Category Archives: Student Life

200 Days Until… Another Semester?

The senior class recently attended the annual 200 Days Party. For most of us, this senior-only, semi-formal celebration kicks off the countdown to graduation and prefaces the 100 Days Party held later in the spring term. However, for many attendees, including myself, the countdown aspect of the party is not at all relevant. That’s because many of us are not actually seniors but instead senior “Febs.”

At Middlebury, Febs are students who will graduate in February rather than May. Several students become Febs after taking semesters off for work or personal reasons. The majority, however, began their first semesters in February rather than September, having taken the fall term off to pursue a gap semester, or “Febmester.” As a current senior Feb, I will still spend a full four years at the College, and in no way am I expected to condense or expedite my college career to graduate “on time” in the spring with the rest of my class. When my classmates finally don their caps and gowns in May, my fellow senior Febs and I will still have one final semester and winter term to complete before graduating. And we get to finish our college careers in style, receiving our diplomas after skiing down the Middlebury Snow Bowl in our caps and gowns!

The February-to-February timeline is undoubtedly unusual but also incredibly rewarding. My Febmester gave me plenty of time to step off my high school academic treadmill and breathe. Everyone curates their Febmester to their own interests and gains a ton of new stories to share for when they finally come to campus. One of my friends pursued a sea turtle conservation project in Costa Rica; another moved to Los Angeles to audition for television and movie roles. I used my time off to work, travel the world and visit friends at different colleges. Although we chose to use our Febmesters differently, my friends and I agree that our gap semesters gave us ample time to recharge and experience something totally new before beginning college. 

Graduating in February rather than May carries its own advantages, as well. For one, it allows us Febs to combat the dreaded “What are you doing after graduation?” question with a short, sweet and self-assured “I’m a Feb.” While many of my non-Feb peers are busy with job interviews and graduate school applications, my Feb friends are figuring out how they want to spend their extra summer break. I am using mine to pursue another internship, something many of my graduating friends wish they still had the opportunity to do.

The best perk of being a Feb is perhaps the most under-recognized: As a Feb, I will have spent only one semester as a first-year but three as a senior. For me and the rest of the class of 2017.5, this means another semester to take interesting upper-level classes and more time to plan and coordinate post-graduate opportunities. It also means we get to attend to another 200 Days Party, this time as “super senior Febs” alongside a new senior class. The countdown of the party will continue to mean nothing to us, but we will still get to enjoy the free food, drink and music. No complaints from us, as February Admissions continues to showcase its advantages, even years after arriving to campus in February!

Spotlight on A Cappella at Middlebury

Hello all!

It’s no secret that there are plenty of Middlebury students who love to sing. In fact, out of the eight Senior Fellows, three of us sing in an a cappella group!

Right now there are many different groups on campus to choose from (check out the full list here). Each has a unique style and vibe. Whether your music preferences tend more towards pop or classical music, and whether you’d prefer to be in a coed or a single sex group – there’s something for everyone!

No previous experience is required in order to audition for any of the groups. I am in an all-female group called the Middlebury Mischords that holds auditions twice a year. I always enjoy the audition process – Every time I am so impressed at the amount of musical talent among Middlebury students.

The Mischords represent a wide array of academic and extra-curricular interests. This diversity of interests was something that surprised me when I first joined. I was expecting everyone to be a classically-trained music major, and that’s definitely not the case! We also have representatives from a wide range of sports teams. Last year was especially diverse in terms of athletics; we had mischords who played soccer, softball, lacrosse, and track.

Although I love the stress-relieving aspect of taking a study break and singing a few times a week, what I love most about being in an a cappella group is the feeling of community. I joined in February of my first year at Middlebury, but I wish that I had worked up the courage to audition in September. Joining student clubs and organizations here is so rewarding. It gives you the opportunity to find the micro-communities within the larger campus community. Through a cappella, I have met some truly amazing people and formed a group of friends that I may not have been able to get to know otherwise.

