Monthly Archives: March 2012


Yesterday at 4:00 I rushed out of class to my room and quickly slipped on four layers of spandex, sweatpants, and waterproof gear, gathered up my hat and gloves and headed over to Adirondack Circle.  When I arrived at the small loop in the center of campus, a group of 20 was already waiting for me.  We piled into a few cars and drove off to a stretch of Otter Creek outside of Vergennes.  Once we got to the creek, we waded in past our knees, and *gently* (as I yelled repeatedly) placed our boat into the ice cold water.  I spent the next two hours crammed into a three foot by one foot nook, the coxswain’s seat.

I joined the Middlebury College Rowing Club (or Crew Team as it’s more commonly known) as a wide-eyed freshman on campus.  My friend, Christina, had already joined the team and the novice women were scouring campus for a coxswain.  “You’re loud!” she said to me, “and small-ish.  Do you have any interest in joining crew with me?”

From the moment I agreed, my life at Middlebury changed dramatically.  As an athlete, I spend 3-4 hours a day at practice on weekdays and 12-14 hours on weekends travelling and racing.  The demanding schedule has forced me to prioritize.  Be it a lecture series I want to attend, Trivia Night at the Grille, homework glaring up at me expectantly from my desk, a road trip with friends to the Ben and Jerry’s factory, or a meeting as social chair of the International Students Organization, I am constantly evaluating what I do (and don’t!) have time to squeeze in around crew.   The sport has also taught me to be relentlessly organized and helps me maintain focus and perspective in all aspects of college life.

Crew, too, has brought out a dedication and passion in me that I never realized I had.  Spending every other week of my college career waking up at 4:30 am for morning practice has never been easy, but it is surprisingly fulfilling and unbelievably rewarding; with every practice, our boats get faster and with every season, our hard work shows in the results.  I have also had the good fortune of watching shooting stars fly over Lake Dunmore while gliding across the water in the pitch black, and watching countless sunrises with the backdrop of the lake and mountains, each seemingly more beautiful than the last.

In two days we will travel as a team to Lake Lanier, Georgia for our Spring Training.  In Georgia, we live in a small neighborhood of houseboats and practice 3 times a day.  Our first race of the season is on Atlanta’s Olympic racecourse at the Clemson Sprints, a nice opportunity to compete with teams we rarely get to see.  Before we know it, we’ll be racing our way through the rest of our spring season.

I can’t wait to be spending time with my team, to be doing what I’m passionate about, and to be racing again.  At the starting line of each race, I repeat a quote from Coach Noel Wanner to my boat, “Smile at the start because racing is the best thing there is.”  With a collective deep breath from my eight rowers, we’re off.

All of my roommates

I find myself talking about my roommates in every information session I give. I live with four other girls in one of the five person Atwater Suites (most house four students but one of my roommates got a great number, 12, in room draw) and we make for a pretty diverse bunch.

At some point in my session I’ll start talking about sports, or the arts, or foreign language study, or Education in Action, and start saying, “One of my roomates…”

  • is a coxswain on the crew team
  • is a joint English/Theatre major (and another is a joint English/History major)
  • is studying Arabic, Chinese, and keeping up with the French she learned in high school
  • just got accepted to a doctoral program at William and Mary
  • is from Texas (or Maine, Mississippi, or Washington state)
  • has worked as an actor/interpreter at colonial Williamsburg
  • has worked in the US Embassy in Romania
  • has worked harvesting peas on large farms
  • knows how to bowhunt

After I get going talking about my closest friends, a lot of the parents and students seem to wonder just how many roommates I have because I rattle off all the different things they do. It’s true that we like to stay busy with our school work and extracurricular activities, but we find plenty of time to get together both for work and for fun. Most afternoons and evenings we’ll settle down in our living room to get going on our homework, occasionally stopping to share something interesting we read or to direct everyone’s attention to the latest Daily Puppy, and on weekends we try to make it to each other’s plays and regattas. Living together this year has been wildly fun and has strengthened our friendship.

