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The Dartmouth
May 28, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Our Six Weeks of Rest and Relaxation

One writer explores how students feel about the length of winterim, and what they would change about it.

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Amongst the Ivy League, Dartmouth seems to have a somewhat unique winter break: While other schools finish close to Christmas and return well into the new year, Dartmouth students are off-campus from Thanksgiving until after New Year’s. Winterim, a colloquial term for the break between Dartmouth’s fall and winter quarters, means six whole weeks with no late night runs to Foco, no study trips to Still North and no laugh-crying over the difficulty of MATH 9 with friends while walking across the Green. 

As a first-year who had never experienced Dartmouth’s long winter break, I was expecting to be bored out of my mind. However, I managed to fill my time visiting friends at their colleges, reading the The Hunger Games series, learning how to make pesto and rewatching all ten seasons of “Friends.” 

From the students I spoke with, Dartmouth’s long winter break has both its perks and downsides. I’ve witnessed friends squealing into each other's arms, claiming that six weeks is too long. I have also heard the tired groans of students who wished for more time at home. 

The timing of Dartmouth’s break simplifies travel planning for many students. Having one long break that encapsulates Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s means students can travel home once for the duration of the holiday season — unlike many other schools, which force students to return to campus after Thanksgiving, only to leave again weeks later. . It can often take a full day to travel to and from Hanover due to Dartmouth’s isolated location, and for many students, making the trek back to the woods involves long flights to Boston and tiredly waiting for the Dartmouth Coach. 

Neha Bhardwaj ’26 travels on a five-hour long flight from her home in Southern California to Boston. She mentioned how her experience traveling to and from Hanover is easier given the break encompasses Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

“If we had to come back here at the beginning of December, I probably just wouldn’t have been able to go home for Thanksgiving,” Bhardwaj said.

Ellie Huang ’27 echoed a similar sentiment and said that the longer break is better than having multiple shorter breaks. 

“I loved how I actually had time to spend with my family where it felt like I was home and not just visiting home,” she said. 

Another advantage to the length of winterim is that it truly allows students to rest and recharge, which is much needed after the intensity and pace of Dartmouth’s quarter — and to prepare for the next one.

“Having that time, you can make of it what you want, whether that's visiting college friends, visiting friends from home, traveling abroad or just having time to yourself,” Huang said. “The length of winterim is what allows students to truly reset and prepare for re-entering the stress of the 10-week term in January.”

Huang said that she was able to do a wide range of activities that enabled her to relax: She slept more, exercised with new friends from Dartmouth, learned to make stir fry pasta and vacationed in the Amazon rainforest. 

“Usually, when I travel over breaks, I feel like I’m wasting time relaxing. But I was able to actually enjoy it this year since the break was so long,” Huang said.

The longer break also allows classes at Dartmouth to expand learning beyond the classroom by going on class trips. After Thanksgiving, Grace Schwab ’24 traveled with PBPL 82.09, “The Supreme Court” to Washington, D.C. where they visited the Supreme Court and watched live oral arguments. 

Had the winter break not been six weeks long, Schwab said that people likely would have been less willing to attend the trip.

Schwab also went on the Asian societies, cultures and languages department Fall Term+ program in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam the year prior, which took place over several weeks during winter break. , She added that she “probably would not have gone on that FSP if the break was shorter.”

However, there are downsides to having such a long break. Christine Mittaz ’27 commented on the difficulty of returning to Dartmouth after winterim and an elongated break in classes. 

“Having a long break makes the adjustment back more difficult,” she said. “It’s weird to jump back into classes when we haven’t done work for the past six weeks.” 

The largest complaint students had about winterim wasn’t its length, but rather that it should continue for longer after New Year’s. 

“It has been disorienting to have Christmas then New Year’s then leaving one day later [and] start[ing] classes right away,” Huang said.

“I would’ve really appreciated having a couple more days after New Year’s before having to come back,” Bhardwaj agreed. 

Students also have a narrow window of when they can return to campus: dorms opened just one day before classes began on Jan. 3 this year, which means students need to travel on some of the priciest and busiest times of the year, according to Schwab.

“That time is so expensive for flights, making it really difficult,” Schwab said.

Students also said that they would enjoy getting more time to socialize with home friends, many of whom are on different academic schedules, and calm down from the whirlwind of the holidays before returning. 

“With people traveling and the holidays and everything, I really didn’t get as much time with my friends as I would’ve hoped for,” Huang said. 

Additionally, not being able to connect with friends from home over break can have lasting impacts on those relationships. 

“I feel like looking back, it’s felt organic that I’ve lost touch with most of my high school friends, but it definitely was at least partially because of our breaks never lining up,” Schwab said. “When I see some of my home friends, they always say ‘Finally! Our breaks finally match up!”