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When I first came to Dartmouth, I was aware of several aspects of my identity. I was a lover of books. I wanted to study English and creative writing so that I could write stories that helped other people the way the stories I had read had helped me. I was white. I was a woman. I was middle-class. I was from Colorado, and I loved the mountains.
Over the last two weeks, as I’ve logged on to Zoom to watch some of my closest friends wrap up their Dartmouth careers with thesis presentations (and one sweet radio play), my brain has had ample opportunity to play evil comparison games. I often feel like I didn’t get the things out of my Dartmouth career that I wanted going into it, and it’s hard for me to remind myself to treasure what I did get out of the past four years. But when I truly take the time to give myself credit where credit is due, I’m able to notice that for each bullet point I missed, I gained my own experience of friendship, care and perseverance.
When the College announced that summer term would be remote, members of the Class of 2022 had to decide whether to have their sophomore summer online or push it off until next year. Three sophomores — Ronnie Ahlborn ’22, Lidia Balanovich ’22, and Ian Stiehl ’22 — settled on doing remote internships this summer instead of online classes.
The last time I was in a classroom was on March 11, for my German exam. My professor put a bottle of hand sanitizer on my desk, in direct response to my frequent anxiety-fueled comments about the coronavirus — voiced in my best German accent, of course. The next day, we got the announcement that the first half of spring term classes would be online.
For many outgoing Dartmouth students, senior spring represents a chance to create a fitting end to their time at the College. Having finally completed their academic requirements, seniors have the opportunity to create meaningful, fulfilling academic experiences in the classroom.
Nearly every essay I wrote during my first two terms at Dartmouth was composed at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, sitting in the lobby of Baker-Berry with a King Arthur Flour scone and an over-cinnamoned cappuccino in front of me. I’d never had any reason to believe my writing ritual was problematic, but when faced with my first essay of the remote term, composed at home and far from Blobby, I came to a grave realization: I was incapable of writing without KAF. Playing both Pavlov and his dogs, I had unwittingly conditioned myself to rely on the ritual.
When I set out to write an article on how the coronavirus has affected senior honors theses, I searched the Dartmouth website for a page describing what a thesis is. I found no such page. Each academic department has its own description of what a thesis looks like, and even within those departments, every project is unique.
If you're anything like me, this term has been a pernicious cycle of two extremes: eating an entire family-sized bag of PopCorners in one TikTok-fueled sitting, and then shamefully running five miles in repentance.
It’s week nine, and you arrive at Baker-Berry Library at 8 a.m. There are no people to be found, but belongings were left overnight, claiming the circle tables on 3FB and 4FB. You settle for a cubicle instead. Foolishly, you bring your belongings with you to grab lunch — a freshman mistake. When you return, every single cubicle is taken, and now you struggle to find a study space anywhere in the library. There is a palpable feeling of tension in the air. It’s finals season.
It’s week nine, and 20S is quickly approaching its conclusion. The final weeks of spring, as seniors prepare to graduate and another academic year comes to a close, tend to be particularly significant. However, with remote learning, many of the rituals and traditions that occur just before the transition to summer have presented themselves in different ways. Instead of scrambling to spend our last bit of DBA on delicious King Arthur Flour pastries — relishing in the purchase of full pies and massive bags of granola — we’re recreating our favorite blueberry muffins from home. Finally making a move on our recent Last Chances match in a frat basement has transitioned into sliding into their Instagram DMs. And deciding what to wear for a senior thesis presentation is now making sure that your camera is tipped high enough to block the pajama pants you’ve worn for the past week.
“For the first time since freshman fall …”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many restaurants to lay off employees or even close permanently. In Hanover, a town defined by the charm of its mom-and-pop shops, the future of iced mocha lattes, cruller French toasts and modern Mexican bowls looks more uncertain than ever. This week, I spoke with Boloco founder John Pepper ’91 Tu’97 to discuss COVID-19’s impact on local restaurants and how the customer-dependent burrito company is reframing the crisis.
What was the last thing you did before social distancing began?
Dartmouth students live in 10-week cycles. The start of a term is always exciting — fresh classes and activities make Dartmouth feel new again, even if you’re in your fifth consecutive on term. By week three or four, club meetings, social events and midterms all settle into a steady rhythm. But in the blink of an eye, finals arrive. Weeks eight through 10 flash by, then the whole cycle begins again.
There are about 17 clementines decomposing in my dorm right now. What can I say? I’m just a boy who loves citruses. Unfortunately, those citruses got caught in the crossfire of COVID-19. Like many other students, most of my belongings are stuck in my dorm. Those belongings include the pencil box I’ve used since kindergarten and a pair of the ugliest handmade slippers anyone has ever seen.
Decisions we make in quarantine are very different from the ones we make in normal life. A question like, “What will I wear to class today?” has simplified to “Which old pajama T-shirt will I put on?” And deciding whether to wear jeans or sweatpants has become a no-brainer. On the other hand, quarantine has also made some of the most menial deliberations seem more important. Suddenly, the choice between eating cornflakes and Cap’n Crunch for breakfast has become a 20-minute debate, ending with you deciding to dish out both.
“Et tu, Maggie?” I asked myself after taking my first batch of cookies out of the oven. Google searches for “bread” have more than doubled since the pandemic started. I’m sure that you, like me, have been flooded with Instagram stories of banana bread, friends’ new baking accounts or one of the 168,000 and counting #quarantinebaking posts on Instagram. And as with any good cultural movement, everyone channeling their inner Barefoot Contessa has spurred a counterculture of Twitter humor mocking quarantine bakers.
COVID-19 put an end to spring and summer study abroad programs. Dartmouth students who once dreamed of wandering through Tokyo or Toulouse now dream of leaving the house. For the Class of 2019, 42 percent of students participated in a language study abroad or foreign study program. In light of the pandemic, that percentage seems destined to go down for current students. But a handful of students already know that they will not be part of that statistic — pandemic or not.
This week in my Business French class, we have mock interviews with real French professionals. We spent last week learning how to craft our resumes and cover letters in French, and now our fluency is getting put to the test.
It’s a little early in my academic career for me to be writing a reflection piece about choosing my major. I’ve only been a Dartmouth student for two-and-a-half terms, and I just submitted my first D-Plan. But strangely, it feels like I’ve been in the process of choosing my major for years.