Monthly Archives: November 2011

200 Days…Not Counting Down

At the risk of fixating too much upon our impending graduation, I’m going to continue in Teresa’s theme and write about the 200 Days party that took place this past weekend in McCullough Social Space.  As a member of the Senior Committee, I’ve spent considerable time and energy over the past several weeks planning this party, working with catering staff to decide exactly which Grille delicacies we wanted to eat, coordinating with Student Activities to have a large helium tank delivered to blow up several hundred balloons, and collaborating with a friend with an exceptional amount of artistic talent to design and print a poster for the event.  At the party, everything came together in a fabulous way, and everyone had a wonderful time.  Because the event was open only to seniors, it felt exclusive and intimate like few other parties do on this campus, where almost every social event is open to everyone.  It was a great opportunity to catch up with classmates I hadn’t seen in several years (including my freshman year roommate) and just generally to enjoy each other’s company and of course, to savor one of the final 200 days of our senior year.


Many friends I spoke with said it reminded them of freshman year all over again, except without the nerves, loneliness and anxiety that we all came to college with.  After having lunch with a friend who is in her first semester at Middlebury this past week, I’ve been thinking back a lot about my freshman year, and the transformations that I’ve made during these past four years at Middlebury. I very clearly remember coming to college feeling a little lost, eager and anxious to make friends and find “my people” at Middlebury, and excited and nervous about fitting in at a new place. Now, four years later, I easily consider Middlebury my home away from home. I have found fabulous friends here who I know will last for life, I have cultivated relationships with professors and consider many of them friends, and I have come to love this campus and the state of Vermont through many driving excursions, hiking trips, farmers market runs and picnics in the organic garden.  Even though starting college can seem impossibly daunting at first, it really does get easier, and chances are good that you’re not the only one feeling a little overwhelmed.  And then, before you know it, you will have found those friends, taken those classes and met those professors that inspire you, and found your place, wherever it is, at Middlebury. And then, before you can blink, you too will be attending your 200 Days party.


Perhaps I’m experiencing a premature wave of nostalgia at leaving Middlebury (Midd-sickness, as I heard one alum friend refer to it), but I am reminded now of the great challenge college represents, but also how rewarding the experience can become.  I’m determined to make the most of these final 200 days, spend quality time with my friends, and try not to count down the days until the next party…100 days (yikes!).

Registration Final Round

This morning I, along with the rest of the class of 2012, woke up at 6:50 am for the last time. We turned on our lamps, pulled out the list of CRN numbers we scrawled on papers the night before, and logged on to bannerweb. Then, we counted the seconds down to 7:00. At 6:59:59, students clicked across campus and began copying in codes as quickly as possible, vying for spots in our first-choice classes.

Now, this may all seem a bit dramatic. As seniors, we get first pick at registration and are very likely to get exactly the classes we want. But we go through the routine nonetheless, cherishing our final round of registration. The courses we signed up for today will be our last at Middlebury College.

With Middlebury’s impressively large course catalog, it has been a chore to find the right balance between finishing out all our requirements and making sure we squeeze in the random classes we always wanted to take but didn’t have time to… Actually, I can’t lie, I tried to register for an overload (5 courses) because I had so much trouble narrowing down my interests. Unfortunately, banner only let me sign up for 4, which is probably prudent in the end. Realistically there is no way I could balance 5 classes, job applications, Crew’s spring season, other extra-curricular commitments and still find time to see my friends (my top priority for second semester of senior year!).

I ended up registered for Political Islam with the absolutely incredibly Quinn Mecham, The Japanese Economy (a little out of my comfort zone…), Advanced Arabic, and Arabic Linguistics. We’ll see if I make it into my 5th choice, Chinese Readings in Politics and Business. It’s saddening to have my schedule set for the rest of my college career, but also invigorating to be looking forward to a whole new set of classes and my final semester at Midd!

I’d encourage any perspective students to look through the online course catalog online and try to create your ideal semester at Middlebury. Chances are, you’d inevitably encounter some scheduling conflicts (as I did this semester) and have to alter your plans accordingly, but I guarantee you could easily find something else you’d love to take!

The J-Term Game!

With Winter Term registration come and gone, now is an ideal time to play one of my favorite games. Below are ten Winter Term courses. Five are real. Five are fake.

