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The Dartmouth
June 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Take it or leave it: How seniors’ belongings preserve memories and traditions

As Dartmouth seniors pack up their rooms, they must make decisions about what to take with them into the next chapter and what to leave behind.

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This article is featured in the 2024 Commencement & Reunions special issue.

Our belongings and living spaces are integral to our college experiences. As members of the Class of 2024 pack up their rooms, they explore a key question: what do the decorations and possessions they’ve displayed and collected at Dartmouth reveal about them? And which are important enough to carry beyond Hanover?

Brooke Baptista ’24 said she will be taking her collection of candles — currently stored in her room — with her after graduation. Baptista said she has saved the candles from important moments throughout her time at Dartmouth.

“I have the candle from the [Class of 2024’s] Twilight Ceremony, which we had sophomore year instead of freshman year because of COVID-19,” Baptista said. “I have a candle from Coach [Buddy] Teevens’s memorial ceremony that was held last fall on the Green. I also have birthday candles from a Chi Delt tradition we do during bid night, where we blow out the candle after saying a word that reminds us of the house.”

Tina Fernandez ’24, who worked at the Collis Center’s information desk throughout her Dartmouth career, said she plans to keep a small glass sculpture from Simon Pierce, the Hanover glass and pottery store, that her boss gave her as a graduation present. She believes the sculpture, which says “Collis” and “Dartmouth” on it, is just “Dartmouth” enough to take with her. 

“It can be a really great decoration for any moment in time in my life because it is very Dartmouth, but in such a subtle way, [so] it will still remind me of my undergrad life here,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez said she also plans to take her photographs with her after Commencement. She said she believes the printed-out photographs of her time at Dartmouth will make for strong decor for her new room in graduate school, serving to commemorate her time in Hanover.

“I’m hanging them up because I know having them on a wall where I can see [them] will put me in good spirits,” she said. “[It’s great] to just have that physical visual reminder of my friendships and relationships that I built here.” 

While Baptista and Fernandez have found items to take with them, many seniors find themselves leaving behind pieces that would not quite be adaptable to their future living arrangements. Posters frequently fall into this category, according to Theta Delta Chi fraternity member and house resident Lenox Huh ’24. Out of his collection of “silly” posters, Huh said he intends only to keep the ones most significant to him.

“There’s maybe a couple posters in my room that I really care about, but I think I’ll be leaving the rest in the [TDX] house,” Huh said.

Fernandez is similarly opting to leave behind her “sillier posters … that don’t align with [her] room decor” for her “underclassman friends.”

Huh noted that graduating provides a chance to “offload items that seem juvenile.” 

“I am using [graduating] as an opportunity to give things to people who could make some use of [them] in the next couple of years,” Huh said. 

Among the belongings that Huh is ditching are clothing items that he doesn’t think he will wear after Dartmouth. He explained that he believes his sense of style has matured, and his college wardrobe may best be left behind. 

“There’s definitely certain shirts or certain [out]fits that I thought were cool in college, and now I want to move on and have definitely grown out of them,” Huh said. 

The tendency to leave one’s dorm room belongings — whether the artwork on the walls or clothes in the closet — for underclassmen is well-practiced on campus. The last weeks of spring term are marked by bequests, when graduating students within campus clubs, teams and other organizations pass down clothing and memorabilia — including many items that they themselves received from past graduating students — to underclassmen. Charles Vogel ’24 found this tradition meaningful because of its “generational significance.”

“These items get passed down year [after] year, and it’s a responsibility you have to keep … going,” Vogel said. “If [an item] gets bequeathed to you, you have to pass it down to the next generation.” 

Huh said the “intrinsic value of history” of these items adds to the responsibility of picking who should receive them next.

“Some of these are such culturally rich items that people feel honored to receive, so it’s your job to pick someone who you think is worthy,” he said. “I personally like to give things away to kids who will actually make use of them. It adds up to using it or really appreciating it.”

Bequeathed items can be traced back through decades of Dartmouth’s graduating classes. Huh mentioned that TDX has “some really cool old rugby jerseys that go back to the 1990s.” Vogel, who is a member of Beta Alpha Omega fraternity, said his house has noteworthy items of its own to pass down.

“My brother, [who] used to be in Beta, [got] a Christmas jacket in 2020,” Vogel said. “Then it got passed down to a ’21, then a ’23 and then I had it, and I just gave it to my little. If you look on the inside label of the jacket, it's been passed down since 2008, so I like to imagine that I [can] come back to visit campus in like 2032 and some Dartmouth ’34 is wearing it, [and it] still has my name in there.”

Vogel’s favorite bequest that he gave out was “a shirt from April 2017.”

“[It] said ‘tacos for the troops,’ from a charity event to raise money for troops,” Vogel said. “I took it off my back and gave it to the next generation of Betas.”  

Fernandez, who was the captain of the triathlon team, said one of her bequests to a former teammate— a pair of neon leggings — solidified a new tradition within the club.

“I started … spin raves, where we go to the gym late at night and have spin classes with cool LED lights and very loud music,” Fernandez said. “I’ve bequeathed a pair of neon spin rave leggings to my friend who is a wonderful part of the team and [is] planning on leading a bunch of spin raves next year.”

Bequests are a way of establishing and maintaining traditions — bridging the past and future.

“[The bequest] represents an idea of passing down not only physical items, but also traditions like this one, that have made the triathlon team such a special part of my life,” Fernandez said.

As seniors pack up their rooms and prepare to leave Dartmouth, the items they choose to take or leave behind reflect their evolving identities and cherished memories. Through bequests and keepsakes alike, they allow their time at Dartmouth to live on.