Haphazard Memorabilia: '20s Open Their College-Packed Boxes

by Marimac McRae | 9/30/20 2:10am

unpacking
by Lila Hovey / The Dartmouth Staff

For members of the Class of 2020, nothing about their departure from Dartmouth was ordered, especially with regard to their belongings. 

Lauren Jones ’20 had a chaotic retrieval experience. Around early August, the College emailed to inform her that her belongings had been shipped, and provided her with 15 individual FedEx tracking numbers. Jones had to constantly keep tabs on each FedEx shipment, juggling delays in delivery and inconsistencies in the number of items packed in each box. 

“Fortunately, I did receive all 15 of my tracked boxes,” Jones said. “But they really varied. I got some boxes that were packed full, but I also received a suitcase that was empty besides two board games in it.”

Jones chuckled while recounting the eclectic contents of her boxes. 

“It was the most bizarre collection of items all stuffed into a brown cardboard box, but it was definitely fun to go through,” Jones said. “I’d be picking out clothes and I'd find a cowboy hat, and inside of it were three CVS receipts with like eight million coupons next to an empty gum wrapper.”

Despite the disorderliness in the process of receiving and unpacking her 15 boxes of college belongings, Jones made the best of her situation by making “unboxing” videos that she sent to her friends.

Jones noted that she and her roommates have received most of their belongings, aside from a television that is somewhere “in limbo.”

Alexa Tucker ’20 is also looking for a missing belonging: a fanny pack she received as a gift for leading a first-year trip. The fanny pack was in a flair bucket, which someone misplaced during the College’s packing up process. In the commotion of picking up her belongings at Leverone Field House, Tucker hadn’t noticed that her flair bin was missing. Fortunately, it turned up a week later — at someone else’s house in California. 

“Everyone who lived in the River apartments — everyone who people could find — is in a Facebook messenger group. Someone in that group sent a picture asking, ’Hey is this anyone’s stuff?’ — and it was my flair,” Tucker said. 

Tucker’s flair bucket will be making the trip back east, and she hopes to reunite with it at her home in Virginia. This is only the first of Tucker’s challenges, though. Next, she will have to determine what to do with this box of exceptionally Dartmouth-specific belongings. 

Tucker said that she wants to bequest most of her flair items but is disappointed to not have the closure of giving them to others in person. 

There are also items that Tucker is undecided about giving away.  

“I'm moving onto a new phase of life, and I have all these things that I don’t know what to do with because they’re very optimized for college living,” Tucker said. “Have I outgrown the tapestry on my wall? Sparkle lights? I don’t know.”

Similar to flair, which is incredibly specific to college life at Dartmouth, the way we decorate our rooms can be symbolic of a specific stage in our lives. As seniors wonder if these decorations will continue to be relevant to them, they also feel the loss of being unable to experience the process of unpacking their rooms themselves. 

Meredith Srour ’20 said that seeing her wall decorations carelessly wrapped up in boxes was disorienting. 

“It was so sad to see the pictures and decorations I had in my apartment all wrapped up like that,” Srour said. “I put a lot of effort into decorating my room for senior year, so getting all of that out of boxes in a random assortment was sad, and some of the posters were torn.”

Srour told me about the objects that helped her remember happy moments from her Dartmouth experience. Being reunited with a formal dress and her hat collection made her feel particularly content. 

I have this one Snackpass hat that I actually really liked,” Srour said. “I got it during the winter, and it was a really fun night and I was with a bunch of friends when I got it. When I saw the hat again, I thought, ‘Whoa, kinda missed this hat unexpectedly.’”

Victoria Meyer ’20 also told me about the belongings that made her happy. From finding a stuffed rabbit her friend got her when she was feeling sick during her junior spring to opening up posters she bought on her Barcelona study abroad, she was grateful to have belongings that reminded her of the friendships she had developed as an undergraduate. 

Meyer was also delighted to find momentos from classes she had taken, citing her excitement at coming across a mug she got from her ECON 22, “Macroeconomics” professor during their final exam.

Despite the disorganized shipping and packing process, many of the ’20s enjoyed the experience of being reunited with their items after an abrupt six-month separation. 

At the same time, some of the ’20s described that going through their belongings reminded them of all the memories that they didn’t get to make due to the loss of their senior spring. In particular, they described the sadness at coming across cap and gown order forms and hard copies of the Commencement schedule that the College had sent to their Hinman Boxes.

“That was such a punch in the gut when I pulled [the Commencement schedule] out,” Srour said. “ … I saved it, and I think it's still in one of the boxes. I don’t know if I should just throw it away and never look back.” 

Jones, too, felt an emotional response to seeing her preliminary Commencement schedule, but responded differently than Srour.

“That was such a punch in the gut when I pulled [the Commencement schedule] out. ... I don’t know if I should just throw it away and never look back.”

 “When I got my boxes in August, I did open up that container and saw the preliminary Commencement schedule. I thought, ‘Wow, this is a huge R.I.P.’ and tore it up and threw it in the recycling,” Jones said. 

Feeling disjointed by the disorganization, chaotic closings and scrambled reunions with their belongings, the ’20s still face the challenge of moving on from their time as undergraduates. 

Vinay Reddy ’20 was able to retrieve nearly all of his belongings from his room before the College sealed off all the dorms. However, Reddy left a few items behind, so he sent in a request to get his remaining belongings shipped to him. Now, in October, he is still waiting to receive an update on the whereabouts of his final few belongings at college. 

Reddy believes that the arrival of his final items will make the conclusion of his time as an undergraduate feel more absolute. 

“I’m sure that it’ll all feel so much more real once I get the rest of my stuff back” Reddy said. “… Maybe subconsciously, because I know some remnants of my day to day college life are still on campus, it’s hard to feel like I’ve fully moved on to a different stage of life.” 

Some lack a sense of closure because they still haven’t been reunited with their belongings. But for others who have already received their boxes, they feel the disappointment of not being able to pack up their rooms and say their final goodbye to their home of four years. 

“The whole experience of being a ’20 and graduating has been super bizarre because normally when you graduate, you pack up your room, then pack up your car, then go home,” Tucker said. “Then, it's all very final. But it’s all been so drawn out for us … [receiving and unpacking our boxes] feels like another ending to something that should’ve happened so long ago.”