As we approached the Dartmouth Outing Club House, we heard the faint sound of music buzzing in the air. We saw lights flashing, cars approaching and hoards of people standing outside on the patio. Before us laid the world of the unknown — we were about to crash a party full of students from the Geisel School of Medicine.
Up until this moment, our only glimpses of these medical students were through the tinted windows of Murphy’s, but even then, they were in another world — a different world, a world of maturity and growth that 18 year-old freshmen like ourselves couldn’t possibly understand. And so we decided to ask — what exactly do Geisel students do for fun?
When we arrived at the DOC House, we threw our backpacks into a corner (we didn’t want to be the weirdos with the backpacks), and proceeded to approach students to ask them about all the fun they’ve been up to this past week.
In general, it seems that if medical students are looking to blow off some steam, most of them usually go to one of the bars in town — often Salt Hill Pub — or they meet up at classmates’ houses and off-campus apartments. In true Dartmouth fashion, there are individuals whose job it is to help orchestrate these gatherings, and each class has appointed social chairs who help organize on- and off-campus events for their class. On-campus activities consist of anything from formals to themed parties and Heart Rounds — a monthly mixer between faculty and students.
“One really cool thing we do is once a month we have Heart Rounds,” Emily Dollar ’14 Med’19 said. “They invite faculty, so it’s wine and cheese and beer and it’s on campus…That’s probably one of the biggest social events.”
The Geisel students also mingle with other students from other graduate programs around campus, including a graduate student formal that was hosted a few weeks ago. Dollar also talked about some of the other social events between graduate programs, like a Halloween formal with the Tuck School of Business.
Formals, in the undergraduate sense, often call to mind rather wild party scenes with the anxious pre-dance ritual of asking somebody to as a date. The Geisel students we spoke to, however, assured us that their formals are 100 percent mixer and 0 percent rage.
Its a small school, though, with only 422 total students enrolled during last fall, and Dollar wasn’t kidding when she told us students are with their peers at all times. We spoke with chair of Geisel’s anatomy department Rand Swenson about the academic structure of the medical school.
“They all have class together every day,” he said. “Well, there are a lot of small groups, small group activities and things like that where they are working in small teams of medical students. They’re all doing the same thing.”
As Geisel students testify, the strong sense of community fostered by the small class sizes was one of the compelling reasons to come to Dartmouth. As a result, the class spends a lot of time together and is not overly divided by cliques or exclusive social groups. When asked about the social cohesion of the medical school class, Christopher Louie Med’19 told us the same thing.
“We’re all in the same classes — it’s a small community,” he said. “We all go to the same social events.”
The class Facebook group is the hub for communication regarding homework, class schedules and social events. This came as a shock to Dollar, who as an undergraduate at the College spent four years checking Blitz every 20 minutes. As undergraduates, Blitz is the one of the most important tool of communication and source of information for campus-wide events. In medical school, however, students who haven’t been trained by Dartmouth standards to check Blitz every hour often forgo their email in favor of Facebook.
“My roommate also went to Dartmouth, and we’ll email out to people ‘Do you want to come over for dinner?’ and then they’ll respond the next day saying they just saw it, so its definitely a change,” she said.
While the discovery that medical students at Dartmouth enjoy a tight-knit community was reassuring, the real question still loomed over our heads — is there inter-class dating (med-cest??).Of course, being in a relationship is going to play a major role in someone’s social life, and we also were told that a great amount of students have significant others, some of which are long-distance relationships, while others reside in Hanover and some even attend Geisel alongside each other.
Medical students spend a significant amount of time together both inside and outside of class, and that means relationships between Geisel students can get a little complicated.
“If you’re dating somebody else in Geisel, that’s a big decision to make,” Dollar said. “We are in all of our classes together.”
We discovered that as far as intra-school relationships go, it depends on the class.
“I know that the second-years have a ton of people who are dating each other. I think our class, the first-years, have a lot more people who came in already in relationships, so it’s a little different,” Sandy Rao Med’19 said.
The second-year class has around 10 different couples, while other classes are more diversified with a few intra-med school relationships and many students who are in long distance relationships. There are, however, also many couples that decide to move to Hanover while their partner is attending school at Geisel. Brad Olson is the partner of a third-year medical student who moved to the area when his partner started school.
Generally, the social scene for students is centered around hanging out with their classmates, so partners are more than welcome to attend any on- or off-campus event hosted by the college. Fortunately, other students are very welcoming to their peers’ spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends and family members.
“All the graduate programs have partners, groups and events that are open to wives, husbands, children, etc., so there are so many different things going on at any given point in time that it becomes an all-inclusive community,” Olson said. “The Heart Rounds is one of those events. Its open to boyfriends, girlfriends, wives, professors, doctors.”
For the med students who live here with their significant others, like Olson, off–campus housing is the preferred choice. There is graduate housing available on campus, but it is not as popular as living in a house in town. Interestingly, graduate students living on-campus must abide by the same college laws as undergraduate students. On that note, graduate students are also not allowed to have hard alcohol in their on-campus apartments as a result of “Moving Dartmouth Forward.”
“We can’t have hard alcohol on campus either,” Dollar said. “Nobody can, even if you are over 21. It’s a campus ban and so for our formals, the bar can’t serve hard alcohol, it has to be beer and wine only.”
She also told us about a party that was held on campus after their first quiz in which the students hosting the party were required to put in their email “no hard alcohol.”
Due to a heavy course load, however, some of the medical students do not have much time to rage.
“We go out Mondays after our quizzes, only Mondays. Occasionally we go out on a Friday, but it is every other week,” Alec Fisher Med’19 said. “So we have a quiz every other Monday, and that Monday night we go out and usually that Friday or Saturday we go out and then the rest of the week is a lot of studying.”
Geisel students’ social lives, however, entail even more than just going to bars and studying for their Monday exams. For one, many of them seem to be extremely active outside of Dartmouth and take advantage of the outdoorsy culture that characterizes Hanover.
“There is a lot of hiking, I run the soccer for the first-years,” Fisher said. “A lot of us do volunteering. I’m with the urban health scholars group, so I travel to cities and provide health care.”
The campus culture of being outdoors all the time certainly rubs off on everybody who comes to stay, and all of the students we talked to had longer lists of extracurricular than we did. Rao is a great example of a medical student who encompasses Dartmouth’s crunchy yet involved culture.
“The idea of being outdoorsy is totally new to me, so I have been going kayaking with a bunch of med students. We’ve been going on hikes every other weekend when we don’t have an exam,” she said.