Jamie Mercado

Jamie is a '15 who grew up in Connecticut, but it wasn't until she came to Dartmouth that she developed an affinity for Cabot cheese, mountains, and ugly sweaters. As a philosophy major, she spends a lot of time sipping tea and thinking deep thoughts, but when she's not doing that you can usually find her laughing at very bad jokes. On campus, she works for Admissions as both a senior tour guide and tour guide trainer. She also sings with the Rockapellas, plays for the club ice hockey and frisbee teams, and is a leader in the Dartmouth Outing Club. She works as an intramural hockey referee in the winters and can't get enough of Moosilauke Ravine Lodge dinner during the spring, summer, and fall. During her off-term sophomore spring, she worked in an under-resourced high school through the Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD) Program, and she's spending her junior fall in Edinburgh, Scotland, on the Philosophy FSP.

SNOW!

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Feb 232014
 

Last Friday, I quite literally sprinted out of my last class the second the clock turned to 12:20 pm. By 12:30, I was in my car, driving around gathering friends and skis; by 1:00, we were unloading the car at the foot of the Dartmouth Skiway, eager to get in a few hours on freshly fallen powder before the mountain closed. We were supposed to head back around 3 for a social event. I checked my watch for the first time that afternoon at 3:30 and decided it wouldn’t hurt to just finish out the day. At many schools, snow means cancelled classes or burrowing up inside; at Dartmouth, for me, snow means it’s time to play. It’s my collegiate version of recess and I love it. While many of my friends have passes for nearby mountains like Stowe, Okemo, Jay Peak, or Killington, just as many have opted for a pass to the Skiway, which is our college’s very own ski mountain. Fun fact: Dartmouth is one of only two schools in the country that has its own ski mountain! Twenty minutes from campus, it means that skiing or snowboarding no longer needs to be a full-day endeavor, and can be as simple as an hour-long study break or a quick adventure before 10 am class. While my car makes it super easy to get to the mountain, there is also a free, hourly bus service to transport students back and forth throughout the day! On the Friday of Winter Carnival, the Skiway has 99-cent Ski Day, where (if the name didn’t clue you in) students can purchase a lift pass for 99 cents! It’s such a great deal, but this winter was the first time I went because in past years I’ve always thought it would be too crowded. Turns out a lot of my peers feel similarly, because even with super-cheap tickets, my friends and I never had to wait on line for the chairlift. Another cool thing about the Skiway is its location, because like Dartmouth, it’s also located directly on the Appalachian Trail. Holt’s Ledge, which is home to the Skiway’s more challenging terrain, is also the third summit from Hanover (after Velvet Rocks and Moose Mountain) on the AT. While the Trail leads up the side of the mountain, there’s also a small hiking path from the top of the chairlift up to the cliff’s edge, so it’s easy to get the same views while hiking very minimally as long as the chairlift is running!

Taking in the view from the top of Holt’s Ledge on the Dartmouth Skiway/Appalachian Trail.

The Skiway isn’t the only way to get outside in the snow – over time, Dartmouth has developed a number of traditions embracing the weather. Over Winter Carnival, students can participate in the Human Dogsled Race, where groups of three people pull a fourth person across the snow-covered Green in a sled! Of course, no such race would be complete without ridiculous outfits. The Green also plays host to a big snow sculpture each year – in accordance with this year’s theme, “Carnival of Thrones,” the sculpture was a massive throne, which is still reigning over the center of campus. 

My human dogsled race team poses for a picture on the snow sculpture!

One non-Carnival tradition special to Dartmouth is the Ledyard Canoe Club’s annual snowyaking adventure. Snowyaking, as the name suggests, is essentially just kayaking on snow. Members of Ledyard bring the canoes and kayaks from their home by the Connecticut River all the way up to the golf course, which turns into a fantastic sledding hill when there’s enough snow. We then proceed to – what else? – sled down the hill whilst attempting to stay on top of our canoes and kayaks, which is just as fun to watch as it is to do.

