Refilling our Social Calendars: Students reflect on campus social life
New and returning students grapple with the social pressures of a “normal” Dartmouth term.
Dartmouth prides itself on its tight-knit community; however, as we all know, the past year and a half has left the student body both geographically and emotionally fragmented. Now that most students have returned to campus, both new and old pressures have begun to resurface.
Sanne Schouten ’23 commented on the constant pressure she feels to be academically and socially involved on campus.
“Everyone is always on the go-go-go with days and schedules that are jam-packed — especially post COVID,” Schouten said.
With its competitive admissions process bringing exceptionally driven students to campus, Jack Schifino ’22 similarly said that attending Dartmouth comes with the expectation that you will be involved with a lot of things.
President of Theta Delta Chi fraternity and a member of the men’s lacrosse team, Schifino suggested the College’s work-hard, play-hard atmosphere creates an environment where students feel like they must do it all.
“Everyone here is super smart and works really hard during the week,” Schifino said, “So on the weekends, I can see why pressure to go out can be an outlet.”
Schouten also said that the expectation of participating in many activities can make it difficult to find one club or group to devote most of your time to.
Not everyone feels this same pressure to participate in the Dartmouth social scene. In particular, first-year students are encouraged to create their own community on campus outside of the Greek system — partially due to the College’s freshman “frat ban,” the Greek Leadership Council’s policy that bars first-year students from entering Greek spaces for much of their first term on campus. A week into her first year, Claire Xu ’25 said that she has found the active freshman social scene to be an ideal environment for beginning college.
A self-described “people person,” Xu feels energized — rather than overwhelmed — by the constant socialization. However, one week into her time on campus, she has already begun to see the difficulty of balancing academics and a strong social life, noting that she has stayed up late multiple nights working after prioritizing friends during the day.
“Sometimes you have to get work done, and if you are always around your friends, it can be hard to remove yourself from it all,” Xu said, “But it hasn’t been that challenging so far.”
She also felt that this pressure may be exacerbated for freshmen, who feel more pressure to make new friends than upperclassmen.
“It can be harder to think about and prioritize yourself, but I feel lucky because I have been able to meet people I really like through things like International Student Pre-Orientation,” Xu said.
On the other hand, Lauren Liu ’24 related the anxiety she felt throughout her freshman year regarding being seen alone by her peers.
“There was always an intense pressure to be seen with people,” Liu said, “Since we were all alone all the time [due to the College’s strict COVID-19 policies], it was almost as though being seen with people was proving something because we had so few opportunities to normally socialize and interact.”
According to Liu, even an activity as simple as walking across the Green was stressful because she didn’t want to be perceived as being alone. With smaller, less frequent and more secretive social events being the norm throughout her freshman year, Liu noted that she felt strong pressure to take advantage of any social opportunity that arose. And though she might enjoy a casual night-in while at home, the idea of missing an on-night seems like a much bigger deal at Dartmouth.
Robert Crawford ’22 said that he feels no inherent pressure to constantly socialize at Dartmouth. He credits this to being a senior, noting his excitement to return to the close friendships he had solidified over the past few years.
Crawford acknowledged that the 10-week term moves very quickly and he understands why other students may feel anxious about maximizing their altogether limited time in both social and academic activities.
“I think the bigger pressure is that we don’t have a ton of idle time,” Crawford said, “There is always so much going on at Dartmouth, and you always could be doing something like getting ahead of homework or catching up with a friend.”
Though only a sophomore, Liu echoed Crawford’s sentiments, expressing how she already feels more confident and self-assured at Dartmouth than she did just last year.
“I feel like I am a part of the campus” Liu said. “I feel more comfortable being alone and being perceived alone. I think [the pressure] has improved — even if things didn’t actually change — but just with age, you feel more natural on campus.”