Monthly Archives: November 2010


Middlebury students may be in the library on Sundays, but Fridays and Saturdays are a bit of a different story.  One of the things about Middlebury that most surprised me as an incoming first-year was the fact that most students do not leave Middlebury on the weekends, with some exceptions such as in-season athletes travelling to compete.  I thought that I would be spending a decent amount of time in Burlington (45 mins) and Montreal (2.5 hours).  I’ve only been to Burlington a few times and Montreal probably the same amount.  Other than those few short trips, I’ve spent my weekends here.

What can a town of 8,000 (Middlebury) offer that an international metropolis of 2 million (Montreal) can’t?  A good place to study, you may joke.  That’s true.  However, Middlebury realizes that it doesn’t have 2 million residents and that it has to work harder to keep students entertained.  To this end, the College and students themselves take it upon themselves to offer a wide range of weekend activities for students with a variety of interests.

Take this past weekend, for example.  Friday night, Inception was screened three times in Dana Auditorium as part of the Free Friday Film series.  The Free Friday Film Series is a series of recently released films offered free to students by MCAB (Middlebury College Activities Board), the student-run activities board.

After Inception, my suite hosted the pirate party, an annual tradition of the Sailing Club.  The Sailing Club is a three-part program: it runs a PE class, offers a recreational sailing program that allows anyone to get out on the water, and competes in regattas as a member of the NEISA (New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association).  The team is incredibly tight, even when they’re mock fighting in pirate garb (witnessed Friday night).

Saturdays are usually fairly relaxed.  This past Saturday, you could’ve gone down to Alumni Stadium, gotten involved in a tailgate and watched the football team end their season with a win over Tufts.  On any given weekend, you could grab a few friends, hike Snake Mountain and spend a while admiring the beauty of the Champlain Valley.  You could also explore town, pick up some fresh cheese at the Farmers Market, grab a sandwich at Noonie’s and eat it overlooking the falls on Otter Creek.

This past Saturday night, MCAB brought us Yeasayer.  They gave a great show with the crowd going especially wild for one of the lead singer’s jumpsuit.  MCAB is able to bring a lot of great acts here for concerts.  In recent years, we’ve seen: The Roots, Girl Talk, Regina Spektor, and many more.

Scene in Nelson on Saturday night

This past Sunday, a lot of people skipped the library (at least for a while) to watch the mens’ soccer team win the NCAA DIII regional championship.  The soccer team will advance to sectionals next weekend, hopefully moving onto nationals after that.  The team is no stranger to the NCAA DIII National Championship, having won it in 2007.

As you can see, Middlebury doesn’t give students much reason to want to leave campus.  That said, I will be going up to Burlington tomorrow to see the midnight showing of the latest Harry Potter.  Pumped.

Language Tables

Sorry to bombard you guys with a second email about food at Middlebury (I am currently 2 for 2), but Middlebury College has  so many unique dining options that I could probably write 100 (or more )blog posts just about dining at Middlebury.  As I mentioned in my last post, we have two main dining halls, Ross and Proctor, but we also have a third dining hall, Atwater.  Atwater used to be a full service dining hall like Ross and Proctor, but now hosts language tables.  What are language tables you may ask?  I will attempt to explain…

                Imagine entering a room and hearing 9 languages being spoken at once.  The table in the far left corner is speaking Japanese, the table in the back right is speaking Italian, and right in front of you eight students are speaking Arabic.  No, you are not at the United Nations, you are at language tables at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont.  As part of Middlebury’s extensive language program, students have the opportunity (and will sometimes be required) to attend language tables once or twice a week.  Let’s say that you take Italian.  You will come to language tables and have a sit down meal with seven or eight other Italian students of all different levels.  Chances are an Italian professor will join you as well and if not, a native Italian speaker will join you at the table.  Your waiter or waitress will also be either a native Italian speaker or an upper level Italian student.  You eat with this group for about and hour, speaking only in Italian.

                At first this experience is somewhat difficult.  During the first couple of weeks (especially if you are just beginning a language) it is hard to communicate with your peers.  There are only so many times you can smile at the person next to you and say “Hi.  I am Ben.  I like food.”  Don’t worry though, over time your speaking skills improve and it is really amazing to see and hear the difference at language tables after a month or two.  People who just a few weeks earlier were struggling with the simple task of introducing themselves are now speaking rapidly in complex sentences. 

After two years of studying a language at Middlebury and maybe a summer at our summer Language Schools, students are prepared to study abroad in an immersion environment.  Middlebury Students take classes in a foreign University with local students and they succeed!  Studying a language at Middlebury is hard work, but the hard work definitely pays off.

