200 Days Until… Another Semester?

The senior class recently attended the annual 200 Days Party. For most of us, this senior-only, semi-formal celebration kicks off the countdown to graduation and prefaces the 100 Days Party held later in the spring term. However, for many attendees, including myself, the countdown aspect of the party is not at all relevant. That’s because many of us are not actually seniors but instead senior “Febs.”

At Middlebury, Febs are students who will graduate in February rather than May. Several students become Febs after taking semesters off for work or personal reasons. The majority, however, began their first semesters in February rather than September, having taken the fall term off to pursue a gap semester, or “Febmester.” As a current senior Feb, I will still spend a full four years at the College, and in no way am I expected to condense or expedite my college career to graduate “on time” in the spring with the rest of my class. When my classmates finally don their caps and gowns in May, my fellow senior Febs and I will still have one final semester and winter term to complete before graduating. And we get to finish our college careers in style, receiving our diplomas after skiing down the Middlebury Snow Bowl in our caps and gowns!

The February-to-February timeline is undoubtedly unusual but also incredibly rewarding. My Febmester gave me plenty of time to step off my high school academic treadmill and breathe. Everyone curates their Febmester to their own interests and gains a ton of new stories to share for when they finally come to campus. One of my friends pursued a sea turtle conservation project in Costa Rica; another moved to Los Angeles to audition for television and movie roles. I used my time off to work, travel the world and visit friends at different colleges. Although we chose to use our Febmesters differently, my friends and I agree that our gap semesters gave us ample time to recharge and experience something totally new before beginning college. 

Graduating in February rather than May carries its own advantages, as well. For one, it allows us Febs to combat the dreaded “What are you doing after graduation?” question with a short, sweet and self-assured “I’m a Feb.” While many of my non-Feb peers are busy with job interviews and graduate school applications, my Feb friends are figuring out how they want to spend their extra summer break. I am using mine to pursue another internship, something many of my graduating friends wish they still had the opportunity to do.

The best perk of being a Feb is perhaps the most under-recognized: As a Feb, I will have spent only one semester as a first-year but three as a senior. For me and the rest of the class of 2017.5, this means another semester to take interesting upper-level classes and more time to plan and coordinate post-graduate opportunities. It also means we get to attend to another 200 Days Party, this time as “super senior Febs” alongside a new senior class. The countdown of the party will continue to mean nothing to us, but we will still get to enjoy the free food, drink and music. No complaints from us, as February Admissions continues to showcase its advantages, even years after arriving to campus in February!

Spotlight on A Cappella at Middlebury

Hello all!

It’s no secret that there are plenty of Middlebury students who love to sing. In fact, out of the eight Senior Fellows, three of us sing in an a cappella group!

Right now there are many different groups on campus to choose from (check out the full list here). Each has a unique style and vibe. Whether your music preferences tend more towards pop or classical music, and whether you’d prefer to be in a coed or a single sex group – there’s something for everyone!

No previous experience is required in order to audition for any of the groups. I am in an all-female group called the Middlebury Mischords that holds auditions twice a year. I always enjoy the audition process – Every time I am so impressed at the amount of musical talent among Middlebury students.

The Mischords represent a wide array of academic and extra-curricular interests. This diversity of interests was something that surprised me when I first joined. I was expecting everyone to be a classically-trained music major, and that’s definitely not the case! We also have representatives from a wide range of sports teams. Last year was especially diverse in terms of athletics; we had mischords who played soccer, softball, lacrosse, and track.

Although I love the stress-relieving aspect of taking a study break and singing a few times a week, what I love most about being in an a cappella group is the feeling of community. I joined in February of my first year at Middlebury, but I wish that I had worked up the courage to audition in September. Joining student clubs and organizations here is so rewarding. It gives you the opportunity to find the micro-communities within the larger campus community. Through a cappella, I have met some truly amazing people and formed a group of friends that I may not have been able to get to know otherwise.

Last Friday we held our end of semester concert – or “Jambo” – in the beautiful Mead Chapel with our brother group the Dissipated Eight. I am always so impressed by the number of students that take time out of their busy schedules to come watch our concerts. There’s nothing quite like singing to a full audience!

