Volunteer Profile: Jess Ma ’16

Jess Ma ’16 is from Buffalo Grove, IL.

What is your role for Trips 2015?

I’m on a support croo!

What do you like to study?

Sciences, languages, history, perfecting my FoCo panini recipes

If you went on a DOC Trip, which trip did you go on?

G35 (Hiking 3 – Mist & Moosilauke)

What are 3 words that describe your first year at Dartmouth?

Humbling, uncertain, introspective.

What are you looking forward to for Trips 2015?

Oh boy oh boy, always such a tough question to answer. Let me just start off by saying that the Trips program is one of my favorite things at Dartmouth, and something that I’m incredibly lucky to have been involved with each year of my Dartmouth experience. College is a unique 4 years, Dartmouth is a unique college, and Trips is a unique time at Dartmouth. It’s hard to really pinpoint what it is about Trips that is so special, but I think you’ll get it when you arrive. (You will probably feel a little unsure of yourself or “awkward” at first, and that it is totally okay – I promise everyone feels the same way, even that fellow ’19 who is already surrounded by friends on Robo lawn.) I’m looking forward to being immersed in that inexplicable energy and enthusiasm that just settles over campus, and connecting with some of the 1000+ incoming students on a deeper level. You put any number of Dartmouth students in a room together and there’s bound to be interesting stories and passions shared. And with each incoming class, there are suddenly that many more different perspectives brought to the table, and I’m eager to meet all of you – who will without a doubt enrich the Dartmouth experience for everyone and add to the community in different ways.

What were you most nervous or scared about before your own first-year trip (or if you didn’t go on a trip, before the start of your time at Dartmouth)?

I had never hiked seriously before, and for some reason decided to sign up for Hiking 3 (there are only four levels of hiking). To be honest, that didn’t bother me that much until I actually got my rental frame pack in Robo basement. I remember I put this gigantic thing on my shoulders – completely empty – and it looked like it was going to just engulf me. Needless to say, I started getting a little worried that maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was worried about making a fool of myself in front of the very first group of people I would hang out with, not just because of the fact that I would probably struggle with the hiking aspect, but what if I couldn’t carry a conversation with them? What if all my jokes fell flat? After so many years of always being in a place where I knew at least a few familiar faces, I was worried that maybe I had lost the skill to make new friends. I felt anxious about the idea of being a blank slate again, and that maybe the rest of my Dartmouth experience could be dictated by the next five days of Trips. In the end, yes the hiking was very hard – I think there was a steady stream of sweat running down my face (I also never sat down because I had a hard time standing back up without falling over due to the frame pack) – my jokes were sometimes funny, and my Trips experience in no way dictated how the rest of Dartmouth would go for me (and neither will it do that for you!). If you have fun, great! If you don’t, that’s fine too! It doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to make the most of Dartmouth.

What is your favorite thing to eat on campus?

Collis stir-fry with salad bar veggies (spinach, broccoli, kale, corn) with crispy chicken and an egg over medium on top (with light thai peanut and light medium). Oh, and a spattering of Dave’s Spice.

Tell us about a highlight of your time at Dartmouth so far.

Hmmm…I don’t really have a specific highlight, but in general, I would have to say that it’s whenever I meet someone I think I would click with, I almost immediately try to set up a one-on-one meal with them to get to know them better. And many of those meals have been some of my favorite ones here, and many of them have also evolved into some of my most cherished relationships. So remember, never stop being open to the idea that someone could become a genuinely close friend. It’s easy to settle into your comfortable network of friends, but there’s so much to gain from just reaching out to new people. Sometimes, you don’t know what you were missing until you find it.

What’s the most important item you forgot to pack when you came to move in?


If you could go back to the beginning of your first year here and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?

So, I hail from a large public school in the north shore suburbs of Chicago (wooo gotta love the 847), and there was only one other person from my graduating class of 1000+ that was coming to Dartmouth with me. I was definitely most worried about finding my own sense of place at Dartmouth. I had heard so much about Dartmouth – whether from students I met when I visited, from the 2016 Facebook page, or from the news – and despite my efforts not to, I had begun to create an idea of what the “Dartmouth experience” was, and what it would mean to “succeed” by Dartmouth standards. If I could go back, I would tell myself to just do what makes me happy. When it comes to creating a life for yourself here at Dartmouth, there is no should or shouldn’t (other than yknow…basic societal rules and laws). No matter how prevalent you may perceive a certain narrative at Dartmouth to be, you don’t need to squeeze your own experience to fit that if deep down, you know it’s not what you want.


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