Yang: An Open Letter to the Class of 2016
By Lorelei Yang, Staff Columnist
Published on Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Hello, and welcome to college! The next four years of your life will be eventful, tumultuous and — it goes without saying at a place like Dartmouth — action-packed. And that is as it should be.
Unlike some people you’ll meet here, I’m not going to pretend that there is a formula for the perfect Dartmouth experience, because there isn’t one. What you make of the next four years is completely up to you. With that said, there are two bits of advice that I would like to pass on to you from my own freshman year: Try everything, and use your experiences to draw your own conclusions. As you do these things, I ask that you help us change this campus for the better by refusing to buy in to tired stereotypes and keeping an open mind throughout your time at Dartmouth.
Inevitably, upperclassmen who believe they have found the secret to “winning Dartmouth” will try to convince you that they did it right and that you should tailor your own Dartmouth experience to mirror theirs by joining the same clubs, choosing the same major or joining the same Greek house. Thank them for their advice, but take it all with a grain of salt. Go try out that cool upperclassman’s club sport and sit in on the first day of whatever class the friendly girl you met at Collis recommended that you take, but don’t think that the only worthwhile things to do at Dartmouth are the ones that other people recommend to you or that everyone else seems to be doing. Sometimes, it is the classes with only a handful of students and the clubs with only a small but devoted core group of members that are the most rewarding — even if they don’t generate the most buzz around campus. Push yourself to experience Dartmouth on your own terms, without the pressure of trying to do it the “right” way — partly because there is no single “right” way to experience Dartmouth, and partly because a life lived according to someone else’s formula can never truly be your own.
Though it will be tempting to find a group to assimilate into as quickly as possible — there is so much safety in ’schmobs, isn’t there? — resist the urge to completely latch onto the first people you meet, to the detriment of making new friends. Push yourself to meet people everywhere throughout your Dartmouth career, regardless of what groups they may or may not identify with. There’s a reason that race, gender and class-based stereotypes are falling by the wayside in modern discourse — why shouldn’t our own campus stereotypes go the same way?
As the newest members of the Dartmouth community, you and your fellow freshmen have enormous potential to effect change at our school. Your choices — where you hang out, what activities you throw yourselves into and what campus issues you choose to champion — will have a real impact on campus attitudes and dialogue, so take advantage of that to make Dartmouth an even better place than it is now. Because while DOC Trips and Orientation week may expose you to some of the plentiful wonders of this place, Dartmouth is still a work in progress that needs your help to continue to improve, and you will soon come to see that there is still much work to be done when it comes to sexual assault, alcohol policies, student-administration relations and myriad other issues.
While you go out and make your own brand of Dartmouth magic happen, try not to take yourself too seriously. Don’t let your life revolve around the library unless it’s finals season. By all means, do your reading and complete your assignments, but don’t obsess over making perfect grades or acing every exam. Make time to relax, smile at the wide-eyed high school students who perennially clog campus on tours and just enjoy being here. Take a walk around Occom Pond sometime early in the morning, breathe in the crisp — and, in the winter, icy — air, and appreciate that you, out of so many thousands of hopefuls, are here. After all, what’s the point of being in the middle of the woods if you don’t ever get to enjoy them?
So what are you waiting for? Go — make new friends, explore campus and make Dartmouth your own. We’re all rooting for you, even if you are part of the worst class ever.