A First Year In Review


Three freshmen recount their freshman year.

Editor’s Note: The following is a freshmen retrospective on the first year experience at the College. Although the substance of this account is (mostly) rooted in fact, it uses hyperbole and creativity liberally for humorous effect. 

Fall Term: 

A wise man once said, “We learn by making mistakes.” If this were the case, then my freshman fall would probably give me all the course credits required for graduation. Slipping from blunder to blunder with endless enthusiasm, the Class of 2017 and I braved the minefield of freshman fall and made it out in one piece. Our epic saga begins with the frustration of the Dartmouth Coach.

On the Coach ride from Boston Logan to Hanover, I realized that the best four years of my life were about to begin. One of the prettiest girls on the bus decided to sit next to me — probably because the only other open seat was next to what I’m pretty sure was a decomposing corpse — but whatever, I still felt like the coolest freshman in the school. Well, pretty upperclassman girl, wherever you are today, sorry for being that kid who clearly attended a single sex high school. And, you have a really good fake laugh. Also, I love you.

Stepping off the coach to a mass of outdated colorful and kitschy fashion, I learned what flair meant. I also realized that upperclassmen cared enough about me to yell their throats hoarse and dance jubilantly, bursting the immensely vast bubble of awkwardness surrounding me.

Deep below their sweaty, grimy exterior, DOC Trips were the greatest part of Dartmouth’s orientation program. After screaming for my mommy the whole length of my Hiking 4 trip, the Lodge Croo greeted our trip section like Super Bowl champs, cooked us great food, and sang for us all night long. The next afternoon we were sent home to Dartmouth, where we began to collectively realize as a class that college is a place where you actually have to study.

But back to those days when our meal-swipes and DBA flowed like the sleepy Connecticut River, when the most stressful decisions were whether to eat at the farmer’s market or go to a home soccer game, and when our hearts were as warm and gooey as a Foco cookie. Other than an endless stream of good times, I’m finding it difficult to uniquely describe the first few weeks of freshman year.

I showed up to a rugby match, pretended to know the rules, and emerged victorious with my teammates — albeit with the face of a Picasso painting. I charged the field at the Homecoming football game, checked my phone every time I got a blitz (approximately 3.2 times a second,) and signed up for more clubs than I could count.

My roommate was a saint, and should probably receive a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to keep our quaint little double in the Choates clean. Either that, or he should receive massive amounts of therapy for what is probably diagnosable as post-traumatic stress disorder. I think he started getting the shakes after I lost my key and decided to kick through the window. But seriously, if you are a lame human being and are even worse at staying tidy, get your roommate a treat from time to time. It’ll keep him from transferring and it’ll make you feel better about breaking his vacuum cleaner.

During the six-week freshmen frat ban, the freshmen, instead of staying sober or playing bingo or whatever the GLC intended, got massively drunk, sniffing out pre-games like bloodhounds. By night, Fahey, Russell Sage, the Choates, and other freshman dorms became temples where Lil Jon was gospel and cheap vodka was penance. By day, these respective dorms looked like Civil War-era hospitals with enough boot and EBA’s to sink a ship. Picture the scene from “The Shining” with the elevator full of blood, except replace the blood with vomit and lowered standards. Another piece of advice to future freshmen: befriend the custodians. They’re like surrogate moms except with more tattoos, and they make a living cleaning your filth.

When the frats finally opened their doors, some of us never left. Freshman girls became the most coveted people on campus, while freshman guys mostly struggled for some semblance of acknowledgement — but this is the way life goes when you’re a dude who’s terrible at pong and still voice-cracks.

Some of us got crushed at GDX dance parties and decided to attend Open Mic, Pub Trivia, or any of the other legitimately entertaining options Collis and the Programing Board puts together instead. Some of us obeyed the law and spent our weekends watching movies at The Nugget and our spare time walking through Pine Park. If you keep your head about you and make good friends, it’s hard to go horribly wrong as a freshman. Then again, if you don’t make any huge mistakes you’re probably not doing it right.

It wasn’t until my first atrocious midterm and my first missed class that I started to get my act together and study — ideally I would have learned that earlier, but who wasn’t distracted during the term-long spell that was freshman fall? Dartmouth does an excellent job of welcoming its students to the College and I couldn’t have asked for much more during freshman fall.

Winter Term 

Coming back from the long winter break was like entering a different world. The campus we had left in the fall was covered in a deep blanket of snow. For those of us who were not used to the weather of New England, it was a rude awakening. As most of my friends came from warmer climates, we all suffered together. From immediately chapped lips to frozen water bottles, the cold was like nothing else we had ever experienced. I saw more snowfall in my first two weeks here than I had in my entire life previously. One of the first things I learned was that it was far easier to walk through the library for a brief spell of warmth when making the long early morning walk to class in the Visual Arts Center. Winter term also brought a new feeling: a sense of familiarity that had not been there during the fall. At least among my friends, we knew where we were, and for the most part, knew what we were doing. It came time to seriously think about major planning, FSPs, and our plans for the rest of our time Dartmouth. Sure, we had thought about this before but now it was time to really start thinking about what we were doing here, at least more seriously than we had been in the fall.

Winter was not all seriousness and foul weather though. Quickly, we started to make the most of it. PE Skiing class was a bright spot every week, even though it meant getting up unreasonably early on cold Sunday mornings to make the trek down to the bus stop. But once you stepped off the bus at the skiway, it was all worthwhile. I had been to the Skiway before, but getting to use it for the first time was a thrill. Even though I already knew how to ski and was signed up for the intermediate class, skiing for the first time after a four-year break was a little shaky. Soon it all came back, and blasting down the mountain came naturally again. My sister lives in Connecticut and is an avid para-skier, so I always had a free ride to Killington or Loon Mountain any weekend I wanted to get off campus. The luster of the Skiway wore off fast after the first run at Killington: a run filled with falls, tumbles, and near misses. Despite all that, it was great to get off campus for a few hours or a night, spend some time with family, and take a shower in a hotel room where I probably didn’t need to wear shower shoes.