Until next time,

– Nicole

Mischords

(from our Halloween-themed concert)

 

(Here’s a video of one of my favorite Mischords songs – it’s an older video but a song that we still sing today)

 

Feminism in the Global Arena

Every spring, the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies department at Middlebury hosts a week-long symposium called the Gensler Family Symposium on Feminism in the Global Arena. The symposiums focus on the many challenges that women face in our ever-changing social, political, and economic environments. Some examples of broad topics from past years include: “Interrogating Citizenship: Sex, Race, Class, and Regimes of Power,” “The F Word: Feminist Texts, Feminist Lives,” and “Sexual Straightjackets & Queer Escapes.” How exciting do these sound? This past spring, I was given the opportunity to help plan the 2016 Gensler Symposium: “#IntersectionalTV: Mediating Race, Gender, and Sexuality.”

This academic symposium, during the spring of my junior year, was one of the most memorable and exciting academic experiences during my time at Middlebury. I am a Film and Media Culture Major, minoring in Gender Studies –– so the topic of the intersection of television and race, gender, and sexuality was almost too exciting for me to handle. The symposium consisted of a bunch of panels, screenings, discussions, and meals with other students, faculty members, and visiting professors from other institutions. Some of my favorite academic topics included the concept of casting, the importance of women and minority show runners in Hollywood, and the growing Queer TV movement, focusing on self-expression and performance art. Can you tell that I geeked out over this the entire week?

My favorite event of the week was a talk given by Susan Douglas, author of the book The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us from Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild. Douglas presented in Dana Auditorium to an audience full of students across all disciplines, not just students of gender and film. Her lecture focused on everything from problematic contemporary television shows to Beyoncé’s self-proclaimed feminism. The best part of the day was when I joined Douglas and my four professors for dinner in town at Two Brothers Tavern. It was so special to share a meal with the author of a book that I have read in multiple classes and to discuss topics of feminism and pop culture with all of my professors outside of the classroom setting.

Middlebury is the kind of place where it’s cool to geek out over getting to meet an author. The 2016 Gensler Symposium was a week at Middlebury that I will never forget –– and I am looking forward to the upcoming one in 2017!

Here’s the poster from Gensler 2016:

intersectionaltv2

Weekends at Midd

The following is a schedule of an ideal average weekend at Midd (as in, nothing is out of the ordinary but it’s a great time!) All entries are based on true events. See www.middlebury.edu/events for a detailed account of some of the amazing happenings at Midd!

Friday

  • 9:30-10:00: Make a breakfast Panini on the Proctor dining hall Panini makers (think English muffin, eggs, spinach, cheddar, cayenne)
  • 10:00-10:10: Take a leisurely walk to my class in Axinn, my favorite academic building. Analyze the state of the foliage. Say hi to friends on the path. Smile at the same people I pass every Friday at 10:05.
  • 10:10-11:00: Go to my American Studies class with Professor Nash called Livin’ for the City. Discuss and debate readings, integrate current events, and try to stump the unstumpable professor with challenging questions.
  • 11:00-11:15: Go to McCullough Student center to pick up a package (remember, this is my ideal weekend, so grandma sent me cookies!!!!!) and my paycheck for my campus job. Get distracted looking at the bulletin board… will I make it to all of the interesting lectures and events this week?
  • 11:15-12:30: Enjoy a prolonged lunch in Atwater dining hall. It’s Friday, which means it’s burger day. It also means the dining hall might be playing pump up music over the loudspeakers! The sun beats through the floor-to-ceiling windows and I hop from table to table to chat with friends from all different social circles
  • 12:30-1:00: Run over to Bi Hall, our science center, to chat with my geography professor and advisor. We talk about research methodology for my semester-long project on the urbanization of Native Americans, we discuss possible ideals for a future independent study project, and we review which classes I’m registering for the fall (we are both very excited about cartography!)
  • 1:00-5:30: It feels wrong to schedule my Friday afternoons, because the beauty of them lies in their spontaneity. Sometimes it’s a time for laundry and tidying up. On nice days, it’s the perfect window to go for a hike. Occasionally I’ll go to local Drop-In Brewery for a tasting with friends. After especially busy weeks, I curl up in my bed with a book and ginger tea. I love Friday afternoons.
  • 5:30-7:30: Unless something really unusual is happening, I spend Friday evenings with Hillel, the Jewish organization, celebrating Shabbat. We have a service followed by a homecooked meal.
  • 7:30 onward: Hang out with friends… it’s been a busy day. Who knows what tonight will bring!