Snowyaking on the golf course.

Feb 052014
 

Over three years of giving tours, and three years of answering the question, “What’s your favorite thing about Dartmouth?” I have never figured out how to narrow down all the things I appreciate into one concise, polished answer. But one consistent thing that always comes up in my answer is passion, which I was reminded of yesterday when interviewing one of my peers for a group video project. The project is for ENVS 11, Humans and Nature in America, and we had asked our interviewee to speak about Dartmouth and about what sustains her as a person, and she’d brought up that at Dartmouth, everyone is sustained by so many different things. My friends thrive on things from blues dancing to whale facts, and it always gets me excited to see and hear them so engaged.

One of my friends sends out “Whale Facts” on a daily basis!

Being at Dartmouth, I find it generally pretty easy to engage with the things I genuinely love to do. This term, since it’s my first term back on with my a cappella group since last winter, I’ve taken the time to appreciate the fact that I get to spend 6+ hours every week singing and improving my voice. Recently, we joined up with the Dartmouth Cords, an all-male group, to have a goofy show where we traded soloists – the guys sang the solos for our songs, and we sang the solos while they supplied the background! I got to sing “Haven’t Met You Yet,” which was an all-around super fun thing to do with the Cords. We also got to sing “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, which was especially wonderful since I had arranged that freshman year and always wanted to perform it with an all-male group. During First-Year Trips, volunteers in Hanover sing a version of “Home” with the words rewritten to welcome the first-year students, so that song holds a special place in the hearts of many Dartmouth students, and we definitely feel that love every time we perform it.

Winter also provides a special vocal opportunity in the form of Dartmouth Idol, Dartmouth’s very own vocal competition! Open to every student, the show gives people a chance to perform and really go all out musically in front of tons of supportive friends and fans. Last night, I sang in the Dartmouth Idol Semi-Finals, which was an absolute blast. I got to dress up in crazy clothes and sing “Titanium” by David Guetta and Sia, which is just a really fun song, and I loved being able to run around on stage and pretend I was a rockstar. I like to talk on tours about Dartmouth students not being afraid to really nerd out about the things they love, and last night was the perfect example of an opportunity for me to do exactly that.

 

Standing on stage at Dartmouth Idol with the student judges!

Back Home

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Jan 142014
 

Driving back to campus for the first time after my FSP, I took a deliberate detour around the green, swallowing up the Christmas tree, the snow-covered lawns, the beacon of welcome that is the light on top of Baker Tower. I stopped in the middle of the road, took a picture, sent it out to my a cappella group: “Is it just me, or does Hanover look even more beautiful after you come back from an off-term?”

Having been off last spring, this is my first term on campus with lots of non-’15s since my sophomore winter. And as far as I can tell, the only really tragic thing about this is that the lines for food in Collis seem to have doubled since the summer. Strange as it is to be back in regular Dartmouth classes, it’s nice to feel like my life actually has some sort of structure. The first week of classes also brought a chance to work with one of my favorite programs: Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth (SEAD), where I was an intern last spring. Every term, SEAD sends a Dartmouth student to intern at each of the four schools with which they’re involved, so that the students at those schools will have a present resource to whom they can go for advice, homework help, college awareness, and more. However, before the interns go off to their schools, they have a three-day on-campus orientation, and the previous interns are all invited to come and share stories from their experiences working with the program. An added bonus to this was that I happen to be friends with all four of this term’s interns, so I got to spend extra time with them, even though they’re technically all on “off” terms right now.

Past and present SEAD interns along with the SEAD program directors at lunch during intern orientation!

