As I sat next to a four-foot teddy bear in my Greek house on a Monday night, I thought to myself: Is it really week nine? Time flies during every term, but sophomore summer was different. Last-minute stargazing trips to the golf course, Sunday evening bubblegum-colored skies, that one 5 a.m. walk with my roommate back home — it feels like just yesterday that I locked myself out of my off-campus apartment on my first day and had to break in through the kitchen window.
Academically, I’ve opened myself up to so many opportunities this term. For the first time ever, I’m not taking a course in the Native American and Indigenous studies department. In its place, I’ve dabbled in religion and Jewish studies, explored the thrilling nature of Weimar Berlin and learned about capitalism and U.S. imperialism in Central America. I became a drill instructor for Portuguese, while also working towards my senior thesis via the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. On top of all that, yours truly wrote and edited several articles for this newspaper — Thursday production nights were some of the funniest nights this summer.
But as I write this piece at Novack Cafe, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed. While my academics and extracurriculars enticed me, I fell into episodes of exhaustion, marked by days of a dead social battery and imbalanced mood swings. Living off campus has been wonderful, but I’ve had to learn how to live relatively independently with my two best friends — not the easiest task. The three of us all hated our sophomore year to varying degrees and it felt like we were still dealing with the residue of evolving social relationships. I’m not one opposed to change; I just wish it was easier.
When I first jumped into this summer, I wanted to start fresh. The tail end of the spring brought new friends and new environments to explore. Spring was my first term being affiliated, and I was excited to meet people and see the appeal of Greek life. Though it’s not perfect, I’ve been able to see myself as a part of my Greek house. Even though I still like staying in, I enjoyed dancing with friends in frat basements and chatting loudly over blaring music.
Although sophomore summer has been a renewal for me, there’s something about it that harkens us back to our freshman fall. The pandemic took away the traditionally-outdoors First-Year Trips for ’24s, so we were marketed a make-up version with this year’s Sophomore Trips. When I go to Collis Student Center (which, frankly, has been almost everyday) I’m no longer greeted with long lines; the short crowds remind me of morning runs to a quiet Novack during freshman fall. It feels surreal to think of that first fall on campus, how much we missed out on as a class and how we’ve become “the forgotten class.”
In fact, it’s only now that I realize that, by the end of sophomore summer, we’ll be closer to Commencement than to freshman fall. As summer evenings start dropping to the 60s and I start seeing new faces — presumably incoming freshmen for FYSEP — I am reminded that my off-term is approaching. If you had asked me how I felt about the end of sophomore summer during my worst week, I would have told you how happy I was to leave Hanover. But now, I dread packing up my things and departing my off-campus home
Looking back at sophomore summer, there’s a lot to still unpack. I don’t think I can really address all the things I want to in this piece — perhaps in another medium, I will. But if there’s one thing I know, I feel blessed to have spent this summer with so many amazing people. All the good memories I had were with some of the most spirited, gifted and down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. Even during the hardest times this summer, I am forever grateful to the folks who talked with me, offered the warmest hugs and simply heard me out.
At the end of the day, sophomore summer was the culmination of a year of growing pains. The thrill of hot summer days, trips to West Lebanon and making the best out of a 30-minute wait at KFC are some of the many things that will make me miss this summer. Realistically, there will probably never be another term where I would do all of these things within the unreasonably short 10-week term. In Portuguese, there’s a state of nostalgia and longing known as saudade — a wistful longing of something that may never be had again. It seems awfully sad, but also bittersweet. And while it sucks to be sad about the good times, I know that even better times await.
Daniel Modesto ’24 is the News executive editor. He is from Brooklyn, New York, and is a Native American and Indigenous Studies major modified with Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies.