Monthly Archives: November 2011


                As J-term registration faces me tomorrow morning at 6:59am, I cannot help but think back to my experience in taking MiddCORE last January. While I was not certain of what the course would entail, I had heard too many people tell me that, “It was the greatest course I have taken at Middlebury” or “You would really be perfect for this course” or “I worked all day every day but it was the most rewarding experience” to not buck up and take it.  So, knowing nothing more than people’s strangely passionate reactions to the course, I fell asleep at 7:03am on the day of registration, warily signed up for MiddCORE. A mere two weeks later, we began receiving e-mails from the coordinator with our first week challenges, our mentor sheets, our daily schedule and a mission statement. Included in the first e-mail was a friendly welcome note followed abruptly by a subtle warning that in the four weeks of January, we should be prepared to relinquish our beings to the greater entity of MiddCORE and be prepared to have a life-changing experience. This was where I began to question my rash decision of enrolling in a mysterious beast of a course that was subsequently leading me into surrendering my soul and transforming my already satisfying life. I was in too deep as any other possibly appealing class was filled to the brim with eager students and followed by extensive waiting lists. I had committed and albeit skeptically, I would head to the Atwater seminar room on January 3rd at 8am to prove all of those previous students correct.

            I can’t describe accurately what happened in the four weeks that followed but I can vouch that every previous comment was verified and that while I was happy to retrieve my soul at the end of January, I couldn’t have been more pleased with my winter term experience. The course was a dynamic collaboration of every possible skill necessary in the work world. The topics covered ranged from sales to marketing to networking to public speaking to negotiating to consulting to art projects to movie making. Every day, topics changed and we were constantly shifting from one theme to the next. There was no single professor but rather a host of mentors that came daily to lead the class and facilitate challenges. Each week, we were split into groups of 4 and given distinct challenges that culminated in a presentation and judging session on Friday. Aside from the prize of finally sleeping on Friday night, the winning team also was given a gift certificate to a restaurant in town. Being an ultra competitive individual, I dove head first into the challenges and felt as if the coordinator was Donald Trump and I the eager Apprentice. The four weeks are quite a blur as days melted into nights and core themes multiplied. I worked extremely hard each day but never felt distressed as I was doing so on my own accord. At the end of the course, I primarily felt a bizarre sense of power stemming from the confidence gained throughout the four weeks but mostly, a sense of satisfaction with my Middlebury education. Before entering the course, I was skeptical of my future plans and feeling as though the lack of focus in the liberal arts education would hinder me in the application and interview process the following fall. Contrastingly, upon completion of MiddCORE, I discovered that a liberal arts education would in fact prove to be quite practical as it prepares you not only for one distinct track but truly, for any.  The course continues to follow me and its benefits are notable in my daily happenings. I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision to enroll and have brashly become a proud MiddCORE alumna spouting similar ambiguous praises around registration time in efforts to convert new wary, but brave, undergrads.

Pumping (relatively small amounts of) Iron

       When I’m feeling a little too big for my britches, I go to the gym. Of course, that works in two senses. The first doesn’t require explaining here. The second merits a little more attention. At Middlebury, there is no such thing as a “varsity gym” (or its neglected twin, the “plebe gym”). One gym serves everyone, varsity athletes and the not-so varsity alike. This means that if I hit the gym at the right time, I can expect to follow the offensive line on the bench, the basketball team at the pull-up bar, and maybe a cross-country runner on the treadmill.
       At home, I go to a community center gym. I don’t know about anyone else’s community, but judging by the fitness center on most afternoons, mine is not terribly athletic. I follow the retired lawyer with a bad hip on the bench, last year’s softball MVP on the pull up bar, and a variety of power walkers on the treadmill.
       Yet I have found the feeling you get working out in each is strikingly similar. Perhaps that is because Middlebury’s athletic community is so difficult to distinguish from Middlebury at large.  Sure, they have a lot of swag. But aside from the t-shirts and warm ups, they look, act, and think just like anyone else here. So when I head to the gym, I have no reason to expect anything different than when I head to the community center. What’s more, I have no reason to expect anything different than when I head to the library.  Sure, I’m impressed when the line gets done hoisting their own body weight over their heads. But that impression isn’t all that different from the one I get when I see the same student carrying an equally impressive stack of books to his carrel in the library.
       We all work, and work pretty hard, whether at the gym, the library, or wherever else. More importantly, we appreciate all of that work—and my britches are nice and comfy wherever I go.

