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The Dartmouth
February 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

20 things '20's learned

This article was featured in the Green Key 2017 Special Issue: "Awakening."

Freshman year is a time for many adventures, but above all, it is a time of learning.

For some students, living at college is the first time they’ll be away from home. For others, attending college feels more like home than anything they have ever known before. But for everyone, college is where many lessons are learned. Hopefully, many of those lessons are academic — but the other lessons, of a more personal variety, are just as important.

As spring term comes to an end, The Dartmouth spoke to members of the Class of 2020, asking them what have been some of the most important lessons they’ve learned since arriving at the College. These lessons touch upon different experiences, but they all reflect the many ways in which students grow during their first year.

1. “I brought way too much stuff. I brought a dozen pairs of shoes and way too many jackets that I only wear a few of, so now it’s a very cluttered room for no reason. I guess it just extends to being over prepared in general.” - Nick Windham ’20

2. “How to live with a roommate in the same room. This is my first time living with another guy in the same room. We each have different schedules and lifestyles. I could never imagine living with a guy like this in my high school years. After a year, I feel like even though we have different schedules, things are likely to work out most of the time.” - Timothy Qiu ’20

3. “Try to make friends with upperclassmen. They’re not as intimidating as they seem.” - Samuel Greenberg ’20

Chances are, you were welcomed to campus by a mob of upperclassmen wearing outrageous clothing that you soon learned was called flair. Many freshmen embark on First-Year Trips before they truly settle into their dorm room — after five days with no showering and minimal access to toilets, even the worst of Dartmouth’s dorms seem luxurious. Even if you didn’t go on a Trip, though, move-in day is a blur of carrying boxes up never ending flights of stairs, meeting people, immediately forgetting their names and asking yourself if you brought too much or not enough stuff. (If you have to ask, the answer is probably yes, you brought too much.) Thankfully, there’s nearly always a Crooling or O-Team member around once you finally swallow your pride and decide to ask for help.

4. “I’ve learned the importance of finessing the Collis stir fry line. Like college, the stir fry line can be very intimidating and stressful, but over time and with the help of some friendly people, I’ve really learned how to get what I want out of Collis.” - Emma Demers ’20

5. “Tenderbob with added hash brown. Prime.” - Dylan Giles ’20

6. “‘FOMO’ is a thing, but don’t give into it. For every one thing you choose to do on campus, there are a hundred things you want to do but don’t have time to do. I think it’s important that you have to make so many decisions about what’s the best use of your time and what’s most valuable to you, because forcing yourself to make those choices will give you a chance to hone in on your interests and passions.” - Jessica Kobsa ’20

Life at Dartmouth takes some time to get used to, and even something seemingly as simple as ordering food at Collis or the Hop isn’t always straightforward. Thankfully, Orientation week gives students the chance to gradually acclimate themselves to their new home. In addition to the many required meetings, panels and information sessions that freshmen attend, there are also a ton of social events that introduce students to one of the most important aspects of college life: free food. There are so many activities going on that not even the most eager of freshmen can attend them — but thankfully, you don’t need to make any commitments just yet. So take it easy, explore whatever sounds interesting and remember that there is never any shame in dedicating time to take care of yourself, especially while transitioning to college.

7. “I learned how to enjoy myself. In high school, I didn’t do that, but here I find that I have a lot more free time to do things that I enjoy doing, like making memes.” - Jeffrey Qiao ’20

8. “It never pays off to fall behind in your classes and then try to catch up.” - Nia Gooding ’20

9. “I discovered a lot of people that share many of my passions here, so I feel that it encouraged me to do better in school, study more and participate in activities. I felt that before, I wasn’t in an environment that encouraged that, so it’s been great to find people whom I feel I can share my passions with.” - Pedro Salazar ’20

During Orientation week, it is far too easy to forget that the primary purpose of college is to receive an education. Once the first day of classes arrives, however, that becomes more and more difficult to forget as your workload steadily increases. Classes at Dartmouth jump right into the course material thanks to the quarter system, which means that there is no such thing as a syllabus week. After a few weeks, however, students get a sense of the pace of the academic schedule while figuring out how to dedicate time to other interests. You might be the person who signed up for way too many clubs at the club fair or the person who didn’t sign up for any; regardless, you can certainly check out both pre-existing and new interests. Again, no pressure: You can always drop out of a club or join another one later!

