First, I'll explain who I am. I'm Nicholas Sugiarto, a '23 (freshman) from San Diego, California. Second, a quick disclaimer. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Prior to Dartmouth, I've never hiked, skied, or seen snow. So yeah, you could say that Dartmouth is quite a bit different from what I'm used to. You'll probably find me on campus lost. I have no sense of direction. Please help.
A class studying how Christian language has permeated into how we as a society talk about economics. I have virtually no interest in either field as a major, nor am I really religious, but the class is super fun! It challenges you to think in ways that aren't outstandingly obvious, but get more and more interesting if you're willing to put the time in to thinking about them. It's by no means your traditional class. At least in the high school I came from, the idea of dedicating an entire term to a topic as niche as this is unheard of. But honestly? That just makes it so much more fulfilling. Like most Dartmouth classes, there's a ton of freedom to explore topics that interest you. For my final term paper, since I'm a huge hip hop fan, I wrote about the religious and economic underpinnings of Kendrick Lamar's "How Much a Dollar Cost." Without diving too deep into the jargon, I argued that money according to Kendrick Lamar, is defined by Western capitalism heavily intertwined with American Prosperity Gospel; its true nature, on the other hand, is a form of spiritual exchange. I loved this class so much that I was able to take my professor out to breakfast (on Dartmouth's dime, of course. Quick college lesson, never, ever pay for food. Live life Aladdin style.).
For those that don't know, Writing 5 is a class that's mandated for all Freshman. It helps you adjust to college writing, research, all that good stuff. There's a ton of topics to choose from, ranging from the criminal justice system to how food affects your mind. I personally chose "Pursuit of Happiness" because, well, who doesn't want to be happy? This class was my first intro to what the Dartmouth academic experience is really about. It was a small class of only 16 strong where classes were discussion-based and the professor's door is always open. It goes without saying that the course was immensely interesting (is there really a way to make happiness boring?), and we studied a vast majority of topics from Aristotle to Voltaire to Biochemical research studies. I tell incoming students all the time that if you want to make the most of your Dartmouth experience, take classes that interest you and make what you do with those classes interesting too. There's nothing more painful than having to write a paper on a topic you find absolutely mind-numbingly dull. Given my fascination with stand up comedy, I focused on viewing comedy as a form of happiness, starting from comedy in relation to Camus's absurd, the higher prevalence of mental illness in comedians, and what kind of comedians deserve happiness. Honestly? Even though this class was technically "mandatory," I would have taken it regardless.
This is the class I'm currently taking, and it's by far my favorite. You couldn't tell by my posts, or my favorite classes I listed earlier, but I'm actually a huge STEM guy. I'm a biomedical engineering major for a reason, and Dartmouth classes really make STEM fun. They're also so easy a child could follow them. Literally. I'm using the computer science 1 curriculum to teach my little sister coding. At a slower pace of course. She's not THAT smart (yet). I've never tried coding before, but the task-based approach of the CS department really makes things interesting. So far, we've drawn a children's book/ logo, a chalkboard drawing (I drew the Kanye bear), and a retro pong game. There's something fun about solving puzzles for a grade, and even though the course is admittedly pretty challenging at times, it's so worth it.
Dartmouth's academics are known for being pretty hard due to the intense courses. Do you think you are still able to balance your workload while having fun?
This really is an age old question. Oftentimes it feels like we're told that college is just this constant battle between having the time of your life, and being successful in your classes.
So this will seem like a cop out answer at first, but bear with me.
Why not both?
Again, it seems like a cheap answer. Something that belongs on one of those tacky "love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life" coasters. But I hope what I'm about to say is a bit more nuanced than that.
Without fail, Dartmouth is a school that wholly believes in the phrase "work really hard, play really really hard."
Now, what I love about this school, and what I've touted about it time and time again is that people are passionate about what they do. People devote time and energy to things not because they're told to, but because they just think "hey, that seems cool" and then go do it. For example, just last term, I had the pleasure of meeting someone who built a Tuba flamethrower. I'm sorry. You seemed to have read that sentence a bit too fast. I just want to repeat what I just said.
I met a man who built a. Tuba. Flamethrower. So yeah. Dartmouth kids work hard.
But of course, no matter how much you love something, You run the risk of burnout. Devoting all your time and energy to a single project/ subject all the time is counterproductive. Unhealthy, really. And I'd like to think that Dartmouth acknowledges that, which is why we have such a vibrant student extracurricular culture here. There's a free gym if you want to stay active, club and intramural teams, etc. Plus a ton of extracurriculars. I'm talking about student newspapers, performance arts clubs for every experience level, etc. Even if clubs aren't for you, and you're not a fan of the Greek system, there's wholesome programming like rollerblading organized by a group called Collis After Dark. The point is, however you want to unwind, there's something for you.
So yeah, Dartmouth's academics are hard. Three terms in, and I can't quite say that I've adjusted to them yet. Don't get me wrong, I love all my classes! But it's the kind of relationship where I love it so much that I want to make sure it's good, you know? Still, devoting all that time and energy is tiring. For me, I recharge by spending times with friends, and just unwinding at my own extracurriculars. Though that might not be what's right for you. I am confident, however, that with as much as Dartmouth offers, you'll find the right way for you to decompress.
A lot of people are curious about how Dartmouth's location affects social life, but something else that I've come to realize is that because of Dartmouth's location, we have some really cool academic perks.
After talking with our new improv president for a while, we decided that we would do a Zoom show. Not only does performing allow me to share my comedy with my friends, it is just, in general, a great time!