Pleasing red wall with yellow leaves
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Summer at Occom

As my first year at college draws to a close and I settle back home after exhausting 19-hour flights home, it feels surreal—almost as though I had just moved into my dorm room yesterday. Time has flown by; I've met countless new faces, experienced a myriad of activities, and before I knew it, my freshman year had slipped away. In this post, I'm excited to share four snapshots taken from the same spot on campus during different seasons of my freshman year, each marking a distinct chapter of my journey.

Assigned to the Choates, one of the first year dorms, during my first year, I cherished the convenience of living next to the scenic Occom Pond. Whether it was jogging along its banks or taking leisurely walks on Friday afternoons after my last class, Occom Pond has been a silent witness to my personal growth, storing my thoughts and memories. In return, I've captured its beauty through my lens, documenting the changing seasons at this cherished spot throughout the year. 

summer at Occom
Summer at Occom. Picture taken on 08/28/2023

I snapped this photo on the day I moved into my dorm, marking the start of a whirlwind few weeks. Between international student orientation, First Year Trips, course selection, and club fairs, the pace was very fast. These initial weeks flew by in a blur, filled with the thrill of meeting new people and exploring the campus, coupled with the newness of settling down (unpacking, purchasing my phone card, opening a bank account, and actually taking care of myself in a new country...) Adapting to an entirely new environment brought a mix of emotions—joy, excitement, and the occasional wave of homesickness. Overall, it was an exhilarating start, bursting with new friendships, endless excitement, and a deep sense of discovery amidst the whirlwind of activities.

Fall at Occom
Fall at Occom. Picture taken on 10/28/2023

The fall foliages witnessed my initial tries of finding my place in this campus. Attending the educational sessions to one of the most popular clubs on campus (which I eventually joined and quite enjoyed), going to some Dartmouth Outing Club events (wishing I signed up for more), and thriving with Dartmouth's quarter system (weekday late night library sessions). The autumn leaves also saw me find my footing—engaging with new faces, writing multiple different versions of my D-Plan as I was trying to figure out what should I major in.

Winter at Occom
Winter at Occom. Picture taken on 02/04/2024

The cold winter forged a tight-knit community in the woods. Whether it was making more friends through my Computer Science I class or actually getting close with my floormates as we take classes together, or spending a weekend in Boston and cooking together with Chinese first years as we celebrate the Chinese New Year together, it was in winter that the seeds of friendships sprouted in autumn truly flourished. While the early sunsets and the snow held me back from signing up for more DOC trips, I got the chance to enjoy some intellectual pleasure that I have always longed for -- attending lectures organized by the Political Economy Project, listening to panel talks with our Montgomery fellow Atifete Jahjaga (the first woman, president of the Republic of Kosovo), or going to Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies workshops. 

Spring at Occom
Spring at Occom. Picture taken on 05/21/2024

After two terms, I adapted to the quarter system, and by the spring term, I was ready to tackle more challenging classes and savor the intellectual stimulation they offered—though not without facing challenges. I also learned to lead a more balanced college life: whether it was visiting Dartmouth's organic farm before my morning class, embarking on a 10-hour offshore fishing adventure, spending cabin nights with friends on weekends, or appreciating my friends' performances at concerts, I have gradually found ways to carve out time to enjoy life amid my busy schedule.

Spring term was also overwhelming and not without regret -- overwhelmed by things happening on campus, by the realization that my first year was drawing to a close and the impending decisions about majors and careers, overwhelmed by the too many goodbyes I have to say to my graduating friends and exchange students, and regretting not working hard enough to seize every opportunity that Dartmouth offers. Well, perhaps these reflections are not just regrets but stepping stones for the year ahead, and I shall invite you to my journey ahead as I embrace future opportunities!

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