Author Archives: Sarah Chapin

Readyyyy, GO!

Unlike most seniors, who are busy getting ready to present their written theses at the symposium, this week I’ve been working feverishly with the other dance majors to prepare for our thesis concert, which goes up next weekend. At the beginning of the year, I was daunted by the prompt: “make whatever work you want to make. You have the support and the resources–now be an artist!” Now, though, I’m really excited to be showing a body of work for which I’ve been at the helm every step of the way.

This week, though, I’m even more at the helm than I was expecting to be! Our lighting designer and technical director for the concert just unexpectedly went on maternity leave–we’re really excited for her! It means, though, that the four of us are all of a sudden in charge of self-producing our show. While this caused a minor freak-out for a day or two, what we realized was that… actually, we can totally do it! It’s going to require some hard work and a lot of list-making, but four years of learning how this happens has left us well-prepared. The tech crew has been scheduled; the posters designed, printed, and hung; the program laid out and proofed–it’s going to the printer on Monday. All the things other than the actual dancing and choreographing are things that we–almost to our surprise–actually know how to do.

Though it was daunting at first, now I’m kindof excited. It’s a fun challenge–and best of all, it will result in a show that we can really be proud of!


To those of you who’ve just been admitted to Middlebury, congratulations!!! The next weeks are sure to hold a big decision–I urge you to reach out of me, or any of the senior fellows, with any questions you might have (about Middlebury, Vermont, college in general–can be anything!). After an arduous application process and a long wait, you’re doubtlessly being courted by many fabulous institutions. The ball is in your court. Enjoy it!

For those of you who are anticipating this day coming in a year or so, take a deep breath. The process ahead of you can be exhausting at times, but if you can remember to enjoy it, it’s fun! Whether online or in person, you’re taking scouting trips for the possibilities of your next four years. Enjoy trying on different future lives!

I’m looking forward to meeting many of you at Preview Days. Enjoy your decision-making!

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!

The Question

Where is the snow?????

It’s all anyone can talk about. This winter has been mysteriously snowless, with several flurries followed two days later by a spurt of rain. The rumor is that every twelve years Vermont has a snowless winter, but who knows? All we know is that the winter is warm and brown and somewhat confusing.

You’d think, being from North Carolina, that I’d love the respite from the snow and subzero temperatures. I’ve surprised even myself, though, by how much I miss Winter. Somehow making it to spring doesn’t seem quite as exciting or hardcore when the coldest I ever got was 30 degrees… and I miss the snowy playground that replaces campus for five months!

I hoping for at least a few inches before Winter Carnival this weekend, but if not, I suppose I’ll have to resign myself to my last Winter being non-winter. Unless we get another storm like the Valentines Day Blizzard (watch til the end, it’s worth it)…

Thanks and Snow

When I told my mom I was planning on staying on campus for Thanksgiving break, she was really worried: “but will the dining halls be open? Wont you starve? Will there be anyone else there? Wont you be lonely?” I had to laugh at her questions. The truth is, there are a LOT of people here for break. It’s always really relaxing to be on campus when there aren’t too many people here—you can just spend time with friends and sleep a lot more than usual. My roommate and I are planning to watch a lot of movies and eat a lot—the International Students Organization organizes and funds dinners for everyone staying here.

And the best part of this break? Last night, it started snowing!!! Our first real snow of the year—it’s still coming down, 20 hours later. I love snow. Even after years of it, I can still sit and watch snow fall, mesmerized, for hours. This break provides the perfect opportunity for my favorite activities: running around in snow and snuggling in bed with a mug of tea. What could be better? This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that I get to spend the day in one of my favorite places on earth.


Cheer Boys Cheer, Middlebury’s Here

This weekend I took the Middlebury fan bus down to NYC to see our team play in a very prestigious sporting event: the Quidditch World Cup. (Yep, you heard right. Quiddtich. Like from Harry Potter.)

