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Something that crops up again and again during the college search is one's ideal location. Are you searching for a leafy campus nestled in the mountains or do you picture yourself surrounded by tall buildings in every direction? After living in rural New Hampshire for one year, I can confirm that choosing Dartmouth over city schools was one of the best decisions I made! If I were home, I'd be attending a large commuter school in Barcelona, going back to my parents' house every evening. I find it hard to see myself doing that now because my university experience has become the complete opposite - I'm half away across the world, in Hanover, NH. However, I don't wanna give out the wrong message. It's not that I would have hated the city lifestyle, but rather that I knew four years in an outdoor setting would have endless benefits. Although you might not buy this hype for rural schools just yet, I'm hoping I can do some more convincing by challenging the misconceptions you have about this kind of location!

Three college friends
When it's warm, I love to paddleboard with my friends along the Connecticut River. Being in water is so therapeutic!

When I was still debating between different schools, Dartmouth's outdoorsy opportunities and the stunning scenery near Hanover were not the deciding factors that brought me here since I had never hiked before. But some basic research reassured me that a good number of Dartmouth's activities require little to no prior experience. Be it beginner-level mountain biking, climbing, or sailing, there's a space for everyone in the Outing Club, also known as the DOC! That became even clearer to me the very first week I was on campus when I got introduced to First-Year Trips. 

Trip leaders and tripees
Many Tripees on my First-Year Trip were also inexperienced hikers! And guess what? We all had a great time!

All incoming first-year students are invited to participate in a 4-day outdoor experience that's divided up into small groups of around 8 freshmen (or tripees, in Dartmouth lingo). Two upperclassmen lead each trip (think farming, rod fishing, or even yoga!), and they make sure everyone can thrive in the outdoors. For every intense moment you face ascending a mountain, there's also a super heartwarming experience that's not physically demanding. For instance, my tripees and I roasted marshmallows around a firepit as we looked up into a sky full of stars, a sight I doubt I'd get in my hometown. Despite my city core, Dartmouth helps me feel really well-rested. I'm so lucky that I can access scenic nature spots that are just minutes away from campus. 

First-Year Trips aside, the DOC works hard to organize cool stuff year-round. I've just logged into Trailhead, which is the online system that students use to register for upcoming trips. A quick browse through the site already gives me plenty of options to make the most of the outdoors, regardless of my background. There's a 2-hour bird watching tour, a dinner at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge (a Dartmouth-owned cabin that serves delicious food), and a Saturday day trip to Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory! I'm sure something on this list already caught your eye, even if you're from the city. 

Nature, trees
Pine Park, just 10 minutes away from campus, is an amazing stargazing location!

Whether the event is scheduled at the crack of dawn or in broad daylight, there will always be some activity that matches your interests. None of the ones I listed above are even remotely related to hiking. There's so much more to the outdoors than walking in the woods. While you might not be familiar with some of the offerings, I don't think that should deter you from applying to Dartmouth. I hear you, trust me. I was in the same position one year ago, not quite knowing what I was getting into. But after signing up for more than five trips on Trailhead in the past year, I can promise you the outdoors is so much fun. I say give nature-y schools a shot!

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