This term is also the first term since last winter that I’ve gotten to sing with my a cappella group, so our first rehearsal was especially welcome. Over the summer, many of the during-the-year campus groups cease to exist, and are replaced with summer versions, so that people who aren’t normally in a performance group have a chance to get involved. Though I wasn’t singing with the Rockapellas over the summer, I did enjoy some quality home-cooked dinners at my off-campus house with the other ’15s in the group. I also managed to stay involved in a cappella over the summer, thanks to an Ultimate Frisbee tradition that started with the class of 2011. The ’11s on the Frisbee team decided to make an audition-free sophomore summer a cappella group called Pillowforte, and as one of the a cappella singers who also plays frisbee, I volunteered to run the group during our sophomore summer. It was awesome to have the chance to share something I love with the rest of the ’15 frisbee players, and it was also immensely rewarding to create an environment where people with limited (or no) a cappella or singing experience could feel comfortable singing and performing. Perhaps most importantly, it was hilarious, as evidenced by these videos of us performing at Sigma Delta sorority in our one and only show of the summer.

Pillowforte, the frisbee team’s a cappella group, performing in Sigma Delt this summer.

As fun as it was to organize Pillowforte, I’m really stoked to be singing with the Rocks again. In my time off, I managed to arrange a bunch of new songs, so we’ll get to spend the next few terms adding a lot of new stuff to our repertoire and hopefully performing some of it on campus! Other things to look forward to this term include intramural ice hockey, and working with the Admissions Office to train some new tour guides to show you all around campus. Winter may be cold, but it’s looking like it’ll still be a blast.

Dec 102013
 

Dearest ’18s,

Tomorrow afternoon, at approximately 3:56 pm, someone in the Dartmouth Admissions Office will press a button*, and acceptance letters will magically appear on the computer screens of students around the world. That button press** is just one simple, relatively insignificant movement of a finger. But for hundreds of early decision applicants, it’s also a story.

On the 10th December 2010, I found out I was accepted to Dartmouth. I remember it was the 10th because it was a Friday and because I spent the week leading up to it freaking out. Perhaps some of you can identify. Being from the east coast, decisions came out at 4 pm, which meant I had to suffer through an entire school day before the admissions gods would hand down my fate. And because everyone secretly reads College Confidential, it felt like the entirety of my school knew that at 4 pm that Friday, I would find out if I’d gotten in. School got out at 2:30, and I had a meeting afterwards that lasted an hour. My friends joked about the impending news, and I laughed, because it was better than shaking or crying or curling up into a ball and those were the other things I felt like doing at the time. 3:30. After the meeting, we walked towards the school parking lot, which was maybe a five-minute walk, tops. We made it last fifteen minutes, and then we loitered. 3:49. My friends had to go home, their parents were waiting for them. I got in my car, didn’t bother turning it on. My iPod Touch was still hooked up to the school WiFi, so I loaded the page where the decisions would be released. Too early. That stupid “Email Address Verification” link stared back at me, happily minding its own business next to “Application Status.” 3:51. Refresh. 3:52. Refresh again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. I probably could have driven home. I probably should have driven home. Refresh.

At some point during this manic cycle, “Application Status” disappeared. And all I could think was oh my god they’re putting it up right now they’re putting it up now oh no oh gosh oh man why am I doing this to myself uh oh refresh refresh refresh 3:56 refresh oh my god and there it was. New link. “Admissions Decision Letter.” I waited while my heart skipped a couple of beats and then pressed down, wondering why I had even bothered to click the link, convinced that I wasn’t ready to read whatever message it had in store. The school WiFi had never been so fast. I got through “Dear Jamie, Congratulations,” and I immediately thought, okay, that’s a good thing, right? Congratulations is maybe a good sign… there were so many words. Too many words. My eyes fumbled with them until they rested on “acceptance” and things slowed. A few seconds later, my face caught up and I just cried, a lot, and I was thankful that the parking lot was empty because I felt a little weird about bawling my face off in my car. But honestly, none of that mattered, because I got in. I was going to Dartmouth. At the time, I had no idea what that would come to mean, what that would do for my life. I had no idea how emotionally attached I would become to this place, how much it would do for me. Looking back at it now, the reasons I love this place are not necessarily the reasons why I was happy to the point of tears. The people I have come to love, the communities that have brought us together, are nothing like what I pictured first reading that acceptance letter.

