Category Archives: Vermont

Moving Out

In the senior year there is constant talk of the next step–where we’ll all go from here and what we’ll do after we leave Middlebury.  But those are scary thoughts no one likes to think about.  Instead, I think we should all spend our last year (and maybe even all four years) moving out, not moving on.

As a Vermonter, I know many different Vermonts.  What does this mean?  It means the Middlebury way of life is not the only way of life you find if you drive around the state, especially to those areas that are far more rural.  There is so much to be enjoyed about Vermont, so many different people from different backgrounds.  You don’t always expect that from such a rural location, but I think getting to know the greater Vermont is an essential part of the Middlebury College experience.  It would be a shame to spend all four years in only one kind of Vermont when there are so many with which to fall in love.

The Middlebury College community recently came back from Fall Break.  Because Fall Break isn’t a full week, only Saturday through Tuesday, many students don’t go home and decide to stay at school and enjoy Vermont without quite as much homework.  Some students take this time to explore Vermont more fully.  Whether it’s spending three days in the Green Mountains surrounded by Vermont’s four-legged residences, going to a small B&B in the southern part of the state for a night, or finding a Vermont friend with whom to go home for the weekend, there are endless ways one can get to know the greater state.  A day trip to Montpelier can show you what it means to be the only U.S. state capital without a McDonald’s, or a trek up to the Northeast Kingdom (a personal favorite of mine) can show you firsthand what almost 1.5 million acres of farmland looks like when covered in autumn leaves.

Middlebury is a beautiful place filled with people who have lived and worked in Vermont their entire lives, people who are only here for four years, people who thought this was temporary but absolutely had to make it home, and everything in between.  It’s a diverse place filled with thousands of unique stories, and that only gets more exciting and more varied as you move around the state.  If you meet a Middlebury student from Vermont, you’ll likely find he or she has a lot of other Vermont Middkid friends, because we like to revel in our shared experiences, but you’ll also find that our upbringings are very different depending on the region of Vermont in which we grew up.  Where I’m from, we have farms on farms on farms, but I have a friend from Burlington–the largest city in the state–who thinks of Lake Champlain as home.  We grew up in two very different versions of Vermont, but we love it all the same.

So in this time of thinking about what’s next, I like to remind myself, and those around me, to think about what’s right now and how we can spend this time enjoying and exploring the beautiful state Middlebury students call home.

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.

Save the shoes

It is beautiful and snowy.  It is that time of year when you see skis resting outside of classroom doorways anxiously awaiting the student that has the efficient plan to meet the shuttle bus at ADK right after class. Many of us have done this: wake up, pack bag for school, pack ski bag, pack a snack, attend class, hit the slopes. Both nordic and downhill lovers are privy to the prompt bus shuttle schedule from the Middlebury campus up to either Bread Loaf for some cross-country ski fun or the Snow Bowl for some shoop shoop shooping in that fresh pow pow.

Speaking of pow pow (powder in colloquial terms), we currently have some beautiful pow pow. A few feet in fact. The west coast may be the best coast but the east is beast. I have skied on the east coast my entire life and we currently have some of the best conditions I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. However, when the wintery fluff turns to a wintery mix there can be issues.

Mainly, footwear. I made the mistake today of seeing the clear and crisp morning sky and deciding that the paths were clear enough to wear a cuter and more spring like pair of boots. Rookie mistake. As I sat in my political science seminar on US and Latin American Relations my heart sank…straight to my boots. It had begun to snow and not just a light dusting but a proper snow that meant I was about to be slipping and sliding on my way to Environmental Economics across campus. Not only was the potential embarrassment of a wipeout on my mind (we have all done it, it is a right of passage really), but these poor boots were about to get a beating.

Alas, they are only boots and alas I am a senior who should know better. Every now and again it is fun to walk on the wildside and slip on the waterslide.

It got cold

Every year around this time a similar phenomenon happens at Middlebury. While we know it is coming, it inevitably always is a slight surprise: it gets cold.

The other morning I woke up and it was 7 degrees. Granted, this is particularly cold for November, but not unheard of. I happened to be driving up to Burlington that day when I passed a local middle school. They had one of the those signs that displays the name of the school, and space to post various announcements in change-able letters. Instead of the usual notifications like dates for Thanksgiving break or congratulations to the district choir champions, this sign said just one simple phrase: Pray for Snow!

