Middlebury’s International-Ness

Categories: Academics, Student Life

One characteristic that distinguishes Middlebury College from other small liberal arts colleges is, I believe, its “international-ness”. Middlebury is a great fit for students interested in foreign affairs and international “work” in general. Not only does the college admit 10 to 13 percent international students in every class, but its decidedly global perspective is reflected in its academic departments and programs.

The Monterey Institute for International Studies is a leading provider of international graduate education. As of July of 2010, officially became affiliated with Middlebury College. This affiliation means that Middlebury students can spend their fifth year getting a graduate degree in translation, interpretation, language education, international policy studies, international business, or international environmental studies at Monterey. Monterey is also known for its James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

International Studies (IS)
and International Politics and Economics (IP&E) are two of the most popular majors at Middlebury. The interdisciplinary approach of these two areas allows students a profound understanding of their chosen regions. There are three main requirements for an IS major. Students first pick a regional focus: Africa, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Russia and East Europe, or South Asia. Students also study a language spoken in the region, and may be placed according to their existing knowledge of that language. The third choice is a disciplinary focus: politics, religion, history, geography, or anthropology. IP&E’s structure is the same except that disciplinary focus is always regional politics and economics. Both of these majors require students to spend at least one semester in their chosen region of the world.

Study abroad is a major component of the Middlebury experience for all students. More than two-thirds choose to study abroad during their junior year whatever their major. Middlebury has around 40 schools in universities abroad, and is affiliated with more than 75 English-speaking universities abroad for English-speaking studies. This commitment to facilitating student study abroad is perhaps the strongest reflection of Middlebury’s global focus.

Middlebury has prestigious and rigorous summer programs for language studies, offering intense instruction in ten languages. It also offers masters programs in language and doctorates in modern languages. Language immersion is taken very seriously during summer school, as is learning about cultures. Professors bring their families with them, and family members become important players in exposing students to other cultures.

Another element of Middlebury’s commitment to language is its ten on-campus language houses. Teacher assistants (TA), usually native speakers, live with students who observe language ‘pledges.’ Beginning level non-resident students visit to watch foreign movies and cartoons and enjoy cultural food. Language students have to sit at language tables, where an invisible line of “No English Spoken Here” is observed. Third or fourth-year students greet newcomers and explain menus before students order food in the language of instruction. Language professors and TAs also attend language tables and introduce students to new vocabulary, creating a fun environment.

Of the more than 150 active student-run organizations on campus, the International Student Organization (ISO) is one of the largest and most vibrant. ISO holds cultural dinners, parties, poetry reading, and other regular events, as well as a major annual cultural show also attended by townspeople. Students represent and share their culture with the community through singing, dance and theater performances. Sitting in an auditorium at a small liberal arts college in a small American town, you can watch the world perform in front of you. It’s an absolutely amazing experience! My pleasure mixed with regret as I attended my last ISO cultural show the Friday before Thanksgiving break.

Enjoy some clips from previous ISO shows at Middlebury:

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