And as clichéd as it is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

After I had processed the fact of my acceptance, I called my grandpa, because he’s the one that chose Dartmouth over Harvard way back in 1940-something. When he finally understood me through my tears, he said, “Oh, Jamie, that’s fantastic! We’ll have to have a bottle of champagne over the holidays! I’m going to open a bottle of champagne right now! That way, when your grandma comes home, she’ll know you got in.” I hung up, drove home, ran into the house crying, which probably terrified my mother until I confused her by throwing my arms around her and explaining that I got in, which made my little brother double over laughing. And soon enough we were all laughing, and I’m pretty sure I was also crying. But it’s okay to have emotions. Getting into college can be an emotional thing.

So, ’18s, when you read your acceptance letters tomorrow, be happy! Smile. Or cry. Or call your grandpa and listen to him talk about champagne. Do whatever it is that your heart feels in that moment, because this is your moment. It’s your story. It’s the first story of the freaking novel that is the next couple years of your life. Maybe you already have an outline for the novel. Maybe you can see the chapter titles all lined up on the first page. Maybe all you have is a blank notebook. Whatever it looks like, it’s a beginning. And it’s beautiful, so beautiful. And I’m so damn excited for you.

Love,
Jamie

Welcome home, ’18s.

*Full disclosure, I have no idea how this actually works.

**Or whatever it actually is that makes acceptance letters appear on your computer screen

Nov 072013
 

DOC First-Year Trips, a program that’s designed to welcome first-year students to the college and help them feel comfortable here, brings to light many things about life as a student at Dartmouth. Many of these things are practical and useful, while others can be lighthearted or silly. One of these things is “flair”, which is Dartmouth’s term for “anything you probably wouldn’t wear in an average real-world situation”. Not everyone at Dartmouth loves wearing strange combinations of things that may or may not be considered clothing, and that is totally okay. I’ve never felt compelled to wear any certain type of clothing in order to fit in at Dartmouth. Nevertheless, I love flair, and I was stoked to find out that the University of Edinburgh has a similar tradition: fancy dress.

I discovered fancy dress this past weekend, when I went up to a cabin on the shores of Loch Lomond (loch is the Scots’ word for lake) in the Scottish Highlands. I was going on a trip with the wakeboarding and waterskiing club*, and noticed that the packing list included “fancy dress”. At first, I thought that fancy dress might have been formal wear, some sort of black-tie thing, but fortunately, after many posts alluding to the weekend’s theme, some of the Edinburgh students helpfully pointed out that fancy dress is British shorthand for what you’d wear to a costume or theme party. I had to leave my flair box back at Dartmouth, but luckily, after last spring, one of my friends gave me a Snuggie-type blanket that looks remarkably like a Santa suit, and I did manage to bring that with me to Edinburgh, which meant that I was properly equipped for my weekend trip.

Wakeboarding on Loch Lomond!

When we first arrived at Loch Lomond, I noticed that there was snow on the top of a mountain that towered over the lake. Thankfully, wet suits exist, so the freezing temperatures were much less of an issue. Loch Lomond also happens to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, so that didn’t hurt. The whole time I was wakeboarding, I kept just looking up at my surroundings, essentially in disbelief. The loch is surrounded by huge green and yellow mountains that rise way above treeline, and when the sun started to set I could see the shadow creeping across the mountains! The Scottish weather, which generally is a lovely mixture of constant rain and spurts of windy sunshine, also ended up working to our aesthetic advantage, because enormous rainbows kept appearing every time the sun came out! It was also super cool to spend a weekend without any of the Dartmouth students that I came here with, because I was able to bond with a whole new group of friends, all of whom actually go to the University of Edinburgh.

In a rare moment of sun, a rainbow spans the loch.

Overall, aesthetically and personally, this was a beautiful weekend. And this coming weekend, I’m heading off to Geneva, Switzerland, with a friend from Dartmouth’s Religion FSP, so that should be beautiful as well! Life is going well on the other side of the pond.

