Monthly Archives: October 2012

Halloween comes early to Midd

You’ll never guess who I saw this past Saturday night at Middlebury. Don Draper! Looking spiffy in a black suit and hat, Don was out and about, but his fellow “Mad Men” were nowhere to be found. Instead, Don was interacting with a new crew, and a rather curious crew at that. With him was a group of serious birdwatchers, some black cats, a pair of fly fishermen, biker chicks and even the Flinstones! No, this was not a dream I had, this was Halloween at Middlebury.

Though there may be more costumes seen around campus this Wednesday on October 31st, for the most part Midd Kids rang in Halloween a bit early this year. Throughout the semester, though, students constantly dress up for various occasions. Whether it’s for a specific team or club on campus that has organized an event, or just a group of friends wanting to spice up their wardrobes, it’s not uncommon to see students dress up a bit funny on a Saturday night here. Over the course of three years at Middlebury, I have managed to accumulate a unique assortment of quirky clothing options reserved for these occasions. Together with my friends, a communal box has emerged, filled with boas, crazy hats, neon t-shirts, animal print fabric and more. You never quite know what you’ll walk away with after diving into our shared stash, but after a wardrobe choice has been made (and been edited, and re-edited, by friends) you will want to take a quick picture that you can show your grandchildren some day — proof that before your legs became creaky and your hearing started to go, you dressed up like a goofball and had a good night out.

Given all the dressing up that goes on at Middlebury, I shouldn’t have been surprised that students went “all out” on Halloween. Part of me anticipated this, but part of me was caught off-guard too. While trick-or-treating may be a thing of the past for most of us here, as my weekend showed me, Halloween is still very much alive. A slew of intricately-carved pumpkins, all of which had been created by students, sat outside my friends’ porch on Friday night. When I stopped by that evening to say hi, I found a tray of freshly roasted pumpkin seeds and a steaming pot of mulled apple cider. That festive spirit continued as Don Draper and the rest of the gang emerged the following day.

I realized that midway through a fall semester consumed in part by job-searching, my quasi-adult mindset may have gripped me a little too tightly. As we run between interviews and information sessions, pretending to know what we want to do after graduation, we have to remember that at the end of the day, we are still college kids. For a minute, don’t be a student, don’t be a young adult: be a kid. Dress up funny, carve some pumpkins, sip apple cider and have fun. After all, it is Halloween.

The Great Abroad

Studying abroad is a rite of passage at Middlebury. After slogging through grammar classes when you really want to be trekking the mountains of Peru, after sitting at language tables when you want to be sitting cross-legged at an Indian dinner, after screening German films about Berlin nightlife for class and getting sucked into them—finally you can experience it all in person!

Of course all of the lead-ups are necessary to reach a sufficient level of the target language, and all of our language immersion models are mini-abroad experiences, but nothing compares to the real thing.

I have dreamed of studying abroad in Spain since I lived there. To clarify—I lived in the south of Spain as a little girl but always watched wistfully as my Spanish friends went off to their classes while I went to international school. I always knew that I wanted to be one of those bespectacled  long-haired, important-looking college students that I saw every time we drove into Seville, and that I too wanted to have that beautiful language passing from my lips.

Finally after two years of college I got that chance, opting for a Middlebury program in Madrid. Knowing that the Spanish university system is not as rigorous as I am used to at Middlebury, I made this tough decision because I knew that all of the teachers hired by the Middlebury program would be challenging, leaders in their academic field, and vetted by the school. And they were. It is difficult trade-off for many students, who want to meet host students, but who want a serious semester abroad with easily transferable credits. I chose to go through a program that I knew was going to be equivalent to my political science track at Middlebury, and figure out a way to join the community in another way.

I did manage that, by volunteering for a one of the madrileño gay rights organizations, and I spent a good chunk of my free time organizing a queer film festival, doing everything from handing out flyers in the gay-friendly district of Chueca to deciding between indie short films to taking tickets at the door. This is my number one recommendation to all prospective and current students who are thinking of studying outside of the United States—find something niche, something that you’re passionate about and find a similar organization to join which abroad (could be a rugby team, a cooking club, or a theatre troop), just anything to get you a secure spot in the community.

