I am Matt Moniz, a ’20 Government major from Boulder, Colorado. Having grown up in Boulder, when I started looking at colleges, I was looking on the West Coast or in Colorado. But a good friend who is a telemark skier came to Dartmouth during my sophomore year of high school, and she told me, “You have to check out Dartmouth. I think you would love it.” I didn’t think I wanted to go to an East Coast school, but she said, “Trust me. You’ll really like it.”
So I applied to Dartmouth, then I visited during Dimensions, and I fell in love with it. I had planned on Biology as a major and had already taken some classes at the University of Colorado. But when I came to Dartmouth, I took an International Politics government class taught by Nicholas Miller during my Sophomore winter and I fell in love with it. I thought, “Oh, this is one of the best courses I’ve ever taken.” Then I took Gov 53, International Security. Dartmouth has an amazing government program, so I just decided to switch majors.
One of the cool things that I’ve found at Dartmouth is, you have a lot of people who are passionate about the outdoors and sports, whether it’s kayaking or climbing or skiing. And I’ve really enjoyed taking people out and introducing them to whitewater kayaking, a sport that I really love. It’s unique for an academic institution as good as Dartmouth to be set in a wilderness environment.
I love climbing, because it takes you to all these really amazing places that you wouldn’t have ever gone to. But sometimes you’re in a tent at 24,000 feet, and you’re freezing. The wind’s blowing at 40 miles an hour, and you’re like, “This is not fun. I’m just cold. Why am I here?”
The process of climbing mountains is a special experience. This past spring, I was finally able to climb Mount Everest. This was my fifth trip to Nepal, and my third attempt on the summit.
My second attempt was in 2015. There was a big earthquake, and an avalanche hit basecamp, killing 21 people and injuring about 80. My climbing partner, Willie Benegas, and I helped with rescue and relief efforts. We felt an obligation to do something for the community there. We had many friends who were affected by this earthquake. They’d lost their homes and everything. And we thought, we have a wonderful opportunity to give back a little bit. We went to Switzerland and did some group fundraising and ended up raising about $100,000.
We wanted to hire a helicopter to deliver relief supplies in some of the hardest-hit villages. But the government had nationalized a lot of the helicopters, and the prices skyrocketed. Rather than burn money on fuel and helicopters, our group hired local people to take the relief supplies up into their villages. This kept the money in the local economy and provided work for the people there. So much of their industry is based on tourism, and after the earthquake, no one had any work. We got hooked up with the U.N. World Food Programme, and they ended up using our strategy.
I’m also a Global Health minor, and as I have aged and continued climbing, I’ve tried to blend in some of my other skills—like academics, for example. We’ve been incorporating more studies into our climbing expeditions, with our exposure to various high-level sciences. The Government major itself has exposed me to different forms of government, and how you communicate, how you write memos and whatnot.
I’m really interested in the military, and combat rescue. When we were in Nepal in 2015, we were also working a bit with the U.S. Marines there. I’ve always loved medicine, and emergency medicine. I have realized that going to med school is not for me, but I still want that kind of high-level, pre-hospital trauma care exposure. And that’s one of the things that you get going the military route. Learning how to coordinate policy into actual, real-world benefits is super interesting. But you can’t really direct policy without experiencing what it’s like on the ground.
Now, looking back after having finally climbed Everest, I’m so glad that I did it—it was a dream of mine. But it was more. I learned about myself, and I felt like I had a bigger impact doing that. I realized that this experience was so much more valuable than actually standing on the top of the world ever could be.