Saturday

  • 10:30-11:30: Brunch in Ross dining hall. Should I make a Belgian waffle with homemade peanut butter? Local yogurt with homemade granola? Cinnamon swirl pancakes?
  • 11:30-2:30: Do work at Midd Chocolates. Enjoy a mocha with homemade whipped cream and marshmallows along with unlimited chocolate samples. If I need wifi to do work, I might go to the Stone Leaf Teahouse in Marbleworks, another one of my favorite spots.
  • 2:30-4:00: Go on an afternoon adventure to get some exercise and enjoy the Vermont outdoors. Maybe I’ll check out the Trail around Middlebury or Chipman Hill, both within walking distance from campus.
  • 4:00-6:00: Continue doing work or hang out with friends…only time can tell.
  • 6:00-8:00: Cook dinner at home with my housemates. Perhaps we will make a homemade pizza and salad again?
  • 8:00-10:00: Pop by a college-sponsored event with friends. Maybe it will be roller blading in the student center? A Riddim hip hop concert? An a capella performance? A student-produced play in the Hepburn Zoo (the Zoo is a performance space—there are no live animals there)?

Sunday

  • 10:00-10:30: Breakfast in Proctor
  • 10:30-1:30: Head to one of my favorite spots on campus to do some homework: the tables in the back of the library, the Abernathy Room in Axinn, a nook in Bi Hall, the cubicles with amazing natural light in Hillcrest…so many options!
  • 1:30-2:00: Grab more food. We don’t have a swipe system, so why not? The more the merrier!
  • 2:00-4:00: Check out a sporting event with a friend. This weekend we will be attending the Quidditch tournament, which is especially exciting since Muggle Quidditch was created at Middlebury! #BringQuidditchHome
  • 4:00-6:00: Continue catching up with friends, or do homework, depending on the weekend.
  • 6:00-7:00: Grab dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. So much to catch up on!
  • 7:00-11:00: Go home and get ready for the next week. This includes but is not limited to calling mom and dad (normally I’ve already called my mom like 10 times by now, but I’m putting it on the calendar just in case)

They Came To Vermont? Like, Actual Vermont?

Last night, along with hundreds of others in a standing-only, busting-through-doors Mead Chapel, I saw New York Daily News Senior Justice Writer and political activist Shaun King speak on the relevance and reality of the Black Lives Matter movement, and field questions from the audience. As perhaps the most widely shared and circulated writer on my Facebook feed right now, to finally see Mr. King in real life was a fantastic experience. When he first began to speak, his natural ease made the gravity and significance of his points so much more impactful that at some lines, he was met with a deafening wall of silence, completely at a loss because of the truth to that point. To not only see this event, but see it for free and a five minute walk from my suite was incredible.

But this sort of relevance in performance and events is not new to this talk or this year: Middlebury College, and in particular its student leadership, has consistently done a great job bringing things to our campus here in Vermont.

An event that comes to mind for me is last fall’s performance of the King’s Singers, a world-renowned all-male vocal sextet from the UK. These guys. In Mead Chapel. My God, were they good. They performed a two hour set, the first half consisting of classical church hymns and the second half a collection of songs from their album, “Postcards,” traditional songs from various world cultures. I accidentally rose to give them a standing ovation at their penultimate song, but it was well deserved if not poorly timed. They gave an encore performance of Paul Simon’s “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy,” and if that wasn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve heard come out of a person’s mouth in my life then I just have no conception of beauty.

