College without gaining an appreciation for the outdoors and the value that it can add to everyday life, from the very start of Freshman year, with First-Year Trips, to the singing of the Alma Mater at graduation — “And the granite of New Hampshire, in their muscles and their brains”.

While the College has a great deal to offer in the way of environs and distinct character, it is also far removed from any major city. In this way, the same rural setting that enables this closeness to nature can also contribute to a sense of isolation from the rest of the country. It is therefore entirely understandable that that new students, especially those from metropolitan areas, may be apprehensive about moving out so far off the beaten track. Counter-intuitively, this separation is actually one of Dartmouth’s best qualities.

As a consequence of Hanover’s small size, nearly 90 percent of students prefer to live on campus — with virtually all undergraduates enrolled in some type of College dining plan. This means that students end up rubbing shoulders much more often than at larger, urban-based schools. In turn, this leads to higher participation in College clubs and activities. So, contrary to the popular perception of small-town colleges, being out in the boondocks of New Hampshire actually contributes to the development of a more tightly knit community and a stronger feeling of connection with the student body.

The organizations that make up the Dartmouth Outing Club continue to be some of the main hubs of campus life, reflecting the College’s enduring connection to the natural surroundings. These include the Ledyard Canoe Club, the Dartmouth Mountaineering Club and Ski Patrol — all of which offer many openings for new students to become active in the Dartmouth community. All too often, first-years put off getting involved with clubs on campus until well into their fall or winter terms. Rather than wait to be completely settled-in, incoming students would be wise to pursue their interests right away, taking advantage of the especially open and approachable atmosphere that characterizes the first month at Dartmouth.

The “voice in the wilderness” described in Dartmouth’s motto is not that of one person, but of the entire college community. There is no question of whether or not there are chances to engage with other students outside of the classroom; there is a wealth of different on-campus organizations — ranging from the Brazilian Student Association to Dartmouth Formula Racing. Instead, it is only a matter of getting over the early inertia of one’s first term at college and exploring the diverse opportunities that Dartmouth has to offer.