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Before we became Dartmouth students, the Class of 2023 were members of communities that spanned the globe. While Dartmouth alum are bound by the commonality of collegiate experience, we enter college deeply connected to our roots. 

For example, at home, I don't consider myself much of a Seattleite. Only a few years new to the vibrant city, my steps upon the rainbow crossroads (truly!) are quiet ones. Never the hot-blooded Seattleite garbed in green and blue, I tend to wave a feeble "not tourist" flag to preserve my citizenship. Perhaps that sounds familiar to some of you as well. 

Even as I tried to find my place in Seattle, I wasn't blind to its flaws. I'm sure none of us ignore the shortcomings of our hometowns. In my city, high homelessness rates, growing disparities between haves and have-nots, and various social conundrums are a consistent reminder of the flaws surrounding us as I try to pursue my academic dreams. Asking "how do I help?" led me to Dartmouth. 

Dartmouth provides an idyllic setting in which to explore the world and our place within it. I hadn't expected to grow fonder of my city while studying in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. And yet, that is exactly what happened. I went from a timid city-goer to proud Seattleite in the space of a single week (orientation week, to be exact.) Suddenly I could not say enough good about Seattle, thinking about the endless sunrises and sunsets, the smell of rain, the neatness of city blocks and dim, coffee-scented streets on a foggy morning. Becoming a '23 finally confirmed my status as a member of my hometown. Just as I suspect it did for some of my classmates and might for you as well.

I think that's one of the most beautiful benefits of attending college in general and Dartmouth in particular: it offers a new perspective with which to regard our lives. College affirms our place within our communities outside of Hanover. 

I suppose it's as they say—absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. And time makes one wiser (which is great, because I need about another century before I feel confident enough to raise my hand in math class!).

When I returned home for winter break, it was as a fonder and wiser community member. More committed to the city—my "hometown," as it had become on countless nametags—and more sensible about my place within it. 

I remain open-eyed about the flaws of my home, as many of us do. But this is one of the clearest demonstrations of the "Dartmouth difference:" Dartmouth never teaches its students to look away from problems. Rather, it teaches us to solve them. 

Though I have only a single term of experience under my belt, I'm beginning to adopt this mindset. And to regard problems not as obstructions to progress but catalysts for positive change. 

Regardless of where we come from, I'm sure most '23s can agree that attending Dartmouth offers a new sense of perspective we tuck into our suitcases or send across telephone wires. Whether it's a new drive to problem solve, the knowledge of strong support in our endeavors, or even the sight of a bright green hat upon our roads, by attending Dartmouth we allow it to shape, in small, positive ways, the world far outside of Hanover. 

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