It speaks volumes about the College for it to bring such a group here. At my time at Middlebury, I’ve gotten the opportunity to see Donna Brazile speak on the state of politics, watch artists like Chance the Rapper and Misterwives live in an intimate, small college venue, and that’s on top of the range of visiting scholars and academics that come pretty much every week for smaller lectures and discussions. This past Friday we had our annual International Politics and Economics symposium on the global illicit drug trade, featuring researchers on the subject from top organizations and programs, and next week the primary Art Critic from the Wall Street Journal will visit campus.

And on top of all the wonderful student acts and performances, I think seeing these events is when I feel luckiest to be at Middlebury.

shaun-king

Best,

Danny Dignan

Halloweekend at Midd

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I’ve dressed up on the whole spectrum of costumes from the classics (witch, ghost) to puns (taping two quarters on me to be “50 Cent”) to completely random (an olive… just an olive. Not sure where I came up with that one). We’ve had pumpkins out in my suite since the beginning of the month, and had costumes planned from the beginning of the school year. As college students, you may think we’re pushing the limit of acceptable trick-or-treating age. You’d be right. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t get into the holiday spirit in our own way here on campus. This past weekend, MCAB hosted its very first Haunted House, and I got to be part of it!

MCAB is the Middlebury College Activities Board, a student group in charge of organizing fun campus events including concerts, speakers, dances, and themed events like the Haunted House. They’re responsible for bringing performers to campus, which is great because the concerts are affordable and convenient for Middlebury students to attend. In my time here we’ve had some big names like Chance the Rapper, Matt and Kim, T-Pain, Borns, and many more. MCAB is allotted a hefty budge to host these types of events, and as students we get a say in how that money is spent.

Any student can submit suggestions for a campus-wide event they’d like to see happen, and this year people showed interest in a Haunted House. MCAB took that idea and ran with it, going all out with spooky decorations and incredible costumes and makeup. It was held in the Bunker, an open performance space that was converted into a dark maze with various themed rooms. They recruited actors and affiliates of the theater department like myself to perform as zombies, mummies, prisoners, ghosts, and other scary figures.

I may have gotten a little too into character as a creepy haunted spirit (black and white face paint can do that to you), but we all had so much fun. I guess we all played our parts well, because we managed to make some guys on the baseball team scream like little kids. All my friends who went through the house said they were genuinely terrified, which means the event was a success! I decided to keep my costume on for the rest of the night because at that point I was committed, although I did notice other students keeping their distance from me as we crossed paths. I later realized that the friendly smile I had on just made me look like even more menacing with my blackened eyes and lips and long, ragged dress. Oh well – all in the Halloween spirit!

untitled

Middlebury as “Home”

Let me start by saying that this is my favorite time of year at Middlebury College. The Vermont foliage is stunning right now, it isn’t heavy jacket weather yet, and Middlebury students are all feeling well rested after our mid-semester break.

It is finally hitting me that I am back in the environment that I learned to appreciate during my time abroad. Although studying in Paris was incredible and I wouldn’t trade my experience there for anything, towards the end of the semester I caught myself missing the distinct community feeling and atmosphere of my home away from home at Midd.

My fresh perspective while abroad helped me realize that Middlebury truly feels like home to me. It isn’t easy to pinpoint when exactly this development occurred, and I think this realization happens in a different way for every Middlebury student. Some might realize that Middlebury is “home” when they change the default shipping address on Amazon, when they’re recognized as regulars at the best restaurants in town, or maybe when they simply realize that the majority of their friends are here.

Personally, I didn’t realize the extent to which Middlebury had become a second home to me until I was placed in a new environment. While in Paris I lived in student housing and met students from many different countries. When they asked me where I was from, I found myself describing Middlebury more often than my hometown. As I formed new relationships, I realized how integral my Middlebury experience is to my identity.

I consider myself lucky that the place I chose to study as an undergraduate has become such a big part of myself. With that in mind, my advice to those currently in the middle of the college application process is to consider what qualities are important to you in the next place you’ll call home. In other words, the community feeling and quality of life at a particular college can be just as important as academic considerations.

Until next time!

