Mar 102015

I’ve briefly talked about the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program in one of my other posts but it’s important to highlight again! I was able to do community service in Batey Libertad, Dominican Republic over spring break during my freshman year through the Tucker Foundation. I only paid $200 to contribute to the overall cost of the program, including airfare, ground transportation, food, and lodging! I would never have been able to afford to travel to the DR otherwise.

Dartmouth students with children from Batey Libertad

Dartmouth students with children from Batey Libertad

One thing I really like overall about the service trips through Dartmouth is their commitment to increasing consciousness and accountability. While no service is perfect, as you often have to find a balance in order to not establish a relationship of dependency, I feel that our group was more prepared to understand the socio-political context and implications of our presence in this part of the world.

In order to participate in an ASB, I had to apply and then be interviewed. Once accepted, we were had to attend a 2-hour seminar each week for the entire term (10 weeks) leading up to our service trip. During these sessions, we discussed articles and books that we had read previously that explained more about the social and political make-up of the Dominican Republic. This was the first time that I had been exposed to more conscious approaches to service, whereas in high school the emphasis was always placed on the simple fact that you go to an underserved area to “help.” The complexity of these situations were never addressed, so I was really grateful to realize the necessity of understanding the complexity of these situations before inserting myself and potentially doing more harm than good. That was the biggest take-away from the trip for me. It was also a fantastic way to learn more about a very different culture and history, as well as to broaden my perspective and scope on global politics.

There are both domestic and international Alternative Spring Break trips focusing on a wide range of social justice issues, so there’s likely a trip for you! A lot of my friends have gone on the Faith in Action in Washington, D.C. and the Urban Indian Experience in Denver, CO trips, for example.  Check out the ASB website to learn more about what other opportunities are available!

Mar 052015

As finals approach at Dartmouth College and my sophomore winter comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to look forward to spring break! Last year, I used my spring break exactly how I wanted to: I slept and caught up with high school friends. Don’t get me wrong, volunteering and traveling during spring break is a great idea, but after such a vigorous academic term, all I wanted to do was sleep last year. And there is no shame in that! It is a great opportunity to recharge and relax so that you can come back for spring term well rested!

This year, I am going to have a much shorter break than usual: about 5 days. But don’t feel sorry for me because on March 21st I will be flying to Morocco for my study abroad! Over my one week break I plan on sleeping, packing, shopping and spending time with my family. One of the greatest things about the Dartmouth Plan (D-Plan) is that you get so many opportunities to travel, whether it be for a study abroad program or for an internship. However, that also means being away from home, so I will definitely be maximizing the cuddle sessions with my sister and catching up with my extended family while I get the chance.

If you have a spring break coming up I suggest you evaluate what you need. Are you bored? Travel. Do you want to explore new areas of interest? Volunteer at an organization or shadow a professional. Are you tired? Then sleep! Whatever you do, make sure that you are indulging yourself and taking advantage of your little vacation!

At this point, I’m going to say my goodbyes temporarily. Between finals, spring break and Morocco, it may be a while before I post on here again. But do not fret, I won’t be able to resist posting my Moroccan selflies! So look out for those! Until then, keep doing well in school and doing yoga to calm your nerves.


Nicole C.

Spring Breakers

 Posted by at 11:38 am  No Responses »
Mar 032015

If you’ve been following this blog you’ve might have noticed how often I say I’m from Los Angeles. I talk about it so much because I’m so proud. However, it can often be difficult to travel between Hanover and Los Angeles. As much as I would love to visit several times throughout the year, it’s such a long journey. Though I’ve pretty much tried to visit home during Spring Break (because who wouldn’t want to visit LA during spring break?!), I’ve tried to take advantage of alternative spring break trips offered by Dartmouth.

My sophomore year I went on a spring break trip to Houston, TX to speak to (mostly) middle and high school students about the importance of college, my experiences as a first generation college student, any obstacles I faced, and to answer any questions they had. It was important for me to be able to offer myself as a resource and share my perspective on higher education.

Since my ultimate goal revolves around working in education and education policy, this was a great trip! I was able to visit Texas and get to talk to students about the importance of education. Awesome!

The best part was being able to volunteer as a tutor during some after school programs. It really allowed me to engage with the students rather than speaking from an presenter point of view. I wanted the students to feel comfortable enough to ask me whatever they had on their minds.