ISO show just around the corner

The International Student Organization (ISO) show is finally almost here, this Friday!… International middkids are getting overly excited by the day, brushing up on rehearsals and ordering those colourful costumes online or from their home country, sending strings of emails to friends and host families. The theme for this year’s show is “Middleburied in the world” wacky but exhilarating– the excitement is spreading across campus like a bush fire in the harmattan.

Unfortunately, I am going to miss the show as I will be away for an interview in Boston on the same day! (Terrible I knw). I tried to reschedule but it didn’t work – it is one of the downside of being a senior– always faced with choices that have high opportunity costs… Anyway, after being up stage shaking my limbs for the past few years, this year I was hoping to be one of the MCs for the show. But now I cannot….I just hope that I get invited in the future, as an alum, to come act as the MC.

The ISO show is not only popular among students but also among faculty, staff, host families and their friends, and townies (short for people who live in the town). I just bumped into one of our dining hall staff this morning who is a big fan of the ISO show, and she is super excited about it. She was excited to tell me that she had already bought her ticket and was looking forward to seeing my moves again this year. But she was dumb founded when she eventually learned that I will not be present for the show…
Hold tight for another update

The Fun of Being a Ross-er!

Middlebury College is residential campus, with 98 percent of the senior class living on campus. Our housing system is based on the “commons system.” I haven’t seen the Harry Potter movies, but some describe Middlebury’s system as similar to Hogwarts School’s. We have five commons, Atwater, Brainerd, Cook, Ross, and Wonnacott. Each has a dean, faculty heads, coordinator, commons residential advisors (CRA), first-year counselors (FYCs), and residential advisors (RAs). FYCs and RAs are usually well-trained Middlebury juniors and seniors who live in freshman and upper-class housing respectively. The idea behind the commons system is to create smaller and more integrated communities within our already tightly-knit community. Around 450 students are assigned to each commons with their own dean, faculty heads, CRA, FYCs, and RAs. As a freshman, you’re most likely to share a room, but your options improve every year. Sophomores can choose singles or doubles, shared suites, or houses with friends. There are academic-interest housing as well as social houses, as well as houses for every language taught here! The latter aren’t necessarily tied to a commons.

Commons host dinners with remarkable visiting speakers. These dinners provide opportunities such as eating with Victor Zhikai Gao, translator for Deng Xiaoping (China’s Premier during its ’80s economic reforms). For the student interested in Chinese politics and history, that is one amazing event! Commons also sponsor events such as trips to Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, 45 minutes north of Middlebury.
I live in Ross Commons, and I love it! My freshman year I lived in a suite with five other girls whom I consider my “Middlebury Family.” One room combined Afghanistan with South Burlington; another, CT with NYC/Thailand; and the third, NYC with Kenya. We had an amazing year together. Although I chose a single room as a sophomore, some of my close friends lived on my floor. I studied in Egypt my junior fall and roomed with an Egyptian, returning to Ross in the spring. You’re only required to live in your commons for the first two years. You then can live anywhere on campus while retaining your affiliation with your commons, and receiving notice of dinner speakers, and generally staying in touch, especially with your dean. I stayed at Ross, which has great senior housing choices (my personal bias). I live in an enormous single twice as big as my freshman double! It is great, with the best view of the Adirondack Mountains as the sun slowly disappears beyond.

Vermont’s unpredictable weather patterns brought us snow just a few days ago—and I didn’t even have to leave the building! I went to the dining hall in my PJs while others bundled up. I happened to have only one class that day—and we meet at Ross! I spent the rest of the day in the study room, working on my grad school application.

The Research Experience

Middlebury College is an amazing place for undergraduate research. Because there are no graduate students at this institution, any student here with a passionate research interest will likely have the opportunity to explore that interest either through a research assistant-ship, an independent project, or with a thesis. Furthermore, professors at Middlebury are incredibly dedicated to their students’ independent work. In my experience, working one on one with professors throughout independent projects has been invaluable — I have learned writing, research, editing, and analytical skills that have translated to my other classes as well as to experiences outside of academics.

My sophomore year, I was in a cognitive psychology class and really loved it. So I asked the professor if he could use any more research assistants for his work on memory. After a meeting, I began working on his research team, along with several other students, and have since attended two psychology conferences with the team to present posters of our research. One of the best parts of attending these conferences, aside from learning how to present work to professors and graduate students, is that we get to hear amazing research talks and learn from other poster sessions.

These conferences have been a highlight of my academic experience in psychology. Getting exposed to so much research from all over the country and the world has been eye-opening and inspiring for the cognitive psychology research that I am doing now.

From Left: Adam Dede ’11, Cloe Shasha ’11, Middlebury College Professor of Psychology Jason Arndt

Research Poster at Psychonomics Conference in St. Louis, Missouri

November 2010

How many MiddKids does it take to sing a song?

If you’re counting by a cappella groups, 8. With anywhere from about ten to fifteen members in each group, that’s a lot of people singing on campus (not to mention the College Choir, Community Choir, music department ensembles, student bands, individual performers…).

