Reflection: Memories make the place

Last fall, I arrived on campus in awe of the beauty of Dartmouth.

I remember a vibrant row of trees shimmering along North Main Street, with a green hue made even more vibrant by the summer glow. I remember seeing the Connecticut River for the first time and raving to friends from home about the plants along the water. During the freshman trips, I remember standing next to Occom Pond at 7 a.m., breathing deeply, existing next to nothing but the chirping and whispering of early morning nature birds—a rare moment of groundedness for me in the midst from the chaos of orientation week.

The campus was so green, so glittery and so alive. I have since come to the conclusion that these three adjectives truly capture the essence of Dartmouth.

Very few things sparkle all year round. Over time, I watched as the once beautiful trees turned a shade of autumnal shades of maroon and rust, as the leaves fell into piles at the roots. Almost without warning, over the course of this semester, those same trees have sprouted again under the spring sun, full of the same beauty that greeted me last fall.

After a year at Dartmouth, I took countless walks around Occom Pond – which of course I call “woccoms.” The pond changes with the seasons, but never fails in its ability to impress me. Staring at the water – breathing, enjoying the peace around me and letting myself be still – is perhaps one of my favorite feelings. I even had the opportunity to take a few friends on their first WCcoms. Introducing them to the pond felt like I wanted to share a little part of myself.

On the Saturday of the Green Key weekend I dived in the river for the first time. Although the water felt like an ice bath (some of my muscles may have gone numb) and my friends and I struggled to climb back onto the slippery dock, it was exhilarating. On Wednesday I dived again.

With its four-sided clock and majestic presence, Baker Tower has taken up a large portion of my camera roll. Still, it became all the more special for me when I got the chance to write an article article at the Bakerkloken last winter. I remember climbing into the tower, talking to the graduate student responsible for programming the clocks, and feeling empowered by my love for journalism. Hearing their clang throughout campus now reminds me of that story and the joy I had writing it.

But perhaps even more remarkable are the places that once seemed rather ordinary, locations now made richer by the joy that blossomed for me there.

I moved into my dorm room on August 30, 2023, greeted by blank walls, empty drawers, and the simultaneous promise and slight trepidation of new beginnings. Over the course of this year, it has become the home of countless memories, from playing Bananagrams to singing with my friends. Now it is special to me, not only because I lived there, but also because I changed during my time there.

The Class of 1953 Commons went from a confusing dining hall to a place where I discussed how many ingredients it took to make a salad, where the Glee Club bonded with “Glee Dinner” after rehearsals, and where I discovered my love for both Foco scrambled eggs and Foco soups.

Last but not least, in my mind, Sudikoff Hall has been transformed from a random building next to North Park into probably my favorite place on campus. This year especially, music has been my form of comfort, catharsis and healing, a development Sudikoff has witnessed. It’s where I took my first singing lesson, where I probably annoyed my practice room neighbors with all my vocal warm-ups, tried to harmonize with friends at karaoke nights, relearned my favorite classical piano pieces, had long conversations in the practice rooms and especially where I felt most like myself.

As I near the end of my freshman year, I no longer think of these places as mere buildings or bodies of water. I now look at all the versions of myself that made memories there, and that makes them all the more special.

I still find Dartmouth’s campus breathtaking. And while some of the novelty may have worn off, Hannover now feels lived-in. I wonder if this is what it means to turn a house into a home.

Of course, not every moment of my freshman year was joyful or beautiful. I felt overwhelmed by the newness of my life during New Student Orientation and sat in my dorm room longing for the comfort and stability of my hometown friendships. Inevitably, the papers had made me stress about not giving myself enough time to write.

And yet I don’t think these moments detract from the joy I’ve found here. They make the joy and the beauty even more precious. Now that I’m wearing shorts again, shielding my eyes from the sun, and turning the room fan on high, I realize how differently I see Dartmouth than I did nine months ago, the last time the trees were so sparkling. bright.

Somehow, all the places where I once found beauty have become more charming because of the times I spent there and the memories I made. I’ve learned that the memories make the place. I hope that Dartmouth will only become more beautiful for me every day.

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