Where the work gets done…?

Everybody has different study habits. Some people work best in the morning. Others work best at night. And even others work best when morning and night start to blend together. Personally, I am the most productive when there is nobody to procrastinate with on gmail chat – though this has gotten quite complicated since many of my friends have moved abroad.

Nonetheless, the work gets done – at various times and in various places. Here is a list of some of the best places to be productive on campus.

  1. Davis Family Library: The ‘Main’ Library located (somewhat) conveniently on campus. It’s probably best to come here during the day when there are less people. At night, the library becomes pretty social just because there are so many people there. For those doing senior theses or independent work, private work-spaces (thesis carrels) are available. They are really nice because you have your own desk, locker, and private space to work.
  2. Wilson Family Café: Located within the Davis Family Library, its for those who some level to distraction to be productive. Its nice to have the various amenities in the vicinity like coffee and snacks, though it does tend to get a bit loud. Of course, this is where you’ll most likely be working if you have to pull an all-nighter once the library closes at 1:00am. I’ve met some of my best friends here… shared suffering.
  3. Axinn Center: True gem of the college. If you’re going to be working late, make sure you get into the building before midnight! After midnight, you’ll be allowed to stay in the building but wont be able to come back in again if you leave (the doors lock behind you). Axinn has a lot of great places to study. If you’re practicing a presentation, you can just use one of the large lecture rooms. If you want to do some quiet reading, the lounge and the Abernathy room provide the necessary comfort and ambience. If you need to use computers, the lab downstairs is fully equipped with iMacs that are great for writing papers.
  4. McCardell Bicentennial Hall: Studying for a science test tomorrow? You’ll probably find the most help here. Though it is a bit far for those who are living on the south side of campus, it could be well worth your trip. Though the science library closes early, there is still ample space in the building to use. Stroll into one of the classrooms, the computer lab downstairs, or even the main hall to do some work. If you’re working in BiHall in the early evening, you’ll also probably get to see an awesome sunset through the biggest glass windows in Vermont! Exciting
  5. Sunderland: Not for the faint-hearted. This building is open 24 hours. It has very few windows. In most cases, you don’t want to end up studying here… It probably means you have a ton of work the next day and cant be bothered to see the depressing sunrise the following morning. Don’t worry – it serves its purpose. I’ve already paid my dues here.

Those are some of the main places that students study on campus. There are also places like Hillcrest (the environmental house) and other lounges/study areas in some of the dorms that are quite nice as well. Personally, I like using my thesis carrel in the library or working in the computer lab in Munroe way past midnight. Everyone has their own little space. It takes some time to discover it, but you’ll know it when you find it. 

Dolci delight

It has been said that Middlebury’s standards in its dining hall food surpass the norm. We have no meal plan nor swiping system that strategically keeps track of our every dietary consumption as everything is covered under the general comprehensive fee. All three dining halls– Ross, Proctor, and Atwater— offer special elements that keep ever-so-loyal regulars returning for each meal and cause people to check out the menu to see what the hype is all about because after all, checking the daily specials on go/menu is a favorite past time of all Midd students. For instance, Ross dining hall serves pizza every day, Proctor has awesome vegetarian selections present at every meal, and Atwater has ridiculous lines during peak hours. We also LOVE Breakfast for Dinner as lines are known to snake around the massive dining hall as students greedily help themselves to heaps of chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs done in southwest style (complete with red peppers, scallions, generous portions of cheese, cilantro, and salsa).

As great as our dining halls are, there will be times when students want to eat off-campus just to spice things up. This is where Dolci is introduced as a creative alternative to dining hall fare allowing students to enjoy a gourmet multi-course meal for free. Dolci tickets are available on Wednesdays at 9pm sharp and you may want to learn to be quick on the keypad as these tickets run out very quickly.