Spring has Sprung

In my information sessions, I make a point to speak to the Middlebury Winter and to the integral role that it plays in the Vermont college experience. I specify that even though it can be frighteningly cold, there are countless ways to fill your chilled times. J-term and all of the great winter activities that Middlebury offers make winter a strangely desirable time, regardless of the thermostat reading below zero. However, this year, the winter never really showed up and left us with plenty melty days and zero excuses to wear earmuffs. While I was at first a bit disappointed that I would spend my last winter here without winter, it turned out to be a welcomed heat wave.  What made the weather change wonderful was that I found myself always saying yes. I rarely neglected to attend an event or visit a friend across campus and kept much of my time filled. When the weather turns frigid, it is harder to leave a plush comforter, a cup of hot chocolate and two seasons of The Wire for frostbitten fingertips. This winter season proved to be my most proactive and I am elated that I was able to spend my time moving around and saying yes. While I still believe that the Middlebury winter is essential to the true Vermont college experience, I recognize that the 3:1 winter to extended fall-early spring ratio is ideal for every undergrad.  I will certainly be the first to construct a Snowman as January rolls around in 2013 but as for now, I am thrilled that Frosty took a vacation this year.

Waiting for Spring

Over the past couple of weeks, the weather here at Middlebury has both given us tempting tastes of the spring temperatures to come, and also realistic reminders that it is still only the middle of March, and thus, entirely within the realm of winter in Vermont. Some say that the fifth season in Vermont is mud season, the time of year after the last snowfall but before the weather warms consistently, where the ground that has absorbed snow moisture for the entire winter finally emerges in a slushy and muddy mess. However, despite this sometimes unpleasant transition between the seasons, mud season signals the beginning of spring, and all of the lovely arrivals of one of the prettiest times in Vermont. I love April and May in Middlebury because the grass finally appears again, and it is green, a refreshing change after months of brown and grey. The trees on campus start to bloom, and beautiful pink blossoms appear on the cherry trees outside of Battell. During my freshman spring, my friends and I spent many Friday afternoons lying out on a beach blanket on Battell Beach, pretending to do our reading, but really just basking in the sun. Aside from the weather changes, the spring season brings some special events to campus. Midd Mayhem, an annual springtime tradition hosted by MCAB (Middlebury College Activities Board) with outdoor games, movies, and a special outdoor picnic dinner, arrives in May. The Spring Student Symposium, an entire day dedicated to students presenting original research, comes at the end of April. The spring concert, also hosted by MCAB, which will feature the artist Wale this year, is another exciting tradition that draws huge crowds of students. And here in the admissions office, we are preparing for Preview Days, a three day campus-wide event in April in which admitted students are invited to campus to get a taste of what life is like at Middlebury. The program over these three days features panel discussions for students and parents, open club and student organization meetings, chances to meet with professors, and lots of special performances, shows and presentations.

 And for me, and all the other senior fellows in the office, this spring will undoubtedly bring feelings of nostalgia and sadness as it brings our Middlebury time to a close. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of these events and many more as the weather gets warmer, the flowers start to bloom, and the beauty of spring returns to campus.

Writing Stories

This year, I am working on a creative writing thesis titled “To Die in a Dream.” It’s a collection of short stories of the Rodriguez family facing several challenges as a Latino-American family, such as machismo, sexuality, and immigration,  in a New York City neighborhood called Washington Heights. The title, translated from Spanish as “Morir Sonando,” is a popular beverage of the Dominican Republic, usually made of orange juice,milk, cane sugar, and chopped ice. However, when combined, the verbs “morir” (to die) and “soñar” (to dream) can have a different meaning that may well describe the stagnant lives that the Rodriguez Family deals with as they struggle to keep their American dreams alive in their mundane routine.

That said, my creative writing thesis challenge me in so many ways as a writer. From the very start of my writing career (freshman year), I was exposed to a variety of writing techniques, such as writing prose, poetry, short stories, non-fiction, fiction, novels, blogs, etc. Every experience was, in fact, a challenge for a non-native English speaker, and I thanked all my professors for giving me the opportunity to develop my writings skills in all areas. This was useful for my creative writing thesis. A character rhyming a sonnet while he’s trying to get over his drug addiction. E-mail exchanging among the main characters. Twin sisters struggling to trust each other as they grow older and apart from each other at some point.

The best part of being a writer is letting your characters develop their own personalities, voices, and actions. They come to life before your eyes. Originally, this story was supposed to focus on bigger themes like immigration and machismo in Latino culture, but my two main characters, Felipa and Fanny, are the crux of the story. These twin sisters constantly fight each other and try to find a common ground with their differences. Felipa Rodriguez, daughter of undocumented parents, faces a personal struggle of whether or not she should pursue her bachelor’s degree in law at Boston University or settle with an abusive lover, who impregnates her, in order to save her reputation as a woman in a Latino society. Fanny wants what’s the best for her sisters, and she pushes Felipa in the right direction to pursue her bachelor’s degree  and have the child without tying herself to an abusive lover. But in all this chaos, the Rodriguez Family deals with other issues such a drug addict trying to conquer his vice and a soccer player trying to hide his homosexual tendencies. I can’t wait to get this done and read it to my friends and professors.

