Author Archives: Joanna Lyons

Local foods at Midd

I can’t stop thinking about a trip I took last Saturday morning with some friends. We went to the Middlebury Farmer’s Market, just five minutes away at a local elementary school. It was one of the last weeks the market will be held in its winter location, as it will soon switch to its outdoor setting at MarbleWorks, with a beautiful view of Otter Creek falls in the center of town. A friend of mine has an internship this semester with a local baker, who each Friday teaches her the secret to making the perfect soups, breads and baked goods (which is lucky for me and my roommates, as we get to sample her latest creations each week). Her “baker friend,” as we have come to call her, was selling her goods at the market and hands down had the best table around. Her gorgeous apple crisps, granola bars and cupcakes were piled high. The soups that my friend had helped her make the day before were neatly arranged in mason jars in a metal bucket with ice. It was quite the sight!

Delicious baked goods at the farmer's market

Delicious baked goods at the farmer’s market

Looking around at other tables, I was surrounded by fresh carrots, beets, and more types of lettuce than I knew what to do with. We sampled the veggies and chatted with the vendors, who had come from local farms and were selling their own produce proudly. It’s safe to say it was the most beautiful I had ever seen an elementary school gym!

Walking around the market that day, it hit me (not for the first time since coming here) how lucky Middlebury students are to be in Vermont. Getting to explore the Green Mountains and summit some pretty unbelievable peaks, we also benefit from the flatter portions of the state — the farms themselves. About 25 percent of the food served in our dining halls is from local farms, including the College’s own Organic Farm, which was started by students a few years ago and is located a quarter mile off campus. Taking a walk out to the garden at sunset is one of the absolute best ways to spend an evening, and something I recommend you start doing your first year here.

Students have continued to promote local foods here on campus in exciting ways this semester as well. A few days ago, a new group called “Eat Real” kicked off their efforts with “Real Food Week,” a week full of panels, lectures, barbeques and other types of programming aimed to encourage students to learn about local foods and push for even more of them in the dining halls. I attended to a dinner made with entirely local ingredients that was one of the best meals I’ve ever had on campus. I was one of the lucky students to get let in (word of advice: get to local food dinners early!). Also in attendance were two farmers who sell some of their produce to Middlebury, and who spoke to us about the importance of local foods and what we can do to incorporate them into our lives.

As a senior moving to a city in just a few months, I am definitely enjoying easy access to fresh, local foods as much as possible and can say with confidence that Middlebury is a delicious place to spend four years.

April Fools!

Spring break is officially behind us and we are nearing the “home stretch,” the last few weeks of classes and activities. With the temperature creeping up (yes, people are wearing shorts and dresses this week in celebration of blue skies and sunshine), Midd Kids have started to embrace their well-deserved spring  in a variety of ways. In addition to spending more time outside, a key marker of spring for me is the April Fool’s issue of The Campus. In a tradition that started four years ago, the editorial staff takes a one-week hiatus from reporting on real life news at Middlebury and tries its hand at satire. We create an entirely made-up “joke” issue with some pretty absurd stories about developments on campus, and in the process have a lot of laughs ourselves.  As an Opinions editor, I get to write fake op-eds and columns that poke fun at events and themes on campus. On every other week, my co-editors and I receive pieces submitted from students, faculty, staff and community members who use the section as a platform to voice their opinions. The discussions that play out in our section contribute to serious discourse on campus that I think is incredibly important to have,  but I have to admit it is also a lot of fun to take a break and pull some April Fool’s pranks on our readers.

It’s safe to say that each section rose to the occasion this year. Sports broke news that Middlebury is changing its mascot from the Panther to the Moose to be more original. Local News interviewed a new celebrity in town, a three-year old cow named Trischia. Arts and Sciences reported that a bio lab on campus was revealed to be raising dragons. The final product always tricks some gullible students into believing the stories, until they are told otherwise. Even better than seeing the look on these students’ faces, though, is the making of the issue itself. By this point in the year, the members of the editorial board are pretty close, and we have no trouble poking fun at each other. Of course, helping other sections come up with content for this issue is half the fun.

Keeping up the tradition of the April Fool’s issue is not only a nice break from the normal newspaper schedule, but it shows what is in my mind one of the very best things about Middlebury students: we try not to take ourselves too seriously. With all our obligations on campus, we have busy lives and packed calendars. At the end of the day, though, we are all still kids looking to have fun. We are capable of juggling our classes, meetings and practices, but aren’t too busy or serious to celebrate April Fool’s day to the fullest.

