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The Dartmouth
May 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Reflection: Some Things Change

One writer reflects on physical and institutional changes taking place at Dartmouth, while appreciating the constants that make Dartmouth the familiar place it is.

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This article is featured in the 2023 Homecoming special issue. 

I’m writing this article from Scotland — the University of Edinburgh’s main library, to be exact — squirming in an uncomfortable chair and pining for the dimly lit ambiance and cushy green armchairs that are the trademarks of the Tower Room. When I return to Dartmouth this upcoming winter, it will have been one year since I experienced a “normal” term with all four class years present on campus. It’s difficult for me to accept that two years of my college career have passed me by. Yet they have, and with this passage of time has come many changes on campus since I first stepped foot in Hanover. 

21F — a term that feels like it began five minutes and five years ago. My Orientation Week began in a white tent on the Gold Coast lawn, as I shoved a cotton swab up my nose to determine whether I would spend my first few days on campus in quarantine or freely able to socialize. Memorably, I returned to this tent the following day when my first COVID test came back inconclusive. In addition to the standard uncertainties that the first few terms of college bring, the beginning of my freshman year was also punctuated by the anxiety of weekly COVID tests and my often failed attempts to match a name to a classmate’s masked face. 

One of my most vivid memories from 22W was the utter joy that I felt when Foco opened for in-person dining midway through the term — three weeks into January. For the first time that calendar year, I was able to eat a meal on a plate instead of out of a Green2Go. 

I’m endlessly grateful that I did not experience the vastly more restrictive COVID policies of the 2020-2021 academic year. Nevertheless, the removal of the mask mandate during 22S and the end of weekly testing still stand out as one of the more significant changes during my time on campus. But smaller changes are no less memorable. For example, I now struggle to recall how I ever made it through on-nights before the existence of Foco Late Night. During sophomore summer, no night out felt complete if it didn’t finish with a debrief at a dark side four-top by the windows, strawberry Pop Tart in hand. 

From a structural standpoint, the campus also looks different now than when I matriculated. It’s hard for me to believe that ’27s only know the Hop for the Courtyard Cafe. Up until sophomore winter, I trekked weekly to the Hop’s basement to pick up mail from Hinman, often stopping at the practice rooms afterward in an attempt to retain some of my limited piano skills. Now, I have only a faint idea of where the practice rooms are located on campus, and I’ve slowly grown used to stopping by Foco for my packages instead. The completion of the Dartmouth Hall renovation also marks a major change to an iconic landmark on campus — until last fall, I could only conceive of it in its half-constructed state. Instead of taking Spanish classes there in my first year, I was relegated to the basement of Blunt Alumni Hall, where I spent many a dreary spring day peering out of the classroom’s oddly-placed window that provided a view of only the bottom half of passerby bodies. 

Institutionally, the campus has also changed tremendously. I’d be remiss not to highlight the inauguration of President Sian Leah Beilock, Dartmouth’s first female president, as one of these changes. Beilock’s inauguration, in conjunction with the efforts of Student Government, indicates Dartmouth’s continued efforts toward progress. All of this progress, of course, has resulted in many positive changes. But over the course of writing this article, I’ve also found myself reflecting on the benefits of the constancies on campus. 

After all, if I returned each term to a completely different Dartmouth, Hanover would no longer feel like home. Instead, I’ve found comfort in knowing that I can leave “normal Dartmouth” for a year and return to find that the school has continued along in the same vein as I left it. I have grown to appreciate that on walks around campus — past buildings where I have eaten, slept, cried and studied for the past two years — I am filled with memories. 

I cannot walk past Richardson Hall without remembering the hours I spent in the first-floor corner room, sprawled out on a bean bag chair and avidly recounting the events of my week. Sightings of Rocky remind me of waiting in an hour-long line for a professor’s office hours, and Baker contains so many memories, from the Tower Room to Stacks Annex B, that it would take a whole article to even scratch the surface. 

The largely unchanging nature of Hanover has also provided me with the surface upon which I’ve etched some of my favorite memories. Before this summer, I merely nodded along when people referred to “Maple” and “Prospect” streets, silently wondering in my head where those were located. Last fall, I even had to whip out Google Maps to find one of the houses on Sargent. But after 23X, these streets will forever be burned into my brain. Long after I graduate, I’ll remember sprinting down Maple Street under a sprinkling sky and eating quesadillas on the roof of 11 Maple. Prospect Street now brings to mind yellow shirts and creatively-themed parties, and the words “School Street” fill me with nostalgia for my summer home in all its slanted floor, sometimes leaky and definitely moldy glory. 

These reflections barely scratch the surface of all that has changed during the first half of my Dartmouth career. Many former fixtures on campus have since been transformed — and certainly, more progress could always be made, especially on the housing front. But in the spirit of Homecoming Weekend, over these past two years, I’ve also grown incredibly thankful for the never-changing spirit of Dartmouth, for its traditions, people and buildings that never fail to welcome me home even after prolonged absences from them. As my final two years at Dartmouth unspool before me, I look forward to the many changes that will surely come and give thanks for the constants that will always remain.