Coming back to Middlebury is always surreal, but after having been abroad for a semester it feels even more so. It feels different, but also exactly the same—like a place to grow but also like home. Or maybe it is me that is different this time… I am the same person I was when I left the country in January, but I’ve come back with new experiences, new perspectives… even fluency in a new language!
I find myself amazed this fall by how big Middlebury feels. Living in a Brazilian city for six months, I started out often Middsick for the cozy community here. As I got used to—and fell in love with—the city and Brazil, though, I started worrying a little about moving back to Vermont. I had such an incredible experience abroad that I didn’t want to leave Brazil. Words like “cozy” suddenly sounded like “confining;” “small community” seemed more like “claustrophobic.” Though I was looking forward to seeing my friends again, coming back to Vermont at the end of the summer (or Brazilian winter) seemed like I’d be closing myself tight into a little Middlebury box.
What I’d forgotten, though, is how expansive Middlebury is—in every sense of the word. The skies are big, framed by mountains. The buildings don’t crowd each other close but sit spread out across campus, so long walks outside, with the time and space to breathe, become a leisurely necessity. Adirondack sunsets and Green Mountain sunrises are huge—they take over not just a corner of the sky but the whole landscape, turning fall trees to flame and grey stone buildings to rosy shadows against a darkening azure sky. Looking up at night gives a sense of nothing but space—there are more stars than I’ve ever seen in one place. The scope of one’s outlook here, too, becomes expansive with such a diverse student body… and especially given that over 60% of my class is coming back from a semester or a year abroad, my friends and classmates are returning with widened minds and new perspectives. The people also seem to have multiplied: though the community does feel small and cozy here after the bustle and crazy of Florianópolis, I find I’m still meeting people every day—whether it be that kid with purple pants who’s always studying in Proctor or someone who turns out to also be a senior but whom I’ve never seen before.
Despite my trepidations, I’m finding it’s a nice feeling, this homecoming; the cozy, spacious feeling of snuggling myself into an enormous patchwork quilt.