Naina Bhalla ’22 documents the joyful and unpredictable moments of college in four years of photographs.
Source: Taken by Harish Tekriwal
Source: Taken by Harish Tekriwal
During my second fall, I listened to Saint Motel’s song “Happy Accidents” on repeat. That seemed to sum up college as I experienced it: unpredictable, wonderful, and full of serendipitous moments. (By the way, I was so happy when Saint Motel performed in Green Key this year.)
Throughout my four years at Dartmouth, I meticulously journaled and took pictures of my life. When I sat down to write this TTLG, I knew I wanted to share photos I had taken of places in Dartmouth that were meaningful to me, and it just felt right to share some of the happy times – and crashes – that happened with them.
My freshman dorm: I planned my dorm decor for months before moving into a two-room triple on the third floor of Mid Fayerweather. However, I didn’t prepare for all the late nights spent writing papers in bed, the mornings when I curled up by the heater before walking to my winter 9L, or the times when I invited friends just to lay on the floor and share secrets.
The Green: Home for picnics, study breaks and the Homecoming bonfire. It’s also the place where I reconnected with old friends after so many separate terms. During my senior fall, I sat on the grass with a close friend and turned my face to the sun until the light blurred the corners of my vision. I will long remember moments like those of peace and quiet in the middle of a bustling campus.
The Spaulding Stage: During my freshman winter, a close friend of mine convinced me to audition for Voices with her. We both continued to perform on the Spaulding stage that term, and I wrote for Voices during my second year and performed again – virtually – during my freshman year. Surrounding myself with such creative and thoughtful performers encouraged a lot of soul-searching – and Voices remains one of my favorite experiences at Dartmouth.
3FB: On any given day, if you had to guess where I was, Berry’s third floor would be the safest bet. I love the views from all sides: looking over the Kemeny courtyard towards the lavender light of the greenhouse on one side, seeing Baker Tower and the students studying in the stacks on the other, while overlooking the trees in front Fairchild in the middle.
Occom Pond: I’ve taken Woccoms all seasons with friends and teachers to catch up, give advice, and skip homework. I constantly looked forward to all that was happening through and in the middle of Woccoms: stargazing on the golf course, sledding, cross country skiing and ice skating.
The Jewelry Workshop: I first heard about the Jewelry Workshop from a senior Mock Trial back in my freshman year in Spring, and since then I’ve created so many things there: bracelets that rusted a long time ago, earrings, rings that I gave to my family. and a necklace with a single pearl hanging from a silver thread. It was a perfect bonding activity for me to take someone to the jewelry studio and create something together.
The Skiway (or Holt’s Ledge): I wanted to make the most of my first winter in Hannover, so I took a ski lesson during my freshman year, which I fondly remember for conversations on the chairlift and the wipers. frozen ice creams. The following fall, I led a freshman trip that ran through Holt’s Ledge to the ski hill. I’ve hiked Holt’s Ledge three more times, in my junior fall, junior spring, and senior fall – trips I treasure for the time with friends and the beautiful views.
Sanborn Library: Nothing made me feel more like an English student than sitting in an alcove in Sanborn with a book in my hands. I spent many winter nights there studying, enjoying the warmth, and watching through the frosted glass people scramble through the snow.
Sigma Phi Epsilon: By strange circumstances, I lived in the building formerly known as Sig Ep (11 Webster) during my second fall and winter as a member of the Thought Project. These are the terms that I found a sense of belonging to Dartmouth. I loved living next door to some of my closest friends, watching the sun go down on Webster Ave, and sticking my head out the window to wave to passers-by on the street.
The River: Who comes to Dartmouth and doesn’t fall in love with the Connecticut River? I’ve spent countless hours kayaking, swimming, paddleboarding, and lounging in the sun by the water with friends.
Fourth Floor of Fairchild: I spent much of my sophomore year studying with my best friends on the fourth floor of Fairchild, gazing at Baker Tower, and taking hundreds of photos of the soft twilight sky. And just before leaving campus in March 2020, Fairchild was where I frantically said goodbye to friends.
Hood Museum: The Hood Museum is nothing short of a dream. I loved sitting in front of paintings and trying to recreate them with colored pencils, debating the meaning of a work of art with friends, and seeing exhibits change – and stay the same.
Gile’s Fire Tower: I’ve climbed Gile’s Fire Tower with friends, family, first grade babies, and just about everyone in between. “Peak foliage” was a term that always stressed me out because it reminded me of how fleeting the weather was in Hannover, and I knew I would never see such beautiful fall colors again. Luckily, Gile is a great hike in all seasons, and I looked down from the tower at the bare trees and still spindly from winter with (almost) the same appreciation as when I went during peak foliage the last fall.
Rocky 209: How can I sum up Dartmouth Mock Trial, which introduced me to my best friends and boyfriend, among other people I’ve been lucky enough to know? Many Tuesday and Thursday evenings were spent in that room upstairs at Rocky, discussing objections, trying to come up with the perfect quip my witness could say on the stand, and discussing the merits of introducing a hiking stick as evidence.
Alpha Phi: I rushed the Aphi on my second fall, as I pushed myself to meet new people and engage in new spaces in Dartmouth. Although I didn’t have many of the quintessential experiences that people associate with Dartmouth Greek life, like the summer of sophomore year, I met some of my closest friends at APh – from people who helped me think more about my identity and my place in the world. It’s also the only place, other than my freshman dorm, where I spent an entire year living.
The second floor of Robo, aka The Dartmouth’s office: I joined The Dartmouth because I wanted to practice photography at university. In the spring of my freshman year, I was also interested in editing for the journal. Being a photo editor for the past three years has been an experience far beyond what I expected; I came to love the staff and was able to reflect on what it meant to capture such a unique moment in people’s lives. And, of course, I took hundreds of photos, some of which were integrated into this TTLG.
Baker Tower: Baker Tower is the North Star for all Dartmouth students. It grounded me in Hannover and served as an image of constancy in a sea of change. I took a tour of the tower over the family weekend in 2019, showing my parents every corner of campus, and again in February of this year when I signed my name on the door of the tower and I felt like I left a little piece of myself at the University.
Even if this series of photographs does not do them justice, I will always feel so lucky to have experienced so many happy accidents here, and to have found an overwhelming, so-beautiful-it-hurts joy in all of them. the corners of Hanover, New Hampshire.
TTLG stands for Through The Looking Glass, reflections written by senior graduates. TTLGs are released at the end of each spring term, and if you would like to submit one, please contact [email protected]