From absolutely no experience in academic writing to nomination for freshman writing prize
My spring term started with an email from my Writing 2-3 professor, announcing that my final paper from last term was nominated for The Albert I. Dikerson 1930 Freshman Writing Prize. I was on my way to my Japanese class when I received the email, and I was completely speechless -- I just stood there and stared at my phone for a good five minutes. The only thing on my mind at the time was how extraordinary it was to think of how far I've come in the last two terms.
When I first came to Dartmouth, I was intimidated at the idea of writing pages of research papers, even though I really love writing. I went to a public high school in Vietnam, and thus I'd never been formally taught American academic writing. So on the first day of class, I expressed my concern to Professor Lannon (my Writing 2-3 professor). To my surprise, she told me that like me, many of her students also had little to no experience, and Writing 2-3 was designed to help students like me become comfortable with writing at Dartmouth. Knowing that I wasn't alone and that my professor and TA were always available to help me through the writing process, I became more confident in myself, which in turn motivated me to become more active in the class. In retrospect, Writing 2-3 was one of my safe spaces at Dartmouth, where I could voice my opinions without any worries.
Writing 2-3 was the class that showed me the clearest differences between a Dartmouth education and the education I received in my high school. I really enjoyed our discussions of the readings, as I found myself learning more from exchanging opinions with my peers than simply listening to lectures from my teachers like in Vietnam. Whereas in Vietnam, students are taught to interpret a work of literature in one certain way, in my class at Dartmouth, Professor Lannon encouraged us to form our own arguments. I was quite worried at first because I'd never made my own argument in a paper before, but it turned out to be fun. The feeling I got when I read a text and could come up with a wild interpretation and could find evidence to back up that interpretation was simply... phenomenal.
Toward the end of the Writing 3, we started our research on a topic within Victorian literature. I freaked out a little (I'm wondering if it's my nature to always freak out at things) because I didn't have any knowledge nor experiences in those topics. However, both my TA Kasey and Professor Lannon told me that I shouldn't worry, because I would learn a lot in my research process. And they were right. I ended up writing about stereotypical Anglo-Indian women in the British Raj and connecting them with characters in one of our readings for my final paper, which is now nominated for the freshman writing prize. (Isn't it extraordinary that in January, I didn't even know what the "British Raj" was, and now I could write a 10-page paper on that topic?)
If I had to pick out the one most valuable thing I learned from Writing 2-3, it would probably be the fact that I will always be okay, even if I don't have any previous experiences in my class's topic. Dartmouth professors are always happy to help students become more comfortable with their classes, so definitely reach out to them when you feel worried about your performance. I'm really grateful to Professor Lannon for her help in my first two terms at Dartmouth. And '22s, if you get placed in Writing 2-3 in the summer, consider yourself lucky because you'll be in one of the best courses at Dartmouth!