I know people will be posting throughout the week about really cool stuff they’ve done during their spring breaks here at Dartmouth. So stay tuned as we talk about past experiences, as well as future ones with the term nearing its end!

Mar 022015

So I have a handful of beloved professors at Dartmouth. On the list are Vera Palmer and Colin Calloway, both from Native American Studies (NAS). I’ve already talked about my experience with NAS in previous posts so I’m going to try to branch out a little this time.

That leaves me with one of the coolest (and sassiest) profs around: Jason Houle.

I took Professor Houle’s Quantitative Analysis of Social Data (SOCY 10) in the Sociology department last term. This was hands down one of my favorite classes at Dartmouth. I’m probably a little biased because I really like math and critical thinking but I truly felt so engaged throughout the entire 10-week course.

He wasn’t afraid to lightly poke fun at the students in our class, incorporating various facts about Dartmouth into the class examples of problem-solving. He created problems that required us to calculate the variance in GPA between various fictional Greek letter organizations, utilized campus characters like our College President, and other aspects that made the questions more relatable. Over all it was just plain fun. I don’t think a lot of people say that college statistics is a very fun subject, but Professor Houle definitely made it so.

Honestly, I wish I had taken SOCY 10 with him sooner and could have known how engaging he can be. I would have loved to have taken his Sociology of Mental Health class.

Professor Jason Houle

Mar 022015


This upcoming spring break, I will be traveling with a group of Dartmouth students to Florida as part of the Tucker Foundation’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program. Our specific trip will delve into issues of migrant farm workers.

In addition to Florida, other ASBs go to various locations such as Denver, West Virginia, D.C, and Ohio all with different focuses ranging from environmental issues to faith and action.

I went on the trip last year and learned a lot about what service is and is not. This year I will be going back and leading the trip. Dartmouth offers a lot of educational and service related travel opportunities and the Alternative Spring Break Program is definitely one of the most popular ones. The trips are heavily subsidized so that they are affordable to all people and throughout the winter term, we have been holding weekly educational sessions focused on getting more exposed to the issues we are covering and on team building.


And of course, Florida beaches are also a plus after a cold winter.

Feb 232015

Growing up, my favorite movie was Air Bud*. I told myself that I would live in a town just like the one Buddy lived in. Born and raised in LA, I never knew what a small town felt like, and as I grew older, I constantly kept that in the back of my head. It’s ridiculous, I know. Senior year of high school I only applied to schools on the East Coast. I had never visited, but was nonetheless excited of the potential to live in a place where I saw all four seasons.

Upon  my admittance to Dartmouth, I visited and immediately fell in love. I felt at home. I could call Dartmouth home. That’s what ultimately framed my decision to come. Let me tell you why I fell in love:

  • The physical size of the school. As a self-proclaimed city person, I realized how small Hanover was when a local directed me to the CVS “in town” being about 4 minutes away from where I was standing. I can basically get from one point of campus to another in about 10 minutes.


  • The infrastructure. This might sound silly, but Dartmouth in itself is super pretty. During the fall is when I caught a glimpse of the beauty everyone raves about. I often take walks during the Fall and Spring. The river is great to visit during the Summer. I love laying on the Green and doing work. I had never been this close to nature, with the Appalachian trail crossing right through campus. I think it’s pretty awesome that I can explore the woods whenever I want and have time, which is something I had never done in LA.
  • The small-town feel. I remember not knowing what to do when strangers (mostly locals) said hi to me as I walked on campus. Coming from a city, you don’t really do that. I really love it! I love getting to know people on campus. I love being able to run into people I know and say hi to familiar faces, but also still have a campus full of people I’ve never met before!


  • The students. During my visit, I met a handful of ’13s and ’14s who really helped me form my idea of what it would be like to come to a school like Dartmouth. They didn’t have to, but they spent the entire day with me hanging out and taking me around. After I went back home they kept in touch, and even now they have become some of my closest friends though they’ve already graduated. It was the students I met that made me feel like I was at home.

There are other reasons that I came to Dartmouth. The academics, the accessibility to professors, studying abroad, financial aid, the student engagements, which I plan on speaking on. However, I think that it’s important to consider what kind of physical environment you want to live in for at least four years.

