Program Guide to Dartmouth: A Student Perspective

Hi, I’m Watts! I participated in Sustainable Summer in 2019, at Dartmouth for the program Entrepreneurship and the Environment. I live in Colorado, but I’m graduating high school this spring, and then I’ll be heading to Connecticut for college. I’m going to Yale to study Environmental Engineering and Economics. My participation in Sustainable Summer helped encourage me in this direction, into the major that I’m planning on now. 

So, what is the Dartmouth program all about?

I learned about the program from a counselor at school. I was originally interested in economics, and finding an option that looked at Entrepreneurship and the Environment seemed unique.

I chose this program because I was doing a lot of research into an environmental engineering major; I had just started considering it in my junior year. Even though I started thinking about economics, I wanted to consider something in Environmental Sciences as well. It felt like a good fit.

I knew, obviously, that it was a course on sustainability and entrepreneurship, and people I told were curious about how those two topics would tie together. I felt that the program would help me understand the existing, and potential, relationships between business and the environment.

Applying & Getting Ready

I was a little late in the application process, honestly. For me though, the process was fairly easy & streamlined. My advice for applying is to be  honest with your writing piece!

Write about what you know, something that is meaningful to you. I wrote about a problem I could see in my community, and I wanted to learn how to come up with solutions for it.

Before I left for the program, I did some mental preparations. I didn’t know anyone who was going, and I felt I was coming from far away. It was also my first experience at a program with international students, knowing they were coming from so far away was exciting and nerve wracking. I thought a lot about how I would approach people with really different backgrounds. Something I kept coming back to was that even with completely different life experiences, we were participating on the program because we shared at least one same passion.

Welcome to Dartmouth!

When I first arrived, a group of us walked from the bus to the dorm! From the moment we walked into the dorms, everyone was friendly and helping you find your space.

I put stuff down and went outside and found there was already a huge group of students who had arrived, and were talking and getting to know each other, Jeff was there leading an activity and everything started happening right away

Everyone went to dinner together, and that gave us a chance to keep meeting people and chatting. I realized there was no one from Colorado or with the same background as me, and then I got to start hearing why people have decided to come and to join the program. That was one of the best things that happened on the first day, learning what brought everyone together and why people decided to come. Sustainable Summer puts a lot of emphasis on connection, and it starts on day one!

Community Time & Hanover in the Summer

There are so many opportunities to enjoy Dartmouth and the town of Hanover, planned and unplanned.

One of my favorite things about Dartmouth from the time I was there was just the access to the outdoors. A scavenger hunt lead us to an incredible observatory hidden in the trees just a few steps off a road going through campus. In between lectures and dinner we would have people playing ultimate frisbee in the Dartmouth Green.

That was one of my most exciting moments- the ultimate frisbee game. It was both mentors/counselors and students of the program getting together for an unplanned event that was just flat out f

Playing pool with the people from the Sustainable Summer program and we ended up playing against a speech and debate team that was also staying at Dartmouth (we won). And discovering the cookies in FoCo. Those things were dangerously good. Plus, there is swimming and canoeing on the Connecticut river, pizza making, birthday surprises, hiking, and just lots of laughs.

Academics: What is ‘class’ time really like?

You learn in a lot of ways while at Dartmouth- from classroom discussions and guest speakers, from visiting different things happening all over Dartmouth’s Campus, and from working on your group project. It doesn’t really feel like ‘class’ time on most days! I was constantly engaged and interested, because there was never a lack of people wanting to share opinions and ideas and solutions!

‘Lectures’ were engaging and more like conversations and the atmosphere in the classroom was fun, exciting, and welcoming. It’s not an intimidating atmosphere, and there is a lot of encouragement and willingness to help you better understand.

Site visits!

One of the coolest places we visited was the Dartmouth Organic Farm. The atmosphere of the farm is amazing: the people working there had such different backgrounds, and it felt similar to  the way so many different people are attracted to Sustainable Summer. The folks working there- a rock climber, varsity athlete, pre-med student, etc. It was a huge variety of people, brought together by the farm. It was reflective of a sustainable summer cohort, of the real world and the way different people bring their perspectives to sustainability.

My advice for getting the most out of every learning experience?

    • Focus on the connection with your peers
    • Be open to expressing thoughts and listening to each other and sharing ideas, and be open to changing your perspective and opinions
    • Don’t be afraid to share your interests!

The Final Project

At Dartmouth, you have the opportunity to participate in a workshop called 3 Day Startup, or 3DS. You create a start-up company, present your idea to ‘investors’ and get real feedback.

The project I was a part of was an app, that could identify objects with a phone camera to learn how to best recycle items, or provide alternatives if it’s not recyclable. We had the chance to really go in depth in the processes and social implications of the idea.

The most challenging piece of working on the project was aligning on ideas. It is a group project, and the person who presented the original idea had a specific plan in mind, so we had to work to make space for changes and for group members contributions.

We truly felt the real implications of bringing an idea to fruition. Like, the realization that even though an idea is ‘beneficial’ doesn’t mean that people will use it or that the app would be successful, and the challenges of marketing an idea to someone who doesn’t already share our beliefs.

Seeing what everyone came up with, and how ideas evolved rapidly over the final days was inspiring. All the ideas had a focus on sustainability. Whether a non profit or for profit, in the end, we focused on making the world a little better.

Final Takeaways…

It was an emotional goodbye- by the end of the program we had built really strong connections with people, peers, mentors and staff. But, it’s happy, too! You’ve made these friends and connections, and overall I felt gratitude for the time spent with everyone. I still keep in touch with people! We are in regular conversation, almost daily, and staying connected with folks is one of the biggest benefits of being part of this community.

My final thoughts?

  • Thinking about applying? Do it!
  • Program is fantastic, if you get the opportunity to go- take it!
  • Worth every second- lectures, curriculum, guest speakers, the most important piece is the connections that you’ll make 
  • It’s hard to find a better group of people 
  • Close knit community of learning and friendships

Thank you Watts! Stay tuned for Program Guides to Brooklyn: Sustainable Cities, and Costa Rica: Seeds of Change.