TTLG: Happy Accidents
Naina Bhalla ’22 documents the joyful and unpredictable moments of college in four years of photographs.
During my sophomore fall, I listened to the song “Happy Accidents” by Saint Motel on repeat. It seemed to sum up college as I was experiencing it: unpredictable, marvelous and full of serendipitous moments. (As a side note, I was so happy when Saint Motel performed at Green Key this year.)
Throughout my four years at Dartmouth, I’ve meticulously journaled about and scrapbooked pictures of my life. When I sat down to write this TTLG, I knew I wanted to share photographs that I’ve taken of places at Dartmouth that were meaningful to me, and it seemed only right to share some of the happy moments — and accidents — that came along with them.
My freshman dorm: I planned my dorm decor for months before moving into a two-room triple on the third floor of Mid Fayerweather. I didn’t prepare, however, for all of the late nights spent writing papers in my bed, the mornings when I would bundle up by the radiator before walking to my winter 9L or the times when I’d invite friends over just to lay on the floor and share secrets.
The Green: Home to picnics, study breaks and the Homecoming bonfire. It is also the place where I reconnected with old friends after so many terms apart. During my senior fall, I sat on the grass with a close friend and turned my face to the sun until light blurred out the corners of my vision. I’ll long remember moments like those of peace and quiet in the middle of a bustling campus.
The Spaulding stage: During my freshman winter, one of my close friends convinced me to audition for Voices with her. We both went on to perform on the Spaulding stage that term, and I wrote for Voices during my sophomore year and performed again — virtually — during my junior year. Surrounding myself with such creative, thoughtful performers encouraged a lot of introspection — and Voices remains one of my favorite experiences at Dartmouth.
3FB: On any given day, if you had to guess where I was, the third floor of Berry would be the safest bet. I absolutely love the views from all sides: looking out over Kemeny courtyard toward the lavender light of the greenhouse on one side, seeing Baker Tower and the students studying in the stacks on the other, all while overlooking the trees in front of Fairchild in the middle.
Occom Pond: I’ve taken Woccoms in all of the seasons, with both friends and professors, to catch up, give advice and ignore homework. I constantly looked forward to all of the things that came through and in the middle of Woccoms: stargazing on the golf course, sledding, cross-country skiing and ice skating.
The jewelry studio: I first heard about the jewelry studio from a senior on Mock Trial during my freshman spring, and since then, I’ve created so much there — bracelets that rusted long ago, earrings, rings that I’ve gifted to family and a necklace with a single pearl suspended on a silver wire. It was a quintessential bonding activity for me to take somebody to the jewelry studio and create something together.
The Skiway (or Holt’s Ledge): I wanted to make the most of my first Hanover winter, so I took a skiing class during my freshman year, which I remember fondly for chairlift conversations and icy wipeouts. The following fall, I led a first-year trip whose route crossed over Holt’s Ledge onto the skiway. I hiked Holt’s Ledge three more times, during my junior fall, junior spring and senior fall — trips I cherish for the time spent with friends and the beautiful views.
Sanborn Library: Nothing made me feel more like an English major than sitting in an alcove in Sanborn with a book in my hands. I spent many winter nights studying there, soaking in the warmth and watching through the frosted windowpane as people hurried along on their way through the snow.
Sigma Phi Epsilon: By some odd circumstance, I lived in the building formerly known as Sig Ep (11 Webster) during my sophomore fall and winter as a member of the Thought Project. These were the terms that I found a sense of belonging at Dartmouth. I loved living next door to some of my closest friends, watching the sun set on Webster Ave and poking my head out of my window to wave to people walking down the street.
The river: Who comes to Dartmouth and doesn’t fall in love with the Connecticut River? I’ve spent countless hours kayaking, swimming, paddleboarding and soaking in the sun by the water with friends.
Fourth floor of Fairchild: I spent much of sophomore year studying with my best friends on the fourth floor of Fairchild, looking out at Baker Tower and taking hundreds of photos of the soft twilight skies. And right before we left campus in March 2020, Fairchild was the place where I frantically said goodbye to friends.
Hood Museum: The Hood Museum is nothing short of a dream. I have loved sitting in front of paintings and trying to recreate them with colored pencils, debating the meaning of a piece of art with friends and seeing exhibits change — and stay the same.
Gile fire tower: I’ve climbed up the Gile fire tower with friends, family, first year trip-babies and just about everybody in between. “Peak foliage” was a term that always stressed me out because it reminded me of how fleeting time in Hanover was, and I knew I was never going to see such beautiful fall colors again. Fortunately, Gile is a lovely hike in all seasons, and I’ve gazed out from the tower over trees that were bare and still spindly from winter with (almost) the same amount of appreciation as when I went during peak foliage last fall.
Rocky 209: How can I sum up Dartmouth Mock Trial, which introduced me to best friends and my boyfriend, among other people I feel so lucky to have gotten to know? Many a Tuesday and Thursday night were spent in this room upstairs in Rocky, arguing over objections, trying to find the perfect quip for my witness to say on the stand and discussing the merits of introducing a hiking stick as a piece of evidence.
Alpha Phi: I rushed APhi during my sophomore fall, when I was pushing myself to meet new people and engage in new spaces at Dartmouth. Although I didn’t get many of the quintessential experiences that people associate with Dartmouth Greek life, like sophomore summer, I met some of my closest friends in APhi –—people who helped me think more about my identity and my place in the world. It’s also the only place, besides my freshman dorm, that I’ve spent a whole year living in.
The second floor of Robo, a.k.a. The Dartmouth’s office: I joined The Dartmouth because I wanted to practice photography in college. By my freshman spring, I was interested in editing for the newspaper, too. Having been a photo editor for the past three years was an experience far above and beyond what I expected; I came to love the staff, and I got to reflect on what it meant to capture such a unique time in people’s lives. And, of course, I took hundreds of photos, some of which have made it into this TTLG.
Baker Tower: Baker Tower is every Dartmouth student’s North Star. It anchored me to Hanover and served as an image of constancy in a sea of change. I took a tower tour during family weekend in 2019, showing my parents all corners of campus, and again in February of this year, when I signed my name on the tower door and felt like I had left a little piece of myself behind at the College.
Even if this series of photographs doesn’t do them justice, I will always feel so lucky to have experienced so many happy accidents here, and to have found overwhelming, so-beautiful-that-it-hurts joy in every corner of Hanover, New Hampshire.
TTLG stands for Through The Looking Glass, reflections written by graduating seniors. TTLGs are published at the end of every spring term, and if you are interested in submitting one, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.