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As we approach Halloween here at Dartmouth, there’s a heightened level of fear across the student body. This fear, however, is not caused by your typical horror film or haunted house. Rather, it is the result of a steady stream of unknowns, distrust and paranoia surrounding one of the most concerning trends of fall term: students being forced to leave campus for the remainder of the academic year due to COVID-19 policy violations.
They call October “spooky season,” and this year, it’s not hard to see why. Dartmouth students are nearing the end of our third term since COVID-19 began. Finals are approaching, and exams and essays are always spooky. Next week, Americans will head to the polls to determine the trajectory of our nation, and many students can only hope their absentee ballots get counted. Spooky. And of course, Halloween is right around the corner, but can any costume be spookier than the masks we’ve been wearing for months?
You can hear it in the lingo-packed conversations on the Green, see it on the faces of students as they marvel at Hanover’s fall colors and read it in the words of adoration from alumni: Dartmouth is home to a uniquely tight-knit community, the closeness of which stems largely from years of tradition.
As consumers shift to digital forms of payment like credit cards and mobile banking, cash has dwindled from our day-to-day transactions. Like other trends, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be accelerating the transition from a cash-based to a cashless society.
Despite restrictions on social interactions, Dartmouth students are finding new ways to connect this term. Some are sticking with more familiar ways of meeting new people, but others are making the most of any and all online platforms to connect with others during a socially distanced time.
Based on Instagram alone, it would seem like there’s not a person on campus who hasn’t been to Gile Mountain this term. Scrolling through all the pictures of Dartmouth students smiling at the top of the fire tower takes almost as long as climbing the mountain itself.
“I almost forgot how it feels like to be sitting in a chair and to have the professor right there in front of you teaching.”
I thought I knew exactly what to expect from my freshman fall. I had meticulously read the COVID-19 regulations, researched campus culture and tempered my idealistic visions into a pretty realistic picture of how the term would materialize. But Dartmouth has a way of throwing surprises at us. I hadn’t expected midnight CVS runs to be so crucial to my survival, nor to find such sheer joy in eating maple-flavored cotton candy.
The election is coming up, midterms are in full swing, the new season of “The Bachelorette” has started — oh, and it’s week six. At times it feels like the term is flying by, whether that means realizing we’re past the halfway mark and your professor still doesn’t know your name, or coming to terms with the fact that you’re never actually going to “catch up” on lost sleep.
Freshman fall is a strange time socially. Everything about high school was structured — you followed a rigid class schedule and knew who to sit with at lunch every day. But college throws you out into the world on your own. No one is there to wake you up in the morning, to double check your outfit before you head out the door or to remind you that you should probably eat something before 6 p.m. The transition can be overwhelming.
It’s fall in Hanover, and that can only mean one thing. No, not another Gile hike, foliage picture or apple picking trip — it’s election season. While November inches closer, political activity crescendos on campus for Dartmouth students, many of whom are registered to vote in New Hampshire. In the month leading up to Election Day, student political organizations start working overtime to canvas for their preferred candidates.
In most years, new students hoping to join one of Dartmouth’s performing arts groups attend in-person events and auditions. This year, since singing, dancing or breathing next to someone has become the stuff of nightmares, performance groups adapted their audition processes to work in a socially distanced way.
When I say that I used to sprint up four flights of stairs to beat an elevator full of people competing for my favorite study spot in Baker-Berry Library during finals period, I am not lying. The fourth floor became my home during my second term as a Dartmouth student. Embarrassingly out of breath from the climb, my friends and I would snag a circular table with an attached couch, plop our backpacks down and claim the spot as ours from 9 a.m. until midnight. We studied at the table, napped on the couch, crunched way too loudly on Novack’s pita chips and ran into the stairwell to burst into laughter when something was too funny to whisper about.
To make sense of COVID-19, we do what we’ve always done when studying emerging historical events — we compare. So naturally, I decided to investigate past disease outbreaks on Dartmouth’s campus.
In the age of COVID-19, we have often looked for comfort in generalizations. For instance, take the sentence you just read. Since March, our society has defined the current moment as a distinct “age” — novel and different from everything we knew before the pandemic. And to understand this bizarre time, we’ve relied on the most mundane of phrases. These are “unprecedented times.” We struggle through “an era of uncertainty.” We adjust to “the new normal.”
My last name is only four letters long, but I can think of far more than four different pronunciations that I’ve told people over the years. I recently discovered that my brother and I pronounce our last name differently. And no, it’s not that we don’t know how to say our last name correctly; it’s that we don’t know how to tell non-Chinese speakers how to say it in a way that’s not met with a blank stare and a “Come again?”
Now seems like an odd time for a dance club to be having a renaissance. However, the Dartmouth Classical Ballet Theater, a student group dedicated to offering free, inclusive dance classes, has emerged from this unusual year leaping higher than ever. Having extended its reach across the student body (with beautiful port de bras), DCBT is starting this year en pointe.
Where are you currently living?
Week four is always hectic with midterms, club tryouts, realizing it’s definitely time to wash your sheets and other timely reminders that we’re almost halfway through the term. Although this fall is obviously different, Dartmouth students — whether on or off campus — tend to find themselves in a similar state of overcommitment, teetering on the brink of having too few hours in the day to complete everything they have on their plates. And yet we manage to push through, albeit with fewer hours of sleep under our belts.
This week at Mirror, a student living off campus reflects on feeling like an outsider when visiting Dartmouth. We look at how a revived club, Dartmouth Classical Ballet Theater, is taking on the challenge of hosting virtual dance lessons. We also speak with our writers about how they’ve settled into the fall term.
The leaves are nearing their peak fall colors, plenty of the students living in Hanover have already hiked Gile Mountain and apple picking is in full swing. Week four is stressful, but the fall season is a beautiful distraction. We’ll get through this week, just like we have in terms past. If you need a break from studying, take a step outside and breathe in the crisp, fall air. You might just develop a new appreciation for the outdoors. Or you might have an epiphany about that essay you’ve been stuck on. Either works.
My home this fall is in Enfield, New Hampshire, about 20 minutes from campus. I’m part of the significant portion of students living locally off campus, a community that spans several towns scattered within a roughly 45-minute radius of campus.