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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Reflection: Memories Make the Place

One writer looks back on the places that made her freshman year beautiful.


Last fall, I arrived on campus in awe of Dartmouth’s beauty.

I remember a vibrant row of trees glimmering alongside North Main Street, with a green hue made even more vivid by the summer glow. I remember seeing the Connecticut River for the first time and raving to friends from home about the plants lining the water. I remember standing next to Occom Pond at 7 a.m. during First Year Trips, breathing deeply, existing alongside nothing but the bird chirps and whispers of early morning nature — a rare moment of groundedness for me amid the chaos of orientation week. 

The campus was so green, so glittery and so alive. I’ve since realized that these three adjectives truly capture the essence of Dartmouth. 

But very few things glisten all year. Over time, I watched as the once-sparkling trees became tinged with autumnal shades of maroon and rust, leaves falling into piles at their roots. Almost without warning, those same trees have once again sprouted under the spring sun over the course of this term, full of the same beauty that greeted me last fall. 

After a year at Dartmouth, I’ve taken countless walks around Occom Pond — which I call “woccoms,” of course. The pond changes with the seasons, but it never falters in its ability to impress me. Gazing out at the water — breathing, soaking in the calm around me and letting myself be still — might just be one of my favorite feelings. I’ve even gotten to take a few friends on their first woccoms. Introducing them to the pond felt close to sharing a small part of myself.

I dipped in the river for the first time on the Saturday of Green Key weekend. Although the water felt like an ice bath — several of my muscles may have gone numb — and my friends and I struggled to climb back onto the slippery dock, it was exhilarating. I dipped again that following Wednesday. 

With its four-sided clock and majestic presence, Baker Tower has taken up a good amount of my camera roll. Yet, it became all the more special to me when I had the chance to write an article on the Baker bells this past winter. I remember climbing into the tower, talking to the graduate student in charge of programming the bells and feeling invigorated by my love for journalism. Hearing their ringing throughout campus now reminds me of that story and the joy I had while writing it. 

But even more notable, perhaps, are the places that once appeared rather ordinary, locations that have now become richer for the joy that bloomed for me there.

I moved into my dorm room on Aug. 30, 2023, greeted by blank walls, empty drawers and the simultaneous promise and slight trepidation of a new beginning. Over the course of this year, it has become the site of countless memories, from playing Bananagrams to singing with my friends. Now, it’s special to me not only because I’ve lived in it, but because I changed during my time there. 

The Class of 1953 Commons went from a confusing dining hall to a place where I debated how many ingredients were needed to constitute a salad, where Glee Club bonded over “Glee Dinner” after rehearsals and where I discovered my love for both Foco scrambled eggs and Foco soups.

Last but not least, Sudikoff Hall has transformed, in my mind, from a random building next to North Park into probably my favorite place on campus. This year especially, music has been my form of solace, catharsis and healing, a development to which Sudikoff has borne witness. It’s the place where I took voice lessons for the first time, probably annoyed my practice room neighbors with all my vocal warmups, attempted to harmonize with friends during karaoke nights, re-learned my favorite classical piano pieces, had lengthy conversations in the practice rooms and, most of all, where I felt most like myself.

As I near the end of my freshman year, I no longer see these places as merely buildings or bodies of water. I now view all the versions of myself that have made memories there, and that makes them all the more special.

I still find Dartmouth’s campus breathtaking. And though some of its novelty may have worn off, Hanover now feels lived-in. I wonder if this is what it means to turn a house into a home.

Of course, not every moment of my first year has been joyous or beautiful. I’ve felt overwhelmed by the newness of my life during New Student Orientation and sat in my dorm room longing for the comfort and stability of my hometown friendships. Inevitably, I’ve stressed over papers that I had given myself too little time to write. 

And yet, I don’t think these moments detract from the joy I’ve found here. If anything, they make the joy and the beauty even more precious. As I now return to wearing shorts, shielding my eyes from the sun and switching on my room fan to its strongest setting, I find myself realizing how differently I’ve come to see Dartmouth from nine months ago, the last time the trees sparkled so brightly. 

Somehow, all the places where I once found beauty have become more charming for the times I’ve spent there and the memories I’ve made. I’ve learned that the memories make the place. I hope, then, that Dartmouth will only grow more beautiful to me by the day.