Sinclair: Back to the Future
By Katie Sinclair, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, July 6, 2012
I remember it like it was yesterday. Actually, that’s not true — I remember it like it was almost two years ago, a warm sunny day in September. A horde of overeager ’14s in backpacks and hiking boots stood on the lawn in front of Robo, trying and failing to do the Salty Dog Rag while pretending that being in the company of 10 or so complete strangers and some seriously cool upperclassman leaders was not in the least bit terrifying.
Last weekend, I had the chance to relive Dartmouth Outing Club First-Year Trips, in the form of Strips, with 180 of my fellow classmates. I went on a canoeing Strip, which was awesome because I didn’t have to carry my stuff, except the one time when a dam got in the way of our river and we had walk the rest of the way. My Strips experience was full of canoeing with helpings of nostalgia, Cabot cheese and a large portion of gratitude, especially that I wasn’t a freshman anymore.
I had a great time during Strips. I can’t say that I bonded with anyone or that I met my new best friend, but I did get a chance to meet some cool new people and hang out with some others whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. Unlike freshman Trips, with their never-ending activities and inexhaustible array of name games, Strips was relaxing. It was refreshing to be cut off from the outside world, to go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up at a time when people in the real world eat breakfast.
Most importantly, I enjoyed that there was no need to impress anyone — no incessant urge to instantly make friends. Contrast that with freshman Trips, when it seemed that if you were unable to meet your best friend while everyone was wearing flair and singing and yelling at you, there was no chance that you could ever forge meaningful connections in venues as mundane as biology class or your hallway at 2:30 a.m. while waiting for an order of EBAs. People seemed more genuine after six terms at Dartmouth, more comfortable in their own skin and united by the sense of a powerful common experience. There were certainly the ubiquitous and inevitable “Where are you from?” and “What’s your major?” questions. But instead of frantically casting around for something interesting to say, I felt a sense of pride in actually having decided on a major, something that seemed so daunting almost two years ago.
During our farewell lunch at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge — no singing, dyed hair or awkward dancing this time — someone next to me said, “Wow, it seemed so much bigger when we were freshmen.” And it did. Things were scarier then, more exciting, back when you didn’t know who to talk to or where to sit, when you could attempt, and not always succeed, to reinvent yourself as a sophisticated college student.
Participating in Strips made me appreciate what Dartmouth offers to students, not just freshman and how being a freshman is somewhat overrated. I learned that our campus is a much bigger place than we give it credit for — that it is okay to still not know everyone’s name and to not be known by everyone. While there is something liberating about being a direction-less freshman, you can derive even greater comfort from knowing who you are and what you believe while still exploring new things, like rock climbing or kayaking, without being overly self-conscious.
Dartmouth, like all lasting institutions, is built on a series of myths. Perhaps one of these myths is that you will be accepted and liked for whoever you are. You will probably never be that cool and sophisticated person you thought you were going to be, though by all means keep trying. Professors do assign homework over sophomore summer. Steering a canoe is actually really hard.
I was away in the spring and when I returned to campus for my long-awaited sophomore summer, it felt more like home than it ever did during freshman Orientation. It’s somewhat surreal to be on campus when the majority of students are ’14s, a strange echo of Orientation week, except now we know what to order at Collis and how pong works. We’ve all broadened our perspectives over the last two years and this summer should be no different — it’s a time to see how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.