Oh and don’t worry – the mug shot picture of Middlebury College President Ronald Liebowitz on the front page is a joke too.

Final Semester Adventures

I will not let myself post about the “end” of senior year – not yet, anyways. I won’t talk about how my last Winter Carnival has come and gone or how the “100 Days” party is right around the corner. I’m not going to focus on the fact that talk of dinner reservations and plans with friends for graduation weekend has officially begun.  Most importantly, I will NOT dwell on email I received this week asking me to confirm the spelling of my full name for my diploma (!!!). Instead, I will focus on the positive – that sense of enthusiasm, adventure and fun that has come to define my final semester at Middlebury.

This weekend, a group of friends and I are heading down to Pittsfield, Vt. to compete in an annual snow shoe race that we have done for the past few years. The event is always worth the early morning wake up; it offers an awesome course through the snow, tons of competitors from across New England, a warm fire, free lunch and music at the finish line. It is safe to say snow shoe racing was not on my radar screen before coming to Middlebury, but, as I mention during my information sessions, it has come to be one of my favorite parts of winter! The Middlebury Mountain Club (MMC) helps tons of us participate, covering the registration fee, providing free transportation to and from the mountain, and lending out snow shoes at open gear hours. My group of friends competing this year is the biggest yet, and I know that’s because we all feel – whether we want to admit it or not – that it’s our last shot to do something like this.

That “why not?” attitude seems to have pervaded our lives, and I can’t say I mind it. Trip to the Ben & Jerry’s factory last week? Delicious. Last minute visit to Burlington? Absolutely. Even classes have taken on new excitement; having finished my major requirements, like many of my friends, I am taking courses in disciplines I’ve never focused on. Reading Moby Dick and learning about South Asian geography, for example, Midd continues to push me academically.

So, if senior spring is tinged with sadness, it also brings a new energy to classes, activities and adventures here. Graduation may be looming in the all-too-immediate future, with caps and gowns and diplomas just around the corner, but in the mean time seniors are choosing to focus on the present and live it up in the Green Mountain state.

January Independence

J-Term is here and fun has arrived! Literally. Tonight, Fun. will be performing at Middlebury, to the delight of students from all classes. I know the concert will be just one highlight of what has already been an amazing winter term – that tiny, sacred sliver of time between semesters when your academic load is lighter than usual and every day brings a new adventure. For me, that has meant plenty of trips to the Snow Bowl to ski, lots of IM squash and my first-ever attempt at paddle tennis. Of course, more free time in general also means more time spent relaxing, and the girls I live with and I have done a good deal of baking and catching up on TV shows in our cozy house on campus.
My fourth and final J-Term is also my most unique. It is the first time I’m not taking a class and am instead pursuing an independent study in Political Science, focusing on a topic of my choosing. With a professor serving as my advisor, I am able to make my own schedule entirely. At first, this task actually seemed daunting, as I didn’t quite trust that I wouldn’t devote all my days to skiing and be left in a bind at the end of the month! So far, I think I’ve found a good work/play balance. I love the freedom of dictating my own schedule, not being held down by class meetings. I love exploring all that Vermont has to offer in the snowy winter, and making the time to delve into my own research as well. I’m finding that the more I give to my independent study, the more I like it (and, of course, the more I venture out into the snow, the more I appreciate Vermont!) The beauty of winter term is that it’s each student’s own creation. Friends of mine are taking courses in Biology, Statistics and Theater; others are interning in places as close as Burlington to as far as the Middle East. A few of my friends have created their own independent study in which they do a different activity each day – from knitting to dance classes to midnight sledding – and write about it on their own blog. I don’t know anywhere else where that would count as a class! The overall feel here on campus is carefree and fun. It feels like anything goes during the month of January, and I plan to keep making the most of it!

Crunch Time

The final few weeks of the semester after coming back to Middlebury from Thanksgiving break can be, well, somewhat stressful. It is “crunch time” for everyone. Final papers, lab reports, presentations and tests dot our calendars in the coming days and weeks. The library, with its cubicles, tables and notorious “comfy chairs” already packed, will soon be open 24/7 for exam week. Do not quote me on this, but I’m sure if the dining halls and cafes on campus were to calculate the amount of coffee consumed during these next three weeks, they would find a massive increase of caffeine intake among students.