I should preface this by noting that the J-Term Game (©)  should not be construed as a comment on the academic or other value of any of the real courses. Please direct all complaints to my colleague, Arthur Choo.  Answers below: T = True, F = Fake.

1)      “Modern Family” and the Modern Family

In this course, we explore the relationship between the ABC sitcom and the “real,” modern American family.  What can sitcom culture teach us about gender and familial roles in 21st century American life? What is the dialectic between the two?

2)      Experiential Anatomy & Yoga  

Experiential anatomy involves learning about the body through the body. In this anatomy and kinesiology course, we will study the skeletal system the neuro-muscular, endocrine, organ, and circulatory systems.

3)      Dancing in the Dark

An exploration of shadow, movement, and the human form, this course will ask its participants to play with all three concepts in a series of improvisational and “scripted” performances without the benefit of standard lighting.

4)      Arachnophobia, Arachnophilia

For many people arachnids trigger fear, from simple unease to clinical arachnophobia. For others, arachnids evoke admiration and inspiration. We will examine depictions of arachnids and why they elicit such divergent psychological responses.

5)      Giving Meaning to Ordinary Time: Exploring the Jewish Sacred Calendar

Beginning with an overview of the history and evolution of Jewish culture and religion, we will examine the holy days and holidays of Judaism. We will also examine contemporary issues of gender, emerging practices, and the portrayal of religious holidays in pop culture.

6)      Lipids and the Obesity “Epidemic”

The expanding, American waste-band poses a challenge to policy makers, sociologists, and economists alike. In this course, we look at the biological foundations of weight gain. What can science teach us about weight gain, and what implications could this knowledge have for policy makers?

7)      Persuasive Legal Writing

In this intensive reading and writing course, students will practice writing persuasive arguments while analyzing contemporary legal issues. We will acquire a basic understanding of the way disputes are resolved within the U.S. legal system.

8)      How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie’s iconic, self-help book suggests there is an identifiable formula for gaining friends and social authority. Is he right? In this course we adopt the social scientist’s analytical method to explore the validity of what has become a veritable Bible for the 20th century “social climber.”

9)      “Alternative” Music

The very existence of “alternative rock” suggests that we can identify a “conventional  rock.” Exploring the development of rock through the 1980s and 1990s, we will attempt to answer whether such a title makes musical sense. The course will include extended explorations of Nirvana, the Stone Temple Pilots, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

10)   Journeys to the Edge: Mountain Exploration and Adventure

In this course, we will examine the history and culture of mountain exploration and adventure through literature, nonfiction narrative, film, and guest presentations.  Students will trace changing cultural attitudes toward risk, adventure, masculinity, and wildness.


Answers: (1) F (2) T (3) F (4) T (5) T (6) F (7) T (8) F (9) F (10) T.





But you’re not an English major…

Yesterday the professor for the English senior seminar I’m taking, Booker Prize Fiction, called me out for critiquing the lyrical repetition of the novel we’d just read, something most of my classmates found beautiful but that I found verbose and overwrought.

“Well, as a non-English major, I’m not really sure you can say that,” he joked, and my friends and I joined in laughing. I turned bright red and was a bit taken aback–hadn’t he told me just the other day how much he valued my contributions to the course? I stood my ground and maintained that the novel, one that had won the most valuable literary prize in Britain, felt too forced and just didn’t do much for me. Ten minutes later, with the class back in heated debate over some other element of the novel, everything had been forgotten, but I kept thinking about how I, a science major, was taking a seminar course for senior English majors…and was the only one of the fifteen of us who hadn’t had at least twelve or fourteen literature courses over the past six semesters.

Part of the beauty of attending a liberal arts college like Middlebury is having the chance to take courses outside of your comfort zone. I’d taken at least two lab-based courses every semester for the past three years, and this semester I had the chance to step out of BiHall, home to science courses, labs, and majors, to try something completely different. I’ve always loved to read and love to unwind with a novel after a day in class, but I hadn’t been able to fit a literature course into my schedule since my first semester at Midd, when I took both my First Year Seminar, Children’s Literature in Society, and a German literature course called The Exile Experience. This term, I read an award-winning novel each week before spending three hours each Tuesday afternoon debating its merits with 14 very opinionated English majors. I wouldn’t change that for anything, and I’m looking forward to taking two literature courses, one on global youth literature and one on American science fiction writing, in the spring semester.


