Category Archives: Admissions

Reminiscing About a Trip to Turkey

Almost exactly one year ago, I left the idyllic New England town of Middlebury, Vermont in order to board a plane to Istanbul – a sprawling metropolis of 14 million people and millennia of history. Because of this one-year anniversary, this week I was filled with nostalgia for my time in Turkey. My reminiscing also had a lot to do with my thesis: over the fall semester and during J-term, I was writing my History thesis on the Ottoman Empire’s relationship with Britain in the 1870s. After the triumphant moment turning in the thesis (professionally bound with a sharp-looking title page, thanks to the great staff at the Reprographics office), I kept thinking about how the academic journey of the past five months was largely the result of my decision to study abroad and to go outside my comfort zone.

A view of the Golden Horn in Istanbul, the peninsula filled with historic sites like the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.

A view of the Golden Horn in Istanbul, the peninsula filled with historic sites like the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque.

It is fitting that my journey studying Turkey ends (for now) in J-term, because that is where it all began. During my sophomore year, I took a J-term course called Euro-Atlantic Relations. Taught by a veteran Middlebury Winter Term instructor, the course was a 360-degree look at NATO and the state of the alliance between the United States and Europe. As a part of the course and with the excellent advising of Stan Sloan, the instructor, I undertook a research project into Turkey’s relationship with the European Union.   Inspired by the research, I signed up to study abroad in Istanbul.

It was a risk in many ways – I didn’t speak Turkish, had never been to Turkey before, and was worried about giving up opportunities for involvement on campus in the spring semester, particularly given my responsibilities as an editor of the newspaper. However, looking back, I am so happy that I made the decision and am always advocating study abroad to other Middlebury students who are weighing similar trade-offs.

It’s tough to concisely describe how much I learned in Istanbul. There was the immense amount I learned in courses on Turkish history and politics at Boğaziçi University – knowledge that I relied on time and time again while writing my thesis. I also experienced a great deal of personal growth. I had never lived in a city bigger than Appleton, Wisconsin for any considerable length of time, and learning to navigate Istanbul, while a challenge at first, had huge rewards. I now feel like I can survive and thrive in a new environment, no matter how big the learning curve in terms of language or culture.

I’m hoping to return to Turkey after I graduate this spring. My journey there and back again is an example of how experiences at Middlebury can change you in unexpected and exciting ways. Had I not taken the Euro-Atlantic relations course, I might be remising today about totally different but equally rewarding memories.


Meet the Press

Like clockwork, every Thursday morning copies of The Middlebury Campus can be found on the dining hall tables.  Stacks of them sit at the entrance to the Axinn Center.  Students page through before the start of class.  While these newspapers appear as if by magic, there is a large team of dedicated students with varied talents behind the operation of producing a weekly newspaper.

I started writing for the Campus during Winter Term of my first year at Middlebury and now am lucky enough to serve as the Editor-in-Chief.  Although I had never written for my high school newspaper, I saw it as a great way to get involved on campus, to meet interesting students, faculty, and staff, and to improve my writing.  Knowing the large amount of writing involved in a History or Political Science major, the Campus seemed like a surefire way to learn from skilled editors and writers.  On a whim, I joined the Features section.

There are six sections in the Campus, each with its own personality in terms of the types of stories they run.  News takes breaking stories.  Local covers the town of Middlebury and Vermont news.  Opinions publishes Op-eds, columns, and letters to the editor.  Features writes human interest stories and long-form pieces.  Arts & Sciences writes arts reviews and reports on research happening on campus.  Finally, Sports covers Panther Athletics.  These sections are each led by two to four editors who curate content and train writers.  Unlike some student newspapers, all of the writers and editors of the Campus are volunteers and do not get paid.

I owe a lot to the Features editors who helped me improve as a journalist when I was a writer for their section.  They coached me through interviewing, writing and rewriting, and how to identify a potential article idea.  It is incredibly rewarding for me to now be able to encourage new writers to join the paper.  I try to help writers and editors improve their journalistic abilities as much as I am able and I always want to make their extracurricular experience as rich as it was for me.

