Students reflect on personal growth at Dartmouth
It’s freshman year. All eyes are on you. Especially when you check the countless emails coming from the College’s Listserv inviting you to attend meetings or join a new club. Upperclassmen recommend you take Computer Science 1 and to choose the Non-Recording Option to protect your GPA. Just in case. Your senior self will thank you. But graduation feels infinitely far away; you have a long, long way to go.
You wait through the six-week frat ban. You exhaustedly run around the bonfire during Homecoming while trying to ignore the hundreds of people shouting “touch the fire.” You reluctantly attend awkward Trips reunions. Perhaps you are still a little shy or maybe you are the one freshman in an introductory philosophy or government class who is always eager to express every thought.
It’s sophomore year. You get never-ending emails from your dean asking you to declare your D-Plan. People are rushing Greek houses. Upperclassmen are already asking you whether you are ready for sophomore summer before you even start thinking about it. You are no longer new to Dartmouth. Perhaps you think you have everything figured out now. It seems like everyone else does.
It’s sophomore summer. It’s hot and humid outside. The water on the Connecticut River is finally warm enough to complete the famous Ledyard Challenge. You go sit on the dock hoping Safety and Security does not show up uninvited. Perhaps you spent all summer trying to convince your friends, who were going through corporate recruiting, to come out for just one evening.
It’s junior year. You’re finally an upperclassman. Things are getting serious now. There are those who will not stop talking about how great sophomore summer was. And there are others who will express their relief of it being over. Students begin to gain confidence and become more comfortable with being themselves. It seems to be the most uneventful — but pleasant — year.
It’s senior year. Time is winding down. People are preparing to leave the Dartmouth bubble. It’s your last Homecoming before everyone heads to the most remote areas of the world. Or, more realistically, somewhere with a population greater than Hanover’s 11,500 — half of which are Dartmouth students.
For ’19s currently making their way through senior fall, nothing seems to have changed from fall 2015 when they began their college career. But it also seems like everything has changed. Russell Sage — once the hot spot for freshmen — is no longer a freshman dorm. The Fays are the new cool place for freshmen. Everything But Anchovies closed its doors and the chain Domino’s Pizza took over. Morton Hall in East Wheelock burned down, as did the once-ubiquitous discussion forum Yik Yak. Time only seems to be moving faster, yet First Year Trips feels like it was last year.
By the time one reaches senior year, there seems to be little time remaining to try new things. However, David Wong ’19 emphasizes that a student should try to continue having an open mind about meeting new people and keeping a sense of adventure alive.
“Keep[ing] an open mind to different things [is important],” Wong said. “Being willing to pursue adventure, I think I have certainly tried to do that at certain stretches. But I wish I were more deliberate about that.”
Being in college for a few years definitely makes you mature, says Monika Gabriele ’19.
She says that she did not realize how young she was when she was a freshman, but realized it as new classes have joined the Dartmouth community.
“I am definitely older,” Gabriele said. “I don’t think I realized how young I was when I came into college … You mature so much, especially [during] freshman year.”
Part of that maturation comes in the form of one’s major and interests. Anneliese Thomas ’19 remembers how she thought she would end up majoring in economics during her freshman year, but soon discovered her interest in sociology. She feels that freshmen should come into the College with an open mind and to be more receptive to advice.
“I spent a lot of time stressing over what I wanted to do [freshman year],” Thomas said. “When you find something that you like, everything just falls into place.”
Once one begins to figure out what he or she wants to do at Dartmouth, it feels like time is ticking faster than ever before. By senior year, the feeling of one’s time at the College being endless is now gone. Students begin to come to terms with the fact that the clock is running out on their Dartmouth experiences.
“The feeling that your time is infinite here … is the feeling I miss the most,” said Wong.
When discussing how their idea of fun had changed over the years, all three seniors echoed that finding people who they truly enjoy being around is much more important now than when they were younger.
“People who I spend my time with are people who I know and absolutely love,” Gabriele said. “And [I] have a strong confidence that they also love me, which I didn’t have [during] freshman fall.”
Furthermore, senior year is when one determines the people who they care about most and who they wish to continue seeing regularly.
“These are going to be my friends after college and that makes my experience so much better because I know they are not just with me for these four years.” Thomas said. “They are with me for the rest of my life.”
After living through the myriad events that occurred between her first days at the College and her senior year, Thomas has thought of one key piece of advice for incoming students who are about to forge their own unique paths through Dartmouth life.
“[I would tell them to] go easy on [themselves],” Thomas said. “I think freshman fall is really tough academically and also socially. It can be kind of frustrating to feel like college is supposed to be the greatest time of your life. Give yourself time to fall into that. It’s okay to say no to things you do not want to do and prioritize … the things you love the most.”