Author Archives: Arthur Choo


Welcome back to the Middlebury Spring Semester. This is my last term at Middlebury College and by far the busiest too. Its tough balancing all the demands that come with being a student that’s about to leave. Finishing senior theses, spending time with faculty/friends, and thinking about what I want to do in the next phase of life is pretty time-consuming. Add the late new-years resolution of going to the gym and calling home more frequently to the mix… and it’s pretty chaotic. Soon enough though… it will be all over. In less than four months my fellow ’12 classmates and I will be leaving this place and moving onto different things. We’ll have to make some important decisions in the coming months about where we want to be and what we want to be doing – of course, having that choice is a luxury too.

For many of you reading this blog, you’ll have to make some choices too. Soon enough, you will be hearing back from the many (or perhaps few) colleges that you applied to. Good luck! Once all the mail is on the table, there will be offers from various schools and just like the people getting ready to leave college, you’ll be faced with similar perplexing questions about where you want to spend your next for years and what you want to do while you’re there. I honestly can’t offer any advice except to try and be true to the process. Get in touch with current students at the colleges you’re interested in and ask them about obscure things that matter to you.

Rice in the dining hall? Yes. Important to me.

Proximity of laundry facility to room? Yes. Important to me.

Quality of coffee? Yes. Important to me.  (Thankfully something I can control)

Water pressure in shower? Yes. EXTREMELY important to me.

Reach out, talk to people, visit if you haven’t visited already. Whether or not Middlebury is your first choice or not (it wasn’t for me) each school has different things to offer and if you take some time to figure those things out, it will make your overall undergraduate experience better wherever you decide to go. Once again, good luck in the coming weeks. Before you know it four years will fly by.

Home Stretch

The end of fall semester for a Middlebury student typically parallels winter season sells. Thanksgiving Break = Black Friday. We get a couple days off to relax (or make some final-year purchases at a discounted price). But just as shopping malls restock their inventory in preparation for christmas sales as soon Thanksgiving is over, students returning from the Thanksgiving holidays have one thing on their minds: Christmas break.

The end of the term is not far away. In less than two weeks, classes will have ended. In less than a month, most students will be back home. For some, that means a relatively short drive away from campus. For others, that means getting on one (or a few) flights over a period of hours or even days. In any case, before we know it we’ll be gone and another semester will have ended. Of course, fourteen days doesn’t seem that long until you start factoring in the amount of work that needs to get done before we are free.

As all my fellow students would agree, finals week is tough. Starting next monday the library will be open 24 hours. So exciting! Its my favorite time of the year. Really. Not. Well, it depends I guess… For any prospective students reading this, I’m sure its going to be a stressful few weeks as well. Not only do you have to prepare for school finals, deadlines for college applications are right around the corner. I understand. I was there once too. In fact, I’m doing the same thing for graduate school right now.

Sometimes there’s an urge to give up, convince yourself that you dont want it, and watch hulu. In some cases, this impulse is right. Its time to reevaluate priorities. There isn’t much time left so start thinking about what you wan’t most. Be smart about how you tackle these upcoming weeks — a little planning can go a long way. Be attentive to details, but focus on the big picture. As you probably already know, its always worth it in the end (in some way or another).

Good luck to everyone. The reward is waiting.

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. 

Where the work gets done…?

Everybody has different study habits. Some people work best in the morning. Others work best at night. And even others work best when morning and night start to blend together. Personally, I am the most productive when there is nobody to procrastinate with on gmail chat – though this has gotten quite complicated since many of my friends have moved abroad.

Nonetheless, the work gets done – at various times and in various places. Here is a list of some of the best places to be productive on campus.