*It’s actually hilarious I just found out that Air Bud took place in Washington state and I thought it was an East Coast town my entire life!

Feb 212015

During my junior spring of high school, I packed up and went on a four day road trip with my family to visit colleges. As a first-generation college student, this was all very exciting for my family, like a fairytale come true.

And so we began! From New Jersey up to New Hampshire and back down again. We stopped at Tufts, Amherst, Williams, Harvard, and many others, but there was no question about where I would be applying Early Decision: Dartmouth College.

When I first got to Dartmouth, I stood in the middle of the green and felt such a sense of peace and happiness. This sounds soooo cliche, but it’s true. I knew as soon as I stepped onto campus that this would be the place for me. As I went to the information session and campus tour, I felt like I could picture myself here. Part of it was the allure of the Ivy League, but part of it was the relaxed atmosphere- the idea that this was a place of communal learning rather than competition. I’ve heard horror stories of college competitiveness (people ripping out pages of books on reserves so people can’t access that information, purposely telling you wrong information, and refusing to send you notes when you missed class because you were on bedrest). After four years of vying to be at the top of my class in high school, I needed a break from that tenseness. What I’ve found instead is that Dartmouth pushes each individual student to succeed and surpass their goals, but doesn’t compare them to their peers. So while you are still being competitive, it’s more against yourself than with anyone around you.

I also had the advantage that kids from my high school were studying at Dartmouth when I came to visit, so I had dinner with them and talked about the student life aspects that we don’t really hear much about from official pamphlets and literature. The open social system, small size, and connections with professors all sounded amazing to me. Something I quickly found at was that I didn’t want to be in a city. My mentality shifted a lot throughout the college process and I settled on this logic: I have all my life to live in a city and experience that lifestyle, but only 4 years to be on an undergraduate campus where everything is revolving around making sure I have a wonderful experience and ample opportunities.

I went home after my trip knowing that Dartmouth was my first choice, so I applied and luckily got it early decision! I can honestly tell you it was the best day of my life. My advice when choosing colleges: trust your gut. You know where you will fit in best, you know what you want, and you know where you will be happy. Good luck to you all in the months to come and remember that this is just the first step in a life long journey of learning!

My first time on the Green with my dad and sister (Spring 2012)

My first time on the Green with my dad and sister (Spring 2012)

Feb 172015

I think I’ve mentioned this in one or two of my previous posts, but the biggest reason that I chose Dartmouth was the large Native American community and esteemed Native American Studies program.

I’m Native myself, a member of the Chickahominy Tribe, but was raised in a conservative, predominantly white community in Southern California. My mom made sure that my sister and I grew up with a lot of knowledge of and ties to our culture. I was used to being the only Native kid at my school; it was all I knew. But once I got to high school, I felt extremely isolated from the rest of the student body. This was largely due to my school’s mascot: the Warrior. It was hard to see my culture be trivialized and essentially mocked for the enjoyment of a cohort of people that had no idea what any of the appropriated symbols stood for or how damaging it is to rely on stereotypes of an entire race of people. I knew that I needed a different experience in college. I needed a supportive community that would understand and share my same life experiences and perspectives.

I heard that Dartmouth had a large Native student population, now almost 5%, which is one of the largest statistics of any competitive school in the country. I started to research more and discovered the Native American Studies program. While I had already come from a strong cultural background, I knew that there was more I needed to learn. I want to work as a doctor in a tribal community and I thought that the best way to serve my people was to be sure that I learn more, especially since no two Native American communities in the United States are identical. As an interdisciplinary program, Native American Studies has allowed me to explore Native experiences through historical, political, cultural, literary, and anthropological lenses.

Native Americans at Dartmouth (NAD) Grad

I was pretty set on Dartmouth after learning about all of the resources that would be available to me here as a Native student. And as I researched other aspects of the College, I started to idealize this place and fell in love. I saw satirical videos and articles published by the Jack-O-Lantern, the humor magazine on campus that Dr. Seuss once wrote for. I learned about the various famous alumni of the College: Dr. Seuss, Robert Frost, Mindy Kaling, Rachel Dratch, Shonda Rhimes, Aisha Tyler, and the list goes on. I read about all of the really quirky campus traditions: freshman bonfire, polar bear swim, human dog-sled race, etc. I wanted to go to a school that would provide me with opportunities to just have fun and enjoy my youth while I still have it.

