Monthly Archives: March 2013

Going Full Circle: Jonathan Safran Foer as the 2013 Commencement Address Speaker

I am not sure if you’ve seen the big news on the front page, but author Jonathan Safran Foer is going to speak at the commencement address of the class of 2013! Which is my graduation!

Now, the fact that such a renowned author (Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Eating Animals) is already pretty huge. Ever since being introduced to David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement address, This Is Water, given to the Kenyon College class of 2005, I have always dreamed of having a favorite author deliver the parting words of my college.

But this is not just any favorite author. This is the author of my year’s Common Reading selection. The summer before you come to Middlebury, you receive a welcome packet that includes a map, your first year course selection, some promotional materials, and a book. This book is your Common Reading and the school ask that you read it before arriving on campus to then engage in intimate group discussions led by faculty and staff during the week of Orientation. The book I received my year was Everything Is Illuminated. I can remember this book being what completely reaffirmed my decision to enroll at Middlebury. It was the first time reading the book (I had only seen the movie with Elijah Wood…) and I remember being astonished that the school would select such a complex and emotion-filled book as the introduction to the college. When we arrived on campus, I was so excited to have our Common Reading discussion – I had fallen in love with the author’s prose and his style of communicating the narrative. I could not wait to begin connecting with other students through literature.

After this experience, I held on to the dream that Jonathan Safran Foer might be the one to speak at our graduation – that the voice that welcomed us to this four-year adventure might be the one that would send us off. When the news came out that he would indeed be that voice, I jumped in joy the way I did when I found out I got into Middlebury. What a beautiful thing to see it all come full-circle.jonathan_safran_foer_nymag


Shouldering a Student Org

I thought, before this year, that I knew the staff of the campus fairly well. I knew the general faces of the Proctor dining hall staff, I worked on projects with many of the Admissions workers, and I always remembered the first name of the three central workers at the Mail Center when I picked up packages. I also thought that I had a fair amount of responsibility on me; it was just me that reminded myself of paper deadlines, set my alarm for those dreaded 8.00am classes, and held myself accountable for heading to the non-proctored but mandatory late-night class film screenings.

Boy, was I mistaken. Until I took up the position of co-chair of Middlebury Open Queer Alliance this year, I had not a clue of the duties that some students shoulder. As far as student organizations go, MOQA is a relatively small one; we do not host weekly dinners like Hillel, throw school-wide dances like the Quidditch Club, or design entire sets and choreograph dozens of songs for performances like Riddim. Still, this position has opened my eyes to a whole different side of hard-working Middlebury.  I am accustomed to hearing about terrific academic  work loads and amazingly packed extracurricular schedules, but I have never before been in contact with those who arrange the very events that serve as the backbone of Middlebury’s social life.

Constant emailing, coordinating, checking out of equipment, writing up budgets, arranging for speakers, planning party themes and renting spaces are some of the things that come with leadership roles on campus. It is time-consuming but gratifying; I know the inner workings of the MCAB Speakers Committee and all of the people who work behind the scenes of budgeting activities. This coming April MOQA will be hosting a joint dinner with Women of Color and Feminist Action Middlebury, and just in the preliminary organizing I have come in contact with the most amazing people that I don’t normally rub shoulders with. It feels very right, somehow, that in my final year I’ve have gotten this incredible chance to branch out and serve as a representative for a segment of campus, and gotten to know Midd on an entirely new level of operation.


This post is a bit overdue, but it is time to write about what I consider the most unique part of the Middlebury curriculum – J-term.  J-term, for those who do not know, is a term in our academic year that lasts for only one month, January.  During January students take only one class, which allows them to focus solely on that subject for the entire month.  This means that students can be less fearful about meeting the requirements of the class because they have no other courses to worry about.  Courses offered during J-term are also unique, while some mainstays of the curriculum like Organic Chemistry and other intro classes, or upper level requirements, most students take a course that is something completely new to them, or something that you would not expect to see offered.  The quirkiness of many of these course allows students to explore topics that interest them in a way that makes them nonthreatening   I used my first J-term to explore the arts here at Middlebury, something that I wanted to do, but I was afraid that I lacked the skill and artistic ability to participate in studio art classes at the college level.  Having a less rigorous course schedule, and more time to complete work with, I was easily able to take my first art class at Middlebury.  My experience with the arts here convinced me to take several more classes, all of which have provided me with great experiences, as well as new techniques and skills that I never thought I would know.

I think the one problem with J-term is how few classes you will be able to take before you graduate.  The classes offered during this time of the year take both students and professors out of their comfort zones, and both groups explore entirely new subject matter with each other.  It is easy to see the excitement in both students and their professors as both become immersed in the beauty of learning and exploring, which at the end of the day is what the liberal arts are all about.  A few of my favorite classes offered during J-term range the spectrum of science, literature, languages, and the humanities.  One of my friends here at the college took a class during her sophomore J-term called “Caveman Chemistry” during which she learned about chemistry through science projects that you might see in a 5th grade classroom, such as, how to make soap and paper.  Another group of my friends took a class about the Lord of the Rings, just like everyone else in the world, they are huge Tolkien fans, during their class they read the trilogy, the Hobbit, and the Silmarillion.  The best part about this class was that it was taught by a computer science professor who simply had a passion for the Lord of the Rings.

