Tag Archives: students

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.

Middlebury Student Bloggers

Midd students are opinionated and enjoy sharing their opinions with others.  This fosters lively class discussions as well as countless high-quality student-run blogs.  I’d like to use this post to promote just a few of them.

MiddBlog is Middlebury’s blog for students by students.  Their latest features a letter from Tik Root, the Middlebury student who just returned to the US after being held for two weeks in a Syrian jail after being detained at a demonstration in Damascus.  MiddBlog is great to get a perspective on what is being discussed on campus and provides links to the blogs of other students and administrators.

21CB describes itself as “a fresh, thoughtful voice on the current affairs, popular culture, and web trends of Asia and the Asian diaspora.”  This blog was founded by a Middlebury senior from HK and features contributions from several other Midd students, all of whom have a background in Asia.  (Full disclosure: several of my friends are contributors).

And now for some shameless self-promotion: This blog originated as a project for a seminar I took in the fall, International Order in the 20th Century with Prof. James Morrison.  The blog hosts a podcast series in which three classmates and I discuss some of the key issues from class.  What is the nature of order (and disorder) in the international system?  What is the role of state sovereignty in the context of international integration?  What will the rise of China mean for the structure of the international system?  We discuss these questions and more over the course of five podcasts.

Back to 101: Why intros are great

Well, the official course number is actually ECON 155, Introductory Microeconomics. Regardless of what the course number is, I’m the only senior in a class of what is surely over 75% first-years. I need the class to fill a grad school requirement, and plus, I’m interested in it, too.

Apart from generally feeling like a bit of a grandpa in such a sea of  youth (even though I’m sure at least someone in the class is older than me in age), the first two weeks of class have been a fun reminder for me of how exciting–academically and socially–being a first-year is.

As I start the second semester of my thesis and my eighth semester of college (ahh!), I’ve already identified this as the class that will keep me engaged and motivated until the very end. Here’s why:

New people! Halfway through our lectures when we break off into pairs or small groups to work on practice problem sets, most people are already sitting with friends nearby and thus divide themselves easily. Even though I, two weeks ago, didn’t know but one person in the class, I’ve now re-acclimated to that outgoing spunk and interest in meeting new people that I remember having, too, as a first-year, and I’ve made a few new friends and study-buddies for when midterm exams roll around (so soon!). It’s been a good checkpoint for me in making sure that I stay open to new people and friends, even if I am a senior heading out in just a few short months.

New subjects! Economics, even more than its other social science sister subjects, holds a lot of explanatory power about the world. Since it’s an introductory-level class, ECON 155 is the first venture into the discipline for many students. Each class period, Prof. Jessica Holmes (a truly great teacher–and I run into her at the pool sometimes, too!) leads us through a lot of “Aha!” moments and does a great job of helping the class connect basic theory with how the world works. Students’ intellectual excitement is tangible, as many already foresee their futures in business, and others, like me, plan to use econ in the international policy sphere.

Learning moments. Not to say that I’m categorically smarter than first-years, but, fact of the matter is, I do have all but one credit that I need in order to claim a B.A. from Middlebury, and for, say, the new Febs in the class, they’re just getting started. Collaborating on problem sets with underclassmen, I get to contribute the critical thinking and communication skills I’ve been working on these four years, and my younger study partners contribute their perspectives and curiosities that help everyone learn more.

So, although at times, I might feel antiquated, grandfather-y, and generally out of the hip-and-new-up-and-coming-pop-culture loop in my last-semester 101 (who’s this Justin Bieber character..?), being relatively old doesn’t mean I still can’t do some of the academic heavy lifting. Just ask this dude:

Man lifting weights

More than Breakfast

One of the things that I have been most blessed with during my time at Middlebury has been good conversation.  The pace of work and life here is surprisingly fast in such a quiet surrounding, but what continues to refresh me are my conversations here.

The most genuine conversation I’ve had lately came from the most unexpected source.  I walked into Ross dining hall, book in hand to read for a quiz in Education in America.  After doing a full circle around to see what was up for grabs for breakfast decided to start with coffee before anything else.  Let me point out that I am a firm believer that breakfast can and often needs to be a working meal.  It’s my time to wake up and to finish up whatever last bit of reading I just almost finished last night.   Depending on how much sleep I can sometimes go from standard politeness to even friendly, something my mother would tell you has taken me long to learn.  I suppose I was being particularly friendly Thursday morning as I said hello to a classmate because he decided to join me at my table.  Ignoring the reading material that I had brought with me, he sat with a full plate of French toast sticks and we began to talk about the Sociology of Tourism senior seminar that we are taking together.

We talked about the professor, the class dynamic and even a touch of the reading material – all standard small talk.  I continued to sip from my coffee cup, prepared with an out whenever the cup came to an end, but somehow by the time I hit the bottom of it we were talking about our paths into our chosen majors, what both rich and poor colleges have to offer students, our frustrations and our hopes for the future.  We talked about ways in which we’ve shaped our own educations and moments where maybe we should have done that more.  It almost doesn’t matter what we talked about, but the quality of our conversation convinced me to sit down with food as well and stay to continue it rather than just politely ducking out.

I’ve never been a morning person, but given that this was not my only great breakfast conversation of the week Middlebury just might inspire me to wake up with the sun.  Where else would I have the chance to sit with a fifth-generation Vermonter and talk about the distinct advantages of rich and poor colleges or talk to a Hong-Kong born Australian about the identity and future of ethnic enclaves?

Family Tree

Back in the day when I was a little elementary school-er I remember having multiple assignments about “family”.  One in particular was creating my family tree.  For me, that usually included my immediate family and my extended family (i.e. grandparents, aunts, uncles, and many cousins).  Once, I got super into the assignment and traced my lineage back to ALL the European Royalty of the 11th century (lots of incest back then), boy did I think I was cool after that.  Since these assignments I haven’t thought much about my family lines. Of course, I still joke, as I always have, about my “brotha from anotha motha” which is one of my best friends from home, along with my “adopted sister” who has been my best friend for 16 years and counting.

But only recently, has my family really grown.  Now, what am I talking about? It all started with a picture taken at a retreat for Freshman earlier in the school year.  One of the retreat leaders and I posed for the photo along with two freshmen, both much taller and of different complexions than I.  Immediately after the picture was uploaded to Facebook, comments popped up.  “Look mami, papi, baby and baby,” one read; and so it began.

Quickly, the family grew adding sisters, parents, cousins, a family pet hamster named Pepito and even a “niece-n-law”, which included a very long conversation including diagrams and even charades explaining what that was to my suite-mate/sister.  My “daughter” even drew me a picture of our family tree which now hangs on a wall in our suite for all to see.  Our suite’s refrigerator even has my “kids'” assignments hanging to showcase their good grades.

Last weekend my friends came up to visit.  Both my worlds, the people that mean the most to me, combined.  My friends from my hometown were integrated into the Midd family tree.  My best friend became my children’s god mother and my other two friends became the “cool aunts.”  (Have I gone overboard yet?)

It has always been hard for me to be away from my friends back home, yet as I went from year to year here at Middlebury it is clear that not only are my friends here just as special, but they also are willing and wanting to add to “the family”.  You don’t find that everywhere.  I am so lucky to be here at Middlebury sharing my time with my family.  I look forward to our time together and seeing my family continue to grow.