Cheer Boys Cheer, Middlebury’s Here

This weekend I took the Middlebury fan bus down to NYC to see our team play in a very prestigious sporting event: the Quidditch World Cup. (Yep, you heard right. Quiddtich. Like from Harry Potter.)

Muggle Quiddtich started at Middlebury six years ago, with a bunch of freshmen who wanted to spice up their weekly tradition of playing bocce on Battell Beach. Those students have now graduated and moved on to bigger and better things–and Quidditch has grown up as well. I remember my freshman year’s World Cup, when Middlebury hosted nine teams on dorm room floors and were amazed at how huge a crowd we’s managed to draw. (That was also the first year it was an actual “world” cup, since McGill came down from Canada to play.) Last year, the World Cup moved to NYC because the number of spectators had gotten too big to fit in Middlebury, VT. This year, Quiddtich exceeded even my wildest, most outlandish imaginings. The IQA put together a tournament of over one hundred teams, including an alumni game and a high school bracket. When I first arrived, I spent half an hour walking around the complex of nine pitches in awe, amazed at how little MiddQuid has grown into a worldwide pheonomenon. (And I mean worldwide. This weekend Middlebury had the honor of playing the most far-flung team to date: Vassa, from Finland. I’m pretty sure they flew over in an airplane, not on brooms.)
Middlebury has been the reigning World Cup Champions since the beginning, which always sortof seemed like a given. This year, though, I realized that we would have to play really well to even have a shot at trophy–in Quiddtich tradition, a plastic vodka bottle spray-painted gold. (Nobody but the team knows if it’s full or not.) We played pretty well in pool play, ending up 13th seed in the 34-team single-elimination bracket. In pool play, we did experience our first loss in the history of Quiddtich, to Michigan’s VERY enthusiastic team.
We made it through to the semifinals and finals, held in the soccer stadium on Randall’s Island. The Middlebury student cheering section just managed to make ourselves be heard over the roar of the rest of the stadium–with the notable exception of Canada’s two teams, which graciously both cheered for us. I dont think I’ve ever been that nervous at a sporting event in my life. We cheered, yelled at the dramatically-gesticulating ref, and chanted for the two of our players that were carried off the field on stretchers (they’re both going to be okay, but be warned: Quidditch is a rough sport). We sang various Middlebury fight songs and found even the least Quidditch-enthused of us yelling things like “Nice beat! He was bludged, ref! Drop the Quaffle!!!!”
After a nerve-wracking game and some excellent snitching (The Golden Snitch: a human being dressed in all yellow for whom no rules apply. Snitching is a hilarious sub-sport that’s worth checking out on Youtube.), Middlebury caught the snitch and, just barely, defended our championship for the fifth year running. I dont know if we’ll be able to hold onto it next year–Quidditch teams everywhere are getting better and better–but I was happy to see us win, in person, for my last World Cup as a student.
The fan bus left NYC right after the final game, so we arrived back in Middlebury at 4:00 this morning. It’s a tribute to our fan’s enthusiasm that we didnt sleep the whole way: we spent the first hour or so reliving plays and singing the very intimidating and bloodthirsty  Middlebury victory song:
“There’s only one Middlebury / hey hey / one Middlebury / hey hey / walkin’ along / singin’ a song / walkin’ in a winter wonderland.”

Bright Lights, Bigger City

Burlington. Yes. BURLINGTON.

If you’re thinking of applying to Middlebury, you may (or may not) be concerned about its location. I know I was. Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, the word ‘rural’ wasn’t even part of my vocabulary. Transitioning from a place where I could walk out of my apartment, take 50 steps to the nearest 7-11 and get myself food, drink, maybe some ice-cream, hair-wax for the following morning, a toothbrush, etc… to a place where there isn’t a place to purchase coffee on Sundays was tough. That being said, we make do with what we have. During the longer breaks many people leave for New York City, Boston, or even Montreal. During the work(study)week, there are mini-excursions into the town of Middlebury. 
But sometimes we need something in between. Get out of Middlebury (and the town) but don’t want to go as far as NYC or Boston?