 

*Sadly, Dartmouth does not have a wakeboarding and/or waterskiing club. However, according to a quick Google search, nor do any of the other Ivy League schools. And on the bright side, I’m able to be part of a wakeboarding and waterskiing club for part of my time in college, thanks to the opportunity to study abroad!

Oct 252013
 

This past week was midterms week in Edinburgh, and in honor of the fact that I have done little more than curl up on my bed in a onesie, drink tea, eat chocolate, and write thousands of words about backwards time travel and whether or not watching pornography can lead to violent behavior, I decided to use this week’s blog post to pay homage to some of my favorite study spots at Dartmouth. Before I get into that, let me just say that there is nothing wrong with the library – lots of people love to study there, it’s a beautiful place, and it even contains two cafés, so food is never far away. I’m just not a library person, I guess, which fortunately is not a problem at Dartmouth because there are so many other good places to get work done.

1) Rauner Special Collections Library

In the words of my tour guide self, Rauner is home to the College’s special collections, which is basically just a fancy way of saying “cool old things”. There are SO many cool old things in Rauner, from some of Shakespeare’s first folios to the hat and socks of Daniel Webster (and if you are so inclined I hear they actually will let you try those on)! I’ve been to Rauner as part of a class (my Race & Slavery class went this summer to look at all sorts of original stuff from American history, which included a letter written and signed by Frederick Douglass) and as part of extracurricular commitments (as a DOC First-Year Trips leader, I got to look at pictures and applications that spanned the program’s 78-year history). Besides housing some of the coolest stuff I’ve ever seen in my life, Rauner also happens to be the place I’m most productive on campus with my schoolwork. The second floor is a gold mine of comfy couches and individually lit tables that are never crowded, and with natural sunlight streaming in through story-high windows, it’s easy to pretend you’re outside without having to actually try and read a book in the snow.

The second floor of the Rauner Special Collections Library (picture courtesy of vsba.com)

2) Robinson Hall (Robo)

Home to a number of student clubs and organizations, including the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC), which happens to be the nation’s oldest and largest collegiate outing club, Robo is also home to a slew of study rooms. They’re pretty big and used most often by sustainability buffs, DOC members, and the varsity ski teams, but even if you’re not affiliated with any of those groups they’re still very open (as in, they’re unlocked so you can just walk right in, but also if there’s already someone in a room, you’re completely welcome to join them).

3) Collis

Much like Robo, Collis, the student center, has tons of study rooms that are open for students to use. The second floor is great for group study sessions, and One Wheelock in the basement is nice if you’re into free hot beverages and quiet, ambient background music. Perhaps the best-kept secret of Collis study spaces is the “sniper table” on the third floor. Situated right by a window that looks down on every floor of Collis, the table is usually empty and it’s rarely loud, even though the table is in the hallway. Pros of studying in Collis include its location (right in the center of campus) and its newly renovated café (my go-to on-campus dining establishment). The only negative to studying in Collis is that it gets crowded super easily since it’s such a good place to work (so that’s when Robo comes in handy).

4) Thornton Hall

Thornton is home to the religion and philosophy departments, and it’s full of professors’ offices and classrooms. The nice thing about classrooms is that when they’re not being used for class, you can just go use them as giant, empty study spaces! Big tables, no distractions, and chalkboards if I feel like brainstorming outside of a notebook. There’s also something awesome about studying in a building that’s almost 200 years old! Also, fun fact: Thornton Hall was originally used as a dormitory.

5) The Dr. Seuss Room

The Dr. Seuss Room (an Imaginative Place to Study, according to the sign outside the room) is the one exception to my I-don’t-study-in-the-library rule. Between two giant desks (great for writing papers) and eight super-comfy chairs (great for curling up with a book), it’s always got an empty seat. There’s a giant window to let in natural light, and the walls of the room are covered with framed pages from Dr. Seuss books, which makes studying seem a lot less intense. The room also gets bonus points for its prime location, nestled in the east corner of Baker Lobby, right next to King Arthur Flour Café (a.k.a. home to the best hot cider on campus).