Organic Garden Adventure

The other night,  sometime between 7 p.m.-9 p.m., I decided to take a short trip to the organic garden with a bunch of friends. Maybe I needed some time out. Probably I needed a study break from reading assignments and essays.  One thing I knew for sure was that I needed to get out of Middlebury and take a nice walk under a sea of shiny stars. That night, Midd kids were working hard on their last minute assignments, probably cornered somewhere obscured in the library basement. For those of us still learning the ropes around here, last minute assignments tend to be the most challenging task when it comes to completing them in such a short amount of time. (In fact, most of us are aware of that. We need to work on our time management and organization skills!) That said, I had finished all my assignments for the next day, and I thought it was a great idea to take a study break with friends who had also finished their assignments that night.

We met in Adirondack Circle and walked to the organic garden, huddled side by side, and talked about our years at Middlebury College. A friend said, “Remember the time when we went square dancing in our freshman year?” We nodded with smiles. “Remember the time we watched Across the Universe in a friend’s suite and forgot the popcorn was in the microwave- and it burned?” We laughed. “Remember the time we woke up at two in the morning to see the meteor shower?” Memories here and there, carried away by winter winds, and shiny stars in the purple sky sparkled in our very own eyes as we reminisced those forgotten times.

“Let’s create a new memory,” one of my friends suggested. “We should run like children in the fields.” That night, we made believe we entered into a magical kingdom, two gazebos looked like whales sitting in the open fields. The main entrance seemed like an enchanted door to a world of fairies, unicorns, and elves. We put some music on, and danced with each other, humming to the song. Then, we ran in the fields, holding hands like kindergarten children, laughing and screaming, and one of them fell, taking the rest of us in the mud. As soon as we made it back home, covered in mud and grass, socks wet and dry throats, we hugged each other and said “Can’t believe we have less than eighty days till graduation.”

These adventures are worth the time and experience.

Chilly for Chili

Saturday was the annual chili festival here in Middlebury! It is one of my favorite events of the year because it really strengthens my belief in a community that I have come to appreciate during my time here. Also, it began my freshman year so I feel like I’ve ‘grown up’ with this annual festival in a way.

So pretty much, the downtown area is closed off to vehicles and hoards of vendors (close to 50 this year!) from local restaurants/businesses set up shop along Main Street to give out samples of delicious chili. (Cornbread optional) There are tons of people from the town of Middlebury, the college, and even surrounding towns who travel to partake in this festival. I loved bumping into familiar faces and chatting about who had the best chili and which vendor’s line was worth waiting for. To add to the excitement, I even saw a pig or two there; guess they were the lucky ones that managed to avoid being processed into non-vegetarian chili. Is this appropriate? 

photo credit: Better Middlebury 

I just may have to come back for next year’s chili festival. It’s that good.

Hello Goodbye

This morning I woke up excited—today I get to see a friend I haven’t seen a long time!

Partings and reunions become as common as breakfast, lunch, and dinner when you go to college far away. Having more than one home, it becomes a fact of life that I’m always missing someone—I’m either at home skyping friends from college or at college skyping friends from home (or, more recently, in Brazil skyping friends from both!). Mostly the partings and reunions are centered around the times when I travel, though: at the beginnings and ends of semesters I say a lot of hellos and goodbyes, on either end of my flights.

Today, though, I get to have a reunion—and I don’t even have to leave campus for it! One of my good friends actually lives in Middlebury, though he goes to college somewhere else. I met him a few years ago when I was living and working on campus for the summer, and we bonded over a mutual love of swing dancing and travel. He’s just been studying abroad in Thailand, and I’m excited to hear about all of his adventures.

I’ve been amazed at how many people from the town of Middlebury, commonly known as “townies,” I’ve come to know over my time here. Some I meet in the desk beside me while they’re auditing a class and bringing a different perspective to the classroom. Some are the regulars that faithfully attend dance department performances. Some are more coincidental, like the very friendly people that work at my favorite off-campus place to do homework, Otter Creek Bakery. The reunion I’m having today is with just one of my several townie friends—and I’m looking forward to saying hello!

