Hello, fellow reader! My name is Love Tsai and I am now entering my second (!!) year at Dartmouth College. It's definitely hard to believe that a year has already gone by since I first matriculated at grand 'ole Dartmouth, but looking back, I definitely feel like I've grown and changed a lot. So—what's changed for me since this time last year? And what can you look forward to during your Dartmouth career?
1. I've decided on a (relatively) stable major and minor!
I was one of those students who came in with a list of 20 potential majors because I was interested in everything and couldn't yet distinguish among what I found personally interesting, what I wanted to spend my academic time and resources on, and what would be useful to me professionally after college. Through taking 10 different classes my freshman year, I was able to explore various departments from Quantitative Social Science (QSS) to Middle Eastern Studies, from Chemistry to the other STEM departments of Computer Science, Biology, and Math. Dartmouth allowed me to get a taste of what classes in each department looked like and what the academic environment, research, professional outcomes, and even potential mentorship opportunities would be through meeting professors, fellow students, and graduate TAs. From these resources, I was able to decide on a math major and a public policy minor, with a possible modification in computer science or philosophy for the math major and a concentration in health policy for the minor. If you're someone who feels like you have a lot of interests, you will have access to the same types of support, so don't fret! Dartmouth is uniquely positioned as a small school with an enormous network to let you try things out without too much stress and get a great education after you've declared.
2. While I've decided on a concentration, I'm still taking classes in other departments!
One thing I love about Dartmouth is the focus on a liberal arts education. While I have decided on a pretty strict path as a pre-med student with a major and a minor, I still find that I am able to design my course load so that I have classes from a variety of departments. This term, for example, I am taking classes in physics, engineering, math, and French. Instead of being shoe-horned into an academic discipline, I am able to engage in that "interdisciplinary" mindset that I've loved since forever. A particular strength about this is that I can actually draw connections from multiple fields and create a more complete picture and understanding of something. Your professors know this value, too, and actively try to engage your thinking by bringing in guest speakers, highlighting prompts for you to think about, and giving you readings and applications.
3. I've found student organizations that align with my values!
Dartmouth students aren't just about academics—we spend lots of time together in student organizations as well. There is an enormous amount of student clubs (more than you could ever want or take part in). From clubs as niche as Sports Analytics to massively popular clubs like Dartmouth Investment and Philanthropy Program (DIPP), there will always be something that meets your fancy—or you can create your own! Similar to my predicament with my major, I've always had a wide array of hobbies and struggled to divide my time because every activity seemed so interesting. Over time, I was actually able to find student organizations that align with my core interests and beliefs so that I wasn't forever running from place-to-place across campus. I am still "zooming" around all the time as a sophomore, but each and every organization now holds a specific place in my heart and the value that I get from both the experience and the group dynamic is unbeatable.
4. I've discovered more of my values!
On top of simply finding clubs that aligned with my values, I actually was able to re-discover and distill my passions and interests. In my first year, I've discovered more of myself, like how much I love explaining things empirically but also creatively. So while I spend a lot of my time analyzing things in class, I now make time to cultivate my artistic side through dance, art, music, and writing. I've identified that I feel a calling towards social impact and conversations around human life, connection, and spirituality. I've found that even though I think I am more of an introvert than an extrovert, nothing makes me feel better than spending time with friends, family, and loved ones. For most, college is the time when you really become an adult and being a Dartmouth student is so rewarding in that the environment is supportive and yet extremely dedicated and rigorous during this time in your life. Dartmouth will push you to define what you value and why, and it will be there when you have trouble finding the words to describe it.
5. I've gotten more adventurous!
I have, admittedly, never been too adventurous. Something about the risk, possibility of injury, and the "unknown" always made me feel uneasy about embarking on said adventures. However, I've noticed that I have gotten more easygoing and confident since being a Dartmouth student. Dartmouth has an uncanny knack for giving students almost a crash course in opening up once they enroll as freshmen (my crash course was Trips). This adventure is present in how I carry myself, what I feel comfortable pursuing, and what I enjoy doing. I take the lead in conversations now without as much hesitation as before, I love hikes and mountains, I ask for help readily, and I help others myself when I know I can. Dartmouth has taught me how to "take up more space" and how to be more adventurous and live life to the fullest. This, for me, started Day 1 and has never left. It's what pushed me to audition for a cappella and dance, what helped me approach professors, and what got me my first internship freshman summer. I'm still not there 100% though! Some of my future bucket list items include climbing Mt. Moosilauke, skiing on the Skiway during the winter, doing the ice cream challenge at the Ben and Jerry's factory, and singing in front of an audience. Do you have a Dartmouth bucket list?
So that's it! 5 things that have changed for me within the span of one year. A Dartmouth experience is truly something that is absolutely life-changing and I can't wait to see what this year has in store for us. À bientôt!