When I started to write this, I told myself I was only going to pick five places, but this last one’s not exactly on campus so I’m including it anyways.

The Moosilauke Ravine Lodge

An hour’s drive north of campus, most students get their first introduction to the Lodge on DOC First-Year Trips. I got my second introduction to the Lodge later my freshman fall, when one of the upperclassmen in my a cappella group emailed out and convinced me to come to dinner there with the promises of “a million turkeys and also like 8 different kinds of pie.” The Lodge serves dinner every night, and I’ve found it to be a great place to write a paper or curl up with a book, because not only do I get to do my homework right at the base of a gorgeous mountain, but when I’m done with my work, I get the most delicious dinner as a reward. Also, did I mention it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth?

The Moosilauke Ravine Lodge (picture courtesy of DOC Trips 2011)

Oct 192013
 

One thing I’ve always appreciated about Dartmouth is how supportive my friends and classmates are of each other’s passions. In high school, I totally nerded out over a lot of things, but it wasn’t until I came to Dartmouth that I actually opened up about my passions, and as a result I found myself gaining respect and support from many of the people around me. Last weekend was no exception to that, as I found myself in Dublin, Ireland, visiting my friend Kelsey, who’s on the English FSP there this term. I don’t know very much about Ireland, except that as a freckled redhead, a lot of people think I’m from there, which I am not.

However, one of my favorite movie-musicals of all time, Once, takes place in and around Dublin, and as the music-loving nerd that I am, I got really, really excited about visiting all of the sites from the movie. And despite the fact that Kelsey has never actually seen Once, she still got pretty excited about visiting all of the places with me. On my first day there, we trekked out to the eastern coast of Ireland, south of Dublin, to visit Killiney Hill, the site of what I think is one of the most beautiful scenes in the movie. The hill was easy to hike and had amazing views from the top. It was straight out of a scene from a movie. Literally.

The top’s a screenshot from the movie, and the bottom’s the picture I took from the top of the hill.

And in case that wasn’t enough movie-inspired traveling, I also spent way too much time wandering around on Grafton Street and in St. Stephen’s Green, two other places that are featured prominently in the film. I think my favorite place from the movie, though, was probably the music shop, Walton’s. In the movie, the characters go to the shop and sit there and play their own songs, so I decided it would be awesome to do the same thing, and spent a few hours before my flight back to Edinburgh jamming out on the guitars and pianos. It was awesome. I also bought an Irish whistle from the shop as a souvenir and have been teaching myself how to play it, which I’m sure my flatmates really appreciate…

Flash forward a week later, and now I’m on a 10-hour bus ride to London. I also managed to almost miss my 6:45 am bus when I completely slept through my alarm – major thanks to my friend Andrew who called me at least five times until the ringing woke me up. I somehow managed to sprint what Google Maps told me was a 27-minute walk in 15 minutes to make the bus on time, and then celebrated on the bus by eating a mango that I had found in my laundry bag the night before. It was great. It was also incredible to finally explore London and not just fly through the airport, as I’d done two times before. London decided to bestow on us some of the most beautiful, sunshine-y weather for our first day there, which made for some great views from the London Eye as well as a gorgeous walk in St. James’s Park, where I met a pelican! I petted it, which was easily a highlight of the entire trip.

My new best friend, the pelican!

In true London fashion, though, it poured on our second day, which actually worked out really well as we’d done the majority of sightseeing the day before. So, we decided to hit up some of London’s famous and free museums, and managed to explore the V&A, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum. Between museums, we also managed a walk through Hyde Park, which was a little rainy, but lovely just the same. And to top off a fantastic weekend, I met up with Dartmouth Admissions officer Carrie Rosenblum ’10 for dinner and drinks in Covent Garden, right in the center of the city!

