During my first French drill (you can learn more about drill here: another awesome blog post), my drill instructor said that everyone here has their quirks if you look hard enough. After just about a term here, I cannot express to you how true that is.
My favorite story about Dartmouth quirkiness comes from my own experience applying to Dartmouth. I'm sure that I'm not alone when I say that I was incredibly anxious during every step of the process. I was especially worried when interacting with my local admissions officer, Kevin. I remember spending about two hours writing him an email because I couldn't make his information session. Funnily enough, Kevin is also in charge of this blog so I stressed again when sending him a very detailed thank you email after my interview.
Once I got to campus, I happened to tell a few upperclassmen that Kevin was my boss. "Kevin? Kevin Donohue '21? I know Kevin!" Quickly, I learned that Kevin was not the scary man I thought he was. He was, in fact, the kindest, coolest guy and contra dance icon.
When I knew that Kevin was calling a contra dance at the Lodge (thanks to the contra dance Listserv that he also manages), I immediately texted my friends to see if they would come. Of course, they were in.
The process of eating a meal at the Lodge is a bit more complicated than other Dartmouth dining experiences. It's an hour away from campus, so there are a few different approaches you can take to get there. One option is to drive yourself. This is the option that I've taken every time, since my sister has a car up here (thanks, Bea!). If you drive yourself, you need to call and make a dinner reservation. Dinner is free no matter what for undergraduates, but they just need a clear idea of how many people are coming to dinner. The other option is to reserve a spot on a Dartmouth Outing Club van. It can sometimes be competitive to get a seat, but it's the best option if you don't have a car (which, by the way, is the case for all first-years without siblings with vehicles).
The way that I describe Lodge dinner to non-Dartmouth people is "upscale camp food." Each meal always has salad, fresh baked bread, soup, a main course, and dessert. In my opinion, the bread is the best part (apart from the instant hot chocolate). After every main course, the staff comes out and introduces themselves. The staff, also known as Lodj Croo, is made up of current and former students who spend an entire term living in the woods. It's really fun to meet all of them, especially once you recognize their faces from past dinners.
After introductions comes dessert and the activity of the night. Usually, the activity is something small like reading a poem or small pieces of trivia. This time, though, it was time to dance!
Contra dances are classic New England folk dances. All first-year students get a chance to try contra dancing during First-Year Trips, but not to the same extent as our dancing at the Lodge. We did three dances, all involving lots of spinning (and dizziness!). It was really exciting to dance with my friends to live music. I also loved dancing with other students and community members that I'd never met before. Kevin did a great job of calling the dances and we (mostly) did a great job of listening to his instructions.
My favorite part of the whole night was the very last dance we did. Another First-Year Trips tradition is learning the Salty Dog Rag dance. Kevin and the band surprised us all by playing the Salty Dog Rag live so we could all dance and sing along. If you're interested, you can watch the dance here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCrIKSIvTKI.
When it came time to drive back home, my heart was the fullest it's been yet here. I felt so much gratitude for my friends, Kevin (for letting me come here!), and the beautiful New England nature I get to explore every day.
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