  1. Davis Family Library: The ‘Main’ Library located (somewhat) conveniently on campus. It’s probably best to come here during the day when there are less people. At night, the library becomes pretty social just because there are so many people there. For those doing senior theses or independent work, private work-spaces (thesis carrels) are available. They are really nice because you have your own desk, locker, and private space to work.
  2. Wilson Family Café: Located within the Davis Family Library, its for those who some level to distraction to be productive. Its nice to have the various amenities in the vicinity like coffee and snacks, though it does tend to get a bit loud. Of course, this is where you’ll most likely be working if you have to pull an all-nighter once the library closes at 1:00am. I’ve met some of my best friends here… shared suffering.
  3. Axinn Center: True gem of the college. If you’re going to be working late, make sure you get into the building before midnight! After midnight, you’ll be allowed to stay in the building but wont be able to come back in again if you leave (the doors lock behind you). Axinn has a lot of great places to study. If you’re practicing a presentation, you can just use one of the large lecture rooms. If you want to do some quiet reading, the lounge and the Abernathy room provide the necessary comfort and ambience. If you need to use computers, the lab downstairs is fully equipped with iMacs that are great for writing papers.
  4. McCardell Bicentennial Hall: Studying for a science test tomorrow? You’ll probably find the most help here. Though it is a bit far for those who are living on the south side of campus, it could be well worth your trip. Though the science library closes early, there is still ample space in the building to use. Stroll into one of the classrooms, the computer lab downstairs, or even the main hall to do some work. If you’re working in BiHall in the early evening, you’ll also probably get to see an awesome sunset through the biggest glass windows in Vermont! Exciting
  5. Sunderland: Not for the faint-hearted. This building is open 24 hours. It has very few windows. In most cases, you don’t want to end up studying here… It probably means you have a ton of work the next day and cant be bothered to see the depressing sunrise the following morning. Don’t worry – it serves its purpose. I’ve already paid my dues here.

Those are some of the main places that students study on campus. There are also places like Hillcrest (the environmental house) and other lounges/study areas in some of the dorms that are quite nice as well. Personally, I like using my thesis carrel in the library or working in the computer lab in Munroe way past midnight. Everyone has their own little space. It takes some time to discover it, but you’ll know it when you find it. 

Taking Back the Bank

Granted, $53,420 is a lot to pay for a year anywhere. On my current diet of ramen, coffee, and dried mangoes, that much bank could last me a long, LONG time. Sometimes (rarely… but sometimes) a part of me wants to walk into the student financial services office and ask if it would be possible to trade in my acquired education and skill-set for the comprehensive fee. Given the current state of the economy, these brief musings have actually transformed into fully developed hypotheticals. What if it were possible? What would the process be like? Would I actually be entitled to 50K a year?

The conclusion: possibly. Imagining the process is quite standard. Walk in to the lab, sign a consent form (somehow) approved by the IRB, put on the tech-savvy helmet that connects to your neurons, and watch as the numbers on the dollar sign meter increase as knowledge is drained from your cranium. Happy Halloween.

Yet imagining the rate of compensation is much more fascinating. I’m sure that the education and skill-set I gained at Middlebury adds up to above $200,000. After all, learning happens both inside the classroom and out. The wealth of experience here isn’t quantifiable. Yes, it’s true (and I believe it too). But let’s assume that our knowledge was only worth the yearly comprehensive fee, would it still be equitable to take the 50K? The answer I consistently arrive at is (un)fortunately, no. Why? Well, because Middlebury doles out a lot of $$ to students through a variety of processes in a variety of sectors.

So how to get the muhni? The simple answer is work. There are significant work opportunities both on and off campus. I currently work as a Senior Fellow in the Admissions Office (hence this blog post), a First Year Mentor and Peer Writing Tutor for the CTLR, and as an Overseas Student Correspondent for the South Korean Government (Yes! While at Middlebury!). I also worked as a research assistant to two faculty members – one during the academic year and one during my summer when I was back at home in South Korea. Often times the work I’m engaged in is something I would do just for the experience; getting paid is just a bonus. Moreover, finding these opportunities isn’t difficult: ( The hours add up, and it’s nice to see a fat check in your mailbox every two weeks.

But there are alternate (perhaps, less-known) ways of taking back your tuition. Middlebury has funding for almost everything – provided you look hard enough. My personal favorite is research grants. Last summer, I received a $4000 research grant to conduct my senior thesis research in Seoul. It covered travel, accommodation, food, and research expenses. I also received funding to attend an academic conference in Las Vegas to present some of my original work. In addition to these opportunities, Middlebury has money for starting community initiatives, founding student organizations, and even funding to offset the cost of unpaid summer/winter internships.

There is money if you look. Taking back some of your tuition doesn’t have to be as drastic as the Halloween cranium drain. It’s nice to take a break from the work and look for people/ways that will give you money to do something you’re interested in. More often than not, you’ll find one. All right, back to the search: go/fellowships. If only I could convince one of the departments to hire me on a postbacc…