Recap of My Fall "Off-Term"
The Dartmouth D-plan consists of four quarters throughout the academic year – fall, winter, spring, and summer. With some exceptions, you can mold your D-plan to fit your individual needs. During my first year, I took the summer off, and I participated in an internship in a scientific laboratory. Although this was an amazing experience for me in terms of career growth and maturity, a part of me wished I had more time to explore my interests and figure more out about who I am. That's what I've tried my best to accomplish this fall term. Instead of focusing on the next checkbox to mark off for my resume, I decided to lay low, do a bit of research, spend time with family, and travel. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made at Dartmouth.
Something this off-term has given me has been the time to introspect and think about my personal aspirations as well as my career prospects. I've had time to read some books that I've been wanting to read for a while now. I've had time to take up cooking as a hobby rather than swiping in at Foco (our dining hall) as an afterthought. Don't get me wrong, it's amazing to be able to just swipe a card and eat as much as I want, but there's something relaxing about taking the time to make a meal which gives me a sense of control. That's something I've figured out while on my off-term, and I haven't had the time to explore those hidden interests in a few years.
Taking the time to introspect and think about your career pursuits is more important than padding a resume. I've been trying to think of a way to explain my academic / career mindset since I've gotten to Dartmouth, and I think I've finally figured out a good metaphor. For the past couple of years, my mental energy and drive have been all over the place. I think of my brain beaming out light that sprays in all directions. It's bright and plentiful, but it's not focused; it's scattered and misplaced. Lately, I've been figuring out ways to take a magnifying glass to this light to focus it on a particular point instead of it spilling over everything. These concentrated beams of mental energy have helped me focus, contemplate, and improve my mental health.
This fall term has been a necessary component of my undergraduate career. It takes maturity to take a break from the very thing that has given my life meaning for the past several years. My love for academics and career advancement will always be a part of who I am, but it shouldn't be all of who I am.
At the end of the day, I'm a 21 year old who loves to fish, play golf, coin collect, and generally enjoy time with my closest friends. During this off-term, I've had more time to do those things all while making time to think about my future career and what I want it to entail. Be careful when you assign most of your self-worth to your academics, grades, test scores, etc. This stress doesn't stop in high school, and it can follow you your entire life if you let it. Take a break, breathe, and figure out who you are. I promise it's worth it!