Distance Makes the Soul Grow Stronger

Juniors reflected on returning to campus this spring after time away.

by Jack Heaphy | 4/5/23 2:15am

by Elaine Pu / The Dartmouth

Although it is typical for juniors at Dartmouth to take time away, some members of the Class of 2024 spent a full two terms, or seven months, away from campus after their sophomore summer experience – returning to campus only a week ago for the start of their junior spring. On behalf of the ’24s, I believe many of us postponed off-terms and study abroad programs until junior year to fully engage with Dartmouth’s campus during sophomore year when COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. Arriving on campus again after two terms away, I bring both excitement and a fresh perspective on Dartmouth with me.  

I spoke with fellow ’24s who also recently returned to campus after two terms away. Together, we reflected on what we learned from our experiences beyond the reaches of Dartmouth’s campus. 

Maya Nguyen ’24 worked at an environmental nonprofit in New York City this winter after spending fall on the history foreign study program in London. She said that this felt like a long time away from the “Dartmouth bubble,” and she emphasized the feeling of Hanover’s insular nature. 

“Distance from campus allowed me to see how small the school is, despite how large it feels,” Nguyen said. “Academic and social stress can feel overwhelming and burn you out. It takes some distance from campus to realize [school] isn’t as important as it always seems.”

Tommy Bevevino ’24 spent his winter in South Lake Tahoe, California, working at a hostel, after he participated in the  government FSP in London in the fall. 

Bevevino noted that while it was harder to keep in touch with his friends from Dartmouth while away, his experience in South Lake Tahoe was a positive one, as he was surrounded by people with unique career paths and backgrounds. 

“It was refreshing to be in an environment with different people that didn’t know much about Dartmouth, rather than it being something that everyone shared and talked about constantly,” Bevevino said. 

In the fall, I also worked in New York City as an intern for a television production company.  I lived independently, and I stepped into a new, professional industry. 

For me, fall was characterized by growth and discovery, but also loneliness and isolation. After an uninterrupted year of living in a tight-knit community with friends my age, it was hard being thrown into a world with little familiarity. Yet, after some struggle, I found myself leaving New York with increased confidence, self sufficiency and a newfound discovery of my passions. 

Like Nguyen and Bevevino, I realized during my off-terms that many stressors and troubles can feel overwhelming, and it takes some distance from campus to discover how they sometimes aren’t as significant as they seem. 

Social pressures and constant goals of productivity sometimes cause burnout among students on Dartmouth’s campus. Realizing that these stressors are unnecessary has allowed some ’24s to reflect on their off-terms and refocus their priorities in their return to campus. 

Annie Qiu ’24 studied computer science and furniture design in Copenhagen through a non-Dartmouth transfer program in the fall. She said how the experience made her realize she wants to reevaluate her intentions upon returning to campus. 

“It was exciting to be away in a new country after being on campus for such a long stretch of time,” Qiu said. “Returning to campus has made me realize that I have to commit less and focus on the activities and people that make me happiest.” 

Klara Meyer ’24 participated in the anthropology FSP in Auckland, New Zealand, this winter, after taking the fall off to do an internship at The Aspen Times. Meyer said she believes she learned about valuable new perspectives and discovered a newfound appreciation for life. 

“Studying in New Zealand gave me a new perspective on what’s really important, and what I need to think about in life,” Meyer said. “It enabled me to learn in a way that wasn’t possible in Hanover.”

Nguyen, Bevevino, Meyer and Qiu each expressed that while there were moments in which they missed Dartmouth’s campus, their time away enabled them to learn holistically in new environments. Now, they can evaluate priorities and goals as they settle back into their lives on  campus. I myself have also felt some profound changes upon returning to Hanover. 

Yet, after reconceptualizing what Dartmouth means to us and thinking about our roles here on campus, we all share excitement to be back amongst our class this tem. Reuniting with each other after months apart, sharing experiences and knowledge acquired from faraway places, is thrilling. Seven months is a long time, but Hanover still feels familiar, and there’s a comfort that comes with this long-awaited return. 

Correction Appended (April 23, 9:10 p.m.): A previous version of this article misspelled Nguyen's name in one section. The article has been updated.