Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spring is Coming.

I’m not going to lie to you–it’s been a cold winter. For the month of January, the temperatures did not even think about reaching above freezing. This winter, I have established a meticulous bundling routine that ensures maximum warmth: long, warm socks, Bean boots, puffy jacket, thick mittens, and a lavender circle scarf that covers me from clavicle to nose. With hair down past my shoulder blades, I have strategized about the best time to wash it in relation to when I was leaving the house and how long I would be walking so as to avoid it freezing in large chunks.

And as I am sitting here writing this, I know that so many other places in the United States have been hit with a much more brutal winter. My friend from Boston told me her parents have snow up above their windows at home. Even down south, they have been experiencing chilly weather.

But regardless of what kind of winter you’ve had, everyone rejoices over the beginnings of spring.

Now, I don’t want to jinx it, but there is maybe a possibility that the thaw is beginning here at Middlebury. Just maybe, I write, in an effort to appease the winter gods for I do not wish to enrage them in with insolence. But for the last few days, we have been graced with a warm, radiant sun and our mountains of snow are slowly trickling away. Abandoning my circle scarf, I have walked with an upturned face, hoping to swallow as much Vitamin D as I can. I have even found an extra bounce in my step as I walk from classes to meetings to meals, as if the sun helps propel me through my day.

While winter on this campus renders Middlebury an absolute dream, the emergence of spring is irresistible. And I don’t know if we are there quite yet, but I look forward to a campus that has embraced spring. The Adirondack chairs return to Battell Beach, tables grace the outside patios of the dining halls, and students lounge between classes on whatever grassy patch they can find.

In addition to the weather, the spring always provides a jam-packed social schedule. Concerts, roller rinks, food festivals. As the sun returns from hibernation, the students follow suit.

While I am sure the snow gods will repay this post with another snow storm, the thought that spring is within reach puts a smile on my face.

Art, Art, and More Art

Last summer, I had the fortune of working in the Middlebury College Museum of Art as a full-time curatorial intern, alongside the Chief Curator of the Museum, Emmie Donadio. During my time at the museum, my main project was to help Emmie assemble two upcoming exhibitions, one on a number of Andy Warhol prints and the second on  street artists. Despite not having had a lot of exposure to contemporary art prior to last year, or perhaps because of it, working on these two exhibitions was an exciting and rewarding task that allowed me to see the nitty-gritty that goes on behind the scenes in a museum setting.

Now, more than five months later, both these exhibitions are on display at the College Museum. The first, containing 10 Andy Warhol prints gifted to the College by the artist’s foundation last spring, opened in the first week of January. Ranging in subject matter from his famed Campbell’s Soup Can to a flamboyantly coloured Mao to Queen Ntombi of Swaziland, this eclectic collection of uneditioned proofs are now a part of the College’s permanent collection. As an artist, Warhol is one of the most renowned household names in America, with one of the most prolific oeuvres of any artist in the 20th century. As such, doing research on Warhol was like staring into a bottomless pit of unanswerable questions. Scholars and commentators have studied and written on just about every facet of Warhol’s life and his art. Synthesizing all that information was one of the most challenging experiences of my summer. In the end, I distilled the information I researched into short and sweet wall labels, which tell viewers the significance of each work. Since the Warhol Foundation donated countless gifts to many educational institutions in recent years, 2015 is an especially busy year for Warhol exhibitions around the country.

The second exhibition that I worked on was “Outside In: Art from the Street”, mostly in its preliminary research. The exhibition, which takes up most of the upper floor of the museum, contains an incredible array of contemporary urban artists from around the world, including some of the biggest names in street and graffiti art today: Banksy, JR, Swoon, and Bäst. Nevertheless, these are street artists, and prints can only tell you so much about their talent and creativity. As such, the museum hired British street artist Ben Eine, whose work British Prime Minister Cameron gifted to President Obama in 2011 during a visit to the U.S., to paint a wall for the exhibition. To bring in an even more authentic taste of the street, a co-curator of the exhibition even went down to New York City to bring back the remains of an actual graffiti wall from the studio of the artist-team Faile.

