Apr 212014

One of my favorite things about Dartmouth was that I woke up every day thinking that anything could happen before I went to bed that night.  To some extent, that’s still true.  You never know what random interaction is going to lead to a lifelong friendship or what split-second decision is going to lead to the discovery of a new passion.  That said, for the past couple terms, I egregiously overscheduled myself (it’ll happen to you) and my days got a lot more structured.  Not that structure is inherently bad, but I lost the excitement that came with every morning.  Now that I have some more free time, I’ve been trying to recapture that excitement.  It’s been harder than expected though.  People look at you funny when you’re a senior and you ask them “So, what do people do for fun around here?”  Now that I’ve found a place or an identity or whatever, I feel a bit more constrained when I figure out what I’m going to do on a given day.

Which is why we have bucket lists!  Ideas on how to break out of my comfort zone in a convenient list format!  You’ll probably get one freshman year with typical stuff like ‘run around the bonfire’ or ‘have a snowball fight.’  I’ve done 75 or so of the 101, and since it’s an old list, a lot of the rest aren’t really feasible (RIP Lone Pine Tavern).  However, there are still a few that I haven’t done yet, which kind of surprised me.  I’ve never gotten tea in Sanborn, I’ve never gone to open hours at the observatory, I’ve never climbed the Gile Mountain fire tower, and the list goes on.  There might be reasons I haven’t done these yet, (namely that I don’t like tea, I think stargazing is kinda boring, and I’m terrified of heights) but breaking out of my comfort zone might be the point of the list.

Besides, I don’t think that just halfheartedly checking things off the list is really the point.  Remember that movie ‘The Bucket List’ where Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson do all that cool stuff before they die?


They enjoyed all the stuff on the bucket lists that they did, but the real point was all the relationships they formed and mended as they were trying to finish their lists were what mattered.  I think that’s why I want to finish my bucket list before the term ends, not entirely because I really want to do stuff that some admissions employee thought constituted the ‘Dartmouth experience’ but because maybe those things will lead me toward my own Dartmouth experience somewhere along the way.



Lastly, I’M SO HAPPY THAT PEOPLE ACTUALLY READ THIS.  THOUGH IT DOES ADD A BIT OF EXTRA PRESSURE WHEN I’M TRYING TO WRITE.  Anyway, feel free to email me at sjd@dartmouth.edu with questions, concerns, Sporcle challenges, or if you want to meet up at Dimensions (5 days away ahhhh!)

Apr 152014

In high school, I heard a lot about how nobody really stays involved in religious life when they get to college, and I got a bit worried.  I had been pretty involved in church groups growing up, and I didn’t want to lose that aspect of my life or that sense of community.  As it turns out, there  is ample opportunity to get involved in religious and spiritual life at Dartmouth, and it has been more rewarding than I could have imagined.

In my last post, I mentioned an Alternative Spring Break Trip.  These are programs, now common at many universities, where instead of travelling somewhere different to party on the beach, students travel somewhere different to do community service.  I had no idea that this program existed until I went to an informational meeting freshman fall while trying to impress a girl or something.  I left the meeting with a stack of forms and a vague interest that this might be an interesting way to spend a week.  I ended up applying to an interfaith service trip, “working to serve the homeless population in the San Francisco Bay area and exploring service as a shared value across religious and cultural lines.”  Helped along by my half-Christian, half-Jewish family (I remember describing myself as “a walking interfaith dialogue”), I was accepted to the program and met the rest of the group.


Coming from a pretty homogenous part of the country, it was an eye-opening experience to be able to share experiences and perspectives with such a culturally and religiously diverse group of people while working together with them for a good cause.  I learned a ton about other people’s spiritualities and was able to redefine my own beliefs.  When I got back to campus, I joined the Multi-Faith Conversations discussion group, which brought the same discussions back to campus, and I’ve been coming to meetings ever since.

There’s an amazing degree of religious openness here, which you might not expect from a place with so many educated and opinionated people.  So many people are still looking and searching, trying to redefine what they believe or just trying to understand their friends on a deeper level.  Sometimes, like in my house’s Passover Seder today, they’re just looking to partake an interesting slice of cultural heritage.


