Today I received notice from the college registrar that I officially have permission to not take classes this summer. Sounds strange, right? Not if you go to Dartmouth, where it is a long-standing tradition and requirement for all students to be on campus for the Summer term (June-August) between their sophomore and junior years.
Dartmouth's academic calendar is based on the quarter system. Each quarter, or term, students can be on campus taking classes, off campus taking classes (study abroad, an exchange program at another school), or off campus doing something else (internship, research, fun). It's all VERY flexible, and that's usually a good thing, unless your best friend is studying abroad in Barcelona during Fall term and then you're off doing anthropological field research in Brazil during the Winter, when she's on campus, and then you go back to campus for spring term but she is off again for an internship in NYC. Whew! It's overwhelming, to be honest. We call this crazy system "The D-Plan." Everyone is encouraged to create his or her own D-Plan, but the sophomore summer term is supposed to be non-negotiable. Sophomore summer is for bbqs, swimming in the river, living in your frat/sorority house, and bonding with your class while taking courses to make up for that off-term in Brazil.
I decided to arrange my D-Plan so that I was taking academic courses during Fall/Winter/Spring of both this year and the next, and I didn't see an opportunity for a strictly non-academic term at any time other than the summer. Will I miss out on some fun Dartmouth-y things this summer? Sure. But I will be plenty busy with other stuff (traveling, working, volunteering for Insulindependence, just living life). And I don't subscribe to the belief that there is one single "Dartmouth experience" that's incomplete if you don't do this or that.
Probably 95% of my peers create D-Plans that include this traditional summer term on campus, and it works well for them. One of my friends has an internship in D.C. this term, then will be back on campus in the summer, then will study abroad in London in the fall. Another was off this winter, volunteering at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Tanzania, and so this term (spring) is like the beginning of a new academic year for her. She won't be burnt out come summertime! It would be, I think, more socially acceptable to be on campus this summer, like all the other sophomores, and then take the next fall term "off" to go do research on medical anthropology in the Himalayas (something I seriously considered doing at one point). But I've been here at school all fall, all winter, and all spring, and in the summer I will need a break, and I actually am not as interested in medical anthropology as I thought I was, and that's okay.
After lots of consideration, I decided to submit a petition asking for a waiver for this summer term, and since it was approved this afternoon, I feel like a load's been lifted off my shoulders. First of all, it feels great to have this squared away. Also, having the petition approved by the registrar makes me stand a little taller when I sheepishly tell my peers that I'm not going to be here this summer.
But, again, I really need to stop worrying about what other people think and just do my own thing. Fear of disapproval can totally paralyze me sometimes!
(This post is decidedly not related to diabetes or exercise. Hope that's okay :) )