With some of the biggest names of contemporary art right here on campus, it is indeed high time for art here at Middlebury. If you find yourself around town, be sure to check out both these exhibitions, which will be on view until Sunday, April 19.

Laundry and Waxing Poetic

Last night, I did my laundry. Laundry is one of those tasks that always takes me longer than I anticipate—I find folding especially challenging—and I always kind of resent it. Last night, however, I felt suddenly struck by the significance of the activity. There I stood, sorting my socks from my jeans in the basement of a dorm, chatting with a friend about laundry detergent. After putting my laundry in, I walked down the hall to sit down and read before heading up the hill to dinner with friends.

I suddenly realized the smallness of my radius of movement. It was absolutely miniscule. From a bird’s eye view, my days would look like laps from dining halls to classrooms to libraries. They would look like I was spinning in circles. I had never noticed that before because I had never actually felt bored. Well, in truth because I never have been bored.

Some might look at this situation—my small radius of movement—and find it stifling, and I think I would have agreed with them before this experience. But living in it, I so appreciate the tight-knit community of Middlebury. My change of heart stems from the realization that this is not just a close community; it’s brimming with resources and new experiences. Sometimes, I feel as if I am peeling back layers of potential—discovering rooms I did not know existed and people I have never met. Middlebury feels simultaneously supportive and expansive, as if despite my extreme comfort here, I could keep discovering new things. This sensation of never-ending newness comes from the energy of the people who comprise this community. Certainly, Middlebury does not constantly keep hiding new rooms or strangers around campus. Rather, students, staff, and professors bring exciting new ideas to campus. Whether it’s a new club, class, or a new way to use a space, innovation renews Middlebury everyday.

I probably will always dislike laundry, but Middlebury sure is a great place to do it.

Winter Hiking

As a south-Floridian, I don’t really define myself as a “winter person.” I really like the heat, the sunshine, the rain, and the comfort of sandals. Being raised in a place of constant summer meant major adjustments were to be made during the long winters at Middlebury. I had to buy socks that covered my ankles and were as thick as my pinky finger; I had to learn to walk on icy sidewalks; and I had to find the joys and comforts of that once foreign season that would define about half of each academic year. I had to find that “invincible summer” within the cold, beautiful winter in the mountains.

Last year I thought the best way to do this was to simply get outside. My friend Emma and I ran to a local mountain (Snake Mountain), did a 2mile sunrise hike, and ran/hitch-hiked back.* It was quite the adventure and oodles of fun. But for some reason, I didn’t go for another hike until Spring. With that in mind and my relatively indoor-driven J-term, I decided to revive my winter adventuress within me: I signed up for a Middlebury Mountain Club (MMC) sunrise hike.

MMC hosts tons of different outdoor opportunities throughout the semesters. You can go kayaking, rock-climbing ice-climbing, camping, winter-camping, sunrise-hiking, hiking, etc. Most trips are free and entirely funded by the club. Because of that, students sign up for trips on an individual basis. So you never know who could be on your next trip! It’s a great way to get outdoors and meet some new friends.

I signed up for a winter-sunrise-hike of Mount Philo this past week. at 5:00am I showed up to Adirondack Circle to meet eight bright-eyed and bushy tailed students who were as crazy as me to go hiking in 15 degree weather. Kent and Parker were the trip leaders, trained Mountain Club guides who ensured that I would be taken care of if I froze from hypothermia. Kent also provided micro-spikes for all of us newbies who didn’t own our own pair. (If you are now thinking you are a newbie based on your lack of knowledge of micro-spikes, micro-spikes go over your shoes so that you have better traction and grip while hiking in the snow. They are great.)

