See Ya Later! Speaking with Students Taking Winter Term Off
What are Dartmouth students up to come 2022?
After the challenges of this year’s crowded fall term, Dartmouth’s community anticipates a much quieter 22W. Hanover’s infamous cold weather and the promise of less competitive internships typically makes winter a popular off term among students. However, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the housing crisis, the culture surrounding Dartmouth’s unique D-Plan is changing.
Ella Steinhilber ’23 is excited to take her winter off term in Boston, where she will be a growth equity analyst at the consulting firm Volition Capital. Steinhilber said that while she was able to secure an internship through the recruiting process, finding an apartment available for such a short period of time was a “headache.” She was only successful by chance when she found a “friend of a friend” who was renting.
Divya Chunduru ’23 will also be off next term in Boston and expressed similar frustration over the apartment hunt. Chunduru was surprised by how many of her classmates would be in Boston this winter term and remarked that she wishes she had roomed together with classmates to get a better deal on the rent.
Chunduru said that she made her D-Plan with the primary goal of avoiding the winter weather, explaining that she took classes her freshman summer — a rare choice — in order to take both sophomore and junior winters off.
“As someone from California, I am just not a huge fan of the winter,” Chunduru said. “I wanted to minimize the number of winters that I had to be in Hanover, so I took freshman summer classes virtually.”
While taking junior winter off is usually very popular, Chunduru has noticed that many ’23s have already taken their off-term — both as a break from last year’s online classes and in an effort to “maximize their time” on campus for junior year.
Celeste Graham ’23, who plans to stay in Hanover for her off-term doing research and coaching a youth ski program, reinforced Chunduru’s logic. Through her work with Tuck School of Business management professor Sydney Finkelstein, Graham will remain connected with Dartmouth as well as the larger Upper Valley community during her off term.
“If COVID had not happened, I would have probably taken the opportunity to maybe take a study abroad or be in a different city,” Graham said. “But I just feel like I’ve missed a lot of time with friends and being involved in person in clubs and activities.”
Graham also noted that housing has played a role in her and her friends’ off-term plans. Though she will remain in her current off-campus apartment next term, some of her friends have expressed their ability to secure housing as the deciding factor in taking next term off.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed many students’ relationships to and appreciation of the Dartmouth community — as the importance of in-person connections has become much clearer.
After taking a gap year, Halla Hafermann ’22 — who will be conducting research and working part time at Hanover’s Still North Books & Bar — is looking forward to experiencing the perks of Dartmouth’s community without the stress of taking classes. She has applied for leave-term housing, but is currently unsure about what her living situation will look like.
Henry Nolan ’23 remarked that he will definitely feel some FOMO — fear of missing out — while he is on his off-term in Boston. Realizing how he has “limited time left [at Dartmouth],” Nolan intends to take advantage of Boston’s proximity to stay in touch with his activities and communities.
“That’s one of the reasons why I want to be in Boston,” he said. “So I can try to come up and see everybody.”
Nolan also agreed with Chunduru’s observation, stating that the number of juniors taking the winter off seems to be “way less than usual.” After more than a year of uncertainty, the typically neglected winter term may in fact be much more lively than expected.
Associate dean of residential life Michael Wooten said that a normal winter term has around 300 vacant beds, but this year, there are only about 100 vacancies — a “bulge in the numbers” he attributed to students wanting to be on campus after the pandemic.
Moving forward, however, students like Chunduru who have plans to avoid the cold at Dartmouth may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Due to a policy change this spring, ’24s and subsequent classes will have to take at least one fall or spring term off — a rule that students suspect stems from the infamous housing shortage — which will also limit students’ abilities to take winter terms off.
The D-Plan, which was originally created to lessen pressure on the housing system when Dartmouth went co-ed, has continued to act as a tool for the College to navigate the housing crisis. Students, however, generally express appreciation for the unique opportunities that the four ten-week terms offer.
“As cliche as it is, [the D-Plan] actually is one of the reasons why I came to Dartmouth,” Nolan said. “I love the idea of taking that break from school and actually getting some professional experience when it’s not as hard to get it as summers are.”
Lots of opportunities lie ahead for students next term. Whether they will regret choosing to stay in Hanover rather than booking it to some tropical island is still yet to be seen.
Cassandra Thomas contributed reporting.