To condense a semester abroad into a single blog post is impossible. I traveled all over the country, seeing everything from Goya’s paintings in the Prado museum of Madrid to the beaches of San Sebastian to a flamenco performance in Seville to Gaudi’s extravaganzas in Barcelona. I missed my friends and my Midd community and there were some uncomforts of settling into a brand-new apartment and new transportation system, but I found my groove after not too long and had both a satisfying academic and personal experience. I can’t emphasize enough how much prospective students should already be making plans for their dream semester or year abroad—you have the whole world open to you!

The Student-Athlete Experience

What does it mean to be a student-athlete?  I have been asked that question a number of times since coming to Middlebury, and the idea of the “student-athlete” played a large role in my college application process.  I love sports, and I have always loved them, throughout my life I have played on a variety of sports teams and was a 3 sport varsity athlete in high school.  I knew that when I finished high school I did not want to stop being part of a team or stop playing the sports that I love.  That is why I decided to look for a school where I could continue to play football.  However, I didn’t want to go to a school that would define me by my participation in athletics, Middlebury was the only school that recruited me that said as a student-athlete would be a student first and an athlete second.  This concept played a large role in me eventually going to Middlebury, and it has continued to be important to me since I have been here.  That is why I would like to talk to you all about what it means to be a student-athlete at Middlebury.

Probably the greatest thing about Division III sports is the passion, love, and respect for the game that exists at this level.  Every athlete at Middlebury and at other D III programs plays because they love the game and wanted to continue to play.  There are no other motives to play, we do not get scholarships, and most of us (besides possibly Ryan Moores) are not going to play at a professional level.  Because sports are just a passion for the student-athlete and not the full reason why an athlete is at Middlebury, athletes are able to participate in a variety of other things as well.  There is no set definition for what an athlete has to be.  Athletes can be found in every major or minor at the college and on scores of the over 150 non-athletic student organizations that you can find on campus. 

So what does just relying on passion bring you?  The Directors Cup  for one.  For the first time in our history last year Middlebury College won the Director’s Cup.  In short the Director’s Cup is an award given by National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), it is given to the D III athletics program that performed best overall in terms of season records and championship performances.   A variety of teams last year from our women’s field hockey, ice hockey and volleyball to our men’s basketball, lacrosse, and soccer teams all put together terrific seasons.  This goes to show that by coming to Middlebury and playing for a team here you will not sacrifice the excellence that all athletes expect of their teammates, their coaches, and their selves.

Thesis Time!

Every senior at Middlebury is required to complete some kind of senior work, in the form of an independent project, production, or thesis. There are a couple of guiding principles here: First is the idea of challenge by choice. Students have the option of choosing an independent study or an honors project depending on the level of commitment they choose. Second is the concept of student choice. Students choose a project appropriate to their departmental focus: a music major might write a piece of music; a theater major might direct a production; a science major might conduct laboratory experiments; and a political science major will write a thesis.

How do you choose a thesis topic? After all, this is a project you’ll be working on for at least a semester, if not a year. Of course, you hope that the topic that is both interesting to you personally, and also one that has some academic value and is worth your time. Often students will find inspiration from a paper or project during sophomore or junior year. Others will find inspiration from their time abroad, summer experiences like internships or volunteer work, or some long-held interest. Still, many students will come into their senior with little idea of a topic that inspires them—this is why we have advisors!

I’m a political science major, and for me it was clear I wanted to write about some element of my time in China. Since a political science honors thesis is a three semester/yearlong project, I knew I had to find a topic that could keep me engaged for a full year. My internship this summer at the US Department of Commerce gave me the opportunity to learn about the importance of the Internet in various contexts. And having lived in China and learned about the uniqueness of the Internet censorship that exists there, I knew that this would be an interesting topic for me. My advisor helped me to narrow the topic to something focused, academic, and worthwhile.

So now it’s research time! The first stages of the thesis involve reading as much as you can about the topic of your choice. It is an exciting, humbling, and terrifying stage of the project. And by the end of J-term, amazingly, the bulk of my project will (hopefully!) be written.

People say that writing a thesis is simultaneously the best and worst thing they do at Midd, and the easiest and hardest, too. You have the opportunity to explore a single topic in depth, to become a real expert in an area, and to hone your research, writing, project management, and analytical skills. At the same time, a thesis requires self-discipline and a long-term commitment. Overall, though, it is a project that, after eight months, you can look back on with some pride.