I’m no coffee drinker, but I generally struggle with the stress of these final weeks like my peers. In years past, I remember asking myself “how will it all get done? Is it even possible that I will be relaxing at home in less than a month?”

This year, though, my mindset has changed slightly from my underclassman worries. Not only do I now know (based on experience) that yes, inevitably it all does get done, but I’ve learned how to keep things in perspective and, more importantly, how to enjoy these final weeks of the semester. The truth is, a lot goes on here even as things wind down! There are final shows, concerts and performances that you don’t want to miss out on; winter sports are officially in full swing, and people flock to the squash courts and hockey rink to catch a match or game. I have gotten emails and invitations from professors and students  in classes in a range of departments – from Political Science to Dance to Film and Media Studies – who have been working all semester long on various projects that they will be presenting. Friends make announcements at the end of class inviting their peers to view their thesis work, a play they happen to have written and directed.

Thus, in the midst of all this academic work, the final push of the semester includes so many activities that are worth making time for. Even carving an hour out of your day to go into town for a meal with friends, hit the gym or go to a lecture you want to hear can make all the difference. And, as I just found out, all month long the town of Middlebury will be organizing “Very Merry Middlebury” events, which include sleigh rides, Santa visits, free gift wrapping and 25 cent hot chocolate!  Who says “crunch time” can’t be fun?

That November Chill

It has arrived. That extra chill in the air. That moment when you realize you have to pull your real winter coat out of the closet. That morning when you check the temperature before leaving for class and realize it starts with a “3,” when you were anticipating a “4,” hoping for a “5” and fantasizing about the possibility of a “6.” Winter at Middlebury!

Despite the horror stories I was told before entering  my freshman year about kids having to snowshoe to class with ski goggles on, I have to say that after experiencing a few Vermont winters for myself, I remain committed to the belief that the months between November and March are some of the finest of the year.

Rule number one Midd Kids learn to follow? LAYER. LAYER. LAYER. Sometimes, even experienced seniors need to be reminded of this crucial skill; shivering in a single sweatshirt on the sidelines of the field hockey game this weekend, I quickly remembered the importance of my beloved layers.

Once students have mastered this technique, smartly bundling themselves in long sleeved shirts, fleeces, coats and scarves, the sky is the limit. As I learned my first J-Term, Middlebury students do not run from the cold, they embrace it. They catch the shuttle bus to Middlebury’s own ski mountain, the Snow Bowl, on a daily basis; they build snowmen on the quad behind the freshmen dorm Battell (affectionately known as Battell Beach); they slip and slide down hills on anything they can find that may pass as a sled.

The snow may not be here quite yet (though my economics professor did point out the flurries whirling around outside during class today), but even now, students are embracing the fall in all its chilliness. Walking to the dining hall the other day, I noticed a group of Midd Kids shouting with joy as they launched themselves into an impressively large pile of leaves. Even as we sadly set aside t shirts and flip-flops, my friends and I are secretly excited to welcome a new fall wardrobe, as it makes daily raids of each other’s closets that much more exciting (living with six girls multiplies your clothing options substantially). Chilly temperatures also make trips to the Tea House in town that much more frequent.

In the end, Middlebury students enthusiastically greet the onset of winter in the same way they embrace most other changes – with open arms (and a cup of hot chocolate).

Halloween comes early to Midd

You’ll never guess who I saw this past Saturday night at Middlebury. Don Draper! Looking spiffy in a black suit and hat, Don was out and about, but his fellow “Mad Men” were nowhere to be found. Instead, Don was interacting with a new crew, and a rather curious crew at that. With him was a group of serious birdwatchers, some black cats, a pair of fly fishermen, biker chicks and even the Flinstones! No, this was not a dream I had, this was Halloween at Middlebury.

