Reflections on Arabic Language School + Egypt-Jordan Study Abroad

By Zeke Caceres

Speaking, listening, reading and writing strictly in Arabic for two months seems like an incredibly daunting ordeal to put oneself through. Nevertheless, about two weeks ago, I successfully completed Middlebury’s Summer Language School program in Arabic. Undergrads, recent grads, young professionals, and even some who were well into their careers traveled to Middlebury’s Vermont campus as well as Mills College in Oakland, CA for six to eight weeks of intensive language study. At Mills, there were students studying Arabic, Japanese, French and Spanish. At Middlebury, students also pledged to only speak French, Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew, Russian, Italian, German, or Portuguese for the duration of the program. Until last Friday, “No English Spoken Here” became the motto the students of the Language School lived by in order to fully engage with and benefit from the immersive environment Middlebury creates for its students.

Having two years of experience with Arabic language study at Middlebury, I was placed into an advanced intermediate level course in which we used authentic Arabic sources to take a thematic approach at exploring the features which make the Arab world so rich, diverse, and complex. I attended Language School in hopes of expediting the learning process and reaching high proficiency in Arabic. Middlebury’s Arabic program attracted a supportive group of faculty and staff from all over the country and even from the Middle East. I believe the composition of the program reflected the geographic diversity within the Arabic department at Middlebury as well. For example, my freshman year alone I studied Arabic with Lebanese, Egyptian and Palestinian professors for the fall, winter and spring semesters, respectively. (Interestingly enough, as a sophomore, my Arabic professor for the year was a native of Colorado!) In hindsight, studying alongside enthusiastic individuals with a love and shared interest in the Middle East made for a unique and enriching experience.

Being a student of the Arabic School during the time of radical political change in the Middle East was equally eye-opening. When Egyptian military General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi officially announced on July 3rd that President Mohammed Morsi was no longer in power, faculty, staff and students from the Arabic School rushed into the dining hall cheering and chanting in celebration. Since I could only read the news in Arabic, I was generally uninformed of the political situation in Egypt and wondered what it would mean as I planned to study there this coming fall. As a Middle East Studies major with a focus in Political Science, it was inspiring to see how the Arabic School stood still for a moment as people engaged in lively conversation on what the ramifications of these events could be for Egypt.

Due to the violence that ensued in Egypt after the coup d’état, Middlebury decided to suspend its study abroad program in Alexandria. I was one of a dozen students planning on studying abroad in Egypt and soon had to transfer to the program in Amman, Jordan. Originally, I planned on dividing up my year abroad by studying in Egypt for the fall and Jordan in the spring. When I learned about Middlebury’s suspension of the program in Alexandria, I was initially upset to give up the opportunity to go to Egypt and arrange my travel to go to Jordan. Egypt is known for its great role in regional politics and culture; therefore, I was excited about the idea of visiting the country. I have met many people who carried Egypt close to their hearts and was disappointed to see the situation worsen. The rapid political transition from authoritarianism to democracy that followed the Arab Spring left many with optimism for the Egypt’s future. It saddens me to think what we are witnessing in Egypt currently may be a natural consequence to the Arab Spring and bring more instability to the region.

Today, I still keep a close eye on the news in the Egypt as I finalize my travel preparations for Jordan. After learning some of the Jordanian dialect at Arabic School and hearing from friends who had visited the country before, I am looking forward to my year abroad there. Prior to setting off for Jordan, I decided to return the Admissions Office here at the Emma Willard House for a couple weeks working as an intern. It has been wonderful to return back to Middlebury–which has become a home base for me these past two years–share my experiences with visiting families and prospective students through campus tours and discussions in the office on what this special institution has to offer.

Arabic School Professors Nizar Qabilat (left) from Jordan, Ikram Masmoudi (right) from Tunisia and I smile for the camera at our banquet dinner.

Celebrating the end of “No English Spoken Here” on my last day in the West Coast. These little monkeys sure seem to know how to keep a Language Pledge!

Things Along the Way

By: Nicolas Mendia

I never really understood why people road biked. Why get all hot and sweaty going from one place to another when you have a car that can get you there in a quarter of a time with no sweat? Even a motorcycle (although probably really dangerous on the winding roads of Vermont) seemed a more efficient alternative. Little did I know.