Plus the fact that Dartmouth was ranked #1 in undergraduate teaching at the time was a huge bonus. I didn’t realize how important it would be for me to be able to have intimate classroom experiences with my professors and classmates, and to receive more personal attention to bolster my understanding and learning of the material. As my largest class this term has 13 students, I can say that I absolutely cannot imagine learning in a different (larger) environment.

I have learned and grown so much here. I can’t imagine having gone to another college.

Feb 142015

When I came to Dartmouth, I decided that I wanted to learn Arabic. Let me assure you, I had NO prior experience in the language. In fact, the most exposure I had upon arrival was pronouncing the names of some of my friends from home.

So I was really scared when the first class in college that I ever attended was in a language I didn’t know, with an alphabet I couldn’t read. However, the Arabic Department was so warm, welcoming and supportive that I quickly embarked on my journey of learning to read, speak and write Arabic. Let me tell you: it was the best decision I ever made. 

The great thing about the Arabic department is how small it is. With only a handful of professors, students and majors, you really get to know your professors and your classmates. Best of all: everyone struggles together and offers to help one another. No one is going to let you fail here.

The first year professors are currently: Professor Mostafa Ouajjani and Professor Jamila Chahboun. You will literally never find two professors that are more invested in your success and who offer themselves to you in whatever way you need.

mostafa jameels

They are fantastic! I encourage you all to check out the rest of the department and faculty at the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) Website.

On top of great experiences IN the classroom, Dartmouth runs so many great study abroads!

We offer one language based program in Rabat, Morocco


and one cultural-studies based program in Fez, Morocco. For the former, all you have to do is take 1 year of Arabic and then spend your summer studying in the beautiful capital of Morocco, soaking in the sun and language skills. For the Fez program, you need to meet a 1-2 class prerequisite which you can choose! I will be there this spring and am looking forward to it! (I will definitely be posting while abroad so keep an eye out for my posts to come…)

To hear more about study abroad experiences, check out: the “Dartmouth in Morocco” blog and explore our Off-Campus Programming!


Until next time!

Why Dartmouth? Why not?

 Posted by at 1:54 pm  No Responses »
Feb 132015



We are about a month and a half away from the regular decision release date. For most of us who applied RD, we had the privilege of choosing between different offers. Within a matter of minutes, the stress flips from “am I going to get in?” to “how do I choose between x and y?”. It’s a mixed blessing and ultimately an exciting time.

I entered into the admissions process not having a particular “dream school” or top choices in mind. During the beginning of senior year of high school, I thought I wanted to be an engineer but as the school year progressed, I found myself more interested in the social sciences. At the time of my application, I was still torn between engineering and business and applied to numerous engineering programs and a few business programs to hedge my bets.

I was fortunate enough to be admitted to a wide range of schools each of which offered a completely different experience. After some narrowing down, my list consisted of Duke Engineering, UC Berkeley Engineering, Dartmouth, and Northwestern Engineering. I was still unsure whether engineering was the right path for me and the idea that I had to commit to a discipline/major upon enrollment made me hesitant. Although many of the universities allow you to transfer outside of the engineering college to choose a different major, I felt it would cause a lot of division between disciplines.

I looked more into Dartmouth, the only liberal arts school I had applied to. At Dartmouth, you are free to study any subject you want and there are no caps for majors and students are free to seamlessly jump between the Thayer school of engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences. If I ever wanted to switch into or out of studying engineering, I could do so easily and effortlessly.

Beyond academics, I loved the idea of the D-Plan. I enjoy traveling and constantly doing different things throughout the year. With the D-Plan, I am able to study when I want and where I want. It’s always fun speaking to different people about their D-Plans because no two are the same.

I knew very little about Dartmouth until I got in and even after I decided to matriculate, there were always those looming thoughts of “did I make the right decision?” My own personal philosophy is that you can make wherever you go “the right decision” by embracing the place and utilizing all the available resources. Dartmouth was not the image I had of college and it was not everything I wanted it to be, but I realized there is no perfect place for me. Every school will have things you like and things you don’t like as much.

So why Dartmouth? My present self would say it’s the best place ever. My high school self would say “why not?”.