Pronounced “DOL-CHEEE”, this is an organization that enables aspiring chefs to use their skills in the kitchen and plan the most fantastic meals. This is all student-led. Generally, there are work slots for 3-4 prep cooks, 4 cooks, 2 dishwashers, and 4-5 waitstaff members. Work slots are also competitive as students find this to be a fun break from their studies. Themes vary by week; I’ve had the pleasure of attending several that ranged from just desserts to the most recent one— Harvest theme. The creamy beet soup was to drool over and the rack of lamb was worthy of being worshiped. The level of expertise and professionalism that is displayed in the food and service never ceases to blow me away.

It was wonderful to convene with old friends over this delicious meal and we laughed and cried (of happiness, of course) as we reflected on our freshman hall memories. Some formed new meaningful friendships as a result of this dinner and Dolci is just one of the ways that Middlebury fosters a sense of community in aspects of student life here.

I heard through the grapevine that the next Dolci theme will be Thai so make sure to get on board!
For those who are still skeptical, “it’s just a free dinner…” BRING A DATE!

TGI…Daylight Savings

In the infamous words of Rebecca Black “It’s Friday.”  And, yes, we so excited.  I woke up this morning and thought to myself, “Thank Goodness It’s Friday!”

… until I looked down at my planner.

My day looked a little something like this: class, MIDTERM, class, work – booked solid from 9 to 4.  An incessant stream of classes, tests, and homework keep me busy during the week.  But what I’ve come to realize during my time at Middlebury is that my schedule does not let up even if my workload does.   I survived my International Finance midterm this morning, but now I’m faced with something much more daunting: the weekend.

Tonight I’ll be running a few errands in town, then I’m off to a potluck dinner hosted by a group of friends in their fabulously homey Voter suite (complete with spiral staircase).  The potluck is followed by an event my friend planned, which gathers students from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to share their stories and experiences.  Around 9:30, I’ll head over to a reunion of sorts with friends who studied abroad with me in China last spring and spend the night reminiscing about 珍珠奶茶 and Beijing’s hutongs.

Saturday doesn’t get any easier.  My day starts at 9 am, and between moving boats with the crew team, tailgating the final home football game of the season, supporting friends in the annual Global Rhythms talent show sponsored by Wonnacott Commons, and late night movies, I don’t expect to have much free time.  Sunday brings its own woes with 15 pages of my “mini-thesis” on Roma political mobilization due next week, an Arabic essay, and the regular load of homework for my other classes.

So instead of “Thank Goodness It’s Friday”, this week I’m thanking goodness for November 6th and the extra hour of sleep, studying, or partying with friends.  However I choose to spend my hour, I know it will make a huge difference!  If only we got an extra hour every week…

“V.I.P” stands for Voices of Indigenous People

I was a first-year student when I heard about the V.I.P club. My friends and I laughed at the acronym, which was a clever way to recruit members with a spark of curiosity to figure out what the club was about. The representatives informed us that V.I.P. stood for Voices of Indigenous People. They told us that their mission is to educate and enlighten the Middlebury community about the rich culture of indigenous people around the world. Personally, I was extremely happy that I found this club because I have always wanted to learn more about my indigenous roots. Before my grandmother migrated to New York City in the early sixties, she lived with her extended family in Ecuador’s largest city, Santiago de Guayaquil. But the story does not start with her.

It started with our first pioneer, her mother, Carmen. She was the first woman in the family to move to Santiago de Guayaquil from a rural village near the Andes Mountains. Her village was populated with less than four hundred people. It has been said, through oral tradition, that my family founded the village in the early 1900s, right after they traveled hundreds of miles  from the Andes Mountains to escape the severe demands and unfair treatment of the hacienda owners. “They were indigenous people,” my mother told me, “and not only did they lose their lands to the Spanish people, little by little, they started to lose their culture as they traveled further away from their native land.” In other words, my family exchanged their native language for Spanish, their ponchos for pants and shirts, their indigenous culture for the Western one, their spiritual beliefs for Catholicism, etc. As time passed, my family realized that they were losing touch with their indigenous background. They decided to preserve their identity through storytelling and dancing and appointed a matriarchal figure (grandmother) to remind the children that they came from an indigenous family and that they should be proud of their indigenous identity. I remember feeling confused about my identity because we were not living the culture and speaking the language. Since then, I’ve been extremely committed in learning about my indigenous roots. My intellectual curiosity evolved into a greater interest in learning about the rich culture of the indigenous community around the world.

