To Prospective International '27s
[Pictured above: The BEMA Lights (read up on it!) My favorite thing this past term... and it could be yours too :)]
Wow. It's probably been a hectic whirlwind of a few months. You're applying to go to school in a country that you might have never been to, in a campus located somewhere you've only heard of, fulfilling dreams that until yesterday seemed so unlikely. You've spent hours converting things like school percentages into GPAs and understanding how your education and extracurriculars fit into the American schooling system—how you "rank" on this global list of students from around the world.
And now, decision day is (almost) upon you. That was me one year ago. Scared, nervous, excited, a little lost, but deeply faithful that my hard work would pay off. When I got into Dartmouth, I felt a rush of emotions—ecstasy, joy, and yes…a tiny bit of fear. Was the best place to assimilate as an international student in the middle of nowhere? Was I going to be an outsider perennially?
Considering that Dartmouth has just a little over 4,000 undergraduates, would I be better off in a 'bigger school' somewhere else in the US? Let me answer all those questions with a thumping response: yes, no, and oh my god, NO.
Dartmouth is a world-class institution that boasts of a diverse range of voices, stories, nationalities, and experiences. The fact that you are going to be one of just over a thousand freshmen is a gift: one that no big school can give you. Here, you're not just a demographic. You're not just a rank. You're not just a statistic—you are a human being with stories to tell.
If COVID taught us anything, it's that isolation enriches storytelling. Dartmouth is a clear example of that rule. I cannot tell you the number of times someone has asked me what life in India is like? My friends and I, on our weekly cooking nights, watch movies from all over the world while attempting to be chefs: one particularly special night, we watched my favorite Bollywood movie while making pizzas with my friend from Italy, and drooling over thoughts of Culver's with my friend from Wisconsin.
This global outlook couldn't have come from any other place: I'm sure of it. This level of rich experience and interaction with so many heritages, cultures, and stories is unique to Dartmouth, and is interwoven into its social fabric. Just last week, my friend was cooking up some paellas while cleaning up another friend's dim-sum catastrophe in the kitchen. You won't find this blend of cultures anywhere else.
In isolation, though, homesickness is very real—especially if you're thousands of miles (or kilometres for all my readers on the metric system, like me!) from a place you call home. Lucky for you (and for me throughout freshman fall), there is a community of close students, both domestic and international, from 30 miles to 7,000 miles, that share your feelings and want to help you feel better.
I feel like the best way to talk about my experience is to tell you this: at Dartmouth, I've never felt like an international student. I've just been a student with my own unique identity. I've never been put into a box, which pre-determines the friends I can make, the circles I can interact in, or the autonomy I can exercise.
That is the international student Dartmouth experience. Scratch that: that is the Dartmouth experience.
I look forward to seeing you in the fall! :)
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