Is Sophomore Summer Living Up to the Hype?

Current students and alumni share reflections on the iconic term.

by Pierce Wilson | 8/13/21 3:10am

by Alexandra Ma / The Dartmouth Staff

Fortunately, for members of the Class of 2023 and some members of the Class of 2022 who are on-campus, an in-person sophomore summer is underway for the first time since 2019. Now that pandemic restrictions have been relaxed — for the most part — has our post-pandemic sophomore summer lived up to the expectations and rumours we heard from upperclassmen? 

Freshman year, I often heard the term “camp Dartmouth” when referring to sophomore summer. The upperclassmen around me said that classes would be easier and that everyone would be focused on making new friends, bonding with their class and spending time outside. 

I sat down with College archivist Peter Carini to learn more about the origins of sophomore summer and trace where some of these myths originated. According to Carini, the sophomore summer requirement grew out of the beginnings of coeducation at the College in 1972 and the need for year-around operations.

“The primary reason I know of for the [sophomore summer requirement] is because they were trying not to decrease the number of men on campus while adding 1,000 women to campus,” Carini said. 

He said that while trustees approved coeducation and year-around operation in 1972, the sophomore summer requirement was not implemented until 1982.

Between 1978 and 1982, the committee on year-around operations met to discuss problems caused by year-around operations, such as faculty concerns about course offerings and students being unhappy with year-around operations, according to Carini. 

“And so in 1982, as a way to balance it out and ensure that students were on during summer term, [the committee on year-around operation] required sophomores to be on during the summer,” Carini said. 

Government professor Jason Barabas ’93 said that leading up to his sophomore summer, he heard about how different it would be to see Hanover not covered in ice, and that upperclassmen told him it would be a very special time to be on campus. 

Barabas said that during his sophomore summer, he especially enjoyed bonding with other members of the Class of 1993 and forging new friendships, many of which lasted “a long time.”

“It was a good chance to meet other members of the class,” Barabas said. “It’s a small college, but there's a good chance you can go through college without knowing some other members of your class. So it’s a really good chance to meet a lot of those people.”

Barabas said that one his favorite memories from his sophomore summer is “jumping off a house into the river, something [his] mother wasn’t too happy to hear about.”

Ahnili Johnson-Jennings ’23 described her experience of sophomore summer and whether or not it lives up to the expectations she heard from upperclassmen. 

“I was hoping the weather would be better for a longer time, but otherwise, it’s been fun,” Johnson-Jennings said. “It’s been really rainy and really humid and really cloudy and just no sun. The air quality has been really poor, so it’s been really foggy lately and hard to see through.”

Johnson-Jennings noted that she had a bucket list going into the summer.

“I wanted to go to the river a lot, I wanted to go kayaking, I wanted to go berry-picking and I wanted to go to the Ludlow Vermont falls,” Johnson-Jennings said. 

She said that although the weather has prevented her from going to the river as often as she’d hoped, she has done everything on her bucket list other than berry-picking and visiting the falls, which she hopes to make time for during the last few weeks of the term. 

Johnson-Jennings also said that the rumour of coursework being lighter during sophomore summer has not been the case for her. 

“I was expecting the classes to be a lighter load than they are, just based on what other people had said around campus and my peers in other classes,” she said.

Diego Perez ’23, who is only taking two courses this summer instead of three, said that although he has less work in total, the workload from each class is still the same. 

In her sophomore summer, Hanna Bliska ’20 said she spent “quite a bit of time” working on classwork, but she found her professors were more flexible.

“I felt like the energy from professors was very different,” Bliska said. “All of my professors had this understanding that it was summer. They were more flexible than normal, which just made things feel very different academically.”

Jimmy Nguyen ’21, however, said that his sophomore summer was one of his most difficult terms at Dartmouth.

“I think sophomore summer really is what you make of it,” Nguyen said. “I went into sophomore summer very focused on trying to get the best internship possible and also taking four classes. It was very stressful, and it ended up being a very negative experience.”

Nguyen said that while his sophomore summer started out fun when he did sophomore trips — which he said is one of his favorite memories from his time at Dartmouth — he ended up spending most of the rest of summer in his room studying and preparing for recruiting. 

Sarah Hong ’21 shared that she had a similar experience of being stressed from classes and recruiting, but that she still enjoyed her sophomore summer, and she looks back upon it even more fondly now given that it was her last term on campus prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It definitely wasn’t as ‘summer camp-y’ as I thought it would be, because I ended up being bogged down by classes and recruiting,” Hong said. “But I do think I still got closer to my class and got to enjoy Hanover summer.”

Hong also said that sophomore summer allowed her to meet more people in her sorority and engage more comfortably in Greek life.

“Greek life was less intimidating after sophomore summer,” Hong said. “Because all of the social chairs were from my year and I knew most people when I went to a Greek house instead of it being mostly upperclassmen, so I felt like I had a little more ownership.”

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