I have a ton of admiration for the editors and writers who work for the Campus.  For writers, making an article a great piece requires follow-through and tenacity.  Editors spend countless hours in our office in the basement of Hepburn Hall editing articles, brainstorming new story ideas, and designing the look of that week’s issue.  However, all of their hard work is worth it when the paper arrives on campus every Thursday.  Seeing the hours of writing and editing take shape into something tangible is one of my favorite parts of working for the Campus.


I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Almost instantly after we finished our ascent, the forest had transformed itself into a sunlight grove with golden leaves swaying from every tree branch. My friends and I peered around in awe as if we had just stumbled upon Wonderland. Could this be real? We hurried through the cover of the glimmering leaves to the vista below.

As I sat on Rattlesnake Cliff looking down at Lake Dunmore, the Champlain Valley, and the distant Adirondacks, I felt absolutely at peace. After a week of dismal gray clouds, the skies opened up and gave us the most glorious fall week I’ve ever had at Middlebury. Maybe the advent of my last year at Middlebury had inspired a particularly deep connection to the fall colors. But I knew I had to be out amongst the trees during this spectacular weekend.

As we climbed the two miles up to the top of the cliffs, conversation bounced between relationship questions, post-grad exploration and travel plans. I had done this same hike almost exactly two years ago. As sophomores, the conversation felt more frenzied and hurried. We were all still establishing ourselves on campus—contemplating majors, navigating the workload, giggling about the night before. But now, our conversation felt settled and relaxed even though we are facing even more uncertainty than at any other point at Middlebury. We felt no urgency to fix each other’s problems like we had in the past. We simply walked and talked and shared.

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Listening to Paul Simon and Stevie Nicks, we drove home past cow pastures and a dipping pink sun, and I thought about my goals for the semester. For my Social/Emotional Development class in the Psychology department, our professor asked us to create three goals for the semester. They needed to be specific, measurable, and attainable. I knew I definitely wanted to have a post-grad goal (talk to a professional in my desired field once a week, spend two hours a week doing research, etc.). But I also wanted to create Social and Emotional goals, something that I could reflect on through my life at Middlebury but also through my coursework. I wanted more moments like this, where I felt totally at peace. As if I was in the exact place I was supposed to be at the exact time. A natural fixer, I decided I should focus on actively listening to friends without trying to intervene as we all did on the hike. Additionally, I want to do more to engage in Vermont before I leave. I hope to get off campus at least once a week, preferably without a plan, and head off to enjoy the beauty around me. I want to immerse myself fully in Middlebury and Vermont before I leave.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll magically stumble upon another forest from Wonderland.


Time for a Thesis

Last week, all seniors received an email from the library staff encouraging students to sign up for a senior thesis carrel.  A thesis carrel is a small desk on the upper or lower levels of the library which senior thesis writers can reserve for the semester.

This sign-up email made me realize that I was about to embark on an academic project I had been anticipating almost since the start of my time at Middlebury.  During this fall semester and Winter Term, I will be writing a History thesis.  For some reason, as I read through this email, it struck me how near I am to finishing my majors (History and Political Science), and how much academic work I’ve progressed through at Middlebury.  At Middlebury, some majors require a thesis, some majors require it only if a student wants to receive departmental honors, but almost all departments require some form of senior work or capstone project.

There is a typical life cycle to a thesis carrel throughout the year.  Invariably, while writing a thesis, students acquire a stack of books and papers that pile on the carrel.  Printed out rough drafts with edits marked in pen cover the desk.  Post-it notes with encouraging messages from friends appear on the carrel’s upper shelf.  Empty coffee mugs dot the rows of carrels.

I took a course designed to prepare History majors for the thesis during the fall of my junior year, when I wrote a 30-page research paper on 1890s Malawi.  This junior thesis was a great way to get experience in finding primary sources.  It also introduced me to the fantastic staff in our library and the College Archives.  The librarians can help you find information on seemingly every topic under the sun.  Even History topics that seem very far removed from Vermont and the United States (like Malawi or the Ottoman Empire) are accessible thanks to the help of the library staff.

