Monthly Archives: March 2011

Jimmy Wong

Every once in a while a Middlebury graduate becomes at least a little famous. This fall it was ’10 graduate Cassidy Boyd, who danced in Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” video (leopard print onesie on the left at the start). In fact, if you had been reading this blog a year ago it would be Cassidy posting instead of me. beForeshadowing?

This past week ‘09.5 graduate Jimmy Wong’s response to a… ah… less than politically correct video posted by a UCLA student racked up 2,067,001 views on YouTube. Jimmy is a multi-talented singer/actor/¿gymnast? who was best know at Midd for his band, which crushed parties all over campus. Keep up the good work Jimmy, also if you know any female celebrities who are looking for a boyfriend please let me know.

Nostalgic about my semester abroad

Today of last year was the first day of my semester abroad in Berlin, Germany. I reached Berlin Tegel airport after a 10+ hour’s fly and my Middlebury friend Stanis, who arrived days earlier than I did, came and picked me up. It was still chilly in Berlin in mid-March, but my heart was filled with warm greetings from my friend. Excited but also a bit unsure what’s gonna happen in the semester, I calmly moved into my room after a long subway ride from the airport.

The semester in Berlin starts in late March and ends in late July. Students who attend Middlebury Study Abroad Program in Berlin will enroll as exchange students in a local university called Free University-Berlin (Freie Universitaet-Berlin). We take the same courses as other German students, do the same assignments and exams, and will have to write a 12-page paper (1.5 spaces) in German for each course.

It sounds a bit intimidating for me– I only have learned two years of German! But after the first meeting with Heike Fahrenberg, the residential academic director of the school abroad in Berlin, I was relieved and felt ready to go: all I needed to do to survive was just to be bold and broad-minded. What’s good about Middlebury’s study abroad program is that we have 30+ actual schools outside of the US, which means we have an office, a group of staffs and tutors in each of these schools to help you go through all the processes and challenges you might have during the time abroad.

Can’t believe it’s already one year since the first day I got there. I did had a great time in Berlin. Berlin is so different from Vermont. It is a VERY big city with over three million population. If you take subway to go from the east of the urban area to the west, it takes three hours. The university there is also completely different from Middlebury. There are 20,000+ students studying there and the students do not live “on campus”. Actually there is no real campus, but all the university buildings spread out the entire southwest part of Berlin. There were six students from Middlebury studying abroad in Berlin in spring 2010, and we all lived in places all over the city. The Middlebury program helped me find a dorm. The dorm buildings in Berlin were not properties of the university. They belong to a company in Berlin and the company assign dorms to all the students in Berlin.  I lived in a dorm with five other suite mates who were from different universities in Berlin and pursuing different degree programs.

It took me some time to get adjusted to this new environment. I was too used to attending very small classes, seeing my classmates after class, going ask professor questions whenever they are in 0ffice… but in Berlin three of my classes had over 150 students, and one seminar had around 30 students. Everything was far away– I have to commute 40 minutes by bus to go from my dorm to classes, and another 30 minutes to dining halls or libraries.

Fortunately the staff in Middlebury school in Berlin was so supportive and helpful. Each of us students was paired up with a tutor who helped us with writing and speaking German. The director provided us great information about the city and the university. Berlin was awesome. It was covered by dark history but also has bright perspective for future. The people there were from very diverse background and of course, the beer and sausage was fantastic. The Middlebury program also provided us some fund to travel. I traveled around eighteen cities in Germany, and the trips made me grow significantly. Looking back, the semester in Berlin was a completely new experience– I learned to plan carefully and be rushing from this bus to another subway train, face difficulties with courage and maturity, and learn from different cultures even within Germany.

And in the end, I survived, with two years of study of German . The last day I was in Berlin three of the Middkids, Stanis, Donny, and I went to a plaza in the city center, and Donny was so excited that he started hip-hoping in English and generated lots of applaud from Germans. What a great way to celebrate our semester abroad!!

I am really thankful that Middlebury provided me such a great opportunity to experience city life in another culture. Middlebury’s campus is way beyond the Vermont border. As long as you’re passionate about a culture, possibilities are always waiting for you at Middlebury.



