Every year The MV Times asks several recent high school graduates to write about their experiences during their first year after graduation. Emerson Mahoney, a 2016 MVRHS graduate, is attending Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. This is his second dispatch.
I write this piece as I travel back to Martha’s Vineyard from a fast-paced 10-week term that has just concluded. My past eight days have been spent deep in the library studying a variety of economic markets and language rules for my two finals, economics and linguistics. As other students head back to the Island looking forward to a weeklong Thanksgiving break, I start to reflect on my first term in college and begin to figure out how to stay productive over my six-week hiatus, which will end in January. A system called “the D-Plan” at Dartmouth provides students with longer winter breaks in exchange for sophomore summer, which I will be spending on campus. The D-Plan also allows students to take terms off to partake in foreign study, research, and internships later on in their careers. Although I think it’s imperative that I plan out what is to come in my college career, evaluating what has happened in the past can be a valuable experience. In reflecting on my fall term, I recollect a lot of studying and many bond-building events that helped bring my class together.
Despite the long hours required to be spent in the library, I was fortunate enough to be able to experience one of Dartmouth’s many longstanding traditions, homecoming weekend. As Friday, Nov. 19, approached, students frivolously anticipated the renowned homecoming events. Dartmouth does not hold your stereotypical cafeteria dance. Instead, the majority of the school’s student body gathers around a blazing fire in the middle of campus. On Friday night at around seven o’clock, the “sweep” goes from dorm to dorm, gathering each and every student in the freshman class. The sweep makes its way to the green, a field centrally located on campus where a massive structure is lit on fire by class members. This year, freshmen students could choose to run either 120 laps around the fire, totaling about 12 miles, or 20 laps, which was approximately 2 miles (hence the class of 2020). While we ran around the fire, upperclassmen yelled, “Touch the fire!” and “Worst class ever!” and courageous freshman ran into the inner circle, evaded campus police, and sprinted to touch the fire. By the time the 20 laps were completed, clothes were covered in mud, cheeks were burned from the fire’s heat, and bonds were created within the “worst class ever,” which has also been every class ever.
Some of the other events on homecoming weekend are scheduled for the entertainment of alumni who come back in scores to celebrate the memories they made at Dartmouth. Sporting events and alumni networking reunions, a cappella concerts, and tours of the massive Baker Library Bell Tower occur each year during homecoming weekend. With a group of friends, I took a tour to the top of Baker Library Bell Tower and saw campus from a bird’s-eye view. This tour was early in the day on Friday, so my classmates and I were able to see the massive wooden structure in the middle of the green solemnly awaiting its fiery destruction. The other view that stuck out was of Tuck Drive; its aesthetics were equally appealing from 175 feet in the air. After the tours, around 2,000 freshmen paraded to the football field, proudly wearing “Dartmouth ’20” shirts. There all students waited anxiously for the final seconds of the game against Harvard, when we rushed the field in spite of the unfavorable outcome (23-21), continuing another long-lived tradition. The
excitement of the weekend, of course, came to an end when as Sunday approached; students inundated the library to complete leftover assignments. While homecoming weekend is probably the largest of the Dartmouth traditions, there are many more, including first-year student trips in the wilderness, swimming across rivers naked, pulling all-nighters, and getting diner breakfast at sunrise. I witnessed the “finals streaking” tradition firsthand when a few naked students came running through the auditorium screaming and flinging candy at students during my economics final. My professor only smiled and looked away, having become acclimated to this type of interruption during finals. The Dartmouth traditions have enriched my experience as a student, and I look forward to experiencing many more that await.
Over break I look forward to planning out my next term, in which I will be taking computer science, a first-year discussion-based seminar, and a linguistics class called Semantics and Pragmatics. I will try to get a head start on those subjects while spending time at the hockey rink and Aquinnah’s new boxing club at the Gay Head Cliffs, and catching up with peers.