Nicole

I love checking out the sunset from the organic garden before the weather gets too cold

It’s definitely worth watching the sunset from the organic garden – before the weather gets too cold!

img_0452

Afternoon sun and a little bit of that foliage I mentioned…

 

Professor Manley, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Science

I should preface this story by telling y’all that I would much rather cozy up with a book–or Netflix’s Luke Cage, which premiered this week–than go outside, or worse still, go do science outside.

My first morning of classes at Middlebury, I was dragged to Intro to Oceanography by a senior friend of mine, an environmental science major, who swore that this class would convert me into a science major. I walked into a classroom swollen to the brim with students eager to get in. I hadn’t registered for the class or to be on the waiting list, so I was on the bottom of a very long totem pole.

The professor, Tom Manley, who I’ll get to in a minute, took roll, pulled one or two people off of the waitlist, and told everyone else that unfortunately, due to the nature of the lab in this class (3 hours of boating on Lake Champlain each week) there was a hard cap to the number of students he could take. After the first lecture, I went up to Professor Manley, introduced myself and told him that I wanted to be added to the waitlist. He was confused, considering he thought he had already clarified that there wasn’t a waitlist anymore, but wrote my name down on the sheet and told me–as nicely as possible–to find a different class.

So I went to the lecture on Wednesday. I went up to him after class and asked if anyone had dropped. No one had. But, he had remembered my name!

So I went to the lecture on Friday. I went up to him after class and asked if anyone had dropped. No one had. But, the van for the Friday lab group was leaving in around ten minutes, so I stuck around, talked with some friends, and snuck into the van headed for Lake Champlain. When we tumbled out of the van and onto the docks, Professor Manley realized that he had a stowaway.

Professor Manley is a muscular man with a chiseled jaw, perfectly windswept grey hair, and jean shorts. All 365 days of the year, Professor Manley rocks jean shorts.  Now that is odd, yes, but even odder is that he is an arctic researcher. He spends much of his free time in the freezing cold, studying water and ice floats and the ground under the water–if it is unclear, I am not a science major–in a parka and jean shorts.

The only thing standing between me and the boat was Professor Manley in his shorts. Slowly, a smile crept across his face. He extended his hand and asked me if I was sure I was ready for a life at sea.  He bumped the cap, let me on the boat, and I spent the next three months dropping robots into the lake and taking core samples.

Even though I am not a science major at Middlebury, and made that very clear to Professor Manley from the start, he created room for me to learn. I think that’s a testament to the teaching ethos at Midd. If you are excited to learn, then professors here are excited to work with you.

A couple of hours after the course’s final exam, Professor Manley invited everybody over to his house to eat some strawberry shortcake and ride his ATVs.  It’s safe to say that my short life as a scientist certainly ended on a high note.

August Rosenthal ’17

The Top 10 Fall Activities in and around Middlebury

  1. Apple Picking: Nothing screams fall in Middlebury quite like a visit to Happy Valley Orchard with some friends. Pick your favorite type of apples and then cook your favorite apple dessert. Don’t forget to taste the fresh cider, homemade apple sauce, and other delicious apple products at the orchard (or in our dining halls!)
My first adventure to Happy Valley Orchards during fall 2013

My first adventure to Happy Valley Orchard during fall 2013

  1. Harvest Festivals: All of the best things come together at harvest festivals: fresh food, great friends, fall weather, and live music. Whether at Middlebury’s very own Organic Farm, the town co-op, or Shelburne Farms, you’re sure to leave with a full stomach and a replenished soul.
  1. Walk/jog/run in and around Middlebury: Take the foot bridge for a fantastic view of the Otter Creek Falls, saunter in an out of local shops, and get to know this picturesque New England town in a personal way. For a more extensive adventure, discover the Trail Around Middlebury (“the TAM”) for eighteen miles of fun.
  1. See the views from above: For an iconic view of fertile Addison County overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains, check out Snake Mountain. In less than an hour, you can experience an unparalleled view of fall foliage. If you hate hiking, fear not! You can get permission to take the elevator up to the roof of McCardell Bicentennial Hall (our science center) for a 360 degrees view of campus.
I took my grandparents on the roof of Bi Hall and they loved it!

I took my grandparents on the roof of Bi Hall and they loved it!