10. “The presence of someone else’s _______ is not the absence of your own. Fill in the blank however you want.” - Lola Adewuya ’20

11. “I’ve learned that it’s okay to struggle and to fail sometimes. I’ve also learned that, while grades define your academic success at Dartmouth, your friends define the person that you are.” - Sam Hernandez ’20

12. “I’ve learned that it’s tough [at] an Ivy League institution because when you come from a place where you’re considered the top, and then you’re suddenly not the top, it’s tough accepting that.” - Jean Fang ’20

13. “What I’ve learned over freshman year: even if you receive a midterm back and it doesn’t go as well as you’d hope, going to office hours can be very beneficial. Professors can be very helpful: they don’t want you to fail, they want you to succeed. They’re all very supportive.” - Meghan Poth ’20

College is hard. The 10-week term moves quickly, and it seems like everyone else already knows the material even in the introductory-level courses. Some groups are competitive to get into, and after a cappella auditions don’t go so well, you might feel like never singing again. Even if you excelled academically in high school, you might get a less-than-stellar grade on your first midterm. You’ve heard again and again that it’s normal to struggle, yet it’s still so hard to accept that it’s normal for you. But as you begin to doubt your abilities and wonder if you made the right choice in coming to Dartmouth, you can also discover the importance of support systems. Whether your own support system comes from friends, family, professors, advisors, deans or a combination thereof, never forget that there are so many people, on campus and beyond, that genuinely want to help you succeed however they can.

14. “I have learned the importance of taking time to do things other than homework and to do things that are fun sometimes.” - Alexandrea Gosnell ’20

15. “A day that’s no fun is a day without a pun. I’ve really connected with people by making sure I say something nice about each person I see every day. That’s either giving a genuine compliment or telling a funny joke.” - Sirey Zhang ’20

16. “I would say that there are some experiences that are worth pulling an all-nighter for. Like, ‘Hey, let’s go to the golf course at midnight. I have a bunch of work to do, but yeah, let’s go do that.’ You know, just hanging out and thinking about life.” - Greg Szypko ’20

The sheer number of things to do on campus at any given moment is pretty overwhelming. There are performances to see, guest lectures to attend, games to play, books to read, research to do … The list goes on. Once the frat ban is over, then an entirely new option for socializing is available for ’20s to enjoy — or ignore — as much as they want. With all of these options, many first-years realize that they need to evaluate their priorities and adjust their schedules appropriately. That might entail quitting a club or two or limiting how often they go out. That adjustment could also be much more drastic, like spending less time with certain groups of people or changing academic interests. Such decisions differ from person to person because each person’s priorities are different. With the power to plan their own schedules, first-years learn from experience exactly what they want out of college and out of life.

17. “I don’t owe anything to the me I was yesterday.” - Mary Versa Clemens-Sewall ’20

18. “One thing I’ve learned over this year is that people cannot be put into boxes of good and bad. People are much more nuanced than that. Meeting so many different people coming from different backgrounds and talking to people with different beliefs to me has made me realize that that is simply not the case.” - Naman Goyal ’20

19. “When people say that everyone’s experience is different than everyone else’s, it actually means something. It’s not just a cliché people say. Everyone comes from their own place, everyone has their own way of doing something, and that’s fine.” Arunav Jain ’20

Often, the most profound lessons are not taught explicitly but instead are slowly learned through a continual process of experience and reflection. There is no one way to experience freshman year at Dartmouth, and to that end, there is no single lesson that all firstyear must learn — nor should there be. Over the past year, each ’20 has learned many lessons: some funny, some lighthearted, all important.

To conclude, I offer one final lesson, in my own words, that I have learned during my own freshman year. Being a freshman isn’t always easy, but the lessons I’ve personally learned have improved my life more than I could have ever imagined. I hope this one improves yours as well.

20.“No matter who you were when you arrived at Dartmouth, and no matter who you are now, you deserve to be here. Don’t forget that.” - Cristian Cano ’20

Demers is a member of The Dartmouth staff. Jain is a former member of The Dartmouth staff.