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Gabriel and friends at the river

Almost a year since my last time on campus, I was able to return to campus for the winter term along with a bunch of my friends. While on campus, I've been able to study in some of my favorite spots again, eat from my favorite Hanover restaurants, and take total advantage of the winter weather in order to finally learn how to ski. These were all such essential Dartmouth things that I'd forgotten how much they factor into what I think of as my college experience, but the fact that this winter term happened in the context of a global pandemic meant that I got to re-contextualize a lot of the little things and focus on them -- more often than not, it's the little stuff that brings the best vibes.

This term was definitely different than those that made up my first year at Dartmouth. With social distancing guidelines, a lot of the indoor spaces on campus became much less populated, which made for some amazingly quiet spaces for studying. I didn't have the Courtyard Cafe (which we informally refer to as "the Hop") as a dining hall, but all of my favorite items from the Hop made a re-appearance as part of the late night experience in the Class of 1953 Commons (or Foco for short -- late night is a meal period after dinner where Dartmouth Dining pulls out a bunch of comfort food and late night-oriented food items, which is amazing if you've been studying all night!). I couldn't get together with all of my friends indoors, so instead we'd go into the outdoors, on walks around our pretty little campus or into town to get boba (a new place opened since the last time I was in Hanover, which honestly is incredible and I can't recommend enough...). COVID-19 has us rethink the best way to enjoy our time together at college, and honestly I'd say we matched the energy pretty 1:1.

Winter reminded me that how and where you spend your time really, really matters. I learned that lesson in high school and dedicated myself to the things I loved and could never be overwhelmed because even when things piled up, I was doing what I truly wanted to do. As with many things, being at college really encouraged to try different experiences and engage myself as much as possible, and that's a fantastic way to do college. But it becomes really important as you find yourself gravitating towards different things to consider how best to budget your own energy. With all of the ramifications of the pandemic and with being on campus again, I made the conscious decision to spend my energy on the things that I knew I could manage from my dorm room and involved myself with activities that I trusted wouldn't leave me tooexhausted. I won't lie -- skiing requires some exertion -- but it's all about finding that balance, and winter term re-taught me how to find it.

Picture of Baker during sunset
I pass this beautiful building on my way to breakfast and coffee everyday, can you imagine a better backdrop for (Zoom) college?

Additionally, the best part about college really couldn't be more about finding a solid friend group for me, and I'm again thankful to Dartmouth and the Native American Program for fostering such a strong Indigenous community on campus. A lot of us were able to return to campus, which meant that my friends and I got to meet a ton of the first-years (the '24s!) that we would've seen in the fall term under normal circumstances. When I saw a bunch of friends I guess I hadn't seen (outside of Zoom) for almost a year, it almost felt like I'd seen them just yesterday, which really does speak to how many amazing relationships you'll make at Dartmouth when you're involved in communities close to home. Even with a campus changed in order to keep us all as healthy as possible, my favorite communities have kept up through digital programming, guest speakers, and group study sessions, and it's gone a long way.

I suppose my biggest realization going forward, since my college career now feels like it's on double speed, is to try to focus on the little moments and the lowkey aspects of college life that are totally easy to ignore. Can't recommend taking steps to ensure you're preserving your energy during unpredictable circumstances enough! I hope that this post helps demonstrate the kind of attitude that's carried me through my second winter as a Dartmouth student, and can definitely be helpful for those of y'all stressing about college acceptances coming up. As decision day gets closer, and as you begin the process of choosing your own college, know that finding joy in the small things can be such a comfort, especially now. Wish you guys the absolute best, stay healthy, and I'll see you all soon!

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