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Native Americans at Dartmouth (NAD) and People of Color in the Outdoors (POCO) get together for a paddling trip; canoes and a couple kayaks are present.

Something I've noticed in the three years I've called Dartmouth home is how so many of the ways we spend our time are based on fully embracing the seasons. When it's wintertime and super cold outside, Dartmouth students do the Polar Plunge and literally jump into a hole carved into the surface of a frozen Occom Pond. When the cold is just beginning to kick in towards the twilight of fall term, we build a massive bonfire on the Green to kick off Homecoming. And when it's summer? We go to the river.

I had the absolute pleasure of going on a little paddle with one of the Dartmouth Outing Club's (DOC) sub-clubs, known as People of Color in the Outdoors, or POCO for short. In a long-awaited crossover event between POCO and Natives At Dartmouth (NAD), we got together, rented a bunch of canoes and kayaks for free, and paddled to nearby Gilman Island. As a piece of land tended by the Ledyard Canoe Club (the same fine folks who rented us our canoes for this lovely paddle), it was the perfect place to disembark for some hard-earned lunch. 

Disembarked students on Gilman's Island get ready for a picnic!
Absolutely gorgeous day and perfect weather for an island picnic.

Not taking classes this summer but staying in the area means that I get to enjoy so many of the recreational activities the Upper Valley has to offer without midterms or group projects looming on the horizon. I also fully relish my weekends when I'm not working, making times like these outside with friends all the more fulfilling. It's incredible to have all of the infrastructure for a canoe trip readily available and completely free too—the only thing required on our ends for this trip was registration through Trailhead, a free platform used by the DOC for excursions of this kind, and the entire process took somewhere between two and three clicks. Accessibility on all fronts is a beautiful thing.

Over my time at Dartmouth, I've gotten to meet an incredible number of students from our neighboring institutions, and I can safely say that they're not having experiences like these. For someone like myself who felt ill at ease in the outdoors being crunchy before coming to Dartmouth, I can happily say that I've learned to really treasure the opportunities afforded to me by our more rural campus setting. I'm not going to lie, Dartmouth's seemingly massive passion for nature seems a lot more intimidating from outside of the club, but once you're in it as a Dartmouth student everything feels within arms reach. The fact that I can sign up for different excursions based on when works for me thanks to an ever-enriched array of available trips (usually advertised to all of campus via email!) means that I can stay in my comfort zone anytime and everytime. Nobody is telling me to pack a bag and hike the Appalachian Trail, but if I want to catch a ride to a nearby mountain for a slight hike and accompanying gorgeous sunset watch party, I can do that. If I want to jump into a late morning archery practice session on a range just across the street from the Dartmouth Organic Farm, I can do that too. 

Gabriel '23 and Alvin '23 on a canoe behind Raylen '24, Hope '20, and Montana '24.
Yes, the water always looks this good.

As you navigate your college search process, I encourage you to not only think of your immediate wants and needs and how each school provides those, but also about how much room there is for you to tread new horizons. I didn't originally choose Dartmouth because a crunchy side to life existed, but I've loved the fact that that's something always open to me and ready to be engaged with on a when-I-want basis. I knew even as a high schooler that I'll probably work in a city one day when I'm graduated and gone, but your undergrad years are a time to do those random things that your future self might be denied. I'm just here to say opportunities are everything, and are kind of the icing on the cake when your college is already amazing. Sincerely hope everyone's summer is going incredibly and can't wait till next time!

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