Looking ten years into the future

by Vanessa Smiley | 5/18/18 3:55am

Expectation drives, expectation cripples. Many students, despite coming to Dartmouth with a staunch readiness to absorb the breadth of knowledge inherent to a liberal arts education, carry the weight of expectations. That weight is sometimes definite, sometimes indefinite, but rooted always in a vision of the future that seems blurry and beyond reach.

Many students came to Dartmouth with this uncertain vision in mind.

“Initially what prompted me to apply to college in general was to have an opportunity for social mobility,” Emmanuel Berrelleza ’21 said. He noted that his life experiences in Las Vegas opened his eyes early on to the importance of social reform.

“I spent my last year in high school working my hardest to get into one of these schools to have more opportunities, more resources, and just being able to move up in society,” he said. “I see Dartmouth and any college for that matter as a stepping stone to where you want to be, but not necessarily a direct path.”

As students transition to the next stepping stone after Dartmouth, many struggle to determine what the next part of their lives will entail. This question hovers over underclassmen as they strive toward a vision that is elusive at best and nonexistent at worst. It persists even when these same students have, as they approach graduation, secured a job or at the very least acquired a more concrete blueprint for the future.

Jeffrey Gao ’18, who will work for a startup company in Seattle after graduation, recalls the uncertainty he endured as a freshman.

“When I came into Dartmouth, I really didn’t want to study computer science even though my family was hoping I would,” he said. “I really wanted to study econ [...] because I thought it would be really awesome to work in either the Bay Area or New York City.”

Hallie Reichel ’18 found herself in a similar position when she first came to Dartmouth. She noted that her passion for documentary film eclipsed her initial desire to work for a nonprofit organization.

“I had pretty high expectations for myself in terms of making an impact on the world,” she said. “My vision [was that] I would go out into the world and fight the world’s greatest injustices.”

This expectation, however ambitious and abstract, prompted her to dive headfirst into the government department.

But as Gao and Reichel grew both in knowledge and maturity, so too did their visions change and congeal.

During her sophomore summer, Reichel discovered a love for documentary film and began to pursue internships in that area of study. Around the same time, Reichel realized that even a job in a nonprofit could be rife with politics.

“A lot of my classes really ... [examined] a lot of the problems in huge NGOs and institutions,” she said. “[They] looked at how humanitarian aid can actually have adverse effects [...] so it was no longer as simple as, ‘Oh, I’m just going to do this job and help a bunch of people.’”

Gao, too, now has a more definite plan for the future.

“I’m now a [computer science] major, and I’m going to work in tech next year in Seattle,” he said. “I think that I will still be working in the tech industry unless something catastrophic happens in tech.”

Berrelleza on the other hand, finds himself in limbo as he inches toward a future that is uncertain and abound with possibility.

“I plan to go to law school right after undergraduate school,” he said. “After law school I think I’m going to work in the private sector for about three or four years. I plan to hopefully start my own business and maybe join an executive position with some big company to learn ... but I also want to [do] public service [and] work in government.”

Though Brayan Lozano ’20, who is currently pursuing a dual degree in computer science and engineering, does have a few goals in mind, he is willing, for the most part, to let life run its course.

“My goal has always been to explore,” he said. “I’ve been back home to Ecuador and to Costa Rica once, but besides that I haven’t really explored anywhere else.”

Lozano’s goal is to work abroad in order to simultaneously experience new cultures whilst also making money to support his family.

However uncertain their current plans may be, all four students desire to leave a mark on their future communities.

“The people I believe I have impacted and the people who have impacted me are those who have been the closest to me,” Reichel said. “So rather than this abstract idea of helping the world, it’s about helping those around you ... I learned that I could use really anything to make a positive impact.”

Berrelleza echoes Reichel’s sentiment.

“Impact and visions aside, the future is in many respects an extension of Dartmouth. I’m the type of person to do things and have experiences for the sake of learning,” Berrelleza said. “And I feel like I will definitely learn a lot in whatever company I will be.”

Reichel shared a similar sentiment, noting that he desires a balance between the people who are most important to him and his professional interests.

Whatever the case be, it is important to not just keep an open mind, as tempting the impulse to delineate the future may be, but to find satisfaction in one’s personal and professional state.

“Otherwise,” as Gao points out, “there’s potential for disappointment.”

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