Thriving in Ambiguity
If I had a nickel for every time someone said we are in "unprecedented times"...
Uncertainty is something that I've had to grapple with over the few months. As a type-A person with some obsessive-compulsive tendencies, this hasn't come easily. But does thriving in ambiguity really come easily to anyone? I've found that at Dartmouth, my peers, just like me, take comfort in their well-organized Excel documents, update their iCalenders to reflect even the smallest events in their lives, and take great care when making the most inconsequential decisions. With COVID-19, all of us have been forced to put aside our meticulous plans and simply bask in the question "what comes next?"
I'm not completely sure what the future will hold, but what I do know is that in three weeks, I'll be finishing up my Dartmouth Center for Social Impact sponsored summer internship with Philabundance, a food bank in Philadelphia. Then in early September, I'll get on a flight across the world to the US, saying goodbye to my island home of Singapore for the foreseeable future. With a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine for all travelers into Singapore, coming back for the holidays may not make sense financially or timewise, so at the moment, I've got a one-way ticket to the Boston Logan Airport.
I'll be spending the Fall term living off-campus with a couple of other international students on the rowing team. It will be wonderful to get back on the beautiful Connecticut to train, though the Ivy League has yet to make a decision regarding the status of spring competitions. The man-made Pandan Reservoir I row on in Singapore is certainly industrial, and although it has its charm, there is nothing quite like the waters we get to row on at Dartmouth. My team isn't sure exactly what kind of competitions we are training for, but we chug forward regardless. Right now we are training for a "virtual" 10k on September 21st!
As I write this article, course selection for Fall hasn't taken place yet, but I'm hoping to take Chinese 4: Advanced First-Year Chinese (a one-term answer to my language requirement), Government 3: American Politics (an introductory course for my government major), and History 29: Civil Rights in the US in the 20th Century (a higher-level course that will not only get me a US credit for my history major but also has significant cultural relevance). My internship has been wonderful, but I'm ready to get back to learning in a "virtual" classroom once again.
Like so many other college students at Dartmouth and across America, I'm not sure what the dawn of 2021 will bring. I'll likely take an "off" term during either Winter or Spring term, using the time away from classes to find an internship in policy work. Who knows. I'm still learning to embrace the uncertainty of all that lies ahead. It's scary not knowing what the future holds, but we truly are all wading through this mucky time together. As a society, we are learning to hit pause on our plans. Learning to thrive in ambiguity. This is a skill that, going forward, will fundamentally change our capacity to take on challenges.
24s, you are facing a first year in college that will look very different from the ones that previous Dartmouth students have experienced, but know we are all here, rooting for you as you make your way through this crazy year. Take it one term at a time, and try not to stress too much about the uncertainty that lies ahead. We upperclassmen have a lot of the same questions you have. None of us know exactly what life will look like one, two, or even sixth months from now. But that's ok.
Potential 25s, 26s, and (maybe even!) 27s, as you navigate a college admissions process that may look different from the kind that I went through back in 2018, know that you've got lots of people rooting for you. You may be taking your SATs and ACTs in socially distanced classrooms, be interviewed online instead of at your local coffee shop, or apply to colleges you never toured. I speak on behalf of the Dartmouth community when I say that we are so proud of you. Don't be afraid to reach out to your Dartmouth admissions officer for help. Take these semesters of high school one at a time. And know, that at the end of this whole crazy admissions process, it will have been worth it.