Aug 162012
 

I promise I’ll keep this one short and sweet.

With the summer quarter almost over and finals beyond the horizon, the pace of Dartmouth life has been swift with great impact. Looking back, it surprises me just how much the classes here have engaged and taught me how to look at life from another perspective. Take astronomy: we learned everything from basic physics to supernovae to the big questions like: How big is the universe and how did life begin?

These big questions always throw me in for a loop. I take a step back and remember how amazing life is and how small the human race’s timeline is relative to the astronomical age of the universe. It seems to me that even if we had an iota of an impact on the universe, compared to the vast expanses of the galaxy and beyond, we still remain infinitesimally small. These humbling thoughts are both exciting and frightening to me at the same time. They further propel my belief that given the grand scheme of the universe, we should aim to make a dent on the universe in our lives.

Beyond this philosophizing about the universe, it’s interesting to witness just how much what you study influences your ideas and thought patterns. When I took accounting last winter quarter, I thought in a very rigorous, systematic way, always analyzing the smallest details and making sure each step of it was correct. When I took computer science, I sought to implement the optimized teachings and algorithms into my own life. And as an econ major, I realize that knowledge has increasing returns to scale.

 

Dec 022011
 

It’s Friday, Friday, gotta study for finals, everybody’s looking forward to winter break…

Sorry for the awful song reference, guys. My caffeine-addled brain couldn’t come up with anything better. Also, sorry we’ve been a little lax in posting lately! It’s finals week here at Dartmouth, so things have been a bit busier than normal.

Actually, things feel less busy in a way. Even though it’s Friday evening, the atmosphere is
way more subdued than a typical Dartmouth weekend. We had our last classes on Wednesday, so yesterday and today were the “reading period” to catchup and study before most of the tests are held. Most people have been holed up in their favorite study spots for the past several days. People can get pretty aggressive about the prime study spots– I’m not nearly brave enough to try and snag a table on the third floor of the library, where most of the seats have had jackets and books permanently marking them as occupied for days. I miss hanging out with my friends in the evenings, but I know I’m getting more work done by going off by myself.

Besides, things haven’t been a total grind. Everyone from President Kim to the Gospel Choir have been holding “study breaks” with treats to help lighten the mood. If I went to all the study breaks offered, I’d never get anything done! And tonight was the tree-lighting on the Green– in the midst of all this schoolwork, the lights and carols finally made me realize that the holiday season is right around the corner.

I actually don’t have any finals tests this term; instead, my final grades are all papers. This is sort of nice because I have more control over my time and when I choose to work on each one. My humanities paper was due on Wednesday. It feels so nice to have that over with and to know that I only have two classes left to worry about. My religion paper is due on Monday afternoon. I took a draft to my professor during her office hours today, which was super helpful because I got to hear where my paper was weak from the person who will be grading it. Just one more plug for going to office hours– they really are worth it!

My biggest challenge is the research paper I’m writing for a sociology class on multiculturalism. I started off thinking about a topic in multicultural education, since I’m really interested in education policy, but I soon realized that “multicultural education” is way too broad of a topic. I decided to focus on “parachute kids,” wealthy Asian students who travel alone to the United States to go to school here. I want to see how their sojourn specifically for education and away from their parents affects their incorporation into American life. Even though writing my first college-level research paper is a bit daunting, I’m so interested in the topic that I’m actually having fun with the research.

Off to do more reading …and use my meal swipes to procure more caffeine! (who needs dinner when there is 5-hour Energy?)

Good luck with your own pre-break schoolwork, and happy holidays!

Live Free

Erin

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.

Oct 022011
 

While lying in bed at night, I always like to reflect on the day’s happenings.  Recently, I’ve been having to fulfill this tradition while brushing my teeth or walking back to my dorm at night because I’m so exhausted by the end of the day that I sleep nearly immediately after slipping under my sheets.

What makes me so exhausted, you ask?  At the moment, it’s not my homework (not yet, anyway).  It’s the fact that I’m always in motion and there is always positive energy buzzing around campus during the day.  Between walking back and forth to my dorm (yes, I live in the River, and yes, it is amazing), bonding with my floor, staying on my toes and participating in my classes, going to office hours, going to club tennis practice, and going to one or two club meetings a night, I get exhausted.  Then there’s the eating at FoCo with friends, studying in the tower room of Baker Library (I love studying there because it makes me feel like I’m in Harry Potter), etc (I’ll stop listing now).

Everyone at Dartmouth warns freshman about getting involved in too many clubs, but I think it’s a mistake that most freshman make anyways because of the type of people who come here.  Dartmouth students love being involved and love dipping their toes in new things.  Based on conversations I’ve had with upperclassmen, it seems like just trying one new club can open up an unknown world of talents, whether they be in fencing, improv comedy, or woodworking.

For example, I’ve never done Parliamentary Debate, which is awesome in case you were wondering.  There’s nothing like interrupting your opponent with a question by standing with one hand on your head and your other hand in the air (fun fact: one of the captains said that this is custom because Members of Parliament used to hold their wigs with one hand and show that they weren’t bearing arms with the other).  I actually just came back yesterday from a debate tournament in Boston for novices and had a great time bonding with the team.  Both the student body and the administration is so supportive of students to try new things, which is one of the great things about the environment here.

I guess being tired is something I anticipate I will deal with a whole lot more at Dartmouth over my next four years, but it is the kind of weariness that gives me satisfaction.  At the end of the day, I know that if I’m exhausted, I’ve been active and involved.  So, thank you Dartmouth.  If nothing else, you give me a whole lot to think about before I head to bed and you give me the deepest sleeps I’ve ever had.