With midterms coming up, this weekend hasn’t brought any far-flung adventures, but I did go to the other coast of Scotland yesterday to see the Atlantic from the other side and also pick up a pair of super-cheap hockey skates so I can take full advantage of the rink here in Edinburgh. I also just found out that the city runs a “Winter Wonderland” where they set up an outdoor rink right below the castle in a huge garden, so that’s something to look forward to! And now, I’ve got to get back to essay-writing, because alas, being in Europe does not preclude me from actually having to do schoolwork.

Oct 022013
 

Dartmouth’s traditions aren’t exactly world-renowned or anything, but they are something that many students appreciate and keep close to heart, no matter where in the world we are. Last year, when my a cappella group was lucky enough to go on a benefit tour to Nepal, a friend and I ended up teaching one of our traditions to a group of Nepali students with whom we were performing! The Salty Dog Rag is a staple of First-Year Trips (a program run by students in conjunction with the Dartmouth Outing Club,designed to welcome first-year students to campus and make them feel comfortable and at home right from their first day here). My grandpa, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1951, knows the Salty Dog Rag. To make a long story short, the Nepali students were performing a cultural dance, and asked us if we had any cultural dances, and since I consider the Salty Dog Rag a traditional part of Dartmouth’s culture, my friend and I ended up teaching it to them.

My friend Ali ’13 and I teaching the Salty Dog Rag to Nepali students at a school we performed at outside of Kathmandu.

I thought that doing the Salty Dog Rag in Nepal would be the extent of my worldwide Trips dance career. But last weekend, a few of my friends and I decided to visit Germany to explore the country. I tried schnitzel, learned how to count to five in German (eins, zwei, drei, vier, fümf!), and went to Oktoberfest. We had planned on the big festival in Munich, but we didn’t plan on there being a huge festival in Landsberg am Lech, the town where we were staying! On Saturday, we spent the day exploring the town and wandering around their festival celebrating the rebuilding of their town square. There was a big stage with music playing, and at one point, the song “Blame It On The Boogie” came on. On the first day of First-Year Trips, this is one of the first dances trippees learn on the front lawn of Robinson Hall. When my friends and I heard it playing, we started laughing and immediately began doing the dance, despite the fact that we were in the middle of a very public area in Germany. Some Germans gave us weird looks, but it was totally worth it. 

DOC First-Year Trips traditions also appeared last night when a group of students from my FSP and from the Religion FSP (which also studies at the University of Edinburgh) were hanging out in one of the flats’ common rooms with a bunch of University of Edinburgh students. We were telling ghost stories, and someone from Dartmouth asked if we’d tell the Doc Benton story, which is traditionally told at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge during Trips. After going on a First-Year Trip and then leading trips before my sophomore and junior years, I’d heard the story enough times that I was able to retell it, which was really fun, because there’s one part where everyone screams, and the Dartmouth students got really excited about that part. It’s one thing to experience these traditions as part of Trips and part of Dartmouth, but it’s been really beautiful to have the opportunity to share our traditions around the globe, and it makes Dartmouth feel a lot closer, which never hurts.

This has nothing to do with traditions, but attempting to read menus in Germany was a big adventure since none of us knew enough German to know exactly what we were ordering!

 

Exploring

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Sep 172013
 

When I first decided to study abroad, I was pretty worried about the idea of living in a city. There are awesome programs like the Bio FSP or the Stretch (the nickname for the Earth Sciences FSP) that do fieldwork in the rainforest or at geological sites, respectively, but I wanted to study philosophy, and the Philosophy Foreign Study Program (FSP) is located in Edinburgh, Scotland. It didn’t occur to me until pretty much when my plane landed that this would be my first time really living in a city since I moved out of Manhattan when I was four years old. One thing I love about Hanover is the ever-present opportunity to get off campus and into the mountains or rivers of New Hampshire for a study break, so the idea of not having somewhere to go and relax freaked me out a little bit. However, Edinburgh is conveniently home to a 250m tall dormant volcano, which happens to be surrounded by a huge nature reserve, all of which happens to be a 10-minute walk from my flat. The volcano’s name is Arthur’s Seat, and when it’s sunny outside, it’s a great place to sit and get some work done, as I learned yesterday when I curled up on a grassy patch next to the summit to read two articles for my Philosophy of Time Travel class.