I joined the club in a blink of an eye. For three and a half years, I’ve been an active member and part of a larger community committed to educating the student body through symposiums, screenings, powwows, panel discussions, and cultural dances, about the indigenous community. My favorite activity in the club is to choreograph the dances for the International Student Organization’s cultural show in the fall and Alianza’s cultural show in the spring. Through these dances, I celebrate and preserve my indigenous identity the only way I know how to- dancing. I teach my colleagues the steps in dancing El sanjuanito- a traditional Ecuadorian indigenous dance usually celebrated during the Inti Raymi festivity. This music genre has expanded in the south of Colombia, in Ecuador, and in the north of Peru. This year, the Voices of Indigenous People club is aiming to learn about the indigenous communities in Oceania and South America, hopefully we will visit nearby indigenous sites in New England, go to the Ivy Native American Conference in New York, and have a powwow in our campus.

Commons Dinners, and Harry Pottter

One of the most rewarding aspects of my Middlebury experience has been my involvement within Cook Commons, one of the five residential neighborhoods on campus within our Commons system.  Through Cook, I’ve met some of my best friends, cultivated lasting relationships with professors and staff, and attended some of the most fun and memorable social events during the past four years at Middlebury (notably, the annual Foam party and Cook Prom).  Yet, as if all of those fun things weren’t enough, the entire Commons community occasionally gathers to eat dinner all together in Atwater dining hall, in something known as a Commons Dinner.  Each Commons hosts these dinners, in which all students within the Commons are invited, along with the faculty and staff members who work within that commons or are affiliated with it.  Besides offering a chance to enjoy the delicious Atwater fare, Commons dinners become an opportunity, at least for me, to share a meal with some of my most favorite people and closest friends on this campus, students and adults alike.  Plus, it’s always fun to feel like you have “special” plans for dinner.


Many people like to compare the Commons system at Middlebury to the houses in Harry Potter, and everyone thinks that their own commons is Gryffindor.  In reality, our school is not so similar to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, yet I still think of Commons Dinners as a little bit like the big banquets in Harry Potter, where everyone sits by their house.  For some people like me, the commons are a source of pride and identification on campus and have served as a way for me to develop many meaningful relationships.  Commons dinners in Atwater offer the chance to sit down and share a meal with faces you might recognize from freshman year, a professor who you might have had in class somewhere along the way, or in my case, to have dinner with my current suite-mates, all of whom I met while living in Battell, in Cook Commons, nearly four years ago.

Excessive Punctuation

Last Friday night I had planned for a quiet night in, pretending to myself to “catch up on work” when my real plans involved drinking tea and watching Hulu. Imagine my dismay, then, when I was about to get into my pjs at 11:15 and I received a text from my roommate: “Come to LoFo! Now! There’s nobody here! The DJ’s awesome! Come dance!”

Aside from a raised eyebrow about the excessive punctuation, it didnt take me long to roll out of bed and find my coat. My roommate (one of my best friends since we met the second day of Orientation in August 2008–we were neighbors on Stew 3, our freshman hall) is one of the Tri-Chairs for Brainerd Commons, one of the residential neighborhoods on campus. As a Tri-Chair of a Commons Council (basically a student activities board), she has many duties: running meetings for students interested in planning events, raising her eyebrows about the ridiculous nature of the name “tri-chair”, and organizing events for Brainerd students and the wider College Community. This year, Halloween coincided with Homecoming weekend, so the usual blowout Halloween festivities seemed to be taking a back seat. My roommate and a few other Commons Council chairs decided to remedy the situation by throwing a “Freaky Friday” Halloween dance in Lower Forest—affectionately called LoFo and commonly known as the creepiest room on campus. It’s pretty much a basement.

Given that the music started at 11, it wasn’t a huge surprise that there were about four people there by 11:15–college students tend to take “fashionably late” to an extreme. By the time I got there at about 11:30, though, the party was hopping and I dove into the crowd to find my friend.