Last Friday we held our end of semester concert – or “Jambo” – in the beautiful Mead Chapel with our brother group the Dissipated Eight. I am always so impressed by the number of students that take time out of their busy schedules to come watch our concerts. There’s nothing quite like singing to a full audience!

Until next time,

– Nicole

Mischords

(from our Halloween-themed concert)

 

(Here’s a video of one of my favorite Mischords songs – it’s an older video but a song that we still sing today)

 

Middlebury as “Home”

Let me start by saying that this is my favorite time of year at Middlebury College. The Vermont foliage is stunning right now, it isn’t heavy jacket weather yet, and Middlebury students are all feeling well rested after our mid-semester break.

It is finally hitting me that I am back in the environment that I learned to appreciate during my time abroad. Although studying in Paris was incredible and I wouldn’t trade my experience there for anything, towards the end of the semester I caught myself missing the distinct community feeling and atmosphere of my home away from home at Midd.

My fresh perspective while abroad helped me realize that Middlebury truly feels like home to me. It isn’t easy to pinpoint when exactly this development occurred, and I think this realization happens in a different way for every Middlebury student. Some might realize that Middlebury is “home” when they change the default shipping address on Amazon, when they’re recognized as regulars at the best restaurants in town, or maybe when they simply realize that the majority of their friends are here.

Personally, I didn’t realize the extent to which Middlebury had become a second home to me until I was placed in a new environment. While in Paris I lived in student housing and met students from many different countries. When they asked me where I was from, I found myself describing Middlebury more often than my hometown. As I formed new relationships, I realized how integral my Middlebury experience is to my identity.

I consider myself lucky that the place I chose to study as an undergraduate has become such a big part of myself. With that in mind, my advice to those currently in the middle of the college application process is to consider what qualities are important to you in the next place you’ll call home. In other words, the community feeling and quality of life at a particular college can be just as important as academic considerations.

Until next time!

Nicole

I love checking out the sunset from the organic garden before the weather gets too cold

It’s definitely worth watching the sunset from the organic garden – before the weather gets too cold!

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Afternoon sun and a little bit of that foliage I mentioned…

 

Moving In!

Moving in to your dorm for the first time can certainly be one of the most stressful parts of starting college.  Having just moved in to Middlebury for the last time (it was more enjoyable this time around), I find myself looking back on those previous move-in days.

When I was a Feb orientation leader a few winters ago for our incoming class of February first-years (see http://www.middlebury.edu/admissions/apply/february for more information), I remember running like crazy from dorm to dorm, all the while lifting mattress pads and hauling winter coats up numerous flights of stairs. It was also a blizzard and freezing cold out which didn’t make things easier. I loved meeting these new students and their families, but man, I got a workout that day. I guess that’s one upside to moving in: you get a great workout, even in the middle of a Vermont winter.

When I myself was moving in as a first-year Feb, I needed so much help from a combination of multiple Feb leaders and my parents to move my things in. I brought so much stuff with me to college. I remember I had a plastic box full of Colgate Advanced Whitening Gel, because, in my mind, it was so important to me that I not be distracted from making new friends and meeting professors by going to buy toothpaste. Little did I know that Midd Express was right on campus and that Kinney Drugs was just a short walk away. I was so nervous about making meaningful connections that I over-packed myself with toothpaste. So random, right? I’m pretty sure I haven’t yet bought more toothpaste in Middlebury, Vermont –– six semesters later. That’s how much I brought.

Once your bed is made, your posters are hung, and your desk is organized, the hard part is over. You’ll then have a great orientation with some awesome leaders and will meet plenty of new friends. You might even travel in packs (it’s a thing) to the dining hall and all around campus, figuring out which building is which. You’ll get the hang of it soon enough.

Moral of the story –– you’ll have time to buy toothpaste in college. Don’t worry.