I’ll have some more reflections on what the process is like come spring, but for now I’m excited to learn as much as I can about my topic and to begin outlining my work for the rest of the year.

It’s a Disco Weekend!

When I first heard about the DiscoMidd program I was psyched, but for all of the wrong reasons. In Portugal we call clubs discotecas or discos so I immediately conjured up an image of all us Senior Fellows getting dressed in our slinky best and hitting the Vermont nightlife scene.

Lost in translation, apparently.

What DiscoMidd, or Discover Middlebury is actually a program that Middlebury hosts every year which we call a “multicultural open house”—it is open to prospective student who come from under-represented groups at Middlebury: African American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, and American Indian students; students (regardless of ethnicity) with demonstrated financial hardship; and students who are first in their families to pursue a four-year college education.

The idea is that Middlebury provides transportation, food, and housing to this group of 75 students, and shows them what Middlebury is really like, pairing them up with a student host, letting them sit in on classes, attend talks and club meetings, and generally get the feeling for the school.

Upon realizing the real meaning of the program, I became instantly even more excited than when I’d imagined it to be a night on the town, because I knew that I wanted to dive in headfirst to the project. Getting a chance to work on this sort of initiative is precisely the reason that I applied to be a Senior Fellow.

Let me explain a little bit about why this initiative is near and dear to my heart: I grew up shuffling between countries—Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Japan—and never staying in one long enough to learn everything about their school systems. So when I finally decided that I wanted to apply to a college in the United States, I was at a loss for where to start. While my parents were both educated and supportive, they expected me to be independent in my application process and there was no hand-holding or proof-reading of essays. I did not grow up visiting U.S. colleges , did not know which ones were the best or what activities gave me the best shot at getting admitted, and did not have a college guidance counselor to steer my choices. Instead, I spent hours poring over college websites, bought myself a big, fat book of American colleges, and painstakingly pieced together the way to go about filling out forms.

It is not entirely due to  luck that I am at Middlebury; I was always a good student and hard worker, but my path was not as smooth as other from an East Coast high school. I firmly believe that no student should have to go through the process alone, like I did, but should have in place a network of support—family, teachers, counselors, siblings, friends, bosses—that can help them decided where they want to go and help them tackled the logistical mountains to getting there. But for those who do not have this safety net, we, Middlebury should pick up the slack and serve a bigger role.

Because of Middlebury’s commitment to giving students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to the chance to see our school, I will be taking a shuttle up from the Admissions Office to the Burlington airport at 8.45 on a Homecoming Sunday, I will be greeting students as they come in from their trips, I will be shuttling back down with the last trip at 4.00pm, I will be matching them with hosts, and then I will be leading a student question panel from 7.00-9.00pm. And I will be loving every second of it.

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)



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!

A Magical Walk

As we are approaching the middle of the semester, I find myself needing to find some personal time. Don’t get me wrong. Reading Joyce’s Ulysses, solving combinatorial problems focusing on guaranteeing a great party, and writing my math thesis on entropy and its relevance to Bayesian statistics really do make me happy, but it’s easy to get lost in the work and lose perspective. I make an effort to make time for myself everyday.

Everyone has their own way of de-stressing, whether it’s having a dance party in your own room, doing your best impression of Kate Bush in the shower at the top of your lungs, engaging in some cardio ballet or going on midnight jogs (Note, I’m not claiming any of these comes from personal experience). My trick of letting the steam out regularly consists of two things: taking walks and lighting scented candles. The latter is actually a way to make the former happen when the weather makes it impossible to take a gander in the woods. I love the smell of moist wood, grass, and mossy air. I could go on and on about my favorite candles… contact me personally if you’d like a personal recommendation. Anyhow, it’s been raining here for a while, which means the surrounding areas have transformed into an absolute dream for the likes of me!

This past Sunday, I decided I needed a break from my three-hour thesis session in the library. I headed back to my room, put my boots on, turned on my iPod, and started making my way towards the college organic garden. The organic garden is about five minutes away from my room. You get to pass by twenty or so solar panels on your way there. The college organic garden has a great selection of produce (the kale looked particularly yummy) and flowers. You can sign up for a certain number of volunteer hours and depending on your hours (you can split with a friend) and get a CSA basket filled with goodies from the garden! Anyhow, here’s a little sneak peak of the garden.