A cappella has a visible and really varied presence on campus: with two all-guys groups (Stuck In the Middle and the Dissipated Eight), two all-girls groups (Mischords and Paradiddles), two co-ed groups (Mamajamas and Bobolinks), a renaissance group (Mountain Ayres), and a Christian group (People Get Ready), it’s hard to miss the small huddles of people around campus who are able to spontaneously burst into song. For instance:

The best (and maybe surprising) part about it, is that each group has a truly unique flavor of sound and jive of its own in comparison with other Midd groups.

That said, we like to mix ourselves up and collaborate sometimes, too. Last Friday, my group, Stuck In the Middle (SIM), and the Mischords (shout out to Senior Fellow Cloe!), performed together at a Middlebury alumni event in Greenwich, Conn. at the Belle Haven Yacht Club. Both groups had great sets, which we concluded with the SIM-Mischord choir’s rendition of the Middlebury Alma Mater, “Walls of Ivy.”

It’s amazing to see (let alone do, as music director) the work that goes into planning and executing music tours of any sort. Apart from hours of rehearsing, logistics like finding gigs, negotiating pay, reserving vans, getting group members’ schedules to work together, finding food, finding lodging, and getting people dressed and to the venue on time all take a lot of preparation.

Having acted as a member, the social director, (advertising, outreach, performance, etc.) and now acting as music director, a cappella has been a time-consuming, but totally worthwhile and rewarding activity: getting to sing and be creative with a group of great guys for four years is priceless.

Though Midd’s a cap groups might have yet to make it to the “big-leagues” (see YouTube video below) — not to belittle my group’s own music video, Middlebury-related musicians like Dispatch and and most recently, Ezra Axelrod ’07, have made more than just ripples in the music industry.

Je suis un “Feb”.

While regular Seniors are all picking courses for their FINAL semester, I am comforted by the fact that as a Senior-Feb I still have one year left at Middlebury.

Being a Feb has truly shaped my Middlebury experience. Having a semester- off before starting college gave me the time to relax and explore opportunities that would have otherwise not have been available to me. After a challenging Senior year of high school I was very much in need of a break! However, when I first found out that I was admitted to Middlebury in February I was unsure and scared of not starting college at a “normal” time in September like the rest of my friends. When I finally sat down and realized that I had 8 months to do whatever I wanted… the list of possibilities was ENDLESS.

I always had an interest in French, but had never used it outside the classroom. Therefore, for my “Feb-mester” I wanted to find a way that I could travel (affordably) and use my French. In my search, I found the  organization, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which is a network of farms and organizations all over the world that looks for volunteers to work in exchange for food and housing. I ended up making a contact with a farm, “La Ferme d’Art”, in the south of France and took my chances and decided to spend 6 weeks there as a volunteer. “La Ferme d’Art” or “The Art Farm” in an independent sustainable works project started by Pan, the owner, who reconstructed an abandoned farm house to create a sustainable farm and community center. Before I arrived he had just finished installing solar panels and finished a water system in which all the water supplied at the house was purified rain water. My daily duties varied. Some days I was responsible for feeding chickens other days I was creating new hiking trails  in the surrounding land. Not only was I improving my oral French, but I learned so much about new sustainable agricultural and overall  lifestyle practices.

Once I arrived to Middlebury for “Feb”-Orientation I was immediately reassured in my decision to come to Middlebury when I met 100 other first-year “Feb” students that had also participated in amazing and eye-opening opportunities. It was this energy and support from orientation that truly provided a secure start to my college career at Middlebury.

Now while all of my Senior- “Reg” friends are frantically registering for their final four classes and looking ahead to secure jobs and/or fellowships after Graduation in May, I could not be more happy that I still have one more year to work these things out!

From “Feb-mesters” farming abroad to skiing down a mountain to receive your diploma, being a “Feb” at Middlebury is truly a unique college experience. (But maybe I’m just biased…)

The dawn of snow! The ISO show and registration…

The dawn of snow! The ISO show! J-term & spring term Registration…! Woops, I couldn’t find a suitable word that rhymes with snow and show 🙂

Just few days ago, we were getting our jackets and winter coats ready, and excited to start building snow men across campus. But today we were taken back to those beautiful summer dayz in Midd. what’s up with you snow? are u coming or not? i wish she could hear me and just respond coz some Middkids are patiently waiting to start skiing it up right away!!