Academic Atmosphere at Middlebury

FINALS WEEK— where the most wonderful time of the year turns into the most stressful time of the year. A time where students across the country are up to their ears in work and sleep and sanity are at all time lows. While Middlebury is certainly no exception to this rule, it has been my experience that although stress is high during this time, that there is something about the collective culture here that makes everything a little more bearable. Here are some reasons I’ve come up with to explain what that has meant to me:
  1.  Students are not competitive with each other: Contrary to the experience I had in high school, when everyone was competing for the same goal of getting into college, I truly find that while Middlebury students are quite competitive with themselves, we are not competitive with each other. None of my friends or classmates would ever ask me what my GPA was because they genuinely would not care. If someone did ask me about a specific grade, it would probably be because they wanted to see if I did something differently to receive a better or worse grade and not because they wanted to compete with me. I think a lot of this stems from the fact that unlike high school, college students choose a wider variety of paths. I think this is further strengthened  at Middlebury because it is a Liberal Arts school where students are much more likely to be taking different types of classes, have different majors, and different aspirations than they would be if you went to a larger university where you were enrolled in a specific school or program.
  2. Collective Atmosphere: Since there isn’t much competition between students I find that the academic atmosphere is more collective. When you have a lot of work the chances are that others have a lot of work as well, which certainly fosters the “all in this together” atmosphere. This is only strengthened during finals when, due to Middlebury’s physical size, everyone studies in the same places.
  3.  Supportive environment: Being with everyone is in the library with a lot of work strengthens the feeling of our collective identity as Midd kids. This collective identity, coupled with the fact that we aren’t trying to compete with each other, fosters a very supportive environment amongst students. It is very common in times like these to hear exchanges between students where they both talk about their long to do lists and then provide words of encouragement. When you have three papers to write in two days, hearing that someone else has three papers and an exam to complete in the same amount of time is comforting, because, in a strange way, you feel less alone.

Not Competitive–>Collective Atmosphere —> Supportive Environment.

I am certainly not trying to say there isn’t high stress at Middlebury, or, that we all sit around in a circle giving each other back massages and smiling during finals week. I think we all need to try to put less pressure on ourselves as individuals, to try harder to  remember the bigger picture, why we are here and why we want to learn in the first place. What I am trying to say, is that in times of high academic stress it has been my experience that the students seem to really come together and support each other. As I go into my seventh finals period as a Middlebury student, I think I have finally realized how positively this supportive environment has effected my academic experience.

“What’s Next?”

Recently, I’ve been getting the same question seemingly wherever I turn. And it’s not just the same question—many times, it’s the same phrase, and I’ve taken a liking to how it’s worded. Professors, friends, and colleagues have been asking me, “What’s next?”

Although it’s a question that I know is causing some stress for a few of my peers, I like the way it’s phrased. “What’s next,” after all, means that what I did here at Middlebury is connected to what’s ahead. In this regard, Middlebury has done a great job of preparing me for whatever lies ahead.

When I was a first-year, I remember being surprised that the Center for Careers and Internships (CCI) was open to underclassmen. I soon learned about the tremendous resources within the CCI that Middlebury students have at our disposal. Only a couple weeks of college under my belt and, thanks to the CCI, I was able to have a counselor look over my resume and discuss job and internship prospects for the summer. I also remember being thrilled by how one could simply drop into the office without an appointment and there would be staff members on hand. In my many trips to the CCI since my first year, counselors have assisted me with planning a course load, scheduling my time abroad, and evaluating potential work opportunities.

The advantages for Middlebury students don’t end at the CCI’s doorway. A comprehensive network of Middlebury alumni are ready and willing to dispense advice and to help Middlebury students get a foot in the door during the job search. Middlebury alumni will often post opportunities on the online network of Middlebury jobs and internships, MOJO. It was there that I saw an internship opportunity to work for the White House, and I jumped at it. It was an incredible experience that I will always remember, and I owe a ton to Middlebury. After my summer working for the President, I’m always encouraging students to use the CCI and MOJO—you never know what opportunities are out there.