I was truthfully tricked into road biking. I was asked by a friend if I wanted to go on a bike ride after work one day and hastily agreed. Upon hearing bike ride, I thought: casual ride down the College Street hill towards the Organic Gardens followed by a nice long nap there. Instead, my friend brought me all the way out passed the baseball fields and I soon realized there were going to be no naps any time soon.

We ended up going along this path I can only describe as something from Amelie. Only with a lot more bugs. Still just as beautiful though because it was along the back end of Otter Creek. It was a pebbled path, and I grasped my handle bars with each bump but nonetheless was loving every minute of it.

We kept on going for another 20 miles and came past abandoned barns, apple orchards, pear orchards, an old English Manor, some of the most beautiful houses I have ever seen and lots and lots of cows.

I certainly came back sweaty. In between the English Manors and cows were a lot of really difficult hills to get up on a bike. I was very proud that I didn’t hop off my bike and walk it up any hills. I was also proud I did that. I’ve since been on a couple more road biking trips, one I did all on my own. Those trips have been some of the best parts of my Vermont Summer.





New Faces, New Places

By Katie Taylor

Summer here in the 802 has definitely been a different experience than my past summers in Oregon. We have had some pretty bizarre weather ranging from crazy intense thunderstorms to torrential down pours and now the blazing heat. One thing that remains the same each and every day is the amount of people who come to visit Middlebury for the first or second time! One of the best parts of working in the admissions office over the summer, by far, is having the ability to meet all the wonderful people who travel the distance to come and see Middlebury. It is so nice to be able to take the time and chat with the various visitors that we have. Some days you meet someone who has traveled from far away places like Switzerland or Taiwan, but you also get to meet more local people from New Hampshire and Vermont. Coming from a small town in Oregon, it always amazes me to think about where I am and who I am surrounded by every day. Each student that walks through our doors throughout the day has a unique story and situation and the fact that I have the ability to interact with them, even if it’s only a brief conversation, is a really amazing thought.


by Audrey Goettl

Introspection. This was the word on my mind as I transitioned from finishing my freshman year of college to starting my blissful three months of summer. My FYC (first year counselor – a sophomore who lived on my freshman hall and helped with everything) said that the most important thing that we should do with our summer was introspect. Yes, we had jobs and high school friends and vacations and families and lives that we would be returning to. Yes, Middlebury and freshman year and college and homework could fade from our thoughts as we enjoyed the summer sun and easy-living. And yes, it would be easy to put our college experience on the backburner without really digesting what it all meant… so what did it mean? I will be honest and say that I hadn’t really started this process of introspection until recently, but now that I’ve gotten into the groove of life on campus, I’ve been able to really piece together how my experiences during freshman year have impacted me. It’s been rewarding to look back on my year and find tangible moments that have changed me, moments that have affected me in ways good and bad but moments that have undoubtedly marked me and altered my perceptions and thoughts. There was Verbal Onslaught during freshman orientation, when my eyes welled up during a poetry reading because I knew in that moment that I had chosen to come to the right school. There was the time I failed my first calculus test and questioned if I had what it took to even be at Middlebury. There was skiing down a black diamond on the Snow Bowl for the first time, there was getting so sick that I had to miss classes for a week and catch up on all of my missed assignments. There was performing a scene from the movie Bridesmaids to a group of students and faculty members sitting on blankets outside on the grass. There was meeting my best friend. There was racing down the slip and slide on Battel beach during Midd Mayhem with my friends and throwing the Frisbee around afterwards. There were all of these moments that culminated together into what was my freshman year, my first year of college, my first year at Middlebury. And even though there were sad days, days of stress and missing home and feeling sick and feeling tired, the good days and the good memories made it all worth it. I’m sure that I have a lot more introspection to do, and I’m sure that as I dig more into what my freshman year really was I’ll feel an array of different emotions, not all good. But above all else, I am so thankful for my experiences at Middlebury and thankful for the person who I have become as a result of being at Middlebury, even if for only a year.

