Everett: On Common Ground
By Alina Everett, The Dartmouth Senior Staff
Published on Saturday, June 9, 2012
Shafts of light shift in and out of train cabin 17, and I can feel my seat shaking beneath me as we cover old tracks leading into the Brussels-Midi station in the heart of Belgium. We pass through a dark tunnel and when we emerge, I see a tiled sign with one word on it: ZUIDSTATION. I have no idea what it means, but I hope I have taken the right train and I pray that I will be able to find my way from here.
I stand up with 30 of my nearest fellow travelers, and as we shuffle onto the platform, I can’t help but feel like I’m in a Dartmouth basement. We spill out — some people are confident and they stride ahead, glancing at their watches or poking a finger decidedly at the giant metro map on the wall.
I cling to my backpack and look around for signs in English or French, or even something in German as long as there are enough cognates. The heat rises to my face, and I see people coming and going, stepping on and off the trains — alone like me, native, foreign, with friends, with families. I pick a direction and start to walk.
Today, as I think of the past four years at the College on the Hill, I think of savvy friends, confident leaders, committed athletes, library survivors, thesis writers, pong players, sisters, brothers and some of the greatest intellectual minds I’ll ever have the chance to probe.
If our paths have crossed, we may have asked each other how we came to this place, or where we might end up. Maybe we helped each other along — one of us asked for help, the other translated. Maybe we met and our paths changed for good. Maybe I followed you blindly, hoping you had the answers that I did not. Or maybe we never met, but I guarantee that yours was, at least for a moment, a face on the platform — familiar, omniscient — checking your watch and reminding me to check mine.
My more formative Dartmouth moments happened away from this wild home. All it took was a moment tumbling downhill in the western mountain powder or a flash of panic alone in a foreign country to force me into action, to make me ask for advice, to allow me to make a fool of myself. My off-terms challenged me not to fear. And when I thought of my safe Dartmouth existence, shuffling like I did in the Belgian train cabin, I was inspired to make myself uncomfortable. When I took that strength and applied it every day at this great school, I found that I had joined my fellow traveling ’12s and had begun to navigate the complexities of the Dartmouth system not with inherent knowledge but with new information.
I will miss trudging through the snow with you. I will miss waving to you from the front porch of your house or as we pass each other on the Green. I will miss throwing my arms in the air with you as we scream the words to “Shout.” I will miss being on the ice with you, or watching you dive through the air, swim like a torpedo or fly down the field like a champion.
Most of all, I will miss your collective presence, because whether or not I was lucky enough to meet you, I learned something from you being here.
Thank you for being the most inspiring class I ever could have hoped to graduate with.
It’s comforting to know that wherever we will be on June 11, we will all be on our respective paths, thinking of the precious moments we shared together here. Dartmouth will be our common platform, the place where we will brush shoulders, take a seat and re-examine the map together. I can’t wait to pick a direction and to be bold with my class at my side.
Alina Everett ’12 is the former publisher.