The CCI doesn’t just provide advice and connections, either: they also help fund unpaid internships for students. The CCI distributes approximately $450,000 to several hundred students every spring, and it’s available to all class years (not just sophomores or juniors) to fund an internship or summer project. The funding I received from the CCI my sophomore year was instrumental in helping me cover the costs of living in a city as expensive as Washington, D.C.

I was talking recently about life after Middlebury with several friends who have graduated. Even though they are just a few months or years out of school, they are already doing some incredible things. One is working for a national newspaper on the west coast, another is traveling in Southeast Asia, and a third is teaching.

I’m not sure what’s next for me, currently. I’ve submitted a couple applications to various opportunities but in the meantime, I’m keeping busy with the newspaper and enjoying this last semester of classes!

J-term, New-ways-to-spend-the-day-term

Smack dab in the middle of the winter, when wind is brisk but the views are breathtaking, you might think the best way to enjoy the winter is snuggled up with tea, looking out your dorm room windows. While this is more than lovely, J-term is really the best time to get out and have fun! And I don’t necessarily mean outside (so you don’t need to worry about frostbite).

Because we only take one class during J-term, we all have tons of free time to attend Middlebury-sponsored events or bring our friends together in a way we don’t usually have the time to. Just last night, my housemates and I attended an etiquette dinner hosted by our Center for Careers and Internships. We all dressed up in our most dapper business-casual attire and learned all of the proper steps of buttering your bread. While this may seem silly, it was a wonderful opportunity to spend times with my friends in a completely new environment that was a little challenging but ultimately came with a delicious catered meal.

And it just gets better from there! Not only do we all have extra time to go to sponsored events, we can put on our own little luncheons such as Thai Thursday. While my housemates and I usually have class on Thursdays, we took J-term time to spend the afternoon together off of campus in our greater Middlebury community. Lunch in the dining hall with friends is wonderful, but getting together to plan something different is truly special.

If you want to go even further, if a lunch trip into town just doesn’t seem like enough, J-term classes often aren’t five days a week, so day trips become far easier than they are during a typical semester. This week, my housemates and I are planning a trip to a small Vermont cheese-making factory. I can’t image anything better than eating cheese with my best friends. If you can, I’m in!

J-term is one of the most exciting parts of going to Middlebury. At first, you have so much time to read for pleasure, you spend all of your time in your room reading young adult novels (or at least that’s what I did), but then you see that you have been given an amazing opportunity to spend time with your friends in whole new ways. Whether you’re faking your way through an etiquette dinner or tasting cheese, J-term is nothing but fun and surprises!

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.

Wonderland

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.

 

Find your beach

Sometimes at Middlebury when it is meant to be spring the weather throws us back to a winter wonderland or a monsoon of rain and mud. While I do enjoy the pristine clean white powdered covered trees and a romp in my Hunter boots, sometimes I yearn for the days of sun, warmth, and the potential for a full body sunburn.

Sometimes I sit back, close, my eyes, and find my beach (cue corona commercial). Now and again I drift so far as to hear seagulls squawking in the sky. But is this such a dream? I open my eyes and see that in fact, it is not. I can’t be alone in wondering why we have seagulls in Vermont, a land locked state far from salted waters. I set out to suffice this curiosity. Here is what I found:

Seagulls are a fallacy. “Seagull” is a layperson’s term that is not used in science. This name is used informally to refer to a common local species or all gulls in general, and has no fixed taxonomic meaning. Because of this, “seagulls,” which I will not correctly call “gulls” are not always found by the sea but can be found hundreds of miles from the nearest saltwater.

Gulls can be found near any large body of water, fresh or saltwater. So thanks to Lake Champlain, Lake Dunmore, and perhaps Battell Beach after last nights storm (pre-snow), Vermont and Addison County is the home to 26 species of gulls, terns, kittiwakes and skimmers.

So the next time you are outside enjoying whatever the weather may be and hear the squawk of a gull, do not be alarmed and confused, but instead smile, soak it in, and let it help you find your beach.