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Dartmouth lives for its dramas. Our College’s traditions are flashy, overwrought and overdocumented, as shown by the stream of social media posts immediately following any bonfire, polar plunge or Green Key concert. The candle-lit walk to the BEMA is one of the particularly sentimental traditions here: a ceremonial march completed by freshmen during their orientation week and seniors during their senior week in the most full-circle way possible. In a performative way, it is the sunrise and the sunset to any Dartmouth student’s career.
After a fun Green Key filled with everything but work, we’re back to the grind as Week 9 sets into full swing and finals slowly creep up. Our break from routine was short-lived, and the conversations about our exciting and wild weekends are quickly turning into complaints about all the studying and catching-up we have to do. At a school where “hustle culture” is seen and felt on a routine basis, it’s easy for us to equate our productivity with our self-worth, and we wonder if there’s even such a thing as a true day off. Sunny afternoons on the Green or Sunday Foco brunches with friends are too often cut short to go back to the library and get work done because, as the saying goes, “the grind don’t stop.”
Dartmouth students come to campus from all over the world: from places with beaches, mountains, forests or lakes. For four years, we share the same views at Dartmouth. We share the smooth waters of the river, the warm light of Sanborn Library and the soft grass on the Green. We also share the staggeringly long lines at KAF, the musty Stacks cubicles and the squeaky tables in Novack at one in the morning. We share the good and the bad.
At face value, the phrase “war and peace” is contradictory. But these contradictions make us human. We say we want balance but continue to pile on commitment after commitment. We strive for a healthier diet but always sneak that extra cookie on our way out of Foco. It is easy for us to think one thing and do something else or to try upholding some set of values while our lifestyles tell a different story.
At Dartmouth, the most notable body of water for many students is one that doesn’t make any waves — the Connecticut River, a favorite swimming spot whenever it is warm outside. The river holds a special place in the hearts of many people on campus, especially during sophomore summer. Swimming in the river’s pleasantly cool waters with the sun shining on your face is pure bliss. And the dams spaced along the river mean that in certain spots, the water feels completely still, no waves or current to be felt.
We’ve all heard the saying “age is but a number,” and we see it right before our eyes here at Dartmouth. Though we are mostly all in our early 20s, sometimes it feels as if we are running out of time. Deadline after deadline, term after term, we’re always looking one step ahead, and our time here flies right past us. We worry about our summer plans in winter, what classes we are going to take next term while we’re in the middle of this term and where we’re going to be employed when we’re still students. In the face of all this planning, graduation comes along right before we know it, and we’re left wondering what the heck happened to the past four years.
When we think of blueprints, a lot of things come to mind: planning, designing, rearranging. We use blueprints and their corresponding process of design thinking to construct the soundest building, to create the best D-Plan and even to solve our problem sets. As students, we like having steps to follow in order to ultimately be successful. Having things planned out provides us with a sense of reassurance, with the comfort of knowing that it will all make sense in the end. But sometimes, we hit a block in the road, and things don’t go exactly as planned. Even so, things have a funny way of working out.
The Dartmouth bubble is a universally acknowledged reality on this campus. Living in rural New Hampshire while also attending a school that takes up so much of our free time with academics and extracurriculars severely inhibits our access to news about the outside world and, perhaps more importantly, our willingness to care about that news. And at a school where so many students come from the highest socioeconomic strata, the most concerning part of this reality is that most of us have lived in a bubble for the span of our entire lives.
When we think of admissions, especially at this time of year, we usually think of the college application process — and of all the rejections and acceptances that come along with it. Besides being defined as the process of gaining entrance into an organization, however, an admission can also be an admission of truth, or even an admission of guilt.
Your freshman year at Dartmouth has a special kind of glow. There will be moments in which it feels like the best time of your life — when you make friends with people from all across the country, when you experience the magic of four distinct seasons, when you uncover opportunities for learning whose existence you never fathomed. Dizzy with thoughts of friends from places like Taiwan and North Dakota, jewel-colored leaves and classes on everything from human-centered design to catastrophe and human survival and the ethics of reproduction, you will at times lose your breath to wonder.
There are people at Dartmouth who apply to 20 or 30 companies over the course of the corporate recruiting process and get rejected from every single one. That’s a reality that most Dartmouth students are aware of when they decide to participate in the process, yet the hope of securing that one perfect internship still motivates hundreds every year to drop their resume and cover letters at any number of listings posted on DartBoard. The trade-off between the staggering amount of work some students put in and the shaky chances of success could be compared to a Pyrrhic victory: a victory that is accompanied by such staggering losses that it almost feels like defeat.
Summer school is usually a punishment — an undesirable consequence that should be avoided at all costs. At Dartmouth, however, we embrace summer school. We partake in traditions new and old, we take classes we would never normally think to take and we explore relationships with the people we will spend the most time with during our time at Dartmouth. We see summer school for the hidden gem that it is.
Sophomore summer holds a spell-like fascination in the minds of Dartmouth students. When talking about the upcoming term with my peers, many of them voiced not only excitement, but also trepidation that the summer would end too quickly, and the thing all of us have been looking forward to for so long would suddenly be finished. Dartmouth students have heard so much about the traditions surrounding sophomore summer that most of them look forward to it long before the term is even close to beginning. However, while sophomore summer has existed in its basic form for many years, it has evolved with each class that experiences it.
You hear the words “I’m fine” all the time at Dartmouth. It’s part of the lingo, the same as words like “Foco” and “facetimey.” It’s just something we say. Whether we’re inundated by three midterms over the course of 48 hours, four extracurricular meetings in a single day or a crisis at home that we are unable to deal with, when someone waves at us across the hall and asks how we’re doing, the vast majority of us respond with the same two words.
Professor Jane Carroll is a senior lecturer in the art history department and a member of the steering committee of the Medieval and Renaissance studies department. Her area of expertise include women and the arts in medieval Germany, the iconography of female piety and early woodcuts.
This article was featured in the 2018 Winter Carnival Issue.
At this point, many have heard the statistics: including the 2018 contingent of athletes, Dartmouth athletes will have earned nearly 150 spots on Winter Olympics teams. Athletes from Dartmouth have competed in every Winter Olympic Games since the launch of the modern games in 1924. This year, 14 athletes with ties to Dartmouth will compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics and one in the Paralympics. The College’s consistent role as a powerhouse in skiing has been well-documented, but lesser known is the history of the sport’s meteoric rise at Dartmouth, which ultimately led to a culture of excellency and pride that continues to make itself known with the consistent domination of winter sports by Dartmouth athletes today.
Coming back to Hanover in the winter is like coming back to a different world: The entire campus is coated in a layer of beautiful snow, making everything glitter. Seeing the college looking this picturesque makes it even more shocking to travel to towns like Lebanon and White River Junction, where the slush has already turned gray, and white buildings with green shutters are replaced with boarded-up storefronts and weather-torn houses. Despite being located less than an hour away from Hanover, these towns are peppered with signs of poverty and neglect that are not often found in Hanover.
Leslie Butler is a professor in the history department who recently undertook a year-long writing fellowship funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Butler used this time to work on her current book, which explores the political role of women in the 19th century. Butler will return to teaching classes in American cultural and intellectual history this winter in addition to continuing work on her book.