Thrifting, Fall Colors and Hillsides: Upper Valley Living
Dartmouth students coming to Hanover from far away reflect on new scenery and lifestyles.
Dartmouth College is a little bubble surrounded by beautiful scenery. Only 17% of the students in my class — the class of 2026 — who go to school here are from New England, so the environment is a new experience for the vast majority. I talked to students who travel to campus from far and wide about their perspective on New Hampshire and the Upper Valley as a whole.
Asa Dow ’26 and I are both from Alaska — he’s from Sitka and I am from Soldotna. Obviously, the environment we grew up in is much different than the one at Dartmouth. We both love Hanover’s hills and fall colors, but miss Alaska’s mountains and untouched nature.
Dow says that it’s a different kind of beauty here, which he didn’t totally expect.
“It’s beautiful because it’s all kind of similar, mellow rolling hills,” said Dow. “It feels almost more peaceful in some ways.” Still, he misses being able to “bike five minutes and be at a 2,500 foot mountain” in Sitka.
Dow and I also talked about what has connected us to New Hampshire and Dartmouth. He mentioned thrifting. I haven’t done much thrifting here yet myself, but Dow’s description of how it made him feel more like a part of the Upper Valley community convinced me to make a trip as soon as possible. At thrift stores, he said, “everybody kind of gets the same stuff” — perhaps a shared love of flannel and vintage workwear unites Upper Valley residents.
Dow likes these trips not only because of the possibility for great finds, but because these visits to Lebanon for thrifting trips “kind of makes me realize that everybody’s kind of similar in some ways.”
Even though our Alaskan home is far away, through a small practice like thrifting, Asa has found relatability in New England.
Alec Kog ’24 from East Bay, Calif., agrees. Just like Dow and I, he loved growing up in his hometown, but he’s also really grown to love New Hampshire.
When I asked Kog about his first impression of the state, he shared a story about when he first arrived for freshman fall, which was also the first time he saw Dartmouth.
“The [Dartmouth Coach] was circling the Green — I couldn't stop smiling,” Kog remembered. “I was like, yeah, I’m really glad I ended up here.”
And it only got better.
“I think freshman year you focus more on your own self and you look towards yourself rather than looking outward,” Kog said. “Being more settled into the Dartmouth community has really allowed me to appreciate New Hampshire and explore things and enjoy what we have to offer.”
As a freshman myself, I relate to the idea that there’s more of a focus on trying to get settled and I’m excited to explore the state as an upperclassman.
Nathalie Korhonen Cuestas ’23 explained how she’s come to know and love the Upper Valley after growing up in London most of her life. She said that living in Hanover made her realize just how large London is, but she appreciates that Hanover makes the most of its notoriously low temperatures in the middle of winter.
“It’s basically as cold as it would be in Boston, it’s just that you can go outside and do nice things in the cold,” Korhonen Cuestas said. “You can go skiing, sledding, skating — it’s perfect.”
During the pandemic, Korhonen Cuestas spent time living off campus in the neighboring town of Lebanon.
“It is important for people to see that there is more going on in New Hampshire than Dartmouth,” she said. “People live here and they live lives that are completely separate from Dartmouth.”
In the theme of getting off campus, Kog said that getting a bike was something that really opened up his ability to experience the Upper Valley.
“I guess it’s probably the first fall I've ever actually been able to appreciate New Hampshire,” Kog said. Instead of rushing from place to place, Kog began biking just for the fun of it, giving him a chance to admire the Upper Valley fall from behind the handlebars.
Kog’s appreciation for the Upper Valley’s beauty has made him think about what we as students owe to the area we call home for four years.
“We should give back and support the community that is around us because they’re important to us,” he said.
Korhonen Cuestas has also come to appreciate the small towns in the Upper Valley.
“I really love all the different little communities that are around here. Even if I’m not the one participating in it, seeing communities that are really close-knit and care about each other, that’s super cool,” she said.
Coming from a big city like London, she explained, you’re taught to take care of yourself, so it has been refreshing to see a place where people are involved with and care about each other's lives.
On the whole, the New Hampshire experience has been a great experience for Korhonen Cuestas — comprised not just of going to Dartmouth, but also of taking trips with her friends and her girlfriend to experience more of what New England has to offer.
Korhonen Cuestas and I talked about how much we both value the differences between Hanover and our hometowns.
“It’s super important to just experience different ways of living,” said Korhonen Cuestas. “It’s one thing to read about something and one thing to live it.”
I couldn’t agree more.