A New Perspective on Middlebury

Working in the Admissions Office this summer has been wonderful for a whole variety of reasons.  The experience of working in a real, bustling office environment and the wonderful community of friends at Admissions I’ve made have greatly exceeded my expectations.  Moreover, some of the more specific functions of my job have given me a fascinating and wholly positive new  perspective on Middlebury through the eyes of some of its most senior faculty and staff.  As a Tour Guide Coordinator, part of my work over the summer involves updating the office on all the countless changes that happen to the programs and initiatives on this campus and ensuring that the information our counselors have and our tour guides speak about is as accurate and current as possible.  In that capacity, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the heads of everything from Athletics to Study Abroad, Dining Services to Language School, The Project on Creativity and Innovation in the Liberal Arts to the College’s formal architectural master plan.  What I’ve come back with has been incredible; I have so much confidence in the vision and passion these people bring to their work and the departments they spearhead.  As a student and especially an underclassman, the workings of the administration can seem mysterious and disconnected from student life.  I’ve coming away from this summer absolutely secure in the knowledge that they are, in fact, entirely dedicated to students’ well being and the unparalleled educational experience Middlebury provides.  It’s so heartening to know the College is in such good hands.

A Hard Vermont Life

By Eli Jones

It’s a hard life up here in Vermont. Sometimes I just don’t quite know how I manage to stay sane in the rugged wilderness that is Middlebury College.  Case-in-point, last week after a long day of slaving away at my desk in the beautiful air-conditioned admissions office, I had to walk all the way to my dorm room on the fifth floor of Starr hall and there wasn’t even an elevator. Once I got up to my room, I briefly sat down on my bed next to a beautiful, nearly two-hundred year old brick wall and looked out my window which boasts beautiful panoramic views of the green mountains. Next I headed to dinner with friends in the dining hall, but to get there I had to walk up a hill. An entire hill. What an inconvenience. To make matters even worse, I had to eat quickly so that the other admissions interns and I could go to our boss’s house on Lake Dunmore for an evening boat ride on the lake. It was quite a journey to get there, an entire fifteen minutes of driving down mountain roads with the windows rolled down and music blaring. A hardship if there ever was one. Once we got there we cruised around the lake shortly before sunset. After we finished our little sunset cruise, I went out to the middle of the lake on a paddle board. If you have never had the chance to get on a paddle board, let me tell you that it may be the second most relaxing activity on planet earth. The most relaxing activity on planet earth – sitting on a paddle board in the middle of a lake watching the sun set behind a mountain, and yes, you guessed it, I did it. No day is typical up here in the untamed mountains of Vermont, but somehow I find it in me to continue living this extremely rugged lifestyle. I know, I know, I probably do deserve my own survival show on the discovery channel. Get at me Bear Grylls.

photo 1


By Nick Rehmus

It says something about my personality that my first feelings when summer started were of guilt, not relief.  I should be doing something, I thought over and over again.  What am I forgetting?  Life at Middlebury can be very high-intensity.  The everyday hustle and bustle of classes and meetings, the semi-subliminal buzz of upcoming assignments, tests on the horizon.  It’s enough rush and noise to make anyone feel, when you finally get that moment to relax, breathe, god forbid read a book for pleasure! that it’s probably only because you’re procrastinating or forgetting something.

And it’s weirdly addicting, that chaotic life.  You get used to doing fifty, a hundred things in a day–small though they may be–and suddenly that’s what constitutes fulfillment.  Productivity, efficiency.  Checking items off a list.

And for all the advantages of being one of Foucault’s “productive, docile bodies” (you know, like landing a job and being a functional member of society), I think that the true, deepest fulfillment is that which marries this traditional engagement with something subtler, calmer, at once more self-centered and selfless.  The ability to find happiness in just being.  Can you be content just sitting in the sun, no people around, no distractions, nobody to report to?  Because that’s a test all its own.  It takes different skills than willpower and work ethic.  For me, the beginning of this summer has been all about coming to terms with this second type of fulfillment.  A bit more free time, a bit less stress.  Certainly having access to beautiful forests and waterfalls helps.  Relaxation and contemplation that aren’t cause for guilt or worry, but rather an essential part of being well-adjusted and happy in the long term.

