Ski Lift Talk: Musings of an Adrift Freshman
Through riding up lifts with strangers, one freshman finds joy in not knowing what’s next.
As a New England transplant, I feel a sense of obligation to enjoy the winter and take advantage of new opportunities. So despite my weekly exhaustion, on Saturday mornings I sometimes muster up the will to trudge to the 9:00 a.m. shuttle to the Skiway, lugging my skis and boots. While I can sometimes convince my friends to tag along, most of the time they remain asleep while I go out and enjoy the slopes.
On these quiet mornings, I often find myself tagging along with strangers on the ski lift. These moments can be quite interesting: I’ve talked to visiting college skiers, native New Hampshirites and even made friends with some Dartmouth students I had never met before. Bonding over nothing but a shared lift chair rising slowly over the mountain, I’ve met some pretty interesting people.
On a particularly long lift ride where we were stopped for a few minutes, I talked with an Upper Valley local from New York City. He had moved here to get away from the city and was doing remote work for an energy company. Intrigued and wanting to learn more, I told him I was an environmental science major — I have taken exactly one ENVS class.
Had I considered majoring in environmental studies before? Briefly, although it was only one of many potential options. But that conversation led to a revelation: while it might seem foolish, I realized that I could tell these strangers on the ski lift anything. How would they know if I was really studying economics, or if I was from Wyoming or if I was a champion skier — obviously they would know the last one wasn’t true as soon as I stumbled off the lift.
It was a silly realization, but it was also freeing. As a freshman trying to figure out my goals,
I’ve bounced from pre-med to anthropology to government, searching for where my passion lies. While I stress a lot about taking the right classes or going down the wrong path, I’ve come to understand that at least for a while, it’s alright to just explore.
With that in mind, I set out on a mission to find other freshmen with similar cluelessness about their future plans.
Many students, including myself and Presley Coon ’25, come to Dartmouth dead set on diving into a STEM field like biology but quickly change gears upon arrival.
“I was set on biomedical engineering,” Coon said. “Now I’m leaning into cognitive science, but I haven’t taken any classes yet.”
While Coon might not have a definitive plan yet, he feels comfortable with the ability to explore that Dartmouth offers, explaining that he has taken classes in the linguistics, neuroscience and philosophy departments. Coon noted that there is “plenty of wiggle room” for students to look into different fields.
Luis Lutfi ’25 has felt similarly comfortable exploring different majors. Originally planning to be an economics major, Lutfi has since reconsidered.
“I don’t think it suits my abilities. I’ve been exploring the classics and QSS departments and found them to be very interesting,” Lutfi said.
Lutfi added that part of this comfort with playing around in different departments stems from upperclassmen telling him that majors don’t necessarily restrict you to particular jobs.
Coming to college fresh off of a gap year, Holly Sullivan ’25 said she has had time to reflect on her interests and goals. While she originally wanted to major in environmental studies, Sullivan said that having almost two years between when she applied and when she arrived at Dartmouth allowed her to reconsider her interests.
“In my gap year,” she said, “when I didn’t have any major academic or professional goals, I realized that the other aspects of my life are much more important to how happy I am. I don’t care as much about obtaining one particular position.”
While many students feel they are free to explore, others feel the pressure to go into certain fields.
Lutfi said he thinks that the large number of Dartmouth students studying economics puts pressure on other students to go into this field, while also making it easier to go into consulting or finance.
Loane Bouguennec ’25 said she has been surprised by how many students share the value of having a lucrative career despite Dartmouth’s supposed emphasis on the liberal arts. However, she believes there is still a path for students to explore their interests.
“Distinguishing between what you’ve been told to care about and what you actually care about is important to discovering what you want to do with your future,” Bouguennec said.
While many freshmen may still be clueless about what their plan for the future is, the good news is that we all have plenty of time to figure it out. And as I realized on the ski lift, we all have the potential to be whatever we put our minds to.
I can’t say that by the end of spring term I’ll have a definitive plan for my major or career. But as I look into different fields here, I’m slowly discerning what I enjoy and forging a path forward. Maybe this time next year when I sit on the ski lift, I’ll be able to tell the stranger next to me exactly what I’m planning.