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Gabriel Gilbert's friends sitting on Wright Mountain, VT

The last time I was able to witness the leaves begin their sudden shift to hues of red, orange, yellow, I was a bright-eyed First-Year consulting a digital map of campus to find my classes. Now, in only my second time ever in the Upper Valley for college, I am a whole junior -- allegedly an upperclassman -- expected to dispense wisdom and act like I know what I'm doing. No, I don't need a map to find my classes anymore, but when I tell you that it feels like I jumped into a portal at the start of the pandemic and only just emerged, I mean it. Junior year who?

This fall, Dartmouth College made the transition to in-person classes for the first time in a long time. After a beautiful, peaceful sophomore summer with predominantly virtual and some in-person classes, this fall is actively allowing all of us on campus to engage in the familiar-and-yet-oh-so-distant exercise of in-person class. We are in a classroom, with classmates (lacking those nametags at the bottom right corner of their Zoom screen, no less), and with a professor. It's finally feeling like college again, and from my writing this at the dawn of Week 2, it feels good.

The time I've spent as a Dartmouth student during the pandemic feels a lot like a fever dream in retrospect, though one that my friends and I have lots of fond memories about and I think, at least in my case, became quite attached to experiencing. The tumult of breakout rooms, the laughs with unfortunate technical difficulties mid-answers, the convenience of attending class from our rooms in pajamas: till now, that's constituted our college experience. To be able to step into the classroom again and interact with each other, even while masked (when indoors), has been priceless and I do enjoy the simple task of waking up in the morning and walking to class. Between classes, I get to say hi to my friends en route to a lecture or between linguistics and French, and it's just that day-to-day vibe of college life that was so sorely missed.

When I'm not in class, my friends and I find ways to time-travel aside from that pandemic portal I mentioned. Just the other day, we made a short drive into Vermont to go on a simple hike, where fall is just beginning to overtake the trees. It is such a beautiful sight and is brimming with nostalgia for those of us that haven't seen fall since our literal freshman year. To be honest, it's been so exciting that I've forgotten to take pictures, so you'll have to hear the story about a little hike my friends and I made to achieve that picture of this post next time. I'll remember to take more pictures, I promise.

I'm so excited to engage with all of the different experiences now offered by our return to a familiar normalcy so sorely missed. In the meantime, stay healthy and stay tuned for mine and my wonderful fellow bloggers' journeys this fall term!

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