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Homecoming Freshman Parade

If you were to ask any random student at Dartmouth what their favorite part of the school is, I'd bet that they would say the people. As cliché as this may sound, this truly is the case!

Coming to Dartmouth, I asked this question to many students here. Whenever they answered this way, I found myself somewhat disappointed in hearing this answer because it was so common and I really had no idea what they meant. What did it mean if the people of Dartmouth were the best part of their school experience?

As a junior, I think I've finally begun to really understand this sentiment. The connections that one makes at Dartmouth are unparalleled to ones that you can find anywhere else. All the components of our school that make it unique—residing in the rural Upper Valley, being so undergraduate-focused, and having such an inclusive social life/culture—contribute to this. In this post, I'll give three examples of the communities and connections that I've been able to make at Dartmouth thus far (even with COVID!)

  1. Connections through shared interests.

I believe that this is the fastest and easiest way to make new friends. From my dance group to spiritual life or even career aspirations, I've been able to find support networks all across campus. It is ridiculously easy to meet new people on campus and I have frequently gotten close to new people each term while at other schools, there may be fewer chances to do so following freshman year.

Dance Practice
One of my primary social spaces / communities on campus is my dance group. We recently got a whole new class of "babies," and it has been so fun watching them grow and come out of their shell!

The first few weeks of the term are a certified blitzkrieg, as clubs send out blitzes (Dartmouth slang for emails) to all of campus to encourage attendance. I myself have gone to new clubs or events completely alone because of a blitz. While there, I often run into old friends or strike up a conversation with a new one. The opportunities are truly abundant here to try something new and make connections with those doing the same thing.

Some of my closest friends here are those I met through student organizations—working together towards a common goal is extremely rewarding and something I love about these types of relationships.

  1. Connections through shared tradition and culture of mentorship

Coming in as a freshman, I still remember the 20s (the graduating senior class that year) in these groups reaching out to get a meal with me, talking through concerns I had, and generally putting time into me and my growth. I was so surprised that they were so willing and excited to take care of me and my friends even when they had their own busy lives to take care of. 

Homecoming Fire
Dartmouth traditions are some of the most fun parts of the school. The Homecoming Bonfire happens each fall and often serves as the real "initiation" of the freshman class into the Dartmouth community. Students from other class years gather around the fire to heckle and cheer at freshmen as they do the lap.

Now as an upperclass student, I find myself doing the same for the '25s and '24s. Whether they be fellow peers I meet in class, those I tutor, or random students I encounter, I am always looking to make sure that they are having a good term and are keeping afloat. In many ways, I think my interest in seeing younger classes succeed comes from this sort of shared culture that upperclassmen had instilled in me.

At Dartmouth, we take care of each other and help instill a culture of compassion and inclusion. I was taught how to do that as a freshman and now I am passing on my experiences to others. The people here are really the ones that make up the Dartmouth collegiate experience, and I am so grateful to be a part of such a welcoming community.

  1. Connections with graduate students and professors

Dartmouth isn't all undergraduates! Many students have a wonderful relationship with their professors or graduate student TAs. Dartmouth professors are uniquely interested in bonding with their students and helping them achieve their goals. Numerous faculty that I've spoken to actually cite this as one of their primary reasons for teaching at Dartmouth over other schools. 

This term, for example, I started talking with a math professor about potential research. Upon sending an email, I received a reply within an hour and had an appointment scheduled to meet him. When I arrived, I was (understandably) nervous since this area is so new to me; the professor, whom I'd never met before, noticed immediately and calmed me down. He offered me some chocolates he kept in his office and reiterated his interest in helping Dartmouth students become successful and work through any trouble spots they may have, academically or otherwise.

My biology lab, which is taught by graduate TAs, has similarly understanding and caring individuals. Whenever my partner and I have questions, they hurry over and try their best to help us see what we're missing, asking us guiding questions and smiling when the light bulb finally lights up in our brains. My TAs in STEM courses have been instrumental in helping me grasp the material and feel like I am capable of doing well; the welcoming and collaborative (vs. competitive) atmosphere at Dartmouth is certainly a factor to include when trying to deduce why everyone is so willing to meet you where you are.

Making connections can seem like a daunting prospect to many students, especially since many of us grew up in similar environments our entire lives and haven't had to meet so many new people at once before. Thankfully, I've found Dartmouth to be one of the friendliest places I've ever been—and that's saying a lot, coming from the Midwest! Though the academics are certainly difficult and terms are extremely busy, people here make time for you and in turn, you make time for them.

The culture of care at this school is something that I learned even more about through COVID and makes me incredibly proud to be a Dartmouth student. I hope you have a similar opportunity to experience this as well.

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