I’m jumping back into stress-mode in July when I enter the world of Bay Area finance, so there’s a return to normalcy looming on the horizon.  In the mean time, though, Middlebury is an achingly beautiful place to spend a small bit of time reevaluating, decompressing, and learning about myself.  Here’s to a wonderful summer!

Starting Summer at Midd

By Audrey Goettl

I’m so excited to be spending my summer up here at Middlebury! Something I had always heard was that it was really worthwhile to spend at least one summer on campus, so I’m really grateful that I have the opportunity to do so after only finishing my freshman year. After spending time with my family for a couple of weeks, I journeyed back up here to Middlebury and moved into the fifth floor of Starr. I lucked out and got a huge single with a skylight and tons of space, but it was an intense experience moving all of my things up five flights of stairs. Regardless, even in the past week and a half that I’ve been here, I’ve done so many fun things that I couldn’t do during the academic year. This past weekend was reunion weekend and  there were alumni all over campus. I had such great conversations with a lot of them (I even gave some of them tours) and it was really neat to be able to hear their stories and hear about what Middlebury used to be like when they attended. On Sunday, Thilan and I took a trip with some friends up to Lake Dunmore and enjoyed being in the sun. I had never been there before so I was really happy to be able to go and relax (there was also no pressure of having homework to finish or tests to study for – something I have to get used to this summer!). Other than that, I’ve been able to try more restaurants in town, spend more time with friends, actually dive into a novel, and get an average of eight hours of sleep a night. Of course, I’ve also had a great time working at the admissions office and meeting all of the counselors here. I can’t wait to continue my work here for the rest of the summer!

Welcome to the Middlebury Admissions Summer Interns 2013 Blog!

By Thilan Tudor

Welcome to the Summer Admissions Interns 2013 Blog! After a weird stretch of cold and rainy weather which forced Commencement indoors for the first time in 21 years, I think we can officially say summer has started at Middlebury. Campus is strangely empty as of now, as spring semester ended and Language Schools haven’t started up yet. However, within the next couple of weeks hundreds of students will be coming to campus for Language schools and Middlebury students will be doing research with faculty and working on campus. Nick, Eli, Mirella and I are the summer interns working currently at Middlebury College Admissions in the Emma Willard House . After many group photos and brainstorming sessions on what to cook for our next meal (the dining halls are closed for the next week until Language Schools start up), we’ve definitely come together as group of interns. From a rising Junior Feb to  freshmen who just completed their first year, we have a wide range of experiences between us. With  Switzerland, Southern Virginia, Mississippi and Canada represented by the four of us, we’ve basically got the four corners of the globe covered as well. From fielding calls regarding the waitlist to giving tours in this beautiful summer weather at Middlebury, we’ve definitely been keeping busy. Learn more about us and the other Summer Admissions Interns by clicking on our picture (aren’t we a great looking group?).  We look forward to meeting you this summer and having the other summer interns join us on campus!



This past week I took off work and went home for a vacation;  I was so excited to go home and see my family and all my friends. I hadn’t been home since spring break, and I was enthusiastic to go back and see my city. Home for me is Brooklyn, New York and as much as I love the beauty and intimacy of small town I was more than ready to be back amongst the hustle and bustle of a big city.


As I drove home that Sunday, I was overwhelmed with excitement as soon as I saw the first apartment complex in the Bronx. Words cannot begin to describe how happy I was to be home.  I was basically bouncing out of my seat. When we finally reached Brooklyn it was like I was being welcomed home with big open arms; my city was welcoming me home.


Then the little things began to get to me. I would get online and type in go/something and it wouldn’t work. Or when I would cross the street in Manhattan and would almost get hit every time because cars do not care to stop. I was especially bothered by how many people lived on my own block that I didn’t even know. These were all things about New York that had never bothered me. I would not  have dreamed they would ever be a problem, but now it was. I didn’t realize why I wasn’t content in being home, until about Thursday and I sincerely thought about it and found I was comparing home to Midd. I had to sit down and really take in the fact that over this past year and especially during the summer Middlebury had become home.

The quote really rings true, “home is where the heart is.” As much as I miss and no matter how much I love New York my heart isn’t there. It came with me to Vermont and it planted some roots, trust me when I say I couldn’t be happier.