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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Reflection: The Musings of a Post-Pandemic Senior

As a soon to be graduating senior, one writer reflects on how the pandemic has affected his experience at Dartmouth.

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When you’re an underclassman, you naturally interact with seniors, whether it be in classes or club meetings. These conversations often involve some senior wisdom about how time passes by so fast and how important it is to treasure every moment. You may nod your head and move on, ignoring what those seniors said and thinking that there’s no way you could ever be in that position because every day is slow and each 2A actually feels like four hours and Friday can’t come soon enough and…

It is fall 2023, and I am a senior at Dartmouth College. How did this happen? I swear that I moved in for the first time just last year. Sophomore summer wasn’t that long ago, right?

Two falls ago, I was worrying about a hard government seminar I had signed up for — a 3A with papers and class periods that seemed like they would never end. That excruciating term felt like an eternity at the time, yet, it lasted only three months. Now, that period doesn’t seem like a long time to me at all. This term, my fellow seniors and I are working on finding jobs, completing honors theses and applying to graduate schools. These are time sinks in the moment, but when we look back at them, they will seem to have passed in a flash. 

It’s often said that “college goes by too fast,” but there are definitely some specific Dartmouth characteristics that make the days fly by even faster. The speed of a 10-week term makes us feel pressure to rush from the get-go, which — when combined with many students’ driven mindset — creates a jam-packed atmosphere. Already, time at Dartmouth moves quickly, yet, the unique circumstances in which the Class of 2024 entered Dartmouth made our time here pass even more rapidly.

For the Class of 2024, the pandemic still reared its ugly head during our freshman year, which was an interesting time, to say the least. I moved into my dorm in 15 minutes because that was the time we were allotted by the College. Our Twilight Ceremony consisted of us holding glow sticks alone in our rooms while we watched a virtual speech on our computers and phones. Classes were on Zoom, you had to sit six-feet apart in Foco and it wasn’t possible to hang out with large groups of people without breaking the COVID policy preventing group gatherings — and thereby risking the wrath of Safety and Security. 

When sophomore year came around, we had experienced some semblance of Dartmouth, but we were still complete strangers to campus and its culture. We were rushing Greek houses — running like headless chickens around campus — despite many of us never having stepped foot in frats and sororities. We knew how to finish our assignments, but we didn’t know how to get to our classes and where to receive said assignments. While we eventually became accustomed to “normal” life at Dartmouth, our first year and a half was a hectic transition period, and I know I speak for many in my class when I say that sometimes, it feels like that first year wasn’t even real. No wonder it feels like we only just got here.

Our class is the last class left on campus that had our college experience fundamentally changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We lost out on a proper First-Year Orientation, and so we had to come to our own understanding of what Dartmouth meant to us. On a campus where traditions are so fundamental that the terms seem built around them, we are the class that never experienced them in our first year here. Those missed experiences, combined with the fact that social interactions were few and far between, meant that the times that we were able to experience “regular” Dartmouth became special to us. In effect, we gained appreciation for each other and for this place in a way that allows us to celebrate, perhaps more than other classes,  when Dartmouth is at its best — and causes us to mourn at times when we recognize that it can do better.

I’ve felt community at Dartmouth in many ways, from the cheering crowds of strangers at frat band performances to late night swims to the companionship of friends during late night strolls, talking about nothing in particular. Yet, there are moments when the artificial social barriers that undergird this campus have made me feel all alone. At the end of the day though, as cliche as it sounds, it is those moments where I found community in the most unlikely places that stick with me, and it’s those moments that I hope to hold onto as this year rushes by. After an initial year in which a sense of community all but disappeared from Dartmouth, having those moments means everything to me. I hope to cherish them.