The view from about halfway up Arthur’s Seat on a sunny day.

Outside of Edinburgh, Scotland is actually full of mountains and lakes, as our group learned when we went on a tour of the Scottish Highlands. We saw some really, really old Highland cows, and drove through areas where Skyfall, Harry Potter, and Monty Python were all filmed. We also visited Loch Ness (no monsters though, just the lake). It was great to be able to see different parts of Scotland even before we’d started our classes, because it gave me a better sense of where I am in the world. It sounds really cheesy, but having some cultural context to complement the fact that we are studying in another country meant that my learning here is not limited to my classes, and that was really exciting. Speaking of classes, though, mine start on Wednesday. As is common with FSPs, I’m taking one class with everyone from Dartmouth, taught by Professor James Moor, who’s here in Edinburgh with us for the term. My other two classes are University of Edinburgh classes, so I’ll get to meet students that go to the university here and I’ll also be able to study topics that aren’t offered in Hanover (time travel, here I come). After a week of exploring, I’m pretty stoked to actually get back into the classroom.

Our FSP group, including our professor, in the Scottish Highlands!

Sep 102013
 

The past week has been a whirlwind of adventure. Last week, I led my second DOC First-Year Trip, and I had to say a hasty goodbye to my newfound ’17 friends because I got straight on the Dartmouth Coach to go to Boston Logan Airport and fly across the Atlantic for the Philosophy FSP in Edinburgh! I flew with two of my fellow FSP’ers, and one of our friends, a ’13 who’s now working in Boston, came to see us off at the airport, which was really lovely. Needless to say, my friends and I dominated the in-flight trivia game as we headed across the ocean. We also narrowly avoided tragedy when we got stuck in security lines and almost missed our connecting flight in London to Edinburgh – on the bright side, now I can say that I’ve legitimately sprinted to get on a plane! Anyways, after all that, we made it to Edinburgh and got settled into our flats, where we’re all living with other students from the university. My flatmates are from Korea, Manchester (UK), and Germany. Living amongst non-Dartmouth students makes it really easy to branch out of our FSP group and make friends from all over the world (not to mention the exposure to so many different cultures. And accents).

We were asked to get to Edinburgh for Freshers’ Week, which is their equivalent of Orientation. However, since many of the activities are directed towards first-year students and not exchange students (a.k.a. us), we have tons of free time to explore the city. One of the first places my friends convinced me to go was the Elephant House, which is the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote down the beginnings of Harry Potter. As if that wasn’t cool enough on its own, the bathrooms at the Elephant House are a shameless shrine to everything Harry and Hogwarts.

Our addition to the collection of Harry Potter love on the bathroom door at the Elephant House!

 

Other highlights of my time here so far include going to a karaoke bar with half of the FSP, aimlessly wandering around the city for hours just exploring because I actually have the time to walk around with no destination, and playing pickup frisbee in the Meadows with a local group of frisbee players! The Meadows is also one of my favorite (or favourite, as they spell it here) things about Edinburgh. Imagine if the green at Dartmouth and Central Park in New York City had a baby – that’s the Meadows. A fairly big grassy area just south of the center of the city, it’s always full of people running or playing pickup sports or just relaxing on the grass. It also happens to be very close to my flat, and I really appreciate the opportunity to still be around trees and grass despite the fact that I’m living in a big city. On that note, there’s also a big mountain called Arthur’s Seat that’s east of the city center, and a bunch of people on the FSP are planning to hike it tomorrow! I can’t wait to see Edinburgh from the top. Nature actually is all around. : )