The other great thing about J-term are the experiences students have outside of the classroom.  Only taking one class, which often meets only a few times a week, and for only part of the day allows students to explore the social, cultural, and community aspects of Middlebury as well.  J-term workshops offer student the ability to take fun, non-academic courses such as iron-working  making your own Adirondack chair, and a cooking class to learn how to make that special someone fall in love with you through their stomach.  J-term also offers you perhaps the best skiing opportunity you may have in your entire life.  Free shuttles to and from the College take students to Middlebury’s own ski slopes at the Snow Bowl.

In my eyes, J-term symbolizes everything that Middlebury is about.  It is a unique way to accomplish our liberal arts mission.  The opportunity to learn in a unique environment provides students academic opportunities, which they would not otherwise have.  J-term is my favorite part of the Middlebury curriculum, and the memories that I have created here during J-term will always be some of my fondest memories from Midd.

Very Merry Middlebury

Oh, the charm of a small-town life. If you have visited Middlebury previously, you might not have been too impressed with the little town that surrounds our campus. Granted, it’s not exactly a bustling Metropolis, but Middlebury has its selection of lovely restaurants (American, Vietnamese, Italian, etc) and adorable shops. This isn’t all though. If you thought Middlebury was a boring middle-of-nowhere town, think again!

There are many ways you can get involved with the town. One way you can give back to the community is through the numerous community service opportunities. For example, my friends really love volunteering at local schools and day care centers. You can also volunteer at the Charter House, a housing facility which provides emergency housing for those in need. There are volunteer opportunities at WomenSafe, if you are passionate about the elimination of physical, sexual and emotional violence against women. I know a couple of friends who have worked on the 24-hour hotline service.

If you are musically inclined, every J-Term, Middlebury, in conjunction with the Town Hall Theater, puts on a musical production. You can audition for a role at the end of Fall semester. You can take it as a class, and the performances are extremely popular. This year, the musical of choice was Into the Woods, and last year’s performance was Hairspray. You need to purchase the tickets on the day they go on sale to have a chance at a seat!

The town has fun events going on throughout year . Better Middlebury Partnership  organizes these events. For Halloween, we have our Middlebury Spooktacular; they have a hay bale! For Christmas, we have Very Merry Middlebury. You can go on horse-drawn wagon rides, make your own gingerbread house, enjoy a free gift-wrapping service, participate in Lessons and Carols, and join a Hanukkah celebration. Of course, Santa makes an appearance!  Vermont Chili Festival happens this Saturday. You can taste over 40+ types of chili and vote for your favorite one! There were 5000 people attending last year. Who knows how many will show up this year, especially with the NCAA Skiing Championships being held at the Snow Bowl this year. I am planning going on the Ben & Jerry’s Factory tour Saturday morning and attending the Chili Festival in the afternoon. I have a feeling my stomach is going to hate me by the end of the day.


Final Semester Adventures

I will not let myself post about the “end” of senior year – not yet, anyways. I won’t talk about how my last Winter Carnival has come and gone or how the “100 Days” party is right around the corner. I’m not going to focus on the fact that talk of dinner reservations and plans with friends for graduation weekend has officially begun.  Most importantly, I will NOT dwell on email I received this week asking me to confirm the spelling of my full name for my diploma (!!!). Instead, I will focus on the positive – that sense of enthusiasm, adventure and fun that has come to define my final semester at Middlebury.

This weekend, a group of friends and I are heading down to Pittsfield, Vt. to compete in an annual snow shoe race that we have done for the past few years. The event is always worth the early morning wake up; it offers an awesome course through the snow, tons of competitors from across New England, a warm fire, free lunch and music at the finish line. It is safe to say snow shoe racing was not on my radar screen before coming to Middlebury, but, as I mention during my information sessions, it has come to be one of my favorite parts of winter! The Middlebury Mountain Club (MMC) helps tons of us participate, covering the registration fee, providing free transportation to and from the mountain, and lending out snow shoes at open gear hours. My group of friends competing this year is the biggest yet, and I know that’s because we all feel – whether we want to admit it or not – that it’s our last shot to do something like this.

That “why not?” attitude seems to have pervaded our lives, and I can’t say I mind it. Trip to the Ben & Jerry’s factory last week? Delicious. Last minute visit to Burlington? Absolutely. Even classes have taken on new excitement; having finished my major requirements, like many of my friends, I am taking courses in disciplines I’ve never focused on. Reading Moby Dick and learning about South Asian geography, for example, Midd continues to push me academically.

So, if senior spring is tinged with sadness, it also brings a new energy to classes, activities and adventures here. Graduation may be looming in the all-too-immediate future, with caps and gowns and diplomas just around the corner, but in the mean time seniors are choosing to focus on the present and live it up in the Green Mountain state.