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Looking Ahead to Winter Break

It feels like it was just a few weeks ago that I arrived on campus eager to start what promised to be an unusual (but nevertheless exciting) fall term. Fast forward two months and here I am writing my final blog post of the term — and I'm not exactly sure what I want to write about. (I've already covered a wide range of topics: from my personal experiences on Election Day to finding new ways to celebrate Halloween in the Upper Valley!) But, with Thanksgiving just past, I think I'll take this opportunity to blog about some of the things that I'm personally grateful for this year. 

I'm sure you've all heard a million times that we are living during "unprecedented" times, so I'll spare you a long discussion of everything that's different about this year: it's obvious that the ongoing pandemic has caused a great amount of disruption, and the end still isn't (quite) in sight. That said, even if you aren't able to gather with loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or any other holiday this year — it's important to use the holiday season as an opportunity to express gratitude for the people who continue to have a positive impact on your life. 

Hundreds of Dartmouth students residing on campus and off campus in the towns surrounding Hanover headed home a week ago. They traveled by car — others by plane — back to countless states and countries around the world. But one thing that they have in common is the experience of having successfully made it through a challenging term: a term that consisted of remote classes, a two-week-long quarantine period, awkward pauses on Zoom, and weekly COVID-19 testing. But despite those "hassles," I know that every student could find just as many things for which to be grateful: their friends and classmates who formed virtual study groups; faculty who held online office hours (even on the weekends!); and the success of every member of the Dartmouth community in preventing a COVID-19 outbreak in the Upper Valley.

I know that thousands more students at Dartmouth and at colleges across the country will likely have to go through another term of remote learning and social distancing once the winter break ends. But I'm inspired by my peers' ability to adhere to public health guidelines, thus ensuring that students here could have a "semi-residential" experience. In fact, part of the reason why I think that the term went by so quickly was that I (and most everyone else) was well-prepared to engage with others academically and socially in totally different ways. 

Despite the restrictions that have been placed on in-person gatherings, student organizations and clubs have found ways to host meetings over Zoom. And, as I've blogged about before, there are a still number of small student-led trips that are taking place this term outdoors (e.g., canoeing, hiking, day trips to the Organic Farm "O-Farm). Now that I have a better sense of what activities can safely take place during the pandemic, I'm looking forward to doing even more once the spring comes and it gets warmer out!

I can safely say that I won't forget many of the experiences that I've had over this fall term, which is rapidly coming to a close. Now, as most people's attention has turned to the upcoming holidays, I think we should express our gratitude for the people and experiences that have brought us pleasure even amidst a pandemic. So, as I prepare to leave campus in the coming days I know that I'll have many stories to share with my friends and family members back home. And while the fall term may have gone by faster than I thought it would, I know that I still have many more terms left to complete as a Dartmouth student. But before starting the winter term — I'm looking forward to a relaxing "winterim" break!

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