Freshman Year at Dartmouth: The First Adventure

Freshman year at Dartmouth College was a weird and wonderful learning experience, the kind that I could gush about for hours using yearbook-style platitudes (“…so many amazing memories and good times 2gether…”). The defining moments of that first year helped shape the next three years and, presumably, my life.

Let’s start at the very beginning – five minutes on campus and I was already surrounded by upperclassmen with rainbow hair and outfits like neon explosions, jittering with the excitement of welcoming another group of ‘12s (we go by class year at Dartmouth) to their DOC trips – pre-orientation wilderness jaunts designed to break any and all ice between you, the school, and your fellow freshmen. Over the next three days I learned silly dances, slept like a sardine under a tarp with nine other people, participated in giant mock battles with a foam sword, and played more camp games than I could count. What I did NOT do was shower – or have time to feel self-conscious. Boundaries were wiped away by circumstance, and I had already met my new best friend.

Fast forward: winter. I started volunteering with the Tucker Foundation Haven Homework Club, a group that staffed a homework club for kids who lived at the local homeless shelter. I learned pretty quickly that tutoring and mentoring can be… Boring. Embarrassing. Difficult. Exhausting. It took me weeks to actually connect with one of the kids; months to feel that my ratio of “helped a kid” to “hung around a kid while they ignored me” had tipped in the right direction. But I stuck with it, and ultimately it got easier, more fun, less frightening, and much more rewarding for both the children and me. (I eventually became chair of the program, and in later years was consistently chosen to be the Fairy Queen on the playground – a proud achievement.)

Spring semester saw me taking a science credit to fill a requirement – a geography class focused on New England. It was held in the basement of an out-of-the-way building, and going in, I expected very little from it. Turns out, it was pretty interesting. I bonded with my classmates over field trips to glacial deposits and to the top of Mount Washington, and venturing into the deepest depths of the library to dig up books on elm trees for a paper (while trying to track down the elusive college arborist) felt like an adventure. That course made me realize that I was adaptable – if I kept the right attitude, I could enjoy pretty much anything, from programming Excel (like I did at my first internship) to evaluating screenplays (at a film company senior year).

In conclusion: my first year at Dartmouth was fantastic for making friends, pushing boundaries, and learning about myself AND elm trees. May your freshman year be just as amazing!


By Katherine Kendig, Admissionado Senior Consultant

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