After a twenty minute drive and a mild hike to the top, we saw an awesome view of the awakening neighboring towns:
Mt. Philo
…but no sun. Turns out Mt. Philo faces West and the clouds were too thick for any westward reflection. Regardless, it was a great way to kick of the first Thursday of Spring semester!  And the group of us wants to go back for a sunset hike this spring.

 

*A great story of friendship between Middlebury students and two local high-schoolers. Snake

“What did you do over your Febmester?”

It’s that most splendid time of year again…THE FEBS ARE HERE! What’s a Feb you may ask? Well, here’s a link for some of the logistics: http://www.middlebury.edu/admissions/apply/february but to really know the Feb program, you need to know the Febmester. Currently at the forefront of everyone’s minds—Feb and Reg (September admission) alike—is that age old question: “What did you do over your Febmester?”

Each Feb is given the incredible opportunity to take a Febmester, which is like a gap year but only eight months in length. The best part of the Febmester? What you decided to spend your eight months doing is entirely up to you. It’s a chance for you go somewhere or learn something you had always wanted to but couldn’t find the time for in high school. It’s a chance for you to learn a new language in a foreign country, hike a trail that challenges every part of your mental and physical endurance, or reconnect with family that fell to the side when SAT prep, band rehearsal, and soccer practice reigned supreme. It’s a chance to take something you’ve always found interesting and turn it into your greatest passion or discover something you never thought of trying before. For me, the Febmester was the perfect time to get my first job and learn how to play the guitar on the side. I had never had time for a job before, and I really wanted to enter Middlebury having had that particular kind of responsibility.

And what is ultimately most wonderful about the Febmester is the stories you bring with you to campus in February. By the time February comes, Febs are so excited to finally be at Middlebury, they want to learn everything about each other. Febmester stories are not only a great way to break the ice during orientation, but they’re also a way for you to tell people what you love to do, who you are when you’re not at school. It’s amazing how the Febmester stories simultaneously make every single one of us unique and bring us all together to unify the class. I have many friends who spent their Febmesters hiking long, involved trails, and those who hiked in Spain have a lot to share with those who hiked in the US. Those who went abroad to Italy have a lot to talk about with those who went abroad to South Africa, because even though the cultures are hugely different, the experience of being in a strange country with new food, new customs, and, often, a new language builds friendships that last not only your four Middlebury years, but also far beyond graduation.

There are countless perks of being a Feb, but the Febmester—both the experience and the way it aids in your transition to Middlebury—is by far one of the most special pieces of Feb life.

The Last Day of the Last J-Term

After having a hectic fall of research projects, senior seminars, and job applications, this J-term felt wonderfully free. Firstly, I was able to add the class “Bollywood and Beyond” so I spent my month watching Shah Rukh Khan dance around the Swiss Alps in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Amitabh Bachchan restore his honor in the name of justice in Sholay, and Nargis embody post-Independence India in Mother India. In addition to watching these fantastic films, we learned about the religious epics, polarized politics, and social conventions that inform these movies. For my final paper, I read Devdas, a short story written in 1917 by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, which has since spawned 12 film versions of the same story over the past century. After reading the story that began the legacy, I watched Bimal Roy’s Devdas from 1955 and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s version from 2002, noting the differences in nostalgia, melodrama, and aesthetics.

Needless to say, I was in my academic and personal element.

In addition to immersing myself in this facet of Indian culture, I also took moments to enjoy my last J-term. Twice a week, I attended my “Yoga and Meditation” workshop, taking time to strengthen, stretch, and soothe the body. Additionally, with four other friends, I took a workshop called “Art of Tea: Tasting and Sustainably Sourced Loose Leaf Tea (and Chocolate).” We sampled green teas from China, matcha tea from Japan, and of course, we ended the session with a Chai tea from India. We ate white chocolate lavender bark, mocha snacks, and LoFi chocolate with each of the teas, all in the soothing, warm Stone Leaf Tea House.