Oftentimes when people are visiting Middlebury, particularly those from warmer climates, the weather causes them a lot of anxiety. It does indeed get very cold here, but unlike a lot of places that get equally cold, the winter brings excitement in Vermont in a way it does in few other places. I am from Philadelphia. In Philly it gets pretty much just as cold and snows some, but most people consider the cold a drag and the snow a headache. In Vermont, the cold is exciting because it means snow is not far behind.

While I still don’t identify as someone who loves the cold, when I am in Vermont I find myself praying for snow a little bit too.

Movin’ and Groovin’

This Saturday, the Middlebury athletic fields buzzed with activity. Starting in the middle of campus, the men’s tennis team kicked off the weekend with rounds of singles and doubles matches all day. Winding past the athletic center, women’s field hockey picked up their first win of the weekend and cheers of victory sounded from both the men’s and women’s soccer fields. The  cross country team hosted their only home meet of the season and swept the top finishing spots. Even the men’s golf team played and won on home turf.

A little farther off campus, I was competing in my own sporting event – of sorts. To kick off senior year with a flourish, a group of my friends and I signed up for the Vermont Color Vibe  run in Vergennes. The purpose of this 5k is twofold. One, it benefits a Vermont charity Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a camp  catered to children who have, or have had, cancer. Second (and I have to admit this was the driving factor in our signup), you get to throw paint all over your best friends while getting a little exercise. What better excuse to wake up early on a Saturday morning and support a local charity?

Despite my initial excitement at the idea, my sleepy self was skeptical when we pulled up to the race to the tune of “Gangum Style” at 8:30 in the morning. But once we got out of the car, the spirit of the event and all the brightly costumed Vermonters was absolutely infectious. We picked up our powdered paint packets and set to work tie-dying our white t-shirts. Parents, children, fluffy white dogs, and a large representation of the Middlebury swim team, laughed, danced, and painted their way to the finish line in waves of colorful enthusiasm.

All in all, it was a winning day for the Panthers and a vibrant start to a year of senior bucket lists. I’m already looking forward to the next Vermont adventure!

What Do You Do For Fun Here?

 

Speaking of concerts… I always get the question from prospective students, “What do you guys do for fun here?” And I get it. The idea of a college in a small town in Vermont does not sound like the most “happening” place in the world and initially looking at colleges, I was worried about the same thing. I had friends who had already committed to schools in the city because there would be “so much to do all the time.” However, I distinctly remember a current student telling me during my preview days, “Yeah, the great thing about Middlebury is that either the school brings cool things here or the students make cool things happen.” And the thing is… she was totally right.

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Another thing I have loved about being on this campus is how much is always going on here because of a few things:
1. 98% of students live on campus so everything is happening right here
2. This is a student body that is constantly creating events with such innovation and drive
3. The school is always in support of these student initiatives. If you have a speaker, band, performing artist, comedian (you name it) that you want to bring to campus, with a little bit of organization, it isn’t that difficult to make it happen.

The beginning of this semester totally showcased this point. In one weekend, we had WRMC (student radio station on campus)’s spring music festival Sepomana, which brought rocking indie bands like Baths, Delicate Steve, and Rubblebucket. The next night, a benefit concert was thrown with Middlebury’s very own Alpen Glow opening for Anya Marina while at the Hepburn Zoo, an improv group brought PULSE, a 10-Person percussion group to perform. After this, one house hosted a 1950’s high school dance with a student band playing live. Whoo.

And best thing about it, rather than some concert in a city, I get to be dancing with all my friends throughout.

Alpenglow In Studio from WRMC 91.1FM on Vimeo.

 

Finding home

One of my first weekends at Middlebury, a friend and I ran up Chipman Hill. As we reached the top, both of us grew quiet. Taking in the vast expanses of the patchwork landscape – the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west – I stood in awe of the place I would grow to call home for the next four years.

From my freshman year, the combination of the natural beauty of Addison County and a curiosity to understand it led me to the study of Conservation Biology. Throughout the campus, and especially as an Environmental Studies major, we often engage in conversations around sustainability. As a budding ecologist, climate activist, and a steward of our natural world at Middlebury, sustainability is more than an oft-repeated buzzword across Admissions brochures. It’s a guiding principle we live every day.

Derived from the Latin word sustinere – to hold up, support, and endure – sustainability at Middlebury is a forward thinking principle that acknowledges the future consequences of today’s human impacts, the interconnectedness of natural and human communities, and the moral obligation to support future generations.