“Hey!” she yelled over the dulcet tones of Ke$ha mixed with some sort of Dubstep beat. “So glad you came! It’s ALL FRESHMEN! And it’s AWESOME!” I looked around me to find that I recognized very few faces indeed for a dance party (dance parties are one of my main extracurricular activities, so I tend to know the crowd).

You might expect that upon hearing the party was filled with lowly freshmen that I, as a senior, would have turned tail and booked it out of there. One of the things I love about Middlebury, though, is that everybody is worth knowing, no matter their age or class year. I ran into some people from my Italian class, some people from the dance department, and met some people I’d seen around but had never been introduced to. I ended up having a fantastic time—it was one of the best dance parties I’ve been to in awhile.  As my roommate has indicated, it was indeed AWESOME, and worthy of excessive punctuation.

It’s snowing!

Just kidding! It’s 50 degrees and sunny out, two full days into November. However, snow is an inevitable fact of life at Midd.

The season’s first snowfall came on Thursday, October 27th this year… as early as I remember it. Fortunately, the white stuff didn’t stick around long enough for any real accumulation to occur, at least not until Saturday (and even then it was gone by Sunday morning). Many students at Midd come from climates where they’ve never encountered snow before, but even for those who’ve been hitting the slopes and building snowmen for their entire lives, there are a few things to keep in mind about the Vermont winter:

1. You will need snowboots. Get the big, knee-high furry ones. Your feet will love you. If kids laugh at you, remind them that you go to school in Vermont.
2. You will need a coat. A warm one. A serious one. The kind of coat you’d wear to the North Pole (or the South Pole, even). Get the big, knee-length down one with the fur (real or fake; it’s up to you) around the hood. Looking good is half the battle.
3. Pick a hot beverage to enjoy frequently. Hot cocoa, tea, coffee…any of the above will do the trick. Maybe even branch out and try some mate or spiced apple cider.

Steps for going outside:
1. Drink a mug of your favorite hot beverage.
2. Put on boots. (Bonus points for warm socks! Bonus bonus points for warm socks made in Vermont (i.e. Darn Tough or Vermont Sock Company)).
3. Put on coat.
4. Develop mental fortitude. A lot of it.
5. Venture outside into the brisk winter air.

Once you’re outside, chances are you’ll realize that it’s not that bad after all. Snow is kind of nice. It’s white and soft and tastes pretty good, like marshmallows.

You’ll be a pro at the cold weather by the time J-Term rolls around. Just believe in yourself!

Distribution Requirements

Before coming to Middlebury, I was sure of a few things: I wanted to take a new language, be in a play or two, and stay as far away from history and the sciences as possible.  Much to my chagrin, I promptly discovered that due to the 7 of 8 distribution requirements at Middlebury, I would have to choose the better of two evils. My natural instinct was to avoid latex gloves, bunny brains, toxic chemicals and extra hours so I begrudgingly signed up for a history course, The American Mind.

On day one, I realized that I was one of two girls in the class and one of the only who had never taken any other history courses at Middlebury before. The professor explained that the course would consist of reading primary texts of American thinkers, rather than other historian’s description of thoughts and events. Each class, we read two to three texts from significant thinkers in our country’s history and wrote summaries for our favorite one. Individuals studied ranged from George Washington to Bill McKibben and included both traditional and radical thinkers.

Reading direct texts from such prominent thinkers was unbelievably exciting and empowering. The course permitted me to travel through time and feel as though I was in the same room as Abraham Lincoln, discussing his ideas and future plans.  I remember that often, I would read a text aloud to make it come alive even more, and when I found one reading to be particularly interesting, fortunate friends or family would act as my (eager) audience. I worked extremely hard in this class as the material was novel to me and I was certainly forced out of my zone of comfort. However, the class was equally rewarding and handing in my final exam marked an accomplished moment. Not only did I feel that I had a significantly improved my grasp on our country’s foundations, but also that I had come to view history distinctly and much more enthusiastically. That spring, taking a history elective became a priority and that Christmas, Abraham Lincoln’s hardcover biography topped my wish list.