In between yoga, tea tasting, and movie watching, I headed out to California for my cousin’s wedding for the weekend. I lounged in the pool, ate fresh tortillas tacos, and danced the night away with cousins and aunts and uncles. The wedding was a perfect interlude to reconnect with my family and some happy California sun.

At the end of the month, I was a little sad to say goodbye to J-term. It was the perfect time for me to explore an area of interest I do not normally during the semester. For the month, I was able to engross myself in Bollywood extravaganzas, subtle teas and chocolates, and some quality family time. The end of J-term also heralds the beginning of spring, my last semester as a Middlebury College student. Stayed tuned for exciting adventures next semester!

The Oratorio

One of the four classes that every Middlebury first year takes during their first semester is a first year seminar, a writing intensive class capped at 15 students designed to prepare students for the writing-intensive Middlebury curriculum. Each fall, around 40 seminars are offered for our September admits, ranging from The Art and Life of Andy Warhol to Literature in Exile to The Geology of National Parks to The Story of Geometry. My first seminar, elegantly titled Oratory: Winning the Soul with Words, was one of the most academically transformative experiences of my Middlebury career.

Taught by theatre professor Dana Yeaton, the seminar was divided into three parts. During the first part, we read Aristotle’s book “On Rhetoric” and studied the theoretical components of constructing a powerful speech. The middle third of the class was focused on reading great speeches throughout history, from Pericles’ Funeral Oration to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to MLK’s I Have a Dream. During the last few weeks of class, we wrote and delivered a number of our own speeches, culminating in a TED Talk presentation.

The class was incredibly rewarding precisely because it was unlike anything I had ever done before, or after, for that matter. Since it was the first time he had taught the class, Professor Yeaton experimented with different methods of teaching and various kinds of assignments. He always brought an energy to the room that made the 75 minutes fly by in the blink of an eye. And because of the personal nature of our final TED Talks, the 15 of us got to know each other very well by the end of the semester.

In the January following that fall semester, Professor Yeaton invited a few of us from the seminar to participate in the College’s annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration in Mead Chapel, an evening of song, dance, and oratory that commemorates the life of the civil rights hero. Together with a few other theatre students, we performed a condensed reading of MLK’s famous I Have a Dream speech. Relying on the projection of our voice and the acoustics in the chapel, we tried to capture, without microphones, the cadence of King’s speech and project its power to the standing-room only crowd. We even added a touch of Middlebury flair by reciting one section of the speech in various foreign languages.

This past Martin Luther King Day, I returned to the chapel to watch the oratorio for the first time since I participated in it three years ago. Professor Yeaton helped direct the show again, this time with students from his Speechmaker’s Studio J-Term class and members of the newly formed Oratory Society. Together, they read a series of quotes from MLK and other civil rights leaders to begin the show and like us, performed a reading of the I Have a Dream speech. Sitting in the pews, with a tinge of nostalgia, I felt incredibly proud of how much Professor Yeaton’s oratory program has grown at Middlebury. This was the second year in a row that he has offered the Speechmaker’s Studio as a J-Term class, attracting students ranging from political science majors to varsity skiers to international first years. His Oratory Society hosted an “oratory slam” in the fall and conducts workshops open to anyone wishing to improve their public speaking skills.

In his quest to bring public speaking to the fore of the liberal arts curriculum, Professor Yeaton has struck a chord with students who recognize the importance of that skill in today’s digitally connected world. The oratory program is yet another example of how the liberal arts continues to evolve here at Middlebury.

Train Tracks

I am having a very unique J-term experience this year as I am working on an independent film project with a few buddies. We are writing, producing, filming, and editing the entire project together from start to finish! It has been amazing to take on an intrinsically motivated project in which we have full control. It has also provided great learning moments of figuring out the simultaneously frustrating and magical aspects of organizing day long shoots that are filled with hilarity and unexpected hiccups along the way.