Besides, Manischewitz tastes just like Communion wine.

Mar 282014

First and foremost, congratulations to the Dartmouth Class of 2018!  Your hard work has paid off and we couldn’t be any more proud of you.  Even though you’re objectively the worst class ever, we’re pretty impressed.

It’s gonna be hard to say something that the rest of the bloggers haven’t already covered, so I’ll keep this brief.  Dartmouth is real, it’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way.  And you’re gonna rock it.

Taylor Swift did not go to Dartmouth, but she probably would have written some good songs about it.

Due to a combination of factors (impending graduation, fundraising for the senior class gift, writing this blog post, watching “Garden State”) I’ve been pretty nostalgic lately.  And I couldn’t be happier about that.  I’ve made memories strong enough to last me until now.  I have something that makes it hard to say goodbye.  So I guess that’s the best advice I can give you – spend the rest of high school making some memories that will make it hard to say goodbye (or at least give you good stories when you get to college).

South Park describes my life disconcertingly well.

You’re on the verge of one of the biggest steps in your life – enjoy it.  Seriously, don’t overthink it.  Do what feels right when you’re making your college pick.  You’ll be ok.

One of my favorite parts of “Garden State” is when Natalie Portman tells Zach Braff that he needs to do something ridiculous because “…this is your one opportunity to do something that no one has ever done before and that no one will copy throughout human existence. And if nothing else, you will be remembered as the one guy who ever did this…”  Nobody else is going to take the same path through Dartmouth that you do, so all you can do is make it count.  Of course, don’t worry too much about making yourself unique, you already will be.  The biggest realization I had during my freshman year was that I spent so much time trying to figure out who I wanted to be that I forgot to be myself.  (It was also the most cliche moment of my life.)

Anyway, congratulations again.  Enjoy senior spring.  Come to Dimensions.  I’ll get a meal with you.  I’m not kidding, email me at sjd@dartmouth.edu and say you read this on my admissions blog.  I will be so happy that people actually read this that I’ll probably buy you a cookie or something.  Most of all, welcome home.

Mar 132014



Just as the weather was warming up a little here in Hanover, a blizzard hit and rendered Dartmouth Winter W onderland again. Say what you will about the cold, but snow- in good times- can mean adventure.

I say good times because the academic term just ended, and the snow storm hit while I was leaving my last final for the term.

Finals are stressful anywhere I suppose, but perhaps more so here because the terms are only 10 weeks long and it always feels like there isn’t enough time to study. That said, a lot gets done to ensure that you don’t get too over your head; study groups, study breaks, and q and a sessions are organized by various offices… My chem prof got us clementines during our chem final- so we won’t “get vitamin c deficiency in case we get stranded in the classroom!”.
In any case, back to my earlier point, being done with finals feels great! And then when the storm started, a few friends who were also done with finals and I headed over to the BEMA and then the golf course to sled. Super cold, snow was too thick, but was so great to be able to go outside and enjoy the nature that the Dartmouth campus offers.

Next post will be about spring term! They go by so fast :(



Mar 102014

Winter term is finally coming to a close in Hanover, which means some pretty big changes in my life.  We finished our capstone design project (and it mostly worked!), so we’re anxiously waiting on the review board of professors and professional engineers to decide our fates.  I’m ending my tenure as social chair of my fraternity, which took up a significant portion of my time over the past year.  Even though it was frequently stressful and constantly frustrating, I definitely grew as a leader and learned a lot of real-world skills I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.  The club running team will be gearing up for our spring racing season, and I’ll personally be preparing to tackle my first marathon over Memorial Day weekend.  The days will get warmer, leaves will return to the trees, and the melting snow will combine with the nostalgic tears of the last-term seniors to reduce every non-paved surface to mush.

Of course, between spring term and now comes spring break in all its glory.  I’ll be travelling to Georgia with the ultimate frisbee team for a week – camping out,  practicing, playing in tournaments, and getting to know the team better.  It’s an important tradition to the team, and definitely one that the rest of campus has heard about.  This trip is really everything a spring break trip should be:  road trip singalongs and spur of the moment detours, late-night swims and early morning jogs, new friends and old.  Also fake moustaches and dyed hair.

