With a mix of excitement and a big portion of jetlag, I gaze out the window and watch as the snow-covered rolling hills fly past my friend’s car. I zone out to the sound of the Lumineers, and I can’t help but think this is the start of a new adventure. We’re on highway 89 from Boston with the GPS set to Hanover, New Hampshire. It’s January 2nd, and I’m about to start my first of two terms at Dartmouth College. A small, close-knit American college that dates all the way back to 1769. Little did I know, I was about to embark on a journey that would take me far beyond Dartmouth’s old classrooms.
Dartmouth College might not ring a bell for most Scandinavians, but the Ivy League for sure will. It is no wonder us Scandinavians put the “Ivy’s” on such a pedestal. We learn about their prestigious titles in school, and we watch our favorite movie characters have the “Ivy League Experience.” But what is it really like to attend an Ivy League School – and Dartmouth in particular?
The school is located in rural New Hampshire in the Upper Valley of the Connecticut River, surrounded by nothing but hills, trees, and rivers. Most of the buildings date back to the 19th century, and their Georgian style makes them appear as if they were taken from a movie. The old libraries look like they were taken out of a Harry Potter book, and even my tiny dorm room had a fireplace in it.
Although the appearance of the College met every perception of an old college that I had, what really makes up Dartmouth is the culture and the unique traditions that follow being an old institution. When you leave the library and head east, you find yourself walking down Webster Avenue – or Frat Row as it is called among student. Rows of enormous houses with great pillars out front, grand porches and front yards, and an assortment of Greek letters on the wall meets the eye no matter where you look. Greek Life is a form of club that students can join their second year, and for some, they constitute the majority of their social agenda at College. For locals, it seemed like an important label to gain. For a foreigner like me, it was sticky fraternity basements, fun backyard socials, and a unique insight into what us Scandinavians would classify as an “American college experience.” I have made memories for life in these houses, and the communities and traditions that constitute these clubs is something genuinely unique to the US.
When that is said, Dartmouth is more than Frat row and beautiful libraries. First of all, it is a great academic institution. I met some of the most exceptional professors I’ve ever been taught by. I was lucky to be a part of a fantastic laboratory with some of the brightest people I have ever met. The school has the oldest “outing” club in the nation, and with its own skiing hill in the backyard, and mountains rising everywhere, you can’t help but fall in love with the “outdoorsy” spirit shared among everyone at the school. Dartmouth is a unique blend of bright individuals, who put considerable effort into both their academics, their social lives, and their love for the nature they live in.
I fell in love with The College on the Hill, and my experience of studying abroad is merely another proof that going abroad is such a unique opportunity to indulge yourself in a new culture, learn things beyond the classroom, and make friends for life. Go abroad – you will never regret it!
Written by Benedicte Hejgaard