The temperature is starting to drop, but I got to get see some flowers still in bloom.

The picnic table is a very popular place to eat out when it’s warm. The shed is such a cool spot as well!

This is from the greenhouse. There were some tomatoes starting to turn red and yellow, but for some reason, I love the look of green tomatoes so much.

After you walk through the organic garden, you come across a huge grass plain. (Couldn’t help the temptation of Instagram — doesn’t this remind you of Wuthering Heights?) Even though it was rainy, dark, and foggy, it was still so beautiful. After you follow the path for a bit, you see a small opening into the woods!

This segment is called the Class of ’97 trail, and it’s part of the TAM (Trail Around Middlebury). Many students, myself included, love running on the TAM. In the winter, the snow makes it an amazing cross-country ski trail as well. Anyhow, you cross a little bridge as you get deeper into the woods, you come across this lovely part of the trail.

Doesn’t this remind you of Narnia? Lord of the Rings? The Forbidden Forest? Whatever it is, this is definitely one of my favorite places. It’s so magical. Out of this world! You feel so removed from everything you know.

When you come out of the dense woods, you will see at least twenty cows on any given day. There are the oreo cows (with clear black/white/black coloring), cows with spots, and brown cows! Anyhow, I love saying hi to them, though I am perfectly aware they only come near me with the hopes that I will give them more hay…….

Went a little crazy with Instagram…. but look at this little guy! So precious! Speaking of cows, Middlebury sources our milk from Monument Dairy, which is literally less than 10 minutes away from campus. Happy Valley Orchard is also less than 15 minutes away and apple-picking is an amazing way to pass the time.

What I am so grateful for is that this “nature therapy” is very easily within reach. I just have to step outside of my room, with the right footgear of course. I usually spend an hour or so on these trails when I feel like getting some fresh air. Afterwards, I am so refreshed. My friend and I love puddle-jumping and mud-trailing, so we often go on walks together and end up having wonderful conversations.

When you come to Middlebury, please check out all the wonderful walkable destinations!

Till next time,


The Suite-ness of Senior Housing

           I am in love with my suite. It has been the best part of my year thus far, between riding lessons and nuclear security lectures, amongst Fellowship interviews and films screening and lengthy discussions on the meaning of nature in Jane Eyre. All of those times have been wonderful too, but there is nothing better than returning to my Atwater suite at the end of a day blurred with events and papers and meals, and shaping my own little community.

            I find one of Middlebury’s most charming attributes the feeling of an overarching community, but in my suite I can sculpt my social microcosm—I can be left alone with a mug of tea and a global development article on a Wednesday night, or I can rally my three suitemates to invite all of their extended groups of friends over for 90s music and conversation on a Friday evening before heading out for a night at the social house Tavern. My senior year living has become a way to bring Middlebury to me—to enjoy a cookie that I grab from the dining hall, to hold impromptu board meeting of the Middlebury Open Queer Alliance, and to host my sister (a Midd alum) when she drives up for the occasional weekend.

            In an odd way, the suite is also a transition site. I no longer live in the middle of campus, I can no longer walk outside of my door to hear the hubbub of a Riddim dance performance, or dash thirty seconds into a dining hall. Because I am at one end of campus I feel, in my college way, that I am commuting to class every day. The busyness of my schedule means that I am often out from 8am until dusk, working in the library, attending lectures, meeting up with friends over lunch, and giving information sessions at Admissions, getting back late to my room, unslinging my bag from my shoulder with a sigh. I love this feeling of being a quasi-adult, and sometimes I imagine that I am already in the position that I see myself in eight months from now—living with other young professionals in an apartment in an urban environment, sharing my small trials and triumphs with three other friendly faces. We make suite dinners on the weekends, troop down to the gym together on brisk afternoons, and have one another do quick read-throughs of introductory essay paragraphs, which is exactly what I want out of a future group of working friends.

            I can’t be sure whether Middlebury College deliberately puts senior in these transition residences, or if everyone feels the way that I do about them. I have one foot in college as I enjoy every moment of a lecture about aid strategies in Tanzania, go to concerts, and dig into my mountain of thesis work, but also one foot (perhaps as of yet just a few toes) in the professional world as I apply for jobs, interview, write grant proposals, and generally get myself prepared for the workforce. And my suite is there through everything, inviting, friend-filled, but with traces of the real-world future about it.