Getting to claim a carrel for my senior thesis makes it feel like I am graduating from an introductory thesis to the real deal. As a History and Political Science double major, I have been thinking about how I can craft a thesis that has a focus on an international relations or political institutions theme.  I returned relatively recently from Turkey, where I spent the spring semester of my junior year abroad in Istanbul.  The courses I took at a university there have influenced my thinking on a thesis topic, and as I write this I hope to research a topic that has to do with the 19th-century Ottoman Empire.

It is an extraordinary thing to be an undergraduate and have the opportunity to work closely with a professor to do original research on a topic.  I am grateful for my adviser’s assistance and will no doubt rely on his expertise in historical inquiry as I begin the marathon that is a senior thesis.

A typical History thesis is between 60-70 pages, and the scale of the project can seem daunting.  But when I think ahead to the books and research, I am not so much nervous as I am excited.  I can’t wait to get started.

Going Full Circle: Jonathan Safran Foer as the 2013 Commencement Address Speaker

I am not sure if you’ve seen the big news on the front page, but author Jonathan Safran Foer is going to speak at the commencement address of the class of 2013! Which is my graduation!

Now, the fact that such a renowned author (Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Eating Animals) is already pretty huge. Ever since being introduced to David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement address, This Is Water, given to the Kenyon College class of 2005, I have always dreamed of having a favorite author deliver the parting words of my college.

But this is not just any favorite author. This is the author of my year’s Common Reading selection. The summer before you come to Middlebury, you receive a welcome packet that includes a map, your first year course selection, some promotional materials, and a book. This book is your Common Reading and the school ask that you read it before arriving on campus to then engage in intimate group discussions led by faculty and staff during the week of Orientation. The book I received my year was Everything Is Illuminated. I can remember this book being what completely reaffirmed my decision to enroll at Middlebury. It was the first time reading the book (I had only seen the movie with Elijah Wood…) and I remember being astonished that the school would select such a complex and emotion-filled book as the introduction to the college. When we arrived on campus, I was so excited to have our Common Reading discussion – I had fallen in love with the author’s prose and his style of communicating the narrative. I could not wait to begin connecting with other students through literature.

After this experience, I held on to the dream that Jonathan Safran Foer might be the one to speak at our graduation – that the voice that welcomed us to this four-year adventure might be the one that would send us off. When the news came out that he would indeed be that voice, I jumped in joy the way I did when I found out I got into Middlebury. What a beautiful thing to see it all come full-circle.jonathan_safran_foer_nymag


A Magical Walk

As we are approaching the middle of the semester, I find myself needing to find some personal time. Don’t get me wrong. Reading Joyce’s Ulysses, solving combinatorial problems focusing on guaranteeing a great party, and writing my math thesis on entropy and its relevance to Bayesian statistics really do make me happy, but it’s easy to get lost in the work and lose perspective. I make an effort to make time for myself everyday.

Everyone has their own way of de-stressing, whether it’s having a dance party in your own room, doing your best impression of Kate Bush in the shower at the top of your lungs, engaging in some cardio ballet or going on midnight jogs (Note, I’m not claiming any of these comes from personal experience). My trick of letting the steam out regularly consists of two things: taking walks and lighting scented candles. The latter is actually a way to make the former happen when the weather makes it impossible to take a gander in the woods. I love the smell of moist wood, grass, and mossy air. I could go on and on about my favorite candles… contact me personally if you’d like a personal recommendation. Anyhow, it’s been raining here for a while, which means the surrounding areas have transformed into an absolute dream for the likes of me!