Well for now, registration for classes is upon us again—and as always, that means I am, like many others, spoiled for choices. The dining hall conversations are dominated by discussion on cool classes, tough classes, cool professors and so on…

Registration for spring semester started yesterday and as expected, seniors get to register first, then juniors etc. I happily got the classes I wanted. This is the time when our professors’ offices get invaded by students who need that last minute advising, unsure about what to take. Professors even extend office hrs to accommodate the demand of their students…

Just last week, during the winter term registration, I was thinking abt registering for a class called “world of Winston Churchill,” really. Yep, the description of the class captured my interest… I wanted to learn more about how one man (Churchill) was instrumental in designing the political landscape of Post-WWII Europe and the contemporary Middle East. Who knows? I might steal and reform his idea and end up one day redrawing the (political) map of Africa :). hmm that sounds like an imposing dictator huh?

Oh lest i forget, one of the interesting aspects about the registration process for the winter term is that seniors are the last to register for classes. It makes sense coz first year students are required to spend their first winter term in Middlebury and so registration priority is given to them…In fact most juniors and especially seniors end up i) taking a break in the winter just to relax or travel around the world ii) doing an internship (or independent research) iii) working on a thesis / independent project, as in my case…the list is long.

Anyway, I’ve now decided to just stick to the conventional approach for thesis writers—only work on my thesis in the winter term which is what is expected—a three-term long (fall, winter & spring) thesis, and then have some fun doing other extra-curricular stuffs rather taking a class. I could also audit the class if i choose to…

But I am a thinking about trying out cricket for the first time this winter, hoping to count it as a PE credit… I am trying to talk my Pakistani friend into teaching it as part of the winter term activities…we’ll see if I’ll be able to handle that “bat”, or is it called a “racket”? Sorry, but cricket is pretty much a foreign sport in the part of the world I come from (West Africa) 🙂

k my break is up! back to using these few mins to wrap up my problem set for tomorrow. The post on ISO show is coming up in the morning… are u wondering what ISO means? hold up there. see you in a few!

Class Registration: The Final Countdown

I’m admittedly a bit groggy this morning after waking up at 6:45 a.m. to register for spring term classes.  Class registration at Middlebury starts at 7 a.m., with each year assigned a specific day on which it can register.  Overall, the system works well, although it’s not without its quirks.  On your registration morning, your entire class will be awake, logging into Bannerweb (our class registration platform), and counting down the seconds until the clock strikes 7.  At 7:00:01, the mad rush begins, with everyone trying to enter course registration numbers before their top picks get filled up.  Sounds stressful?  Exciting?  Rushed?  It’s all of those things, but for my friends and I, it’s become something of a musical tradition.  During registration, one of my friends will blast Europe’s “The Final Countdown” throughout our suite.  By the end of the five or so minutes of musical excitement, all of us will have secured our classes and be headed back to bed.  This song has come to represent for me the energy surrounding registration and will always remind me of punching course registration numbers into Bannerweb.

For me, as a senior, today’s class registration gave “The Final Countdown” new meaning.  It’s strange to be choosing the last four courses I will take in college and the decision was by no means easy.  Although a lot of my spring semester will consist of independent research and a senior seminar on Chinese Foreign Policy, I wanted to take advantage of the rest of my time at Midd by choosing a couple of interesting courses outside of my major.  It’s really sunk in that next semester is the last hurrah, the Final Countdown.  Unlike you, who have four years of academic opportunity ahead of you, I only have a short time left in which to take classes like Russian Politics and Literature (my J-term choice).  To get a feel for typical Midd course offerings, check out the course catalog.

Signing off, I’d like to leave you with Sweden’s most notable contribution to 80s pop.  Meet Europe:

Kan”Ye” Term

11/01/10 – 11/07/10. HUGE week.

Not only is candy the cheapest because Halloween was Sunday, but this week Middlebury college students choose our J-Term classes. J-Term? don’t you mean Kan”Ye” Term? HOW DID YOU GUESS? Here at Middlebury College we are on what we call a 4-1-4 system: 4 classes in the fall, one class during January and 4 classes in the spring. That means during J-Term you take one class for 4 weeks and you get one credit, completing a semester of class in 1/4 the time. “That sounds really terrible” you might think, well you would be so wrong.

During January I will have class from 10:30am-12:30am Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for a total of 8 hours a week, or almost exactly 4.8% of the 168 total hours I have to spend every 7 days. That means I will have an impossibly large amount of time to do whatever I want, which I’ll probably divide evenly between Wii tennis and ski racing. If you are a skier, want to learn how to ski or just like to brag, you’ll be so amped to know that Middlebury has its own mountain—the Middlebury College Snow Bowl—to which a free shuttle runs every 30 minutes, every day during January.  I only ask that you refrain from wearing your helmet and ski boots in the dining hall because it looks terrible and you get the floor all watery.

So when your friends at other college are pretending that they are really excited to have an extra month off during January to live with their parents and wish that they were back at college eating ice cream for breakfast, you’ll be hanging out here where its like summer camp, only it’s in the winter.

Oh, by the way don’t try to call J-Term, Kan”Ye” Term because no one will understand you.