I for one think that we are an upstanding group of gentlemen.

I for one think that we are an upstanding group of gentlemen.

Now that I’ve gone and made myself all daydreamy, I need to get back to studying.  One exam and one paper stand between me and Georgia.  And a thousand or so miles.  But really, that’s the fun part.

Mar 032014

Los Angeles has often been described as a culture-less wasteland, filled to the brim with both the superficial and the lackluster. Sometimes,  the comical stereotypes seem to run the city – the Starbucks-sipping yogis bouncing between Whole Foods and Lululemon, the chain-smoking, scraggly-looking artists waiting for their big break in the elusive “Industry,” and a whole slew of middle-aged professionals living as if they aren’t a blink over 25, Botox and all.

To some degree, the stereotypes, the impressions, and the reputation of this strange city-but-not-city can be justified. LA is not a conventional city with conventional norms, but nevertheless, it is one that I’ve been so proud to represent as I’ve spent my winter term interning here.

For new friends, readers, and followers, my name is Laura and I’m a ’16 who is currently pursuing an English major along with a Philosophy minor – and this is also my first post! I saw this off-term as an opportunity for respite that would hopefully be conducive to learning –  learning more about myself, about the plans I hold for my future, about how I’d like to move forward. I’m currently interning at the Getty Research Institute in the upper LA Basin in West LA, the institution adjunct to the Getty Museum. As a conservation intern, I work with private art collections that are in need of conservation/preservation aid in the Conservation Lab, along with archiving collection materials and preparing them for gallery showcasing. (So it’s pretty interesting work!)

But when the 9-5 job ends, another adventure begins. Finding myself in this strange but beautiful city has left me with so much to do and so much to explore. So for all you friends interested in potentially interning here in Los Angeles, I’ve compiled a short – and by no means exhaustive – list of the best bits of my time here thus far.

  • Produce in Southern California is amazing. Fresh herbs, fruits, veggies – what more could you ask for? Farmers Markets are varied and plentiful,  leaving little imagination left with markets’ exotic varieties.
  • Angelinos travel by car, almost solely, which seems awful when there’s traffic. But driving provides privacy, the liberty to sing at the top of your lungs when you’re driving down the freeway, and oh yes – just enough time to eat breakfast on the road.
  • Yoga, trendy cafés, outdoor exercises often go hand in hand in this lovely city that is surprisingly naturalistic.
  • Really, there is no shortage of different cuisines. Korean is best in LA’s famed Koreatown, the largest in the nation and located right here in Central LA. In West LA, where I’m living, you can find Little Armenia. However, I would say my favorite finds have been Kentro kitchens on the Westside, Shabu Shabu in Little Tokyo, and of course, the occasional Thai in West Hollywood.
  • The variety in shopping experiences – from crowded night-market-esque Santee Alley in Downtown to Rodeo Drive, one can go from bargain prices to couture very quickly.
  • The diversity! Food! Music! Religions! The people! All of this provides for an interesting time in the city, and this is my absolutely favorite thing about Los Angeles. There is an immigrant or outsider story underlying every current of the city, one full of opportunity, of diversity, of dreams being reached, achieved, realized, and more. I find it absolutely beautiful and inspiring.

Of course, with the good comes the bad. A few less-favorable things about interning in Los Angeles –

  • If you can’t drive, you’re in for a rude awakening in this city. This is the main form of transportation here due to the fact that public transportation has been made unfortunately unaccessible in some parts of Los Angeles. (There is however, and contrary to popular belief, a small subway system.)
  • I actually didn’t believe the LA stereotype that everyone is trying to make it into the “Industry,” which generally consists of singing, acting, dancing, and modeling here. But it’s actually true, and it starts to boggle your mind – and okay, sometimes annoy you – very quickly.


As this winter term off-campus comes to an end, I really can say that I’ve valued my time here, with all its interesting and signature-LA experiences. I look forward to making the most of my last few weeks, but until then, let the yogis continue downard-dogging, let the chain-smokers continue puffing and hacking, and let the mid-lifers continue living a life they’re 20 years too old for.