That Was Easy

Aside from opening your school mailbox without looking like a total nerd, unlocking a door without revealing your key-card is perhaps the most essential MiddColl skill. Show up on your first day of orientation with these tricks in-pocket and wow that cute accepted student you met on Facebook in April.

1. The Bag

Difficulty:  ▲

This is lame and will impress no one. Leave key-card in bag → rub bag on sensor → make sure no one was watching → enter dorm

2. The Shoe

Difficulty:  ▲▲

A clever trick when going for a run, or to demonstrate your superb groin flexibility. Conceal key-card in shoe → approach sensor → kick (furiously) → enter dorm

3. The Back Bump

Difficulty:  ▲▲▲

A strategic technique for when sensors are positioned higher than waist level or when your wallet is in your back pocket where it should be. Approach sensor in reverse → jump → rub butt on sensor → check to make sure everyone was watching → enter dorm

4. The Front Bump

Difficulty:  ▲▲▲▲▲

This is hilarious and best suited for you front pocket wallet types. I am not going to tell you how to do it.

5. The Wallet Toss

Difficulty: ▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲▲

This will never, never work and will consistently be slower than any alternative method. This is always the best possible option. Throw wallet at sensor → act nonchalant → see techniques 1–4

Awesome Speakers

Middlebury brings awesome speakers to campus… all the time.
The true challenge for all of us is figuring out how to go to more talks, because many Middlebury students are involved in time-demanding activities and projects, from a cappella, to sports, to all sorts of organizations.

This week, I decided to make some time for two fantastic talks. I am really happy that I was able to attend these two lectures — a lot of the issues that were discussed will stay with me.

On Tuesday, Gary Hirshberg, the CEO of Stonyfield Farms Yogurt, came to campus to talk to us about why the world needs organic food now. His talk went beyond preaching to the choir — interesting issues of biology and toxins in newborn baby cord blood came up in a discussion.

Today, I went to an amazing talk by Jay Allison, an independent public producer and broadcast journalist. He is well known for his work on This American Life, The Moth, NPR’s All Things Considered, and NPR’s This I Believe. Since Middlebury has a relatively small student body, we have the opportunity to get into a conversation with speakers during and after their talks. Jay Allison spent a little over a half hour talking about the power of telling something true in stories and on the radio, and the audience, comprised of students, faculty, staff, and community members, was entranced by his sincere lecture and the sound clips he played for us. After his talk, there was time for questions and answers, but it felt more like a casual conversation — the room was small and almost everyone who wanted to speak got the chance to speak.

An energy brewed in the room as the lecture went on, and by the end of the talk, people were gathered in groups, talking and feeling inspired. At moments like these, I think about all of the lectures that I didn’t get the chance to attend. So much food for thought and so many valuable lessons can come out of a short talk. In many ways, these talks are as valuable to our college academic experiences as our courses are.

If you are going to be attending Middlebury next year, I highly recommend taking advantage of these opportunities. These speakers may change your perspectives on a fundamental issue, or may lead you to realize that you have new interests you’d like to pursue. It’s always worth the time.

Languages at Middlebury

Middlebury is famous for its language program for good reason. The language school in the summer is not the only linguistic claim to fame. Throughout the year, Middlebury students have the opportunity to learn Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Taking a language is a very different experience from taking any other course. It is a full-fledged experience. Although it would be impossible to have a language pledge during the academic year (the language pledge in the summer is signed by all students and stipulates that the students will hereby exclusively speak the language they are learning for the rest of the summer), Middlebury College students experience language learning in a similar way.

When we are taking the introductory level of a language, we meet with our small class and professor at least five times per week. In certain languages, such as Chinese, introductory languages can meet as many as seven times per week. Yes, I know that sounds really overwhelming, but it ends up being an incredible shared experience with your classmates and professor. Every day, students have the opportunity to eating lunch at language tables, where you are served by waiters in your language (who are other students who speak that language), and you sit with professors and students who are at all levels of speaking ability. You get to know the professor incredibly well, and you finish a year of a language with a conversational ability to speak!

