A Warm Welcome

In his 1974 poem “The Life with a Hole in It,” one of my personal favorite poets, Britain’s other Poet Laureate Philip Larkin, wrote:

Life is an immobile, locked,
Three-handed struggle between
Your wants, the world’s for you, and (worse)
The unbeatable slow machine
That brings you what you’ll get.

It is with these at-first-glance pessimistic words that I choose to welcome the Class of 2021. Aside from striking the ultimate balance between matter-of-fact speech and lyricism, Larkin’s words ring true for each and every student that crosses the Green for the first time on that warm September Monday. That being said, however, it is also quite easy to boil down Larkin’s overall sentiment into one simple message: Make the most of your time at Dartmouth.

But this lesson, while seemingly obvious – why wouldn’t one make the most of their college experience? – is undoubtedly easier said than done. It is easy to succumb to the notion that we Dartmouth students are privileged, that we’ve worked hard for twelve years of grade school and thus are among the finest young minds this world has to offer, and that success is simply what we are due. As an incoming student will still realize, however, this could not be further from the truth. Going to college, especially to an Ivy League institution, it’s hard not to feel on top of the world. But the journey has not come to an end – in fact, the true journey is only just beginning.

It is important to realize that just by virtue of attending a prestigious institution, no one gets a free pass. The virtue of hard work is now more important than ever. One cannot simply coast through Dartmouth – or, at the very least, it would be irresponsible given the College’s quarter-of-a-million-dollar price tag. Jobs do not simply fall into students’ laps; they require perfect resumés, long applications, and multiple rounds of interviews. Academic citations are not simply given out; you have to do the readings, attend office hours, and truly engage with the material in class. Likewise, excellence and lifelong success are not simply stations along the line; they require effort, dedication, perseverance, and zeal.

This does not mean, however, that life at the College is all business all the time. It is of the utmost importance to live a well-rounded life. Regardless of how things may seem, it is always possible to strike a healthy balance of between life, school, social life, going to the gym, and even exploring the Upper Valley. The opportunities are endless, whether you choose to write for The Review or hold protests on the Green (though we sincerely hope you opt for the former). Upon matriculation, I too was sold with the idea of “the Dartmouth experience,” and by virtue of my own action, I was able to shape it to what I wanted it to be. During my sophomore year, my travels took me to Europe, where I studied in Berlin, worked in the German parliament, enjoyed Thanksgiving in Paris, spent my birthday solemnly touring Auschwitz, attended several major opera houses, and enjoyed a live theatrical production almost every week – all thanks to Dartmouth. For these experiences, I am eternally grateful – and I hope you take the same advantage of these opportunities that I did.

That is not to say, however, that the College is infallible, a beacon of knowledge in an ignorant world. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. As I am sure you will soon come to realize, there is a lot to be pessimistic about, something that Larkin would have appreciated. For one thing, this school possesses what is perhaps one of the most woefully inept and incompetent administrations that could possibly be imagined. From the tyranny of Dartmouth Dining Services to the universally unwanted – and, contrary to what the administration may claim, utterly failing – house system, the examples are quite clear. Perhaps it is the Class of 2021 that might be the last to experience the Greek system in all its glory – or, at least, in a semblance of its classic form. Thus, one can always count on The Review to fight the good fight – lest the old traditions fail.

But alas, I digress. My message is still the same: make the most of your time at Dartmouth. At the end of the day, I do believe that there is a way to do Dartmouth wrong and to do Dartmouth right. Doing Dartmouth right is not simply going to class – it’s taking advantage of its unrivaled quality of undergraduate teaching, visiting office hours, and building lasting relationships with outstanding professors. Doing Dartmouth right isn’t sitting around all summer doing nothing – it’s embarking on fascinating research opportunities, interning at top financial firms, and studying on the Green during Sophomore Summer. Doing Dartmouth right is achieving success – and that is what I wish for each and every incoming student this year.