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

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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


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 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?

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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?”.

Forming My Identity

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Feb 132015

As a senior, I have been reflecting a lot on my time here, and really, I think it’s unfair. It’s unfair that we can only take 36 courses throughout our time here. There are soo many wonderful courses that I now wish I had an extra year to take them all. One of my favorite classes was offered through the Geography Department titled “Social Justice in the City.” It was taught by one of the best professors I think I’ll ever have (yeah, it’s that serious), Dr. Sharlene Mollett. She was just great, I can gush about her for ages…

Anyways, in this class we explored many current and historical issues surrounding injustices in urban environments (hence the title “Social Justice in the City”. For me, it was more of a pivotal moment in my time here at Dartmouth that explained a lot about how I am as a person.

Born and raised in South LA, I always had experiences and feelings I never knew how to verbalize. Taking this class allowed me to explore how injustices are structural issues and learn more about the environment I grew up in. This class also challenged me to learn different ways of thinking and question why I think the way I do.

I feel like the majority of the classes I’ve taken at Dartmouth have challenged me in more than one way. They’ve opened new modes of learning for me, and have allowed me to study things I never even thought about!

Human Dogsled Race

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Feb 092015

 As part of the festivities of Winter Carnival this past weekend, the college held its annual human dogsled race. The snow storms in the northeast the past few weeks made it all the more appealing to me. The requirement to wear flare (wacky costumes of your choice) helped seal the deal.

I enlisted the help of 3 of my fraternity brothers to pull us to victory.

IMG_0640Face down, ready for the cold journey ahead.

IMG_0641 Momentum builds.

IMG_0642The turn is critical. The sled flips but I hold on for dear life. Recovery is made.

IMG_0643The homestretch. (Also I can’t breathe nor see from the snow)


Feb 072015

Here at Dartmouth College, Winter Carnival is a real holiday with cancelled classes and full days of programming. This weekend celebration can be a hectic time on campus with so many events to attend or traditions to partake in, so we’ll highlight some of the ones we think are pretty important.

1. 99-Cent Skiing! 

In 1957, the Dartmouth Skiway opened for business. With more than 30 trails and 100 ski-able acres spread out over two mountains, the Skiway has something from beginners to the most Olympian of skiers. It is customary for the Skiway to have a day when lift tickets cost only 99-cents in celebration of the weekend’s festivities! Take advantage of Dartmouth’s bus system that picks you up and drops you off in front of the HOP (Hopkins Center for the Arts). Busses run at 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, Noon, 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm. Don’t know how to ski? No worries! We have the Snowsports School that is staffed with 35 instructors.

Take it from the staff over at the Skiway if you don’t believe us:  “No matter what your skiing style, the Skiway has something fun for everyone: a 968-foot vertical drop, affordable ski tickets, a full-service day lodge, superb grooming, and exciting terrain features.”




2. Polar Bear Swim

*Warning: not for the easily frozen* Around midday every Friday of Winter Carnival, Occom Pond is utilized for those who want the excitement of jumping into a below freezing pool of water. Make sure to Brrr-ing a swimsuit, towel, and warm clothes. No one is allowed to do the swim after 1 pm, so come early for a spot online! Take the plunge and claim your spot amongst the thousands of Dartmouth students who have faced the cold over many decades! But really, the pictures are epic….
Just take a look!
prof jump Pond
This longstanding tradition takes place on the heart of campus: The Green. Sign up with your friends, put on some flair (wacky clothes) and unleash your spirit of friendly competition! With snacks and prizes, this is an UNMISSABLE tradition. I mean, look at how awesome this is:
Vox clamantis in desert.
A voice crying out in the wilderness.