Learning Beyond the Classroom: Dartmouth Edition
A part of me still doesn't want to believe I'm starting my second year of college here at Dartmouth, but it's true. It's here, it's happening, and it's time to rock and roll! Throughout my first year, I found myself in a transitional phase from my younger years into who I will become as an adult – the values I hold closest, my outlook on life, my friends, etc. There are countless events that helped shape me over the course of my first year. Instead of trying to tell a lengthy story of the pivotal moments from my first year, trying to remember fuzzy details and dialogue, I'd like to talk about my genuine experiences and how I feel that I've changed over the past year. I know my experiences won't fit everyone else's, and that's a good thing. I hope you can gauge what this transitional period may look like for you using me as a case study.
One of the first things that infatuated me was the nature around campus – a big reason I was so attracted to Dartmouth! The way the breeze made me feel on a cool autumn's day or the way the sun shined on the pine trees surrounding campus was therapeutic. This was my "release" from campus when things got a little overwhelming. I think finding this release is something crucial to finding your happiness. Whether it be going for a run, playing a video game, doing a puzzle, eating dinner with friends, etc., find what your release is – it's essential!
The earliest lesson I was taught here came almost exclusively within my own psyche. I'm from the heart of the southern U.S., a small town in rural Missouri where we dress a little different and talk a little bit funny. When I first came to campus, I tried to change this. What I thought were imperfections turned out to be what makes me individualistic. You're not meant to fit the style of those around you. You're not meant to copy others' mannerisms because you think they're "correct." You're certainly not supposed to lose who you are pretending to be somebody else. I suggest you skip this phase. You are an awesome person, so let your unique personality shine through!
Through many of the conversations I've had with friends over the past several months, it's clear that people want to form their friend groups early on. They want that sense of comfort – the feeling that you can have someone to rely on day or night, 24/7. This was huge for me. In high school, my two best friends had my back no matter what. I sure miss them! So, I tried super hard to find my friend group as early as possible. From my experience, this isn't a task that you can simply "check off." Instead, your friend group will slowly form over time, and you will see who those core people are. It's hard to be patient with something like this, but it will happen. Put yourself out there, and life will do the rest!
From my perspective, one of the most important things you can accomplish in your first year of college is gaining a better understanding of who you are. I know this sounds a little vague now, but it will make sense. College will bring out your mental toughness, insecurities, belly-laughs, tears, and beyond. This is a bit scary, but that's a good thing! This is life, and life is about to happen to you; it's wonderful! My "advice" here is to get good at introspecting. When you come across new ideas, don't be rigid to them, but don't let them control who you are. Don't lose individuality, but don't be closed off. To put it best I can, frequently evaluate yourself and what your values are. This will change, and as long as it's in the positive direction, you're golden!
Advice on more academic-related endeavors requires a blog post in and of itself, so be on the lookout for that. For now, understand that beginning college is a lot more than merely preparing you for a future career. College is preparing you for life itself! Through the experiences you'll have, the friends you will make, and the memories you'll remember, you will find out a lot about yourself. I'm truly grateful to say this coming from the Dartmouth experience. I've felt supported and loved since I've got here, and there are so many people to thank for that. What can I say? I'm blessed!