A few weeks into winter term, things started to get restless. To combat the cabin fever, a few of us decided to get out. After some hasty planning and a quick search on Ticketmaster, we had a target — the great city of Montreal. Almost immediately, things went wrong. The garage where our car was stored was snowed in from the previous night, and our friend and driver Henry had run over the only snow shovel when parking the night before, so we sat and watched as he scraped, kicked, and generally caused mayhem trying to move the snow. After passing the border into Quebec it was only a few hours to the city. As soon as we entered, we were immediately lost, and then denied parking at the hotel – apparently our moderately sized SUV was far too large for the garages of Montreal. Then we bugged the concierge for the nearest bars and restaurants, and set off for the night. We met some lovely ladies from McGill, impressed upon them how great Dartmouth was, bought them a few rounds of drinks, and then headed off to the concert, where the entire cast of Jersey Shore had apparently been transplanted. Dada Life put on a great show, but all I could see were huge men with absurdly tight V-neck shirts. After we had had enough, and barely escaped with our facial structures intact, we piled into a cab, only to realize none of us actually knew where our hotel was. After three botched attempts, we finally made it back, and the next morning awoke early to return. After a terrifying exit from Montreal, going the wrong way down one-way streets and bus lanes, we finally made it to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The Carnival 

Waking up from a nap to rub the drool off my face in AP US History my senior spring, I noticed my teacher had been talking about Dartmouth for the past couple of minutes. He was the kind of old man who’s two parts steel plate, one part saggy flesh, and three parts stubborn old bastard — so when he told me, and I quote, he was “blacked out” for his entire Carnival experience, I immediately fantasized what my Carnival would be like. Sledding down the Hanover Country Club hill in a Batman onesie, screaming like a ten-year old at a Bieber concert, I realized three things: everything in my life would go downhill after that moment, a five-dollar plastic sled was not meant to support three male college students, and the Northerners were right when they said that gloves are essential to winter fun. Everything else, to be honest, is a bit fuzzy. But you can’t miss it.

Spring Term 

Looking back at 14S, it’s hard to see anything past the absurd time that was Green Key. It seems like ages ago that I trudged off the coach, in quickly freezing tears over the fact that it still wasn’t even remotely close to spring yet and I couldn’t wear any of the NASCAR t-shirts I’d just bought on eBay. Compounding the cold problem was the fact that the band of jacket-stealing gypsies, who most definitely aren’t freshman girls, was still on the prowl waiting at every fraternity house to rob me and leave me to freeze to death in the still sub-20 temperatures. Fortunately, I made it through the coming weeks without too much questioning of why Reverend Wheelock decided to build this school in the middle of the godforsaken north woods.

After the snow finally melted came the mud, quickly followed by the Freedom Budget and the Parkhurst Protests. I won’t give my opinion on the Freedom Budget, the Protests, or the Phiesta incident since it has become evident that as a white male my opinion is no longer valid.

The early spring gloom would not last as truly warm days were soon to come. As soon as those first rays of sunshine came out, I mistakenly put on shorts and then realized that sun doesn’t necessarily equate to warmth in this state; however, actual warm days were soon to follow. When that finally happened, everyone on campus changed. People were relaxing on the Green, girls were in their sundresses, and guys were wearing sleeveless t-shirts and making me feel inadequate.

The spring weather allowed me to satisfy some of my more redneck tendencies, as I finally got to go trout fishing and make new friends with probably the only Dartmouth professor who is also a member of the NRA. Additionally, I got to spend an awesome evening with some of my fellow Bait and Bulletteers shooting at inanimate objects with guns whilst on a farm in Vermont.

IM Softball was also a lot of fun. Though half of our team didn’t show up for our only game, some of us had never thrown a baseball before, and even less of us were sober, we fought a hard battle. After getting mercy ruled in the first inning, we really picked up our game and rallied back hard. We got three outs in every inning, and collectively were much better looking than the other team.

Parents Weekend was also a blast. I can’t say my parents were too thrilled about my level of personal hygiene, but they really enjoyed meeting my friends. It was really important that my parents meet the bunch of idiots who will hopefully remain my good friends for the rest of my time at Dartmouth and beyond.

Dimensions ushered in a hoard of potential ‘18s, many of whom are probably already better than me at pong. Though they weren’t permitted to venture in to any of the male-dominated social spaces on campus, every ‘18 I saw seemed to be having a fun time getting to know what our community is all about. I think everyone on campus wanted to make sure that we got the best crop of rising freshmen possible, and I’m sure that many incredible future Men and Women of Dartmouth were persuaded to enroll.

It goes without saying Green Key was an amazing weekend. Contrary to the views of our esteemed comrades at the Huffington Post, I don’t think one person had a bad time. There was always some kind of event to go to, and judging by everyone else’s state of intoxication, none of them will remember the times I made a fool of myself. Sure, most people probably had a few too many refreshments, and a lot of us probably performed significantly worse on our last midterms and final projects than we would have had we spent the weekend in Baker, but that’s kind of the point. Sometimes we’ve got to take a little time to forget all the serious parts of life and do dumb stuff.

Julian C. McIntyre and Henry C. Woram also contributed to this piece.