Dec 032011
Changing Colors

What a wild ride it’s been. People told me that ten week terms go by really fast, I never knew it would be THIS fast. I’m done with my finals today and fall 2011 term at Dartmouth has officially ended for me. We’re one twelfth the way there! I think back and I reflect. This term has been the perfect introduction for me to Dartmouth!

It all started off with meeting international upperclassmen as I arrived at Dartmouth late at night in pouring rain. I remember the first glimpse I got of my room and the feeling of excitement that rushed down my spine. It took a night’s sleep to finally comprehend the fact that I had arrived at Dartmouth! Next day, I was greeted by a crowd of people dancing around in front of Robo as upperclassmen dressed in crazy costumes greeted us for our DOC Trips. After spending only a day at Dartmouth, I was taken up to the Dartmouth College grant in the extreme north of New Hampshire for my Nature Photography Trip. Could there have been a better welcome?

Soon we went through a 2 week long orientation, starting with International orientation and then regular orientation. I was thrilled at the opportunities that were available to us here at Dartmouth and was already thinking about the millions of things I planned to do over the next few years. All this was accompanied by more than a thousand new faces around me. The fact that many of these faces would be an important part of my life for the next four years, and some even beyond that was both scary and exciting! After the perfect welcome through DOC trips, orientation provided the perfect kick-start to our time at Dartmouth. Soon we picked our courses for the term and classes began.

The opportunity of being taught by professors who were experts in their field was amazing. Every day I was learning so much and it made me feel proud of myself. We found ourselves coming up with the perfect weekly schedule for ourselves. We found ourselves trying things we had never done before (Which, for me, was playing tennis). We found ourselves being challenged and overcoming those challenges. We found ourselves growing!

Days passed, and soon I was watching my first football game wearing the Dartmouth gear I had recently purchased. It was an amazing experience, especially since we won!

Homecoming finally came with trees changing their colors, and we ran around that huge bonfire that was built to mark an official start to our time at Dartmouth. We were filled with spirit and felt proud of being members of the Best Class Ever in the Best College Ever!

Soon New Hampshire showed its magic with snow in October. In just a few hours, Dartmouth turned into a winter wonderland, and The Green turned completely white! At midnight the entire college came out, and had a massive snowball fight on The Green. We were amazed at how magical this place is!

Before we knew it, finals were right around the corner. We found ourselves turning to our favourite studying spot (which for me was my room), and doing our best to make sure we’re ready for being tested on our previous ten weeks’ worth of work. Many took advantage of the numerous study breaks that were organized throughout campus. A large part of the community came out to The Green yesterday evening and decorated Dartmouth’s huge Christmas tree.

And finally, today my finals ended, and with them so did the term. I repeat, it’s been a wild ride, it’s been the perfect start, and I’m excited about what is to come. Dartmouth feels like a home now, and the people here feel like a family. Adios fall 2011, you’ve treated me well!



Nov 232011

I have way too much fun planning.  I think classes are my favorite thing to plan about my time at Dartmouth.  You know how on Macs, they have the “Top Sites” page when you open up a new tab?  Well my Banner account, where you go to pick classes, is listed there now…with other sites like Youtube, my favorite web comics, Gmail, and Sporcle.  I think I look at classes more than I watch television or surf Facebook.  That’s a good thing, right? (Just nod your head, it will make me feel better.)

There are just so many possibilities to consider.  Class topic, professor, time – sometimes it gets to be a bit much because I literally can’t hold all the information in my head.  I don’t mind courses in the morning or going to class on TuTh (Tuesdays and Thursdays) in addition to MWF (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), but a lot of my friends choose courses that only meet later on MWF.  Then there are the distributives that they fulfill, which I’m not really worrying about right now, but eventually I’ll be looking for a CI, TMV, etc.  I apologize for my abbreviations – I think it’s another sign I’ve spent way too much time on Banner.  Anyways, I especially like looking at the teachers’ reviews, especially on the site that the Hacker Club resurrected (don’t worry, “hacking” is another word for Programming, and the Hacker Club works on some awesome projects).  A great teacher can make you really enjoy thinking about subjects that you’ve never thought about before.