At Middlebury, I have taken German. I grew up speaking French and Spanish, so I wanted to try a non-Romance language (granted, I did not venture too far away). It has definitely been more challenging than, say, Italian or Portuguese would have been. But I have come to love the process. It is a learning experience that requires building on the previous semesters of coursework, and it is also a cultural experience. Most of the Middlebury language professors are native speakers of the languages they teach, and they make an effort to incorporate a lot of their personal and national experiences into the classroom discussion. German courses will be one of my fondest academic memories of Middlebury.

Wants to sing?

There are days on which I just wanted to sing. In this small rural campus, how can I make my voice heard?

One of the many answers: Join an A Capella group!

There are eight different A Capella group on campus and each of them has a different style.


The Bobolinks is a co-ed a cappella group which sings a wide range of songs, from pop music to country to oldies in performances on and off campus. At least once a year, the Bobolinks travel further afield to sing in places like New York City and Boston.

Dissipated Eight (D8)

Middlebury’s Dissipated Eight, also known as theD8, is the oldest a capellagroup at Middlebury College. The group performs both nationally and internationally, at private venues, colleges, and high schools alike. Over the years, the group has arranged numerous contemporary and modern pieces, and now has more than 200 recorded covers of popular music.


This funky co-ed a cappella group wows audiences with their diverse repertoire ranging from Red Hot Chili Peppers to the Grateful Dead to Nelly and everything in between. With a strong emphasis on both musicality and fun, they always put on a good show.


The Mischords are the oldest all-female a cappella group on campus, founded in 1962. Their repertoire includes old classics, pop, rock, some originals, musical songs, and many medleys of contemporary music. They perform at many venues both on the Middlebury College campus and at other schools, clubs, and events. Really awesome girls, really pretty voices.

Mountain Ayres

The Middlebury Mountain Ayres are a co-ed a cappella group dedicated to the appreciation and performance of Renaissance music, particularly madrigals, although they do occasionally sing contemporary pieces (especially if they’ve been arranged by the King’s Singers). Their repertoire is musically challenging (think French and Latin rather than “dim dim”s), focuses mainly on group performance rather than soloists, and has not in recent memory required beat boxing. Despite/because of this, they have a great deal of fun with our music, particularly at our annual “Bringing Bawdy Back” concert. The group generally ranges in size from half a dozen to a baker’s dozen.


The Paradiddles are an all female a cappella group. We enjoy making quality music together in diverse styles including pop, rock, 70s and 80s classics, country, and even heavy metal! The Paradiddles value not only working hard to be the best we can musically, but also creating an accepting, friendly community for all of our members.

People Get Ready (PGR)

People Get Ready, or PGR for short, is a co-ed a cappella group formed in 1998 by a group of Middlebury students who wanted to sing contemporary Christian rock and pop music. Most of PGR’s music is self-arranged by members who want the group to sing their favorites, so you can expect to hear well-known songs–both old and new–at each concert.

Stuck in the Middle (SIM)

Stuck in the Middle (SIM) is Middlebury College’s freshest, cleanest, newest, all-male a cappella group. Our size and musical variety are considerable, large, and in charge, and we relish in providing the full, pleasurable aural experience to audiences of all shapes and sizes.

Each A Capella holds auditions at the beginning of each semester. Usually they ask you to sing a single, and a bit test on volume and pitch. I joined PGR two years ago and it was a lot of fun. It was a big time commitment- three times a week, 1.5-2 hours per time- but it was a great experience. All of us were very passionate on music, which is the what drove us together. We had a concert every semester. Seeing all the friends sitting there and applaud for us made me feel really accomplished. Many A Capella groups plan trips every semester, most likely to other areas in New England. SIM even made a trip to Japan.

Spring is coming–time to sing!

PALANA house

My Junior year I lived in the PALANA house which is the multicultural academic house.  Basically you apply to live in the house if you are academically interested in issues of diversity.  As a member of the house you are required to organize or produce a personal project related to Middlebury’s diversity.

