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The Work-Life Balance at Dartmouth (And Things I've Found Helpful in the Pursuit of Not Spiraling)
Dartmouth is an Ivy. Those words echo across the States and around the world beyond as a stamp of quality assurance in the degrees and future prospects that people leave with. These assumptions are all true at Dartmouth – the academics are crazy good, the community is awesome, and people achieve extremely highly here. Behind the scenes, however, this comes with a lot of hard work and dedication. Luckily, Dartmouth is probably the best place in the world to be productive and relieve stress, but I wanted to make this post to quell any fears about the stress of being at an Ivy, and to talk about the habits and good practices I've picked up in my first three weeks on how to keep life fun and enjoyable while at college!
First of all, the elephant in the room is the quarter system. This is renowned for allowing a huge amount of academic and extracurricular flexibility, but also makes life at Dartmouth FAST (like, really fast, seriously I'm three weeks in like what??). Not to worry though, as at Dartmouth you'll only take on 3 courses per term most likely, and the range of courses available means that if you are strategic, you can spread your workload across many different disciplines and types of homework. I personally have found that even though I'm a STEM oriented person generally, varying my courses means I don't just have 3 problem sets (the kind of homework generally given in math or physics classes) due per week and that I can do a written paper, and maybe even a short quiz as well. Even though this equates to the same amount of time roughly, you'll find that not overloading just a single part of your brain with all of your homework makes a huge difference to how tired you feel by the end of the week.
Finding a good place to study isn't just important it's ESSENTIAL. Everyone starts by just going with their newfound friends to study wherever they prefer to… and every time without fail you end up chatting and getting nothing done! This is really fun, and I definitely promote spending time with friends, but also be sure to earmark some time to be productive and find people that you study really well with as well! There is no one universal place to study for everyone either, I personally love the East Reading Room, the Tower Room, and as a bonus outdoor place: on the grass outside Brown at the Choates (a grouping of first year dorm buildings).
The other thing I advocate is getting your work done as you get it. I'm going to be completely honest with you guys, I am a terrible procrastinator. I'm serious. It's bad. But what I've learnt is that if you split up your time between lessons (where you probably aren't doing much anyways) into a bit of study time, you can probably get a lot of your work done without eating into your personal time on an evening! Getting your work done as you get it also means you are more likely to have less work when it comes to the weekend, and you want to go swimming or watch a football game with your friends (you definitely don't want to miss out on those they're extremely fun activities).
This tip may upset all of your high school teachers and parents (so please look away from this paragraph if you fit either of those roles) but working late into the night is a perfectly reasonable and useful method for completing work. Dartmouth of course makes it easy to be productive any time, but the campus tends to be a late-shifted place, and the College makes studying into the night super accessible and comfortable to do! One of the most freeing parts of being at college is having full reign over how you spend your time, and as long as you are responsible you can certainly use that to your advantage. Baker Berry Library is open 24 hours per day, so you can study in there any time. Novack Café at Berry Library where you can use your meal swipe card and DBA (Dartmouth's credit system for cafes and eateries) is open on a late night until 12AM, and the residential snack bars don't shut until 2AM! Working until 3AM in principle sounds awful and a bad idea, but if you have no reason to be up before 11AM the next day, having all of that work done feels amazing. It means you can socialise, get ready for classes, and even get ahead on future homework! (Just don't stay up stupidly late if you have an 8AM class the next day, bad idea).
This tip is probably the most important one though – GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO CHILL AND SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS AND HIKE AND SEE DARTMOUTH AND EVEN JUST BE ALONE FOR A WHILE!! Dartmouth is a busy place with people always working or hanging out or doing SOMETHING. The best thing to figure out when you get here, is that everyone's body and mind need a rest every now and then and depriving yourself of that is only going to decrease the quality of your work and life. Spend time with friends just listening to music and joking in their dorms, go on hikes with the DOC, join a club, even just take a mental health day every once in a while, to recharge and not have to spend time doing anything! I have a personal rule that I take one day per week away from academics. I can still do other jobs like laundry or tidying my room or making that bank appointment I've been procrastinating for like 3 weeks, but I will NOT touch that problem set that is sitting on my laptop's screen. I also do a hike every week. I find it extremely helpful to get into the outdoors and escape for a day and do something physical without thought for a while. The DOC is probably my favourite part of Dartmouth, as they offer fully funded trips everyday hiking and doing similarly exciting stuff.
Overall, though, Dartmouth is the perfect place to be when it comes to workload, the people here are humbly brilliant and non-competitive, the academics are excellent but the professors understanding, and we exist in a beautiful haven of peace and tranquility here in the Upper Valley. If you need it, peace and quiet are but a 5-minute walk away, a friendly face is seen 5 times on a simple walk to 53 commons for food, and you have full autonomy over how you structure your course-load. I honestly found college super stressful and scary when classes started, but since being here for 3 weeks, there is no place I'd rather deal with the stresses and learning curves of college, than The College on the Hill.
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I reflect on Week 4 and the beauty of Dartmouth's many opportunities and resources. I discuss the amazing memories and bonds that I have created within the Dartmouth and Upper Valley communities!