Name: Karim K.
University & Graduation Year: Dartmouth College, 2024
High School: American School of Dubai
Major/Program: Quantitative Social Sciences and Mathematics with a minor in Neuroscience

1. As a first-year student, what was the biggest surprise about college life? Were there any specific challenges you faced or adjustments you had to make?

In my first year, I learned that culture shock is not a myth! As a kid from Dubai coming all the way to Dartmouth, I was exposed to an entirely new culture.

I think the biggest piece of advice I would give students is that if you end up going to school in a big city, you often end up just being friends with people that you knew from Dubai or people who are from similar backgrounds to your own. However, being in Dartmouth, in the middle of New Hampshire, really pushed me to meet new people and step outside my comfort zone. It’s amazing. This has, by far, been the most formative aspect of my college career – being put into a brand-new environment and excelling.

2. What makes your college special? What is your favorite thing about it?

The fact that everybody loves it! Every single person in the school absolutely loves it! And I found that out when I started calling alumni during the recruiting process, and they would pick up the phone and be so excited to speak to me. And I’d wonder, “You work ten-hour days. Why are you so happy to talk to me right now?” And they are always so excited. This sense of school spirit makes the community very tight-knit.

3. Are there any misconceptions out there about your college? What would you like to share with students who might be considering applying?

To be quite honest, I don’t think I had any preconceived notions or expectations prior to coming to Dartmouth. Being from Dubai, all I had heard was that Dartmouth might not be a fun school, since it’s an Ivy League, it’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s not in the city, there is nothing to do. However, this is definitely not true! Dartmouth is extremely fun! It’s way too fun to be an Ivy League, if I am being honest. It’s a great education – don’t get me wrong, but it is also a very good time. You meet amazing people and get up to a lot of fun things, like jumping into the river in the spring or simply chilling on the Green (a huge green space in the middle of our campus) with friends after class.

4. Are you involved in any clubs, teams, or other extracurricular activities? If so, tell us how this has shaped your college experience.

I sure am. I am involved with one too many clubs, if I am being honest! I am a Dartmouth rugby player, a Class Council Executive and a Sexual Assault Peer Alliance Officer. I am also a part of Vox Sportswear, which is a student run company that makes custom apparel for various student organizations at Dartmouth. I also recently started a research position at a lab that focuses on perceptions and the way we react to sensations. Whatever it is you are intrigued by, you can find a way to pursue it at Dartmouth and discover even more things to be intrigued by.

When I have free time, I often go to the jewelry studio and make jewelry, which is something I would have never expected to do or enjoy. I was just curious about the fact that we have this facility on campus and thought “I’ll try it out,” and found that it is super fun and super satisfying. I don’t think that it is something I would have ever tried elsewhere. It’s so unique!

5. If you could give your high school self any advice about college admissions, what would you say? Having been through the college admissions process, what is the biggest lesson you learned?

Probably none, I am happy with the way everything turned out. I would say listen to Diva, which I did! I guess one piece of advice to others would be: don’t worry about pushing yourself in a weird, new environment. It’s four years of your life; believe that you can push outside of your comfort zone and integrate yourself. It’s not hard to get caught up in the same exact routine that you lived in Dubai. But I would strongly recommend not doing that, because throwing yourself into an unfamiliar environment teaches you so much! You can learn from the people around you and the places that they come from. I feel like I know people from at least 20 different states in the US alone, which has exposed me to such different viewpoints. I am really glad to have gotten this kind of exposure!

Also, one of the perks of being in a liberal arts school is that you don’t pre-declare your major prior to going to school. You can take classes you are interested in and see how they go, which I think is important for any student. Don’t go into college thinking that whatever you do there is going to determine what you do in the future. Just be curious and take the courses that interest you.

6. How has COVID altered your college experience? Do you have any specific advice about attending college in the post-pandemic world?

COVID messed up my first year, but we still did our best to have a great time. Hopefully this is something that won’t affect you, but after being isolated, it can be difficult to get back into the rhythm of socializing and meeting new people. I think when you get to college, it is important to remember that everyone around you is in the same boat! You may see someone and think “Wow, they already have friends!” But in reality, they are also just trying to make friends, like you. If they have a group with them, that doesn’t mean they have already found their best friends, they are just putting themselves out there and pushing themselves to meet people. Remember that everyone else is just as anxious as you and worried about not fitting in. But everyone does fit in. Dartmouth does a great job helping with that, by organizing Freshman Trips (even though I didn’t get to do that because of COVID), but there’s also Greek life, club sports, and so many other communities that go above and beyond to make the school what it is.