In addition to my independent film project this semester, my other registered course I am taking is martial arts. It is an introductory P.E. course in which the class is learning the art of Tae Kwon Do on Wednesday nights.  Our first night was amazing as the class was a combination of sweaty grossness. Throughout the class, our instructor reiterated to us that the two most important aspects of learning Tae Kwon Do is 1) stand as if you are on a train track and 2) never watch your feet but watch your target. Both mantras I aimed to accomplish during my final J-term. I really felt grounded this month which in some ways proved to be quite the exhilarating experience. Finding my train tracks for the month also helped me spend time with some of my friends who graduated this morning and really hone in on my goodbyes to some amazing people. Watching my target was something that came more natural for me. I am someone who will self-describe as being extremely focused on the necessary task at hand. I did push myself to redefine what the target is for me for my last semester. I spent the month really exploring the kinds of places I’d like to be in the next year or so and the kind of people I hope to surround myself with in the coming months.

Saying goodbye to this final J-term is bittersweet but I feel like I am more than just chugging along and am enthused about taking senior year at full speed ahead.

One Pen Explosion and Two Floods of Tea

Yesterday, I took the comprehensive exam for my major, Literary Studies. For the last month, I have reviewed the work of over thirty authors. I spent about 100 hours studying and meeting with other students and professors to discuss the texts. I used three stacks of sticky notes, I dried out four highlighters, and I filled two notebooks with plot summaries, analysis, and outlines. I suffered one pen explosion and two floods of tea across my work.

Although all of these elements make up my month, I really cannot quantify my experience. I have never felt so committed and engrossed in my studies. My commitment did not find its source in professorial oversight, however. I had so much freedom to study the way I wanted to! I managed all my own time, and my fellow seniors and I planned our own curriculum. Some of our best classes occurred when no professor came to join our discussion. Instead, we examined and considered the texts amongst ourselves, participating in illuminating and riotous conversations about the nature of reality and fate and literature. I always thought that given that much freedom, my work ethic would surely crumble. But it turns out I actually am a self-starter! That’s not just something I write on my resume. I so valued the chance to collaborate with my peers and really get to know them intellectually and personally. Because of the opportunity to direct my own studies, I really feel pride in my hard work. That feeling of ownership will never wear off.

Sometimes, I get a little caught up in my extracurricular activities and my outdoor adventures, but at the end of the day, I came to Middlebury to study. This month, I have studied harder and more effectively than ever before. Now, I just have to write my thesis…

American College Theatre Fesival

J-Term is an awesome Middlebury tradition that allows students to enjoy a alternate form of study for a month. That alternate form of study can be just one class that meets almost every day, an internship, an independent study,  or one of the numerous opportunities available for students during this really special time of the academic year. During my time at Middlebury I have used my J-Term’s to attend the American College Theatre Festival. Each year Middlebury sends roughly 8 acting nominees, a few costume designers, and usually 1 or 2 playwrites to compete in this festival.

Those that attend spend the entirety of our J-Term working hard on our material so that it is audition ready on the first day of competition. Audition type performances are tough because there are a lot of feelings when one enters an audition room. The room is unfamiliar, you know you’re trying to make a good impression, you hope the scene goes well, and you have only three minutes to show them your stuff. Kind of terrifying, but ultimately kind of fun.

No matter whether we win or lose, ACTF is always a joy to be a part of. You get to spend your J-Term working with very talented people, doing scenes tirelessly, and always finding room to improve. You get the opportunity to travel with members of your department and all compete against each other, and then as people get moved on and others don’t, support each other with fervor.

The first time I went I was a freshman. I was so excited to be working so seriously with older members of the department and having the opportunity to have such serious acting conversations with the faculty. I loved spending time with the older majors and I got to know them and thus got to know the department. I felt welcomed, excited and part of this big thing with my new theatre family. I hope in some ways as a senior on this trip I can provide a similar experience for the underclassmen with us today.

So cross your fingers that a Middlebury student will win!