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If you are not struck by love upon your first step on the Green, first Collis smoothie or first run around Pine Park — no fear. It can be a slower kind of love, a kind of love that you don’t notice until you’re sitting in your 9L, daydreaming about hitting the green, not hitting the stacks, after class.
Autumn. Leaves shift from their summer greenness to vibrant shades of red, orange and pink. As they span the color spectrum, aging steadily into a crisp brown dryness, the leaves abandon roots and fall one by one to the ground. For some, this scene merely signifies a climatic shift, a transitory phase between summer and winter. For others, it heralds what we have long called “sweater weather,” prompting them to fill their closets with clothes that are too thick for the heat, but too thin for the cold. In that short span of time between both seasons, even our closets become transient.
At work this summer, I was asked to write a card to a client’s daughter. She was about to start her freshman year of college. I was flattered that they considered me worthy of dispensing advice. But as I was writing, I realized I was the one who needed to follow my own advice. It is always easy to offer recommendations to others without actually practicing what you preach. The following is an extract of what I wrote to the woman just a few years my junior: “Remember that you are not alone in your uncertainty. No one really knows what they’re doing! New beginnings are scary. I was so nervous my first day. And some of that discomfort lingers, but growth never happens when we are wholly comfortable.”
Peter Orner is a new professor in the department of English and creative writing. Orner has authored acclaimed story collections and novels and edited various oral histories over the past two decades. He most recently released a series of essays and memoirs called “Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Reading to Live and Living to Read,” which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Orner is teaching Creative Writing 10, “Writing and Reading Fiction,” and Creative Writing 40.06, “Uses of Fact,” during the fall term.
Every September, over 1,000 first-year students come to Dartmouth. For many, the College provides an outlet to experience new things. For others, it provides a place to meet people from all different backgrounds. For some, it creates the perfect environment to foster a romantic relationship.
Welcome back to campus, Dartmouth! From the hints of orange, yellow and red on the trees to the crispness and coolness of the air, it is evident that 18F is finally upon us. Fall is my personal favorite season of the year. I’m a sucker for peak foliage, exciting activities and tasty treats. I have crafted a list of some must-dos on campus and around town this season. Trust me, once you start checking these items off of your Dartmouth bucket list, you’ll soon be wishing fall term would go by a little bit slower (if you weren’t thinking that already).
Unlike many other incoming first-year students, when Emma Chiu ’19 arrived at Dartmouth College in the fall of 2015, she had previously heard the terms “flitz,” “FSP,” and “BEMA,” but only because she had watched a YouTube video of Conan O’Brien’s 2011 commencement address at Dartmouth and heard him name-drop several examples of campus vocabulary .
The most conventional definition of “persistence” invokes some sort of struggle or challenge. To persist is to actively withstand, to toil and, in turn, to triumph. A dandelion pushing through an expanse of asphalt, claiming a crack as its own, persists. A young man fighting the magnetism of particles in a block of wood persists. Hikers trekking up the slope of a mountain, blanketed in dark, persist. Prospective corporate employees, pitted against suffocating odds and pressed for time, persist.
Define “persistence” in four words.
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.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and my friends and I were driving in the direction of the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. We were following a hand-drawn map bequested to us by a graduating senior this past spring — a map to a (supposedly) great swimming spot.
As I look out across Dartmouth’s campus each day, I see hundreds of high school students and their families trailing a tour guide across the Green. These students will undoubtedly hear about all of Dartmouth’s “hidden gems” — the Shakespeare’s First Folio that we keep in Rauner, the “take your professor to lunch date” that turned into a research opportunity, the awesome concert at One Wheelock with a finalist from “The Voice,” and so on. But most of those students will never get to experience the real hidden gems of Dartmouth.
Before I decided to go to Dartmouth, a friend of a friend showed me around. I don’t remember anything from her tour, save the fact that we skipped past Novack Café. “This is grim,” she said dismissively. As we moved on, I surreptitiously strained my neck in an attempt to catch a glimpse of this place that was “grim.” I was intrigued.
X: two slanted lines. They can represent a destination, a meeting place, a crossing, a refusal. At Dartmouth, we use X to describe sophomore summer, lending the letter added significance. And this week, X takes on one more meaning: the theme of the term’s first issue of Mirror.
In the strange bubble of New Hampshire where “flitz,” “S.W.U.G.” and “facetimey” are used in everyday conversation, it is not surprising that the theory of “the X” has cemented itself in Dartmouth culture. Students seem to latch on to ideas and phrases that separate them from the outside world, more firmly solidifying and celebrating how quirky and different they are. The X is a rumor describing social power throughout one’s time at Dartmouth. It theorizes that freshman girls arrive on campus with peak social status and appeal, and then they gradually lose this appeal and become less desirable throughout their time at Dartmouth. In contrast, freshman boys are thought to begin their time at Dartmouth at their lowest social point, slowly gaining prominence on campus as they navigate college, and finally graduating at their peak. The term is used jokingly for the most part, chastising girls for descending along the X too quickly when they show up to parties in sweats and t-shirts or nodding knowingly when freshman girls flock not to their floormates or lab partners, but to the senior boys on campus. The X is denounced, promoted and questioned, but no one seems to take it too seriously. The interesting part of the X, however, lies in a more basic assumption it makes: that throughout students’ time at Dartmouth, there will come a moment when they cross over from one side of life to another.
If there were a treasure map of Dartmouth College, then the X would certainly mark the spot of Rauner Library — a treasure trove with historical riches abound. Rauner Library boasts not only well-known collections such as William Shakespeare’s First Folio or a first edition of “The Book of Mormon,” but also holds a plethora of ancient manuscripts, artifacts, visuals and first-edition books.
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.
During an especially introspective stretch of time, my 15-year-old self jotted down several quotes that fell within the boundaries of what I perceived to be profound. One of the first to appear was the phrase, “The only thing I know is that I know nothing,” derived from something Socrates may or may not have once said.