Speaking of new subjects, it’s my goal to take at least one crazy, creative, out-of-the-box course each term.  On the agenda for winter term: ethnomusicology, in which I’ll learn about non-western music whilst playing musical instruments I’ve probably never seen before and learning from visiting musicians.  To work towards my goal, I’m already planning (no surprises there) a list of interesting courses that I want to take by the time I graduate.

D-planning is harder to do as a freshman in my opinion, especially because there are so many variables up in the air.  Most freshman take summer off, but I don’t mind staying on-campus if it means I can land a really interesting internship or study abroad program some other term.  D-planning started with my nearly-obsessed friend (you know who you are :P, but no judgment, since I clearly cannot judge anyone).  I caught the disease from her, and now I’ve come up with a tentative plan for my first three years here (let’s not mention the hours that went into that).  D-Planning also leads to discussions about housing next year with my friends, which I won’t even go into here – it’s complicated.

Anyways, when it’s course registration time, I tend to get very little work done.  It’s a pity that course registration opened just before midterms, but I did fine on my tests, so no worries.  But now that’s its Thanksgiving break, I can relax, do a little studying (not go on Banner…hopefully that part works out), and reconnect with my family and friends from back home.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

Nov 212011

When I arrived on campus, there were so many clubs and activities I wanted to try. Even though I am in no way qualified for a hip-hop dance group and I don’t really know what Boggle is (yes, there’s a club for that), I eagerly watched as blitz after blitz poured in to my inbox during the early weeks of September. I’d joined the Cheer Team over the summer, but I was looking for a non-athletic campus activity that was totally different than anything I’d done before.

I found what I was looking for in the Great Issues Scholars program, run through Dartmouth’s Dickey Center for International Understanding. If the title sounds vague, that’s because the program is so broad– we basically learn about the most pressing concerns of people all over the world through speakers, lectures, and discussions. GIS is just for first-years, which is one reason why I’ve enjoyed it so much. I’ve met other students my age whom I might not have met on my floor, in a class, or on a team. To get to know each other, our first event of the term was a retreat!

We left in school buses on Friday afternoon and drove about forty minutes off campus to a beautiful camp in Vermont. We started out with icebreaker games in a barn and then had a delicious dinner in the main lodge. Though I’m still having my honeymoon period with the food here at Dartmouth, the home-cooked meals at this camp were amazing.

Next we got down to the main part of the retreat: a simulation of the conflict going on in the South China Sea. Most of us had never even heard of that region, so we attended a lecture by Dartmouth professors Jenny Lind and Daryl Press, about a week prior to the retreat. At the lecture we were all assigned to different country groups involved in the issue. In the week leading up to the retreat we read news articles with more specifics on our particular country’s motivations and involvement. The simulation was run by Fred Hill, who makes simulations for the U.S. Department of State. We are so spoiled here at Dartmouth.

After a talk from Fred Hill we split into our seperate “countries” and began planning what we would say in conference with each of the other countries the next day. It was a lot of information to take in, but we had been provided with the necessary resources to sort through it. After the meetings we made s’mores in the barn and then headed to bed in the cabins.

Before breakfast the next morning, some other girls and I went on a morning walk around the camp grounds. There was a fresh autumn breeze, and the leaves on the trees were absolutely gorgeous. This part of the country is so stunning in October. As if the natural landscape wasn’t enough, we found a small wooden castle up on a hill! We ran around inside of it and posed on the top like little kids on a playground. That morning was easily one of my happiest moments at Dartmouth so far.

The morning was spent doing teamwork exercises in the woods, and the afternoon was full of diplomatic meetings amongst countries. I have no debate or Model UN background, so I wasn’t really expecting how intense some of the meetings became! I was a representative of the United States; we were trying to support countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia without coming into direct conflict with China. We ran from meeting to meeting, trying to keep up with new developments amongst countries and prevent ourselves from committing to anything too hastily. Even though we’d known next to nothing about the South China Seas conflict only a week before, we still managed to take many different viewpoints into account. We didn’t reach an overarching solution by the end of the afternoon, but I know I still enjoyed playing diplomat for a day. After the concluding summit, we ate another delicious dinner and headed back at campus in time for Saturday evening.