Though there may be more costumes seen around campus this Wednesday on October 31st, for the most part Midd Kids rang in Halloween a bit early this year. Throughout the semester, though, students constantly dress up for various occasions. Whether it’s for a specific team or club on campus that has organized an event, or just a group of friends wanting to spice up their wardrobes, it’s not uncommon to see students dress up a bit funny on a Saturday night here. Over the course of three years at Middlebury, I have managed to accumulate a unique assortment of quirky clothing options reserved for these occasions. Together with my friends, a communal box has emerged, filled with boas, crazy hats, neon t-shirts, animal print fabric and more. You never quite know what you’ll walk away with after diving into our shared stash, but after a wardrobe choice has been made (and been edited, and re-edited, by friends) you will want to take a quick picture that you can show your grandchildren some day — proof that before your legs became creaky and your hearing started to go, you dressed up like a goofball and had a good night out.

Given all the dressing up that goes on at Middlebury, I shouldn’t have been surprised that students went “all out” on Halloween. Part of me anticipated this, but part of me was caught off-guard too. While trick-or-treating may be a thing of the past for most of us here, as my weekend showed me, Halloween is still very much alive. A slew of intricately-carved pumpkins, all of which had been created by students, sat outside my friends’ porch on Friday night. When I stopped by that evening to say hi, I found a tray of freshly roasted pumpkin seeds and a steaming pot of mulled apple cider. That festive spirit continued as Don Draper and the rest of the gang emerged the following day.

I realized that midway through a fall semester consumed in part by job-searching, my quasi-adult mindset may have gripped me a little too tightly. As we run between interviews and information sessions, pretending to know what we want to do after graduation, we have to remember that at the end of the day, we are still college kids. For a minute, don’t be a student, don’t be a young adult: be a kid. Dress up funny, carve some pumpkins, sip apple cider and have fun. After all, it is Halloween.

My last first day

My last first day of school. That Monday that students everywhere both dread and look forward to had particular poignancy for me this year. I was a senior, or, as I’ve also come to think of it, officially in the 16th grade. As my dad reminded me in an email early that morning, there was always the possibility of grad school after Middlebury, but I couldn’t escape the realization that for all intents and purposes, this was it.

I tried hard to recount past first days of school. What did I wear to Ms. Levine’s kindergarten class on day one? How did I feel before walking into seventh grade homeroom? I vaguely remember going to the first day of high school with my best friend Bridget, her mom driving us in a blue Jetta, pulling up to the curb past senior lot where kids who seemed infinitely older and obviously cooler than me milled about, blasting music and shouting cheerfully across rows of cars. Other than that, I have to say, the details of my previous first days are pretty fuzzy.

This year, I awoke early for my 8:40 AM class, U.S. National Elections. Of the six other girls I live with, four of us were up, brushing teeth, packing books, making last minute outfit adjustments before walking out the door into the crisp September air. I had two classes that day, and managed a busy afternoon with working here in the Admissions Office, running in the gorgeous trails around campus and formatting the newspaper for our first issue out that Thursday (side note: The Middlebury Campus is the school’s student weekly. It rocks and you should definitely check out our new and improved website: At the end of a long day — filled with both new and familiar faces — I arrived back home with a smile on my face.

Since then, the days have proceeded in typical Middlebury fashion: fast! It’s been a blur of classes, meetings, late nights, problem sets and books. But mixed in with those memories are experiences of a different — non-academic — sort. Since classes have started, I’ve constructed flower crowns and ground corn kernels to make corncakes at a nearby fall harvest festival. I’ve biked 25 miles and sampled treats along the way from a variety of farms in one of Vermont’s best autumn events, the Tour de Farms. I’ve chatted with friends and professors at a reception for students who recently returned from studying abroad. I’ve played field hockey on a turf field overlooking the Green Mountains as the sun was just beginning to set.

The past few weeks illustrate exactly what I love about being a student here. The opportunities for learning and exploration extend beyond the classroom and into the surrounding community and the gorgeous Vermont wilderness. While my first day of school this year may not have been exceptionally exciting, I am aware of a slight shift among my peers and me as we enter the fall semester with full Midd Kid force and enthusiasm. As seniors, we have a renewed appreciation for what it means to be at Middlebury. Graduation day, pushed back as far into our minds as possible, may loom in the distance, but it also challenges us to take advantage of all that we can while we are still here. I am excited not only by class discussions about the current Presidential race or strategies to alleviate hunger around the world; I am excited to delve into the outdoors, meet new students here on campus and laugh a lot with those whom I already know. Somehow, just knowing it is my last year here makes the grass a little greener, the Proctor granola a little sweeter and the music blasting on Saturday nights a little louder.