The year I lived there, my house mates came up with a variety of great ideas.  One brought in the Dartmouth Gospel Choir to show the beauty of gospel and also allow Midd students to see how some celebrate their religion/beliefs.  Another house made a cook book.  Each house mate gave her 2 family recipes that exemplified their background or home life.  There was Portuguese food, Mexican food, Indian food, southern food and much more!  My roommate made a video which featured each house mate and their experiences with diversity.  It was a very personal look at who lived in the house and also a showcase of the diversity within the house.  Each of us have such different lived experiences, like everyone at Midd.  We also held monthly dinners which had a discussion topic that we would all talk about and unpack while we broke bread with anyone who came to the event.  For example, around the Latin American celebration of “Day of the Dead” we held a dinner to talk about death in different cultures; we looked at how death was celebrated or not, rituals, traditions, beliefs etc.

This year, a successful PALANA event has been “PALANA Uncensored” where they pick a topic, like beauty, and unpack the meaning of it as it relates to the U.S., various regions, and even Middlebury.  Every event, programming, project that comes out of PALANA highlights the diversity of Middlebury.  We aim to display Midds diversity to the rest of the campus and the community in order to celebrate diversity.

I am currently involved in picking the next PALANA residents and I am so very excited to see what they come up with next year.  In my senior fellows profile under “Fondest Memory of Middlebury” describes some of my time in PALANA.  To this day it is my best living experience at Midd.  The 7 other people I lived with quickly became my family and today we will always carry that bond.

I strongly suggest looking into living in PALANA; plus the house is gorgeous.  Just another perk. 😉

for more info on PALANA click here —->

Old Stone Mill

One of my favorite new places on campus is the Old Stone Mill that is located right off of Main Street on the banks of Otter Creek.

The Old Stone Mill is a space for students to create and design projects in an innovative space. There are no limitations to the kinds of work students can do at the OSM. In the past students have designed clothing, printed photos, organized dinners with strangers, and even started their own on-line and campus businesses as entrepreneurs. The OSM is truly an artistic and creative space.

At such a small school it is amazing to have this available to the student body. Not only does it foster innovation and creativity, it provides a home to many artists, musicians, and businessmen that want to work on provides outside of their “academic” work. The OSM is open at all hours for it’s tenants. At any hour you will find students playing piano in the music room, painting in the general space, or working on poetry in a quick corner. Sometimes when I need a break from the library, it is nice to escape to this space that if full of life and energy.

This semester I am working on a project with the Middlebury College Musical Players (MCMP) that will be performed at the OSM later this spring. This “experimental” show will explore the themes of affirming identity through music, spoken word, and movement. This type of project is something that I have been wanting to work on since I started at Middlebury, and I finally found the resources and the space to do it! I look forward to creating this work and seeing where it will take me at the end of the semester. I am sure there will be more blog post about my progress.

The Old Stone Mill is truly a positive student force on campus. It is the projects that happen there that make Midd students so unique!

Funding? Yeah, we have it

So one thing that continues to amaze me about Middlebury College is the amount of funding that is available to students.  Recently, Middlebury has revolutionized the way that we do funding for community service groups and initiatives.  We now have something called the SCB (service cluster board) which takes care of all the budgeting requests for community service organizations.  One of the most exciting aspects of this is that students now have access to something called the flex fund.  The flex fund is open to all students and all they have to do is come up with a proposal for how they will use the money, and they can request a sum from the SCB.  Want to take your community friend to Burlington?  Use the flex fund.  Want to tutor migrant workers in central Vermont, but don’t have a car?  Use the flex fund.  Want to plan some sort of bigger community service trip?  Say to a different state?  Use the flex fund.  You get the idea.  If you can dream it, we will (try our best) to fund it. 

           Another really interesting fund available to students is the student travel fund.  This is pretty self explanatory.  If you want to travel somewhere (for an academic purpose) the student travel fund will do its best to help you get there.  Unfortunately I did not know about this option (do your research if you decide to come here, at lease do more research than I did) until senior year so I did not get the chance to use it.  I know of someone who wanted to go to an experiential education conference in Las Vegas and she was given funding to attend by the student travel fund.  Las Vegas?  On Middlebury’s dime?  I’ll take that.  Additionally, a lot of academic departments have funds that they can give to students to help them get to conferences, do research, write thesis, etc.  Basically what I am trying to say in this post is that if you have a goal that you want to accomplish or a project you want to complete, Middlebury will help you achieve it.