The answer is Burlington. In fact, I go to Burlington every Sunday because the church that I attend is located there. During my routine visits, I’ve come to realize that in many ways, it is a great mid-way point between the BIG city and the town of Middlebury. There are things to eat, stores to visit, and friends to hang out with. Because UVM and several other colleges are located in or near Burlington , the city center gets quite lively at night and on weekends. There are definitely elements of Vermont — specialty stores, great maple fudge, and an overall liberal vibe. But you also see an variety of oriental cuisines, a Banana Republic, and even a Starbucks (though its undergoing construction right now). Couple that with the young crowd, street-performers, and ‘deviant’ individuals, in some respects thats all you need to feel like you’re outside of Middlebury. Given that its only an hour away, the commute isn’t too bad either — long enough to give you a sense that you’re leaving campus but short enough for the visit to be spontaneous.

Of course, as a metropolis-dweller my whole life, I probably wouldn’t be able to settle in Burlington. For one, its too far North for my comfort zone. But as a student at Middlebury, it definitely serves its purpose. A lot of us make a point to visit when we can (or when we need to) and sometimes we’re fortunate enough to discover some hidden gems like good restaurants or interesting stores. Oh yeah. One other nice thing about Burlington — parking is quite convenient. And yes, it makes a difference. 

One in Four

25% of our student body is a varsity athlete.

For a school of roughly 2400 students, this number is significant in that one in every four students plays a sport (or more if you want to be technical). I think this adds to the sense of community that Middlebury fosters within the campus. I love that these student athletes are not mere names with celebrity-status that are constantly reproduced in the school newspaper or announced over the loudspeaker at games—but in fact, they are our roommates, lab partners, the person who asked for the salt shaker at Proctor dining hall, etc. They are our friends.

The love and support we show to our fellow peers by attending their games and cheering as loudly as we humanly can adds another dimension to our community as students of all walks of life convene at these sporting events. It is not just other athletes who attend to support the other teams. It’s everyone. Perhaps they used to play in high school or they’ve never picked up a lacrosse stick. Whatever their views on sports is, none of it matters because for that time block of when they are sitting in the stands, their level of enthusiasm for Middlebury surpasses all else.

The athletic events adjoins Middlebury and its relationship with the town as many come to spectate the ‘college games’. There is honestly nothing cuter than seeing little tykes running around at a hockey game, wearing their favorite player’s jersey. Whether or not we are a college student or a townie, when we win, we all cheer triumphantly. When we cry, we cry together as one.

This weekend was a spectacular one for Middlebury’s wins as women’s soccer advances to NCAA Sectionals, field hockey makes it to Final Four, women’s volleyball heads to regional finals, football wins their final game of the season against Tufts, cross country teams qualify for NCAA Championships. Congrats, all!

200 Days

I take great pride in being the first Senior Fellow to write about our impending graduation.  Tomorrow night is the seniors’ 200 Days party.  It’s a senior-only event beginning the official countdown to graduation and sets the stage for our 100 and 30 Days parties, a prelude to the year’s culmination: Senior Week and Graduation in May.  With flowing food and drink (for the over 21 crowd, of course) and Ben Schiffer ’10.5 dj-ing for the shindig, McCullough Social Space won’t know what hit it.  This “2012 End of the World Theme” is just what we’ve been waiting for to release the stress of senior year.

For this one night, we can be sure no one will ask “So what are your plans for graduation?” “Have you found a job yet?” “Did you also get that 3rd round interview with JP Morgan?”  No, tonight is all about us and enjoying the company of our incredible classmates.  Gone are the days of wading through stacks of thesis books in our gorgeous mezzanine library carrels.  Senioritis has set in.

200 Days is giving me a lot of perspective as I head into the final haul.  Getting A’s on midterms and writing dissertations on Romania’s economy hardly seem important anymore in the grand scheme of things.  The focus is shifting away from school, but not, as you might expect to the job search.  All that seems to matter anymore is savoring the final 200 days we have with the incredible class of 2012 that we’ve lived and learned with for the past four years.  This message was reaffirmed at our Senior Class Dinner last week when an alum gave us parting words of wisdom: enjoy senior year.  No need to say that twice.  The other seniors and I heard that loud and clear.  This weekend welcomes a new total abandon.  The real world is fast approaching (and no, I’m not alluding to Frank Sweeny).  So here’s to finishing those first 15 pages of thesis, to the last football game of the season, to the dance parties waiting to happen, to 200 Days, and to the amazing experiences we’ll be having in the years to come.  To the Middlebury class of 2012!

