From the ’21s, With Love
Three graduating Dartmouth women share advice on hidden gems, Dartmouth culture and how to navigate the College.
This article is featured in the 2021 Commencement special issue.
Imparting advice to the younger generation is a time-honored tradition for graduating classes here and everywhere. While asking seniors for advice might seem stale or overdone, the truth is, I’m a rising junior, and I still need all the help I can get. Some traditions don’t lose their poignancy with repetition, and I think this is one of them. So, I reached out to a few members of the Class of 2021 with questions, and this is what I learned from the women who responded.
On Dartmouth in general
Isabel Wallace ’21: Send the flitz, as soon and as frequently as you want. Worst case scenario, you make someone’s day.
Jada Brown ’21: It’s okay being vulnerable, and it’s okay to be open with others about things you are going through. Early on, I was trying to protect myself because I didn’t want to be open at a place like Dartmouth — I wanted to focus on my academics and my career.
Sarah Jennewin ’21: I wish I’d know about the concept of duck syndrome: Everyone is actually paddling furiously under the surface. It’s not something to be embarrassed about if you’re struggling in a class or socially. People aren’t going to judge you if you reach out.
IW: Think about younger women in every single space you’re in – especially when you’re out. Reach out to younger women who might not have the privilege of comfort in the space you’re in and show them that fun doesn’t have to be tied to male spaces at Dartmouth.
On having fun
IW: Fun doesn’t have to look like the image of fun you’re fed at this school. It could be an all-nighter for an intro class you’re struggling in, it could be going out until 4 a.m. sober. Fun can be going to bed early on a Wednesday or sleeping through a whole Thursday. Fun is a Woccom in the rain. It’s okay if you like spending time alone and lying down — it doesn’t mean you’re inherently sad.
JB: Take a breather sometimes. You don’t have to be a perfectionist. It’s okay when things happen, if you get a bad grade or miss a swim meet.
SJ: Take advantage of the things Dartmouth has to offer that are unique to Dartmouth – Dartmouth Outing Club break trips, study abroads, even Collis events. Look for the unique things that Dartmouth will help make affordable for you.
On a place you wish you would’ve found sooner
IW: Wicked Awesome BBQ. It’s better than Big Fatty’s, and it’s in White River Junction. The best thing is the root beer-basted pulled pork – just ridonculous.
JB: Balch Hill. It’s a really peaceful walk and going to sit there is very calming.
SJ: The greenhouse. I love it there. I worked on the third floor of the Life Sciences Center for a long time, and it’s a beautiful, relaxed place to wander through when you need a study break.
On making friends and the myth of finding “your people”
IW: Don’t let yourself get too tied up in the institutionalization of social life: Greek life, societies and clubs. When I think about the people who are my best friends, they are the people who, by chance, I lived with, across the street from Big Fatty’s my senior fall. What’s “your people?” My people have changed every term; that’s just part of the nature of Dartmouth. That also assumes that you’re static through this experience. Hopefully you change a lot — I’ve changed a lot, and I’m proud of that.
JB: I’ve never been the kind of person that needs to find “my people,” and maybe that’s something I can give to younger students. Don’t be afraid to talk to upperclassmen – say hi! The best you can get out of this experience is having as many meaningful conversations as you can. I think this helps take away the stigma of “I haven’t found my place” or “I haven’t found my people,” because you stop looking.
SJ: Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never done before, even if you’re going to be bad at it at first! The first five people you meet at Dartmouth probably aren’t going to be your best friends for all of college, so go outside of the freshman schmob. Dartmouth might not feel like home to you even after freshman spring or sophomore summer, and that is very much okay. Just enjoy the process of it, even if it’s not your favorite place on earth.
And finally, on priorities
IW: You will never have this group of people in this place at this time ever again. Seek out the people you want to know more, that you’re eager to spend an extra few minutes with. I think the people here are far more special than the activities you could partake in.
Every single graduating student has a different Dartmouth experience, and there is no magic piece of advice to ensure the perfect four years. However, with each of my conversations, I was reminded of the importance of being present, of listening and of feeling heard. A little bit of compassion, a curious mind and the willingness to take advice goes a long way.