By Troy Palmer
Published on Friday, February 1, 2013
You’re hanging out with your public policy textbook and KAF chai latte in the 1902 Room because it’s totally trendy and totally hardcore. And if we’re being honest, there really aren’t two better words to describe you. Impressively, you’ve completed your research paper three days early to an untold degree of perfection, and you’re two and three-quarters chapters and a problem set ahead in the textbook for your hardest class.
But wait, none of this makes sense. Why are you in the library, why are you studying and above all, why aren’t you procrastinating?
Suddenly and melodramatically, the seafoam green outside door of 1902 whips open. Three things burst into the room: a human form concealed by innumerable layers of cotton and polyester, an unsolicited drift of snow and an explanation for your perplexing behavior.
It is winter in Hanover. The endless summertime stream of possibilities has long since frozen over, so we brace motivation and entomb ourselves in the depths of the stacks. KAF breaks and wistful glances at the Green through the romantically frosty windows of Baker corridor become a way of life.
For some Dartmouth students, winter changes more than study habits alone. In fact, the seasonal shift seems to be accompanied by an underlying change in our way of life.
“Summer is about doing, whereas in the winter, we get caught up in thinking about things,” Sarah Heyborne ’16 said.
The shift in mentality is precipitated by the characteristic change of the weather, according to Heyborne.
“Winter term is very calm, just by nature of the season,” she said.
The prospect of an uncluttered schedule incites different approaches to starting the term in the new year.
For Anna Lawson ’16, the Winter term offers an opportunity to perform optimally in her most difficult courses.
“Since my time spent involved in extracurricular activities was going to be least, I scheduled the classes I was concerned about in the Winter so I could focus on them,” Lawson said.
Buried under readings, tests and snow, many must shy away from plans made in the fall. As a result of her increased workload, Arianna Lee ’16, a participant in the Women in Science Project, was forced to postpone the start date of her internship.
“I couldn’t adequately balance the obligations of my classes with my commitment to WISP,” Lee said.
For some, the unusually long break preceding the winter term plays a positive role in initiating their new mentality for the new year.
“Summer is as distant as it can be, and the future consists of only hypotheticals, which leads to more contemplation about ourselves,” Heyborne said. During the holidays, her focus shifted from straightforward academic concerns to larger questions about her values and goals. Having the opportunity to align our daily lives with our long-term aspirations is the most fundamental aspect of personal reassessment that takes place during the winter months.
While Heyborne looked to the future, Julia Pomerantz ’16 waxed reflective.
“I got to reevaluate the changes in myself from the first term and decide what I was satisfied with and what I was unsatisfied with,” Pomerantz said.
As a freshman, Pomerantz appreciated having time unconstrained by academic work to assess the way her first months of college shaped her. Returning to Dartmouth for her first Winter term, she set out with the intent of changing her approach to the balance between academics and other areas of her life.
“I realized at home that I want to place a stronger emphasis on wellbeing,” she said.
The recurrent theme of self-improvement reaffirms that our futures are one of our greatest mutual concerns. And it is often during the winter that our futures are directly called into question.
Most study abroad applications, as well as those for jobs and internships, are due during the first months of the year. After completing his applications for summer positions, Hamza Abbasi ’16 identified a better sense of self.
“Deciding what summer jobs to apply for forced me to reconsider what I really wanted for my future, and reaffirm my decisions,” Abbasi said.
Juniors tend to feel disproportionate pressure, as Winter term marks the first time the woes of senior year enter into their consciousness.
“We have to start thinking about our senior theses and graduate school applications,” Holli Weed ’14 said.
But for some graduating this year, Winter term holds a special place amongst their Dartmouth experiences. Rebecca Schneyer ’13 recalls making some of her fondest memories of the last four years during the frostier months. And as spring approaches, the time to reminisce slips away. “Our last winter is about doing the things that matter and the things that are meaningful,” Schneyer said.
Returning to Hanover, the same spot in 1902 and KAF chai lattes, the constancy of Dartmouth is comforting. Even so, winter brings its own distinct character to campus. It fundamentally changes the way we think about our futures and, more noticeably, the rate at which we walk to class.