Preparing for the Alianza Cultural Show

Let me just say: I love performing on stage! I am not a talented actor, singer, or dancer, but I have been an active participant in multiple shows at Middlebury College. Every year, Alianza holds a Cultural Show that celebrates Latino identity on campus. This gives me an opportunity to express my artistic talents with stunning choreographies, singing,  and skits.

In the past three years, I have choreographed many dances representing different regions of Latin America. My personal favorite is El San Juan or El Sanjuanito, which is a traditional indigenous folk dance celebrated during the winter solstice in Ecuadorian Andean communities. Since I was a child, my maternal family taught my cousins and I to learn this  dance as a way of preserving our indigenous roots. I will never forget that summer day of 98, when my mother cleared the furniture in the living room, played El Sanjuanito on the stereo, and taught my brother and I  how to move our feet with swift rhythm and stretch our arms like a condor flying above the Andes Mountains. She also told us a story about why it was important for us to learn this dance: “Even though we can’t claim a particular tribe in Ecuador, our ancestors wanted us to remember them through El Sanjuanito.”  Since then, I have made a personal commitment to teach others the steps to El Sanjuanito as a way to celebrate my indigenous identity.

Another exciting dance piece is Guyanese Chutney. In a nutshell, I came across with this dance when I went to a wedding party a few years ago. First, I was impressed by the dance. My friends moved their hips in circles, shrugged their shoulders, and stretched their arms in creative shapes. I thought my friends were Indians because of the familiar movements. But they told me that they were from Guyana, a small country in the northern tip of South America. In Guyana, 45% of the population have Indian roots, which explains their Hindi influence in the dance. Chutney music is a form indigenous to the southern Caribbean, originating in Trinidad and Guyana. It derives elements from traditional Indian music and popular Trinidadian Soca music. Their music is also a fusion with traditional African music. I also made a commitment to learn this dance on my own and with the help of my best friend. With this new dance skill, I taught many people how to dance Guyanese Chutney and they all LOVE it! This year, I am doing a chutney dance.

We have singers. Dancers. Poets. Alianza will have an amazing cultural show, and it will be my last one. So I am making every minute count.  I will keep you posted next time with videos and pictures of the Alianza Cultural Show next month!

Libin’ It Up

Hello everyone!  I’m excited to be back blogging after a J-Term hiatus.

Now that our final semester is in full swing with reading assignments, papers, and group projects I find myself back in the habit of spending ridiculously long hours in the library.  This may sound a little nerdy, but I learned quickly after arriving at Middlebury, that the library is not at all a bad place to be!

Middlebury’s Davis Family Library is so much more than your run of the mill, dreary building filled with stack s upon stacks of books.  Yes, it does look a bit like a spaceship from the outside, but everyone knows it’s what’s on the inside that counts!  Here are a few of the library’s best features:

1)      Moving bookshelves – ok maybe you’ve all seen them before, but when I walked in a bewildered freshman from Mississippi, I was in awe at the electronic moving stacks.  Now I’m realizing just how practical they are.  The library’s extensive book collection has the perfect balance of obscure specialized books and all the classics and thanks to the moving bookshelves, we even have room for more!

2)      Abundant group study rooms – so you don’t have to feel bad chatting in the library…

3)      Mac lab – filled with dozens of high tech Mac computers and printers, this is the perfect place to get digital media projects done, or procrastinate with PhotoBooth.

4)      Wilson Café – located at the front of the library and open daily, the Wilson Café is the perfect study break.  Grab a delicious Chai Tea Latte to go and bring it back to your carrel or settle in the comfy booths to enjoy a late night snack.

5)      Comfy Chairs – the library is home to dozens of comfy blue recliners perfect for relaxing while you work your way through reading.  The chairs on the second floor at the east side of the library are my personal favorite, as they provide a view out over the entire town of Middlebury and to the mountains beyond – particularly impressive when fall foliage is at its peak!  While the comfy chairs are a great place to spend a lazy Sunday, they can be a bit dangerous… students do tend to fall asleep there after a long stretch of studying.

6)       Endless Carrels – for those seeking a more formal study space, the main library is also filled with carrels for thesis writers and those who don’t have time to snooze.  These carrels come with no distractions and are ideal for working to make a deadline.  Carrels are located in the basement (the quietest level, for sure), main floor, second floor, and the more secluded first and second floor mezzanines.

7)      WARMTH – I didn’t realize until I looked out of the window from my carrel this weekend and saw snow flurries blustering past, but the library is one of the warmest places on campus.  The weather outside may be frightful, but the library is so delightful!

Still libin’ it up through my last semester   –   Teresa