This past Sunday, I decided I needed a break from my three-hour thesis session in the library. I headed back to my room, put my boots on, turned on my iPod, and started making my way towards the college organic garden. The organic garden is about five minutes away from my room. You get to pass by twenty or so solar panels on your way there. The college organic garden has a great selection of produce (the kale looked particularly yummy) and flowers. You can sign up for a certain number of volunteer hours and depending on your hours (you can split with a friend) and get a CSA basket filled with goodies from the garden! Anyhow, here’s a little sneak peak of the garden.

The temperature is starting to drop, but I got to get see some flowers still in bloom.

The picnic table is a very popular place to eat out when it’s warm. The shed is such a cool spot as well!

This is from the greenhouse. There were some tomatoes starting to turn red and yellow, but for some reason, I love the look of green tomatoes so much.

After you walk through the organic garden, you come across a huge grass plain. (Couldn’t help the temptation of Instagram — doesn’t this remind you of Wuthering Heights?) Even though it was rainy, dark, and foggy, it was still so beautiful. After you follow the path for a bit, you see a small opening into the woods!

This segment is called the Class of ’97 trail, and it’s part of the TAM (Trail Around Middlebury). Many students, myself included, love running on the TAM. In the winter, the snow makes it an amazing cross-country ski trail as well. Anyhow, you cross a little bridge as you get deeper into the woods, you come across this lovely part of the trail.

Doesn’t this remind you of Narnia? Lord of the Rings? The Forbidden Forest? Whatever it is, this is definitely one of my favorite places. It’s so magical. Out of this world! You feel so removed from everything you know.

When you come out of the dense woods, you will see at least twenty cows on any given day. There are the oreo cows (with clear black/white/black coloring), cows with spots, and brown cows! Anyhow, I love saying hi to them, though I am perfectly aware they only come near me with the hopes that I will give them more hay…….

Went a little crazy with Instagram…. but look at this little guy! So precious! Speaking of cows, Middlebury sources our milk from Monument Dairy, which is literally less than 10 minutes away from campus. Happy Valley Orchard is also less than 15 minutes away and apple-picking is an amazing way to pass the time.

What I am so grateful for is that this “nature therapy” is very easily within reach. I just have to step outside of my room, with the right footgear of course. I usually spend an hour or so on these trails when I feel like getting some fresh air. Afterwards, I am so refreshed. My friend and I love puddle-jumping and mud-trailing, so we often go on walks together and end up having wonderful conversations.

When you come to Middlebury, please check out all the wonderful walkable destinations!

Till next time,


Questions and Reflections

As both a pre-emptive and a reflective exercise, I think that it’s a good idea to review the most frequent questions that I have gotten thus far in my presenting experience, along with the most difficult ones. This gives me the chance to both improve on my responses by making them tangible and well-formed, and consider what it is in certain queries that I find hard to formulate an answer to.

I have now more than once been asked how a study abroad experience fits into a student’s total academic experience, and senior year job search. I know that this is a particular concern for those who have hard science and not language majors and consider going abroad a luxury, but I am always quick to say that going abroad can be adjusted to fit any area of study. A Pre-med student can take science classes at the host university in Munich, Germany, shadow a local doctor, and volunteer for a blood drive campaign. An Economics student can study development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, or create an independent project around how the Olympics in 2014 will affect the Brazilian economy. A Middkid interested in English can take advantage of our exchange program with Oxford, heading to the source of modern literature and can see the very places about which Dickens, Wordsworth, and Austen wax poetic. Going abroad is an option available to everyone, and one that, having studied and volunteered in Madrid, Spain and Lisbon, Portugal, I highly advise.

Another top question, often more forefront in the minds of parents than prospective students, is how Middlebury prepares its seniors to go out into the world. As someone with only months standing between me and the workforce, I can identify with this worry, but also promise that the Career Services Office is incredibly helpful. Just yesterday I dropped in to have my resumé polished, and have already worked with them to apply for several Fellowships. They have several online job search programs like MOJO and MiddNet that I peruse in my spare time, so I can honestly say that, with a little time and energy, Middkids will have no problem finding their post-college path.