Mar 022014

I feel loose.  I feel relaxed.  I feel focused.  I feel calm.  I feel…. really, really warm?

A whole twenty-four hours later, it seems I can still feel the effects of of my most recent “warm” yoga session at Hanover’s own Mighty Yoga.  I have done only a handful of 60-minute sessions, but each one has been relaxing, refreshing, and completely worth it.

It begins with the set-up.  Each member of the class gets a mat, a block, a strap, and a cozy, if not overly spacious, forty square feet.  Throughout the session, I found myself contorting into all sorts of positions.  Some were familiar: Downward-Facing Dog, Child’s Pose, and Warrior-II I already knew quite well from my own stretching routine.  Many, however, weren’t so familiar, and soon I found myself in positions almost as complex as their Indian names.

I’ll leave the rest of the session for you to find out on your own.  Here’s a teaser: expect dim lights, warm ambiance, and some high-quality James Blunt.

Come stressed; leave enlightened.  In Mighty Yoga's lobby, the calm is palpable. Taken from the Mighty Yoga Website (http://mightyyoga.com/hanover-2/studio/)

Come stressed; leave enlightened. In Mighty Yoga’s lobby, the calm is palpable.
Taken from the Mighty Yoga Website (http://mightyyoga.com/hanover-2/studio/)

Upon leaving the facility, one often finds that one’s legs feel like a healthy mix of rubber and pine.  It’s hard to describe, but yesterday, I felt like I was walking with a gymnast’s legs. Flexible, strong, bouncy, and deliciously loose.

After indulging my soul for so long, I usually feel it is appropriate to indulge my appetite as well.  The Big Green from Lou’s (with pancakes, Vermont maple syrup, scrambled eggs, and sausage, if you must know) never tastes better than after a high-quality yoga session.

Many of the true benefits of Mighty Yoga do not materialize until long after the session is over.  When I arrive back on campus, I feel far removed from the hectic life most Dartmouth students lead.  Maybe it’s just the normal Sunday mellow, but, for some reason, yoga helps me slow down, look around, and appreciate the moment.

Can you do this? Me neither.  That's why I went to yoga.

Can you do this? Me neither. That’s why I went to yoga.

Especially at the end of a long, cold Winter Term, I think it’s easy to let our lives become one big routine.  Sleep, eat, study, class, eat, work out, hang out, eat, repeat.  Without unexpected breaks, we become like robots, devoting all our time to completing tasks, achieving goals, and studying for midterms.

Don’t think I am undercutting the importance of working hard.  Au contraire, I would actually argue that many Dartmouth students would benefit from a little more time in the library (myself included).  I am merely warning against the fate that awaits the student who lives a yoga-free lifestyle, a lifestyle that prioritizes outward growth, rather than inward.  For those who already find themselves in such a predicament, I will repeat the one thing all yoga teachers seem to encourage: just take a deep breath.

Oh, and do a little Downward-Facing Dog, too.

Feb 242014

All these posts about snow – and the several-feet-high snow banks around me – have made me miss a time where there was no snow on the ground… specifically last winter when I flew South to the tropics to avoid the snow.

One of the biggest attractions for me (as a potential Bio-major at the time) was the Bio FSP to Costa Rica and the Cayman Islands. I was determined to go (who wouldn’t want to?), and last year (as a junior) I got my wish. I had already heard all about the amazing adventures I would have from past FSPers, who wouldn’t stop raving about their trip, and though they had also mentioned the harder parts, all I retained was how awesome it was. Little did I know I was about to embark on one of the most rewarding, yet  physically and mentally draining experiences of my life.

First of all, a little background. The FSP is separated into three segments, each led by a different professor, with two 3-week segments in Costa Rica (terrestrial field biology) and one in Little Cayman (marine biology). There are usually about 15 students and 2 TAs on the trip. Fun fact: the TAs on my trip were married and thinking about starting a family… and they did. Nine months after our trip, this little bundle of joy arrived:

Our little FSP wonder: Cami!

Our little FSP wonder: Cami!