Take my BIOL 0302 class, Vertebrate Natural History with Steve Trombulak. You wake up at 5 in the morning. It’s pitch black. You slowly crawl out of bed, throw on as much wool as you can find, and walk into the biting cold to set out mist-nets. Minutes later you’ll walk the lanes of nets, hold in your hand a Black-capped chickadee, a White-throated sparrow, or maybe a bright red male Northern cardinal. That same afternoon you might go out to Lewis Creek to electrofish or set up Sherman traps to collect a flying squirrel in Cornwall. Or take BIOL 323, Plant Community Ecology, when we hiked through the old-growth hemlock-pine forest of the Battell Research Forest, measured the invasion of European buckthorn and Eurasian bush honeysuckle, and traced the changes in forest composition along an altitudinal gradient.

At Middlebury, our professors do not treat us as students in the traditional sense, but as apprentices in the craft of each field of study. Middlebury students are budding mathematicians and economists, future surgeons and psychologists, or emerging marine biologists. When we learn about how to protect species diversity, conserve natural habitat, and protect wildlife corridors, or the importance of breeding grounds, pollinators, and seed dispersal pathways, this knowledge is not theoretical. It is the work of the future.

All Environmental Studies majors participate in a capstone seminar course which is both project based and in conjunction with a community partner. The theme of this spring’s senior seminar is “issues in transboundary sustainability.” I’m working with a team of five other ES majors each with a unique focus. We are students of political science, economics, biologists, and geographers looking to understand the cross-jurisdictional regional prevention of aquatic invasive species in Lake Champlain. While our professors and community partners are here to guide us with academic support, resources, and expertise, the whole project is ours. Inspired and enriched by this project-based philosophy, we are able to pursue solutions with curiosity, self-discovery, and collaboration.

Four years after beginning my study of conservation biology, the top of Chipman Hill is more familiar. What was once a vast expanse of space has been transformed into place, both personal and specific.

When I arrived at Middlebury, I fell in love with the forested landscape of Vermont with no real regard for its natural history, inhabitants, or processes. Four years later, Addison County is no longer a “landscape” but a place, endowed with value and meaning as I have experienced more attachment to this community. Walking around campus bird songs are no longer undifferentiated calls as I have learned the tones and rhythms of their chirpings. The forest is no longer filled with “trees” but individual species, each with taxonomic nomenclature and natural history. At the top of Chipman Hill, I no longer only see a view, but become a part of what Aldo Leopold pens as the sensory experience of the “theatre of evolution.”

I never thought I’d ever call going back to Middlebury “coming home.”

The Bucket List

            I have taken it upon myself to use this blog not only to inform you – the reader – about what Middlebury has to offer, but also to remind myself of what it has offered me, and will continue to offer me long after I graduate.  However, as I start my senior year it is hard for me to focus on the things that I have accomplished here at Middlebury, instead I find myself focusing on what I have not yet done.  Perhaps this comes from every Midd Kid’s biggest weakness; FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out.  It’s a constant problem at a school like this, how do you choose between the dozens of weekly musical acts, speakers, and other performers?  How do I choose between the over 150 student clubs and organizations offered?  Worst of all, how do I choose what to do now, when I have less than 9 months to do it?  Because of these pesky questions that I keep asking myself I decided to create a senior year bucket list style top ten of things that I NEED to do before I graduate. 

 

 

10. Apple picking

Yeah I know, what have you done with your life Kyle?  But in all seriousness I have not yet gone apple picking since I started to live in Vermont. 

 

9. Epic snowball fight on Battell Beach (keyword: EPIC)

            EPIC!

 

8. See the Dalai Lama speak, live, in Nelson Arena, at Middlebury College

I really just wanted to talk about how I’m going to see the Dalai Lama speak in a few weeks, to quote myself from earlier in this post… “EPIC!”

 

7. Vermont Brewery Passport Tour

            Finally 21, and Vermont is considered one of the best beer making states in the country

 

6. Learn how to ski (well settle for falling 3 times or less on the bunny slope)

Not only does Middlebury have its very on ski mountain, but also free shuttles that continually go there all day during J-term.  This is the year I finally conquer my fears, or fall trying

 

5. Make maple syrup

How awesome would it be to put YOUR own maple syrup on pancakes, waffles, or just about anything else.  There must be somewhere in Vermont that I can make this dream a reality.

