Jan 14, 2015

Beautiful Chaos: Fall A

By Kiley Winsnes T'16

Kiley is a first-year student at Tuck. Before arriving in Hanover, she was living in stunning San Francisco and working for an integration software company. Originally from Chicago, Kiley spent her formative years in Seattle before chasing the California sunshine for her undergraduate degree in economics and religious studies. After Tuck, she hopes to get a job that combines two of her passions: fitness and technology. Outside of the classroom, Kiley enjoys running, road biking, writing, and the beverages of her two home cities: coffee and wine. Kiley can be contacted at kiley.j.winsnes.tu16@tuck.dartmouth.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @kileywins.

Change, we all know, is the only constant. Except clichés, those are also pretty constant, apparently. Despite all that change, though, I write this while sitting on the very couch where, a year ago today, I answered a phone call informing me that I had, indeed, been accepted to the Tuck School of Business. It’s where I studied for the GMAT, where I wrote my application letters, and where I sat, crying, as I called my parents to tell them the news. It’s also where I lay with my best friend, just a few short months ago, as we both sobbed about my impending departure. This couch, I realize, has seen me through quite a few big moments. It feels right to be sitting here now, back in San Francisco after finishing up our fall term at Tuck, reflecting on the beautiful chaos that’s characterized the adventure thus far.

It was an insane four months (can it really have been only four months??), but we survived—survived a four-week torture sentence known affectionately as “Fall A,” and tumbled head-first into the relative marathon of Fall B. We dressed up: in togas, and Halloween costumes, running shoes and race bibs, animal onesies and ugly sweaters, cocktail dresses and three-piece suits. We biked, hiked, ran, swam, skied, and ate way too much Boloco. We went out: to Murphys. We went to Skybox, the Coop, the Treehouse. We were, for the most part, ecstatic; in love with our new lives, but intermittently also sad, scared, stressed, overwhelmed, homesick, lonely. We drank, and we danced. My god did we dance. We began friendships and learned lessons we will take with us long after we’ve left this magical place.

It’s been a grand adventure already, and so much more lies ahead. As I look back, a few highlights stand out:

Fall Formal. Speaking of dancing. Oof, did we ever. We dressed up, walked through the woods in heels to the ever-so-creatively-named “Big Empty Meeting Area,” promptly removed aforementioned heels, and danced until someone told us we had to leave.

Moosilauke. Our retreat even farther into the middle of nowhere. A glorious day hike to a frigidly cold peak picnic, followed by a night of fun and, you guessed it, dancing.

Black Light. We crammed ourselves into Cohen, turned off all the lights, passed out highlighters, and let things get weird. Oh yeah, there was also dancing.

Fall Fun Trek. Some of us went to Boston, others to New York, productively meeting with companies, trying to secure internships. Ha. The rest of us went to a cabin in the woods, climbed Mt. Whitney, and played a surprisingly strenuous game involving only a paper grocery bag. A shocking lack of dancing for such a fun weekend.

So we had some fun this fall. And in between the grand events? There were the everyday lessons, the slog of recruiting and the pain of adjusting. There were the instant friendships, the budding romances, the subtle strengthening of bonds we’ll keep for the rest of our lives. In between the parties, the great adventures, was the meat of it, the space where the true learning lives. Just a few that stand out for me:

Adjusting is hard, but you’re not alone. Coming to Tuck was not a minor decision for any of us, and though orientation and Fall A were filled with fun, and though we were surrounded by kind, generous classmates, those first few weeks were tough, and no one was talking about it. We were all inundated with the messaging that Tuck is an amazing place (and it is!), but what no one felt comfortable saying was that, no matter how amazing our new home was, it was okay if you were exhausted, homesick, unsure, or just generally sad. Tuck is an amazing place, but it’s also an overwhelming place, with a million different tasks and activities constantly vying for your time and attention. It’s a lot to take in all at once, and when you add in the emotional challenge of being uprooted from everything you’d become familiar with, it’s borderline insane to imagine anyone making the adjustment seamlessly.

There is no place quite like Tuck. I’ve said it before (a lot. I know. Deal with it.), and I’ll keep saying it. This place is as unique as they come. A lot of it has to do with the location, yes, but it’s more than that. The deep immersion that Tuck requires of each of us creates a tightness that one can only liken to, oh, something akin to the threads of a well-knit fabric, maybe?

Grades. Don’t. Matter. (But learning does). We all swear we’ve internalized it, but when push comes to shove, some of us (fine, me. It’s me. Happy?) are still stressed about grades. But really, they don’t matter. Our performance in classes will never be disclosed to our future employers, and it’s unlikely than most (if any) of us will attend another academic program in our lives. Our transcripts will almost certainly never see the light of day. That being said, though, the skills and knowledge we’re gaining from our classes are not only pragmatic but also paramount to success in the careers we’ll be entering. So, while our grades may not be important, internalizing as much as we can in each class absolutely is.

These will be the most unique two years of our lives. Never again will we have an opportunity even remotely similar to what we’re experiencing now. We’re surrounded by driven, intellectually curious people excited to share their interests and experiences with us. We have time (okay, some will disagree with me there) to try new activities, pick up new hobbies, and generally learn about topics that pique our interest. Our careers are, for the most part, ahead of us—a long road of opportunity that Tuck has only served to widen.

We are very, very lucky. It’s easy to forget while we’re heads-down studying for exams, or frantic over the approach of interviews, but we’re living the dream. We’re at a top-tier program in a stunning Northeastern town, meeting friends we’ll keep for the rest of our lives. But even more than that, we’re lucky enough to be in a place in our lives where we’re able to take two years off from, well, life, basically, and invest 100 percent of our time and attention in ourselves and our careers. It’s a very, very unique opportunity, and we are beyond fortunate to have been able to take it. The only real job we have for the next two years? Appreciating it as much, and as often, as we can.

So I guess you can say I’ve learned a little in the past few months. Learned a little, and danced a lot. I can’t wait to see what lessons and adventures still lie ahead. 

Happy Hanukkah (/Chanukah/Hannukah/Hebrew is hard to transliterate), Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

*Main photo: Fall Formal with Peru ladies.

Section wars swim challenge. We lost.

And then the snow came.

Fall wine night with Peru people.

Trying new things at International Night. Spoiler: I don’t like it

Morning run back in San Francisco.