Finally, one tricky question that I have gotten is regarding our setting in rural Vermont. As a student that applied to Middlebury from Tokyo, Japan, I know that there are lots of things that I miss about urban life. That being said, I know that I will have a lifetime of working in cities or suburbs ahead of me, and I chose to take a break from the rushed, impersonal city life for a rural setting where I know the name of the majority of the people that I pass in Proctor while grabbing breakfast. There is something so special about being able to head out spontaneously on hiking trips, about having a community network, that can’t be found in more developed places. Besides the hominess, Middlebury brings so many speakers, bands, and events to campus that you feel as though you are in the middle of a bustling academic metropolis—which you are.


Hello! Welcome to our Senior Blog. Abigail, Charlie, Christopher, Dan, Emma, Joanna, Kyle, and I (Jimin) are so excited to be your Senior Fellows for this year. The Admissions Office started the Senior Fellows program so that prospective students and parents could get a peek of Middlebury life from real, living and breathing Middlebury students. We come from across the globe (Korea to Portugal to Kansas) and have dabbled a wide spectrum of academic disciplines as well as student organizations. Despite the differences in our own experiences, we share one thing in common: our love for all Middlebury has to offer! We are here to help you as you navigate through the college process (which can be very daunting!). Hopefully, the upcoming posts and the posts that our predecessors have left, will be helpful in figuring out whether Middlebury is a good fit for you.  If you ever have any questions, please comment on our posts or email us!

Looking forward to seeing and hearing from you.






Explore Middlebury Video Snapshots!

If you would like to get a good snapshot of Middlebury College and what we are all about, be sure to check out these videos!

And, our very own senior fellow Ben Wessel is featured in one the videos speaking about his passion for the environment!

You can also view the videos separately under the following categories:



Student Life


Academic Life

Enjoy the videos!

The integrated MIIS masters degree, and thoughts on applications

The Middlebury-Monterey integrated degree program now allows students to get a B.A./B.S. from Middlebury and a masters degree from MIIS in just five years. (There’s a list of the program foci here.) Pretty exciting, huh? I think so!

The brief history. As of July 1, the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) became, quote, “the official graduate school of Middlebury College.” This doesn’t make Middlebury a big “research university” where attention to undergraduate students is replaced by graduate research and classes being taught by TA’s. That’s not the case at all.

Instead, Middlebury students now have the resources of a well-established and distinguished graduate schools increasingly available to them. For instance, here on our home Vermont campus, a lecture series featuring speakers from MIIS has been planned. On October 14, Pushpa Iyer, an Indian conflict-resolution-activist-turned-professor, gave her lecture in the first installment of the series entitled “Hate, Harmony and Homo sapiens: Zones of Peace (ZoP) amidst War,” and then was available in the Career Services Office to speak with students about futures in conflict resolution work.

What it means for me. As a Russian major and political science minor, the M.A. in International Policy Studies seems perfect for how I want to connect my undergraduate degree to my career goals. Though going “right back” to school after college was never a specific goal of mine, I find myself preparing and submitting an application to do so (and I couldn’t be more excited about it!).

I’m also reminded of what I was doing four years ago: the same thing with college apps. But, I feel like I have a pretty good amount of perspective on it now: four years after graduating high school, a few failed and successful internship applications later, and after a few more months working in the Admissions office, I bring you (drumroll…) “Three insights on applications.”

  1. “Where” you go may be important, but “what” you do is more so. By getting in, or not, to MIIS, I realize it’s totally up to me, and only me, to make my learning worthwhile once I get there if I really want a career in international policy later on.
  2. Preparing applications has a learning curve. It’s not just about how efficient I think I’ve become about editing a resume or filling in boxes on forms. In asking myself, “Why am I applying here? What do I want out of this school or job?” I’ve had to really sort out and define goals – which is super helpful in life.
  3. It’s not all in my hands only. Once I click the final “submit” or “send,” that’s about all I can really do. Admissions counselors and job application reviewers do their jobs for a living – they’re professionals, and they’re the ones who, if my application is the best it can be, are best able to figure out whether or not that opportunity is the best for me.