Muggle Quiddtich started at Middlebury six years ago, with a bunch of freshmen who wanted to spice up their weekly tradition of playing bocce on Battell Beach. Those students have now graduated and moved on to bigger and better things–and Quidditch has grown up as well. I remember my freshman year’s World Cup, when Middlebury hosted nine teams on dorm room floors and were amazed at how huge a crowd we’s managed to draw. (That was also the first year it was an actual “world” cup, since McGill came down from Canada to play.) Last year, the World Cup moved to NYC because the number of spectators had gotten too big to fit in Middlebury, VT. This year, Quiddtich exceeded even my wildest, most outlandish imaginings. The IQA put together a tournament of over one hundred teams, including an alumni game and a high school bracket. When I first arrived, I spent half an hour walking around the complex of nine pitches in awe, amazed at how little MiddQuid has grown into a worldwide pheonomenon. (And I mean worldwide. This weekend Middlebury had the honor of playing the most far-flung team to date: Vassa, from Finland. I’m pretty sure they flew over in an airplane, not on brooms.)
Middlebury has been the reigning World Cup Champions since the beginning, which always sortof seemed like a given. This year, though, I realized that we would have to play really well to even have a shot at trophy–in Quiddtich tradition, a plastic vodka bottle spray-painted gold. (Nobody but the team knows if it’s full or not.) We played pretty well in pool play, ending up 13th seed in the 34-team single-elimination bracket. In pool play, we did experience our first loss in the history of Quiddtich, to Michigan’s VERY enthusiastic team.
We made it through to the semifinals and finals, held in the soccer stadium on Randall’s Island. The Middlebury student cheering section just managed to make ourselves be heard over the roar of the rest of the stadium–with the notable exception of Canada’s two teams, which graciously both cheered for us. I dont think I’ve ever been that nervous at a sporting event in my life. We cheered, yelled at the dramatically-gesticulating ref, and chanted for the two of our players that were carried off the field on stretchers (they’re both going to be okay, but be warned: Quidditch is a rough sport). We sang various Middlebury fight songs and found even the least Quidditch-enthused of us yelling things like “Nice beat! He was bludged, ref! Drop the Quaffle!!!!”
After a nerve-wracking game and some excellent snitching (The Golden Snitch: a human being dressed in all yellow for whom no rules apply. Snitching is a hilarious sub-sport that’s worth checking out on Youtube.), Middlebury caught the snitch and, just barely, defended our championship for the fifth year running. I dont know if we’ll be able to hold onto it next year–Quidditch teams everywhere are getting better and better–but I was happy to see us win, in person, for my last World Cup as a student.
The fan bus left NYC right after the final game, so we arrived back in Middlebury at 4:00 this morning. It’s a tribute to our fan’s enthusiasm that we didnt sleep the whole way: we spent the first hour or so reliving plays and singing the very intimidating and bloodthirsty  Middlebury victory song:
“There’s only one Middlebury / hey hey / one Middlebury / hey hey / walkin’ along / singin’ a song / walkin’ in a winter wonderland.”

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.

Thesis Proposal Season

The beginning of senior year at Middlebury might be the only time in our entire college careers when all of the Class of 2012 has the same assignment: write your thesis proposal. While theses are not required in every department, almost all seniors either complete a thesis or take part in a high-level project as part of the senior seminar class in their major. “So what are you writing about?” or “how much d’you think I can ask for from the Senior Research Fund?” are common questions at dinner, and my friends seem suddenly much busier than usual as they meet with their thesis advisors to revise their proposals. And the proposal is only the tip of the iceberg!

My thesis is a little unorthodox by Middlebury standards. I don’t have a thesis carrel in the library. I’m not preparing myself for a Jterm of constant writing. Instead of making scientific discoveries about the floor of Lake Champlain, researching an era in art history, or analyzing the historiography of Japanese-Chinese relations in a 100-page paper, I’m starting the process of making Art. (Yeah, it’s not intimidating at all.)

Each year, Dance majors at Middlebury contribute their work to an evening-length senior thesis concert, one that showcases the pieces we’ve been working on all year—which in turn showcase everything we’ve learned in our academic and artistic careers at Middlebury. We’ve all choreographed work before, but this is a bigger deal—we have much more freedom to direct our own artistic visions, and many more resources with which to do so. We get first pick of the student dancers who come to auditions. We get priority for rehearsal space. We have a budget with which to buy costumes, props, sets—anything we can dream up and justify artistically. (No really, anything—this semester one senior is working with a trapeze. Like the kind you’d find in a circus.) We meet with the lighting designer once a week to discuss the technical production of our concert, and meet with our thesis advisors regularly to check up on our dancers’ progress and the development of our choreographic ideas.

Yeah, it’s a little scary—“I thought I was a student! Suddenly I’m a real artist? When did that happen?”—but really… it’s kind of… fun. My academic work is my passion is making dances, and I get tons of time and support with which to do it. What more could I ask for from my senior year? (I think it’s certainly better than sitting in a thesis carrel and writing for the next eight months!)

Home got bigger, but so did I…

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.