A Normal Day in Middlebury

Early morning, I wake up to the sound of my annoying alarm clock to start another busy day in Middlebury College. Usually, after I get ready in the morning, I have an extra twenty five minutes to play my guitar before I go to Proctor Dining Hall to get breakfast. I am productive in the morning, which is the reason I start studying and finishing my homework as early as eight o’ clock. My classes are scheduled in the afternoon, which works for me because I have had the time to review my assignments and prepared questions to class. My favorite classes are my English and Spanish seminars. In my English seminar, we are discussing about the play The Roaring Girl, which is my favorite play so far- right after Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew and Webster’s play The Duchess of Malfi. Moll, the main protagonist, is a character who challenges society’s conventional norms of gender and politics. For instance, in the 1600s, just like today, society defines two gender roles: male and female. Anything that does not conform to these specific gender roles creates a source of anxiety, conflict, and, at times, laughter. Moll represents neither male nor female. She embodies both sexes through her apparel (sword, jacket, hat, skirt),  through her defiant actions (smoking tobacco, participating in the male public sphere, carrying a sword) and through her voice (speaks and defends female roles in society). My final paper revolves on this topic with the plays: The Taming of the Shrew and The Roaring Girl. In my Spanish seminar, we are reading Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which happens to be my favorite class in my four years in Middlebury College. I never thought this one class would change my life around, starting with the fact that I am learning about Cervantes’ writing and the medieval/renaissance cultures in this book. Because of this seminar, I figured out what academic field I would like to study if I decide to pursue a PhD or Master’s degree in English Literature: Medieval Literature. After my classes, I take a good forty minute nap and then grab a snack in the dining hall. Afterwards, I go to my favorite spot on campus, a lounge in Ross, where I can get all my readings and work done for the next day. Depending on the day, sometimes, I am responsible to run the meetings/discussions of the Voices of Indigenous People club or Alianza club. During the evenings, I hang out with my friends and skype with my relatives, especially my mother with whom I made a promise to keep in touch with everyday I am at Middlebury. As it gets dark, I head back to my room, and with the remaining half an hour I have left, I read a book and/or write a part of a story. Then, I fall asleep to continue my routine the next day.

65 and November

One of the best things about going to school in Vermont is that the weather is never predictable. There’s a saying in Vermont that goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.” While this is something of an exaggeration, it is definitely rooted in fact, as you could wake up to a bright sunny day, eat lunch during a rainstorm, head to the library in hail, and return to your dorm in driving wind. Middlebury’s location between two mountain ranges (Adirondacks in New York and Greens in Vermont) and within the Champlain valley makes us particularly susceptible to changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure (and I’m no weatherman, so all of this is based solely upon personal observation and not scientific acumen) so that really, anything goes in terms of what’s happening outside. I’ve experienced some of the craziest weather of my life here, whether it’s a monster snow storm, a menacing thunderstorm that knocks out power for the entire campus, or an impossibly stunning sunset behind the Adirondack Mountains that makes it hard to imagine a more beautiful place on earth.

However, one of the best things about this unpredictable weather is that we can get moments like these past few days, the first week of November, that roll in with beautiful, sunny, warm weather reminiscent of early spring and late fall, rather than nearly-Thanksgiving. This past week, the campus exploded with people taking advantage of this gift of gorgeous weather, whether it was playing Frisbee on Battell Beach, taking some reading outside to the Atwater terrace, or enjoying lunch outside Proctor. Students shed their polar fleece and boots in favor of dresses, leggings, shorts and even flip-flops. Yesterday I even witnessed a professor taking her class outside for discussion section. Even though most of the trees have lost their leaves and the squirrels have started their maniacal foraging of acorns, these past four days brought a reminder of the end of summer days we have left, and a teaser for the beautiful spring to come after the long, long winter.

So, when you’re packing for Middlebury, you definitely need a warm winter coat, boots, and lots of hats, mittens, scarves and warm socks. But, don’t forget your shorts, t-shirts and sandals (and don’t pack them away too soon) because you just might get a day like we did, when it’s 65 degrees in November.