Dear Old Dartmouth
Developing a sense for Dartmouth amidst its constants and its changes.
Hello again Dartmouth.
It has been a while, and I’ve spent a summer missing you. I know that the feeling is widespread, rippling amongst all of the students as they make their way back to you. It’s a feeling of love, excitement and anxiety for the year that lies ahead. For some, it will be the making of a new home, and for others a preparation to leave it. And for those of us in the middle, it is a re-adjustment to the College’s ebb and flow. Despite it all, Dartmouth, you always seem to handle our return so effortlessly — welcoming us back once again with open arms, blue skies and sunshine.
With each return, though, it is clear that you are not the same Dartmouth that I left. Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said that a man could never step into the same river twice. He argued that the man, ever-changing in thought and physical appearance, is not the same person who first stepped into that river. What’s more, the river, ever-flowing in nature, isn’t the same as before either. Just like this metaphorical river, Dartmouth has changed, and looking back on my summer, I probably have too.
It was strange to walk back onto campus after such an extended time away. With all of the new students and buildings and faculty, I was almost unable to recognize Dartmouth as I once knew it. I found myself a bit off-kilter, and quickly realized I was trying to seek out the faces of ’22s that were long gone. In their places were hordes of new faces belonging to ’26s that I have yet to meet. My friends had also changed. Some were taller now, or blonder, and besides the sophomores, everyone has stories of summers spent away. They had changed, and so had I. And you, Dartmouth, with your seemingly never-ending construction, have too.
Admittedly, I spent my first few days back mourning the way that things used to be. I had spent a year growing comfortable and familiar with you. I had finally picked up your lingo, memorized the location of your buildings and picked up on most of the unspoken campus rules. Things were slowly, but surely, beginning to make sense. It feels like the rules of the game have changed again; we’re older now, suddenly leading the clubs at the club fair and diving into the intricacies of rush and Greek Life. For better or worse, things are set to change. It’s only natural, but it is still terrifying.
I worry sometimes that with all of this change, I may one day come back and not be able to recognize Dartmouth or anyone who calls it home. It’s a worry that, however small and irrational it may be, persists and perhaps forever will. I don’t ever want to feel like I’m losing Dartmouth — a place that I’ve grown to love.
I’m being dramatic, I know. After all, I have three more years to do the things that I always have. It won’t be long before this becomes the least of my worries and I get engulfed in the termly chaos. Like before, I’ll spend hours writing essays on 4FB, catching movies at the Hop, having snowball fights, taking Woccoms and going out — or simply watching the stars as they twinkle atop the golf course. It will be alright.
The other night I had dinner with my freshman floormates. There were way too many of us crowded inside of a single circular booth at Foco and things felt like they did last year. But it isn’t last year, and they are no longer my floormates. And though seemingly everything has changed, perhaps the things that really matter never will.
Oh, the things you must have seen in your centuries of existence. Surely, if your walls could talk, Dartmouth, they would tell a similar story of change and growth despite their own physical permanence. It would be a tale as old as time — one of students coming and going, each alight with possibility. It would be the story of a home, one being built and rebuilt, a single moment at a time.
Dartmouth, you are home. Thank you for always welcoming us, despite our chaos and adventure.