Through the Looking Glass: Finding Home
By Rohan Chaudhary
Published on Friday, May 18, 2012
Before Dartmouth, I lived in nine different homes in six different cities. So, upon coming to Dartmouth, I should have been ready for the constant change that comes with the D-Plan. I wanted constancy here, but I ended up with instability. In the past four years, I studied abroad four times. Between June 2009 and January 2012, I never lived in the same room for more than 10 weeks, usually less.
It wasn’t always this way, though. For my first five terms at Dartmouth, I remained in Hanover with no time away. Since then, I’ve only been on campus for six terms. But during sophomore fall, with the close group of friends I had developed, it all felt right.
Then fall rush put us in different houses, and winter put us in different countries. After the winter abroad, I lived in my fraternity for the spring and summer, growing farther apart from my old friends. At the same time, my friends were also disappearing more into their fraternities, making the gap even larger.
At the end of my sophomore summer, I realized I’d be spending the fall and winter abroad, and I barely had anything to show for it. My 10X bucket list was almost completely unchecked. I had barely met any new ’12s. Where had the time gone?
I wasn’t quite ready to leave, but I had no choice at that point. I spent seven months away. I went on two FSPs, spent 10 weeks in the western U.S. and Canada and 10 weeks in Costa Rica, replete with spectacular experiences and fantastic memories. And then I returned to Dartmouth.
Every time I returned to campus before, I felt that I was returning home. On the Dartmouth Coach, I found friends to sit near. I saw familiar faces as we approached campus. And that feeling when I first saw the Green in the evening twilight, with Baker-Berry towering behind it — that was the best feeling in the world.
But by junior spring, I felt homeless. I knew nobody on the bus. I saw no familiar faces on campus. Over 1,100 people I had never met before were suddenly Dartmouth students — they had already run around the bonfire and built the snow sculpture. I felt so distant.
My first week back on campus was an extended audition. My friendships were only as strong as the way I greeted people the first time I saw them, only as strong as those brief preliminary conversations. Some friends I had made during sophomore summer didn’t even seem to recognize me.
And it just got worse. I took three lab classes and went inactive in my fraternity, which was now occupied by 20-odd new pledges whom I barely knew. I lived in a single on an anonymous floor of upperclassmen. This was not home. Those 10 weeks were the loneliest and most miserable of my life. I spent many late nights lying in bed with pessimistic tears flowing down my cheeks. I wondered if I could ever enjoy this place again and how I would be able to make it through senior year.
But I still spent the summer here, relaxing, detoxing and doing research. And when I realized I didn’t need to take classes senior fall, I began planning my next term abroad.
Leading a DOC Trip this past fall, though, rekindled my love for this school and its students. Sitting on the Leech Field surrounded by happy people, I never wanted to leave.
But of course, just as quickly as I fell in love with Dartmouth, just as quickly as I could say hello to friends I hadn’t seen in over a year, I was leaving again. I experienced the best 10 weeks of my life abroad before returning to a cold and once again lonely place for the winter, forced to suffer through my least favorite class I have taken at Dartmouth.
Finally, this spring, my last term on campus, things have started to fall into place. I am not taking classes, and with my free time, I am trying desperately to rekindle friendships that died during my many absences. I’m also trying to experience more of the Dartmouth I’ve missed, but what I have realized is that there is just too much of it. I need 12 more terms here, 35 more classes. I want to get involved in organizations I never tried or fully committed to, to meet new friends and to spend time with old ones.
I would love being on campus if it meant spending time around those who really matter to me. But whether it is school work, extracurriculars or love of basements (which I don’t share), I’ve found that people have very little free time for me.
But in spite of it all, I fully encourage everyone to study abroad multiple times. More generally, though, be sure to take advantage of the ridiculous amount of opportunities Dartmouth has. But don’t be afraid to slow down. Get a meal with that friend you haven’t seen in weeks or years. Go to that cool event you read about in the D2U blitz. Eat that free food in Rocky. But, most of all, do what feels right. Not just what feels right in the moment, but what will feel right tomorrow, maybe even next year.
And you know what? It felt oddly right to go abroad four times and to move every 10 weeks at Dartmouth. It feels right to be on campus now, and it will even feel right to commence my new life on June 10, no matter where that new life will take me or how often that destination will change.
I can only hope your life feels right, and you are ready for your June 10, whenever it comes along.
Rohan Chaudhary ’12 knows very little, aside from the fact that he knows very little. Blitz him before he graduates and maybe you can teach him a thing or two before the real world tears him apart! He would be honred to meet you, learn your story, and share his.