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When I virtually signed Dartmouth’s “Community Expectations” agreement last summer, I didn’t think much of a certain line. I agreed to “receive a vaccine for COVID-19, should one become available that is both FDA- and Dartmouth-approved,” if I wanted to live on campus and access Dartmouth’s facilities. At that point, a COVID-19 vaccine seemed years away — a promise overshadowed by the stress of preparing for a virtual academic year.
As the pandemic drags on into the new year, many people are getting sick of strictly adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. With the first doses of the vaccine rolling out across the country, some have started to let their guards down and regard restrictions with a more lax attitude.
Every winter, Hanover undergoes a transformation. The days get shorter, temperatures plummet and snow covers campus. However, this winter features a more dramatic shift than usual. As Dartmouth prepares to welcome students back for the winter term, signs of a more fun, social experience are appearing around campus.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began almost a full year ago, I’ve thought a lot about the future of art. If art is a mode of self-expression, what happens when your sense of self, removed from the places and people that shape it, is rocked? If art is a vessel for our joy, what happens when the sources of joy change? I was afraid that life in lockdown would make us too tired to create things, or that stress and lack of materials would immobilize us even when we wanted to create things. I hoped that making things was such an inherently human act that it would pull us through the wildest of circumstances.
Every January, gyms fill up with fresh-faced clientele eager to fulfill New Year’s resolutions made the night before over glasses of champagne. For many, New Year’s resolutions are a way to try something new, refocus on old rhythms or buckle down on long-term goals. After the dumpster fire of 2020, it’s hard to say whether New Year’s resolutions feel completely irrelevant or more important than ever. In this edition of Mirror Asks, a few Mirror writers share their own thoughts on the new year and the things they’re looking forward to in 2021, both big and small.
Well, we’re back. In the past few weeks, many of us have celebrated holidays without the company of our extended families, we’ve seen the beginning stages of the COVID-19 vaccine dissemination, we’ve said goodbye to 2020 and we’ve watched the government run amok at the tail end of Donald Trump’s presidency. There’s a lot to process, but there is also a lot to be grateful for, including our health, our loved ones and being able to return to Dartmouth for another term, whether virtually or in person.
When Dartmouth first announced it would allow students to live on campus this fall, many ’24s were overjoyed. With some universities transitioning fully online, students were grateful that the College had granted them at least one remnant of a normal college experience.
The following piece is a letter composed of responses to an anonymous survey shared with the Class of 2024, which asked freshmen to reflect on their first term at Dartmouth in a message to their pre-fall selves. While responses have been edited for clarity, the content comes directly from the freshman class. I hope that by reading this letter, ’24s, upperclassmen and the rest of the Dartmouth community may gain a better understanding of how freshmen experienced their unconventional first term.
Each day’s early sunset is a reminder that winter is coming. The intensity of the cold and the scarcity of the daylight hours strengthen the appeal of the indoors. But as COVID-19 cases rise and many students plan to return to campus in the winter, the announcement of the Dartmouth Skiway’s reopening was a bright point in a dreary-looking flurry of information.
Food is an inescapable part of our campus culture. We find it everywhere: in dinner picnics on the Green, as fuel for late-night work sessions in Novack and as an oddly popular topic of conversation. But not everyone’s relationship with food is straightforward. Many students with eating disorders struggle to navigate Dartmouth’s dining halls and food-dominated social scene, and their difficulties are only compounded by COVID-19 restrictions.
“I almost made it the whole term without being interviewed by The Dartmouth for being a transfer,” said Sevie Browne ’24, a transfer student from Tufts University. Alas, no such luck. Dartmouth saw 45 new transfers this fall, about three times as many as usual.
Dartmouth students have great affection for our libraries — take our interactions with the Dartmouth Library Instagram account. When I was a freshman, my First-Year Trip leaders showed me which parts of Baker-Berry were social and which were designated for intense studying. Although different spaces within the library function in different ways, the library as a whole feels like home to many students. This time last year, I remember stacking my belongings — essay drafts, extra pens, flaming hot cheetos and caffeinated yellow vitamin water — in the shelves of the periodicals, preparing to practically live there until finals were over.
Whether gathering with extended family around dishes of turkey and pie during Thanksgiving, piling on a couch with friends to watch “Home Alone” or excitedly embarking on a New Year’s vacation, many people eagerly anticipate the joys of the holiday season. The winter months are usually an ideal time to reunite with friends and family and reflect on the past year.
At the end of week five, I hit a breaking point studying for my upcoming microeconomics exam. In a stressed-out frenzy, I sent an email to the Tutor Clearinghouse, politely asking if my individual tutoring request for ECON 21 had been processed. I added that I “would be really grateful if my requested pairing could be made!”
Now that the fall term — a critical time for freshmen and other students to join clubs — has wound down, leaders and new members of student organizations across campus have had an opportunity to look back on the successes, challenges and outlooks for their respective clubs as winter term quickly approaches.
Well, we did it — we finished 20F. Whether that means completing your first term in Hanover or managing to stay sane while taking online classes in your childhood home, we all have something to celebrate. This fall was not without its obstacles and difficult moments, but we can all take pride in knowing that despite all that the world has thrown at us — a pandemic, a divisive election, remote learning — we managed to persevere.
For most Dartmouth students, participating in the American democratic process meant casting a vote in this year’s general election. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, political energy blanketed campus, with ubiquitous voter registration drives, campus-wide emails and high-profile visibility efforts placing the campaign at the forefront of Dartmouth’s collective consciousness.
A unique asset of the D-Plan is the extended winter break that Dartmouth refers to as “winterim.” Students head home before Thanksgiving, free from work and worries, and get to enjoy time off until winter term begins in early January. But this year, due to COVID-19, things look a little different. While students will still return home before Thanksgiving, finals period will not take place until the week following that holiday. This creates a 13-day gap between the final day of classes and the first day of finals.
During election week, many Dartmouth students struggled to cope with an extended period of uncertainty. As they waited for ballots to slowly trickle in, students also had to manage the stress that comes with week eight of fall term. Some relied on friends and avoided social media to manage anxiety, while others found comfort in staying informed on vote counts. And while some students are hopeful about the future, others remain worried.
This past weekend, the nation breathed a sigh of relief. Even if the election results didn’t satisfy everyone, at least the process was over. After long days and longer nights of refreshing electoral maps, tracking vote counts and listening to news anchors drone on in the background, Dartmouth students could finally turn back to our studies and buckle down for the final weeks of the term. In many cases, we cracked open our textbooks after popping champagne, satisfied that our campaigning efforts had paid off.