The trip was amazing. I saw animals I didn’t think existed (look up tapir. seriously.), witnessed the birth of a baby howler monkey (bloody affair) that was then interrupted by a puma (scary stuff!), and managed to wade into a marsh to look at pretty flowers only to find myself running from a croc with leeches stuck to me! Below is another one of my misadventures…


Me stuck in quicksand after a small competition to see which of us could go deepest and still get out... I lost.

Me stuck in quicksand after a competition to see which of us could go deepest and still get out… I lost. They pulled me out.


Yet it was not all fun and games. Throughout this time we were also doing incredibly important work – observing nature around us, coming up with questions (and answers!) to satisfy our curiosity, and conducting experiments to discover more about the world around us. We also had to repeatedly come up with solutions to problems on the spot, learn to work in groups (and multiple groups at once!), research and write papers practically overnight, as well as constantly explore the environment around us and take advantage of all the unique opportunities!

Traveling to new destinations - always fun in the sun!

Traveling to new destinations – it’s always fun in the sun!

This was one of the most exhausting experiences of my life – severe lack of sleep (and privacy!), constantly on the go (your “off” days were travel days… not very relaxing when you’re lugging around all your equipment), prolonged separation from family and friends… yet it was all worth it. I came out of this experience with a small close-knit group of friends, some memorable stories, and with more strength of character and determination that I had before. I encourage everyone to embark on one of these adventures before graduating, for though you may complain along the way, you will always look back on it fondly afterwards. For you, BIO FSP 2013!

Our attempt at spelling out BIO FSP 2013

Our attempt at spelling out BIO FSP 2013


Feb 162014
Recognize it? Chances are, you don't. Courts like these are only common in the Northeast.  (Taken from DartmouthSports.com)

Recognize it? Chances are, you don’t. Courts like these are only common in the Northeast.
(Taken from DartmouthSports.com)

You won’t find it in the South.  You won’t find it in the West.  You will, however, find it at Dartmouth, and at most other colleges in America’s northeast.  It’s called squash, and around here, it’s just another racquet sport.

Curious?  You should be.  A somewhat-complex, fiercely-competitive, indoor-only, two-person game, squash has taken its place as one of the more interesting sports Dartmouth offers.

Being from the Northeast, I actually have a little bit of experience with the game and can testify to how fun it can be.  The racquet is light, and the ball, when properly used, is bouncy and fast.  Because of the court setup, the ball will only go “out” on a truly erratic hit, so there is little need to prioritize placement over power.  As a result, you can absolutely crank on the ball, whenever you feel like it.

And at the end of a tough week in February, I usually feel like it.

So this past weekend, a friend and I went over to Alumni gym and used our Dartmouth IDs to borrow two racquets and a ball.  We went to the (gorgeous and incredibly well-maintained) courts at the back of the facility, and started our game.

After 45 minutes of absolutely pounding that ball into the wall, I felt like a completely new person.  I didn’t even pay attention to the score; I was too busy pretending the ball was my Econ 1 midterm.  Eye on the ball, line it up, and… smack.  Sweet revenge.

All this was free, and all this was incredibly convenient.  At home and in most places, squash is something of a luxury.  Squash clubs are often expesive and a bit rare, and free court times are even rarer.  But at Dartmouth, playing squash couldn’t be easier.

Now that mid-terms are over, and professors seem to be lightening up on homework, I may not need to return to this house of zen for some time.  Or at least until Finals Week…

Feb 132014

This past weekend was Winter Carnival, one of Dartmouth’s better known traditions. Winter Carnival is the Winter Term Big Weekend, the same way that Homecoming is Fall Term’s Big Weekend. There is nothing like a 3-day weekend halfway through the term to remind everyone again of the great community that we have here at Dartmouth, and of the fun things winter brings when one goes outside!

There were many events happening at the same time, which is a little overwhelming, but the good thing is that any event you go to will be guaranteed fun. From the ice-sculpture building, to the Polar Bear Challenge (swimming inside a frozen lake!), to the Olympics Opening Ceremony and the many themed parties, Winter Carnival was a blast. This year’s theme was carnival of thrones, and so there was a student-build ice throne in the center of the Green. Pictures are attached!


arnival2 wintercarnival wintevarvibal