This article is featured in the 2022 Homecoming special issue.
As I write this article, nearly five weeks of the term have somehow already passed, and the sophomore fall that I envisioned has not materialized. This summer, some friends back home asked how I was feeling about returning to Dartmouth for my sophomore year. My stock answer was that I was looking forward to a fall in which I felt settled on campus, as opposed to the tumultuous 10 weeks that had characterized the beginning of my freshman year. Yet, much of this fall has been filled with more chaos than I could have predicted. Exactly one week ago, I withdrew from sorority rush. Many of the goals I originally set for this term now seem impossibly out of reach — and as a result, I’m currently experiencing a minor sophomore slump.
To snap out of the slump, I thought back to the fall bucket list that my friends and I had made before the start of classes this year. During my freshman fall, apple picking was one of the autumn traditions I most wanted to complete, but since I knew very few people with a car, I failed to accomplish it. Coming into sophomore fall, I promised myself this would be the year that I made it to the apple orchards, and I put the activity near the top of my bucket list. I knew that apple picking would allow me to achieve at least one of the goals I had set for fall term, so I convinced several of my friends to go with me to Riverview Farm in Plainfield, New Hampshire.
Riverview’s distance from campus — approximately 12 miles — brought with it a palpable sense of relief. During rush, sororities became the only topic of conversation. It made me feel as though the Dartmouth bubble was encroaching on me, growing almost suffocatingly small. Escaping to the farm allowed me to both physically and emotionally distance myself from the toll that the preceding weeks of the term had taken on me. Though I said my goal was to “go apple picking,” it didn’t really matter how many apples I picked. My real aim was to get off campus for the morning and spend time outdoors. I wanted to take part in a fall tradition that would help me appreciate the positive aspects of the season, rather than focusing on the parts of my fall that had been less than ideal.
When we arrived at Riverview, the farm was exactly as I had imagined: a picturesque, storybook orchard bustling with families and Upper Valley residents. It’s often said that fall is the season that evokes nostalgia, and Riverview provided many opportunities for me to reminisce.
Our first stop was the corn maze. Coming from Indiana, spending time meandering through a corn maze with my friends invoked memories of my many falls in high school, though the corn maze at Riverview was unsurprisingly much smaller than the ones back home.
Later, as we wandered through the rows of apple trees, another wave of nostalgia hit me. Though I don’t remember ever picking apples before, I have vivid childhood memories of driving up north with my mom, grandmother and brother to pick blueberries each summer. As I climbed trees to snag apples and snuck bites of the largest ones, I reflected on summer mornings spent snacking on blueberries, picking so many that my hands nearly turned blue. And when I saw little kids in red wagons pulled by their parents clutching pumpkins, I thought back to childhood visits to pumpkin patches with my brother. These memories flooding back into my head made me all the more excited to spend time at the farm, reliving the joy-filled autumns of the past.
Though we spent at most two hours at Riverview, by the time we arrived back in Hanover my sophomore slump was dispelled. In my lowest moments this term, I’ve spent time thinking about all of the negative aspects of Dartmouth — but while apple picking, my thoughts centered around why I was grateful to attend this college.
Throughout rush, I was often asked why I chose Dartmouth, and my answer ranged from the high-quality academics to the uniqueness of Hanover as a college town. Yet the part of my answer that never changed was my love for Dartmouth’s focus on the outdoors. For me, Dartmouth at its best has been about making memories in both the physical and metaphorical woods with the people who have become my dearest friends, whether that means paddleboarding with a friend down the Connecticut River during peak foliage, crawling out of bed at 5:45 a.m. during midterm season to bask in the sunrise on the Gile fire tower or going to pick apples on a clear October morning.
Each of these activities have made me reflect on how lucky I am to get to spend four years in a place not only surrounded by, but emphasizing relationships with, nature. Though apple picking is far from the most rugged or outdoorsy activity, the act of getting outside and experiencing a new part of Upper Valley nature restored my appreciation for Dartmouth.
Clearly, I didn’t actually go apple picking for the apples, but my friends and I ultimately ended up using the apples we had picked in a half-hearted attempt to make apple crisp. Due to our lack of cooking supplies, it didn’t turn out exactly the way we had hoped — an appropriate metaphor for the way this term has gone so far. 22F hasn’t been a term where I have felt settled or accomplished lofty goals, the way I might have hoped. But when life gives you lemons — or in my case, apples — make apple crisp; pick yourself up and focus on the memories made in the woods. Despite all the challenges this school has thrown at me, these are the moments that make Dartmouth worth attending.