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Group of students wearing constructions vests in front of large excavator at coal site

What happens when Dartmouth terms end? Not all students make the trek home. Some adventurous groups and individuals choose to embark on thrilling journeys in the break between terms.

And over spring break, I was one of them. 

(I am now going to drop the epic-adventure-narration I was initially going for… how does Gandalf do it?)

Over spring break, I went on an 'Energy Immersion Trip' sponsored by the Dartmouth Sustainability Office and Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society. Two of these 'Energy Immersion' trips run each year: one over winter break (aka "winterim") called the 'Gulf Coast Energy Immersion Trip,' and the one I went on over spring break was the 'Appalachian Energy Immersion Trip.' 

So, what was this trip all about? A group of nine students – all Dartmouth undergraduates from every year (freshman through senior, '26-'23), and a variety of majors – and three staff leaders spent ten days in Appalachia (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, then two days at the end in Washington, D.C.) doing a deep dive into the history of the coal industry and its impacts on the environment, politics, economy, people, and culture of the region. We met with different stakeholders in the region and were able to hear a multitude of perspectives. 

Below, should you be inclined, you can read about some of the highlights of my trip! 

Before the Trip: Ed Sessions and Energy Currents

Before the trip, our group met once a week every Tuesday evening of winter term to eat yummy food, get to know each other, and learn as much background information about the coal industry in the Appalachian region as we could. These meetings were informal but informative and prepared us with a solid knowledge base for our trip. 

In addition to these sessions, my friend Arden (who also went on the trip) and I attended the Energy Currents lecture series organized by the Irving Institute. This was not required for our trip group, but we decided to attend because we were generally curious and because the topics of the lectures were relevant to our trip. The series is described on the website linked above as "an open conversation space to discuss and analyze current energy and climate news." It was a great experience, super engaging and informative, and I was able to make a few new friends as well!

The Trip Basics

Financial Aid

My financial aid traveled with me on this trip, so I was able to go for completely free. Even if I had to pay the trip fee, it would've been a small amount considering it included 10 days of lodging, eating, driving, and other scheduled events.


We had hotel breakfasts, fun picnic lunches, silly snacks, and lots of fun dinners eating out at restaurants. We generally ate as a group during meals and got to know each other better, discuss our days, make memories, and develop inside jokes. Overall, food was plentiful and entirely included.


For most nights we stayed in hotels, two students per room, and so we each got our own bed. We had the option to use the hotel pools, fitness centers, and even once to do laundry. Two additional nights were spent staying as a group in a cabin owned by one of our stakeholders. Even though our hotel nights were luxurious in comparison, we were able to have great conversations and grow closer as a group on those nights. 


This trip included a lot of driving hours, averaging about 3 or 4 hours in the vehicles per day. But they passed quickly thanks to lively conversations, well-curated road trip playlists, and a handful of naps.


Though we packed an incredible amount of stops into our trip, it wasn't all just go, go, go – our trip leaders did a great job of scheduling downtime for our group so that we had time to unwind and relax.


Every night we had 'debrief sessions,' where we would discuss our visits. These sessions were led by our staff and student leaders who would introduce a series of guiding questions to structure our conversations. We'd explore our thoughts and impressions, identify recurring themes from our trip, and ask how our perspectives may have shifted— and just talk through anything else that might come up. It was a great routine that helped us all to process and think deeper about what we'd learned that day.

My Favorite Visits… will be featured in an upcoming post! Stay tuned!

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