The retreat was such a fun part of my freshman fall. It sort of felt like DOC trips all over again. We’ve had several other GIS events since, and it’s been great catching up with the friends I made during the retreat. I’m so thankful that I’m in GIS this year. I knew next to nothing about international affairs when I came here, so it’s been great to learn a bit about topics as varied as human trafficking in Kyrgyzstan or U.S. policy towards the conflict in the Middle East. I’m already looking forward to the rest of the year with GIS.

Nov 192011

One of the reasons that I chose Dartmouth was because I heard that students really get to know their professors, and I haven’t been disappointed.  As a first-year student, I expected some larger classes, so I thought that I wouldn’t get to interact with my professors on a personal level until sophomore or junior year.  My classes, however, are small–50 people, 16 people, and 15 people, respectively.  Even in the 50-person class, I have a real relationship with my professor.  Not only does she know my name, but she also knows my personality.

Last night, I brought my professor from my first-year seminar to a dinner that was specifically organized for students to bring their professors.  My friends and I got to talk to my professor for a few hours, which was really valuable because I learned where her unique perspective in class comes from based on her background.  Yet, the dinner was not the first time that I got to talk with my professor.  I often go to office hours to talk to her about current events from a critical geographical perspective.

Whether through organized events, office hours, or simply classroom interactions, I’ve really gotten to know my professors, and they’ve gotten to know me too.  If you come to Dartmouth, I’m sure that you’ll have a similar experience.

Oct 102011

I have my first midterm in two days. My biggest question is how did four weeks pass by so quickly?! I blink and a week is over. Anyways, I want to devote this entry to where I found help when I needed it.

I always considered myself a good student in high school, as does everybody else I’ve met here (and for good reason). I used to look over my notes and homework and do just fine on tests and assignments in the past, but I found out that this isn’t enough here. There will come a time at Dartmouth when you also will need help since the classes here try to challenge you to think like you haven’t before.

I reached out for help in math first. The professor mentioned something called a “tutorial” at the beginning of the term, but I shoved that to the back of my mind thinking that I probably wouldn’t need that. After a difficult lecture and an even more difficult homework assignment, I found myself stopping by the room listed for the tutorial on the syllabus. When I opened the door and stepped in, a graduate student came over, introduced herself and asked if I needed any help. What a welcome question after I had spent far too long staring at the problems, looking through the book, and trying different approaches in vain! The rest of the session, I worked on problems until I hit a rut and  then asked for help to get individual attention. I fully advocate the use of tutorials for math!

In my other subjects, I’ve talked to my professors at office hours multiple times. They are always happy to help, and they take an interest in you, too. The professor for my writing seminar answered all my questions in 20 minutes, and we proceeded to talk about other interesting subjects for another 40 minutes. I personally thought those types of conversations with professors were a thing of myth before I came here to Dartmouth.

Speaking of my writing seminar class, I recently had a paper due. I had a rough draft of my essay done a couple days before the deadline, but even after editing it a bit, I felt like I wasn’t writing at a “college-level”. Going to RWIT, a free resource that helps students with research and writing, made me more sure of myself and what professors are looking to see in essays.

Then there are my fellow classmates, who are always looking out for each other. In my classes with midterms, I have already formed little study groups, and we’ve been planning study sessions and guiding each other through rough patches in our understanding. I also tutor for a peer-tutoring service run through the Academic Skills Center (another great resource) as well, so you can seek out long-term individual help for your classes as well.

I am not embarrassed to admit that I have had multiple study parties with my friends. Though most people don’t want to think of studying as part of college life, it is something you will have to deal with anywhere you go. At Dartmouth, it is made easier and more enjoyable that you may think. Finding help while preparing for midterms made me realize that we are not alone in our studies.