 

4. Take a dance class

The liberal arts for me have been about trying new things, and dance is something that would be very new to me.  However, I have true potential, or so I tell myself.  I’m pretty sure my awesome rhythm and plethora of awesome dance moves make me the perfect candidate to be a dance prodigy.  Also this may be the last time I can take a dance class that will be taught at this caliber.

 

3. Feb myself – this won’t happen, but a man can dream

In my later years at Midd I have realized that perhaps I was born with some Febbish tendencies, it may be too late for me to realize my feb-potential, but I implore you to try it out for yourself.

 

2.  The Vermonster / Tour of the Ben and Jerry’s Factory

Ice cream, enough said.  But really Ben and Jerry’s factory is in Vermont and I havenot yet visited.  Not only can you tour the facility and receive free samples all day long, but you can even try and conquer the Vermonster – enough ice cream and toppings to feed an army of competitive eaters.

 

1. Go to Steve’s Diner on President Lebowitz’s tab

It’s one of the last things that seniors do before the graduate, so I figured that it is fitting for the number one thing I need to do before I graduate.

Fall Family Weekend

Fall Family Weekend is coming! As a senior, my parents will be making it up to Middlebury for their first Family Weekend of my undergraduate career. It’ll be the last time they’re here before graduation weekend, and since there won’t be much time at graduation for them to see the campus and surrounding area, I’m hoping to make the most of it this weekend. So I’ve got quite the itinerary planned.

My parents are staying at a hotel in Vergennes, about 15 minutes north of Middlebury. I’ve always liked Vergennes. It is the “smallest city in America”—Vermont has a unique system of classifying cities and towns, meaning that tiny Vergennes with 2000 people gets to hold the title. Last year in one of my classes, Separation of Church and State with Professor James Davis, my class re-enacted a real life debate that had been going on in Vergennes, about the placement of a crèche in the city square. And, like most other towns around here, Vergennes is quaint, Vermont-y, and fun to walk around.

So on Friday afternoon I plan on taking the ACTR bus up to Vergennes. The Addison County Transit Resources is the Middlebury area’s fantastic system of local transit—free shuttles run constantly around Middlebury College and through town, and ACTR also offers bus service to Burlington and to some of the towns surrounding Middlebury. Last J-Term, I took the ACTR bus to Burlington every morning and evening to get to an internship there. The ACTR also places a heavy emphasis on green transit options.

So I’ll be taking the bus up to Vergennes, walking around town with my parents for a few hours, and then joining them for dinner at Black Sheep Bistro, a restaurant there specializing in delicious local foods. Vermont has a really wonderful food culture, and almost every medium-sized town surrounding Middlebury (Vergennes, Bristol, Brandon, etc.) features at least one or two truly excellent restaurants, most specializing in eclectic local fare.

I’ve got a full day planned for Saturday, too. We’ll start off at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, a few miles from Middlebury. Apparently grape-growing is an increasingly popular pursuit here in northern New England, and Lincoln Peak has wine tastings—being 21, this will be a fun activity with my parents. Afterwards, we’ll head out for a hike. I haven’t quite decided which we’ll do yet—there are dozens of great hikes in the area. A student favorite is Snake Mountain, which provides outstanding westward-looking views of the Champlain Valley, Lake Champlain, and beyond those the Adirondack Mountains of New York. During fall in Vermont, any of these hikes will be spectacular.

We’ll end Saturday with a dinner at Fire and Ice, a restaurant in downtown Middlebury, and hopefully spend the evening  enjoying each other’s company.

On Sunday morning, my parents and I will spend the day on campus. In the morning, Middlebury College Hillel will be having a Family Weekend Bagel Brunch. Hillel is the Jewish student organization on campus, and has been a very important part of my life at Midd. It will be great for my parents to meet some of my friends in Hillel and to learn more about what we do. I know it’s important to them, just like it is to me. In the afternoon, we’ll walk around campus. I’ll show them my dorm, a few places where I have classes or where extracurricular activities meet, and introduce them to some of my friends. They’ll head out in the evening, and I’ll give them a goodbye hug that has to last until Thanksgiving.

As you can see, I’m excited to share this place with my parents—there is a lot to do, and this will be a fun and busy weekend. Moreover, though, I want to share this place with my parents because their love and support is the reason I’m here, and I want to give them a taste of what my life at Midd is like. While they have seen the campus, it’s been a couple of years.  And I hope that seeing the places I frequent will let them know that I am using my time here well, enjoying myself, learning, and keeping busy.

See you on Friday, Mom and Dad!