Voices of Trips: Abhilasha Gokulan ’18

This post is part of our Voices of Trips series, in which volunteers share stories from their own experiences with DOC First-Year Trips.

It’s Okay If You Aren’t Home Yet

Abhilasha Gokulan '18 is from Little Rock, AR.
Abhilasha Gokulan ’18 is from Little Rock, AR.

I never thought my transition to college would be difficult. I told myself I had no reason to be nervous about moving to Dartmouth. Two days before high school, I moved to a completely different state. My childhood was spent going to camps and trips where I knew no one. Plus, I already knew some Dartmouth ’18s through other programs. I honestly thought I would be totally chill about leaving home and moving more than 1,500 miles away.

Turns out I was so wrong. Going to college is nerve-wracking. Who knew? Sitting in the car outside Collis, I was uncontrollably shaking. Suddenly I was scared that Dartmouth wasn’t the place for me. Shouldn’t I be having warm feelings toward this campus? Did I choose the wrong school?

I know I’m not the only first-year who has this unexplainable fear come over them right before they come to Dartmouth. Our wonderful school has a storied past, some better than others. In the last months of high school, I took great pride in saying I was going to the Animal House school and standing up for Dartmouth when people trashed it. Yet I wasn’t excited when I got to campus. Instead, I was fearful that maybe people were right about my school; maybe it wasn’t the place for me.

I’m not going to spend this post telling you that Trips will make you believe Dartmouth is the place for you. Although I had a great experience on my Trip, I didn’t return to campus feeling like Dartmouth was my home. There were times on Trips where I felt conflicted towards Dartmouth.

Abhilasha with her own first-year trip at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.
Abhilasha with her own first-year trip at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.

You’ll hear several people say that they became best friends with their trippees. I didn’t. While my trippees are all wonderful people, I’m not really close with any of them. We’ll get a meal together once a term, but that’s usually the extent of our interaction. On the bus ride back to campus, I remember being concerned that I wasn’t likeable enough and wouldn’t make other friends. While several of my trippees because best friends with each other, I acknowledged that it’s ok to not all become best friends. Trips throws people together who have one or two common interests – Dartmouth and possibly your section activity. But on campus, you’ll find people who might have more common interests with you.

You’ll also see several people on Trips that are insanely good at what they do. Considering that we have four different levels of Hiking on Trips, it is definitely an activity lots of Dartmouth students are good at. For some crazy reason, I decided to partake in the sunrise hike to the top of Moosilauke. Although I’m an active person, that hike was brutal for me. I was the kid who held the group up and needed to take my inhaler three times. Sure, I was embarrassed by making everyone wait around for me. But no one complained, made fun of me, or made pitiful comments. Kids that go to Dartmouth are insanely talented (it’s why they got in), and often that can make you feel insecure. I definitely felt insecure surround by seasoned hikers while on the sunrise hike. But Dartmouth isn’t a cutthroat, competitive environment. Nor are we a place where students will get babied around. We just push each other to do our best.

On Trips, students can wake up and hike to the top of Mt. Moosilauke to see the sun rise.
On Trips, students can wake up early and hike to the top of Mt. Moosilauke, just in time to see the sun rise, like Abhilasha and fellow ’18s did here.

There were times when I thought Trips reminded me more of high school that it did of college. At Moosilauke, I saw trippees flocking toward people who were similar to them. Some kids definitely thought they were above doing the Salty Dog Rag (no one is too cool for that dance). I was scared that I was seeing a high school totem pole form and I was at the bottom, again. But don’t get discouraged. Trips is an experience I’m glad I participated in, but as I stated before, it didn’t reassure me that Dartmouth was the place for me. Neither did Fall term. It wasn’t until Winter term that I knew Dartmouth was my home.

In the next couple of weeks, all of you ’19s will hear “Welcome Home” constantly. Just know it’s normal if Dartmouth isn’t your home immediately. What Trips showed me is that it’s ok to be unsure of my feelings or place at Dartmouth. There are still times when I feel conflicted towards Dartmouth and her ways. There are still times when I wonder whether I’m happy at my home. But perhaps that is what a home is supposed to be – a place that isn’t perfect, but one that has flaws, some that we love and some that we want to change.

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