  1. Fall Family Weekend: Whether you have family visiting or not, Fall Family Weekend is the perfect time to take advantage of fabulous fall activities. Take the free shuttle to the Middlebury College Snow Bowl (our very own ski mountain!) and ride the chairlift to see the foliage from up above.
  1. Swim: Yes, the water is freezing, but the thrill is so worth it. Some of my favorite bodies of water for swimming are Dog Team, The Middlebury Gorge, Bristol Falls, Falls of Lana, Silver Lake, Lake Dunmore and, if you’re up for the trek, Warren Falls.
  1. Class Outside: Convince your professors to have a class outside. Get the best parts of Middlebury all in one moment by engaging in thought-provoking conversations while enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds you.
I had an amazing Portuguese class sitting in this grass

I had an amazing Portuguese class sitting in this grass

  1. Homecoming: There’s nothing like seeing friends who have graduated back on campus. The Midd spirit abounds, whether over meals in the dining halls or over cheers at athletic events.
  1. Eat a maple creemee: Try Vermont’s version of soft serve ice cream in its best form before the weather gets too cold. Rainbow sprinkles are a must.
  1. Picnic: Grab a to-go box from Proctor and head to the Organic Farm for a sunset dinner. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, drive to Champlain Bridge on the Vermont/New York border for what’s guaranteed to be a magical sunset moment.
There's no better way to start off senior year than a dinner by the lake with friends!

There’s no better way to start off senior year than a dinner by the lake with friends!

*All photos are my own; #nofilter

My Last First Week

Hi everyone, 
 
I am finally wrapping up my last first week of college. It couldn’t sound like more of a cliche, but I feel like I started my freshman year at Middlebury only yesterday, and it hasn’t sunk in that I’ll be graduating in less than a year. But I’ll save the soppy graduating-senior-blues themed post for later in the year! 
 
When I signed up to write a blog post about my first week back at Middlebury, I had planned to tell you all about my first week on campus as a freshman and compare it to my first week back as a seniorsome kind of reflective exercise that would demonstrate just how far I had come and how much I had matured over the course of my time here. After all, my first week on campus back in 2013 was something of a blurry trainwreck – I was late to just about every single class and was That Freshman who carried around a wallet full of bright green add cards for classes that I hadn’t been able to register for.  After making my way off the waitlist for a highly coveted class, I managed to sleep through my alarm, missing the class entirely. Needless to say, it was a long week, and one during which I kept my mom on speed dial. But, every cloud has a silver liningduring that chaotic first week, I was directed to multiple classes by helpful professors and students, demonstrating to me what a tight-knit community I had joined. I met one of my closest friends sitting on the floor of a classroom in Twilight Hall, both of us having arrived too late to snag a chair. We still laugh about that fateful encounter today. 

I wish I could report that as a senior, my first week back on campus after the summer was smooth and painless, and that I appeared to all as the cool, collected and mature adult I had hoped that I would one day become. But, alas, that would have been too easy. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that my last first week of class bore a strikingly uncanny resemblance to my first first week of class. As a senior, I know I should have this song-and-dance nailed down, but I somehow found myself sprinting across campus to make it to class on time (apparently we have an academic building called Adirondack House.. It was news to me, too!) with a stack of add cards in hand. But there have been silver linings to this week, too. Seeing my friends after the summer has been a wonderful reminder of the many incredible relationships I’ve formed over the course of my time at Middlebury, while having the opportunity to discuss my senior thesis ideas with my advisor reminds me of how far I’ve progressed at Middlebury, despite still feeling somewhat like a headless chicken. I’ve accepted that I will probably never have a semester that I don’t start without a stack of add-cards in hand—my curious and indecisive personality combined with the incredible number of interesting courses at Middlebury makes it pretty tough to commit to just four classes. But with the dust finally settling on my first week as a senior, I could not be more excited about all the adventures to come and all the wonderful fall-themed food coming my way.
Till the next post! ~ Francesca
Here is an irrelevant picture of a sunrise over the Green Mountains that I took last week.

Here is an irrelevant picture of a sunrise over the Green Mountains that I took last week.