Author Archives: Mona Quarless

The Allergen Effet

The end is near. This is my last week of classes for my undergraduate career. The last time I will sit in class with the professors I have gotten familiar with over the last 4 years. The last time I live, work, and socialize on the same 320 acres. The last time I will be able to wake up 5 minutes before a meeting and still arrive at a decent time. Yet, despite this week of first, last times all I can do is sneeze. If it is one thing you will not be lacking when you arrive in the state of Vermont it will be the allergens. We have every type here from pollen: aspen, elm, birch, to grass and tree. Here we have it all!

The irony about allergies is on days like today when the sun is shining  perfectly, reflecting on all the cherry blossoms in bloom, I find my face making more contact with a tissue than the beautiful breeze. It’s days like today where I feel conflicted. I love the aesthetic beauty of Middlebury’s landscape, yet my poor nose, ears, eyes and throat itch like I have swallowed poison ivy. Today I yearn for the relief only the concrete jungle of NYC can provide.

In 2 weeks’ time I will officially be a Middlebury College alumna. In 4 weeks’ time I will begin my post-bac class at Brooklyn College. In 3 months I will hopefully have a part-time position while finishing my classes.  In 9 months’ time the federal government will begin to ask my for payments on my loan. In 12 months’ time I will begin my graduate program at U Cincinnati and be asking to government for a little assistance. It will also be spring again and I will need a box of tissues to assist my nose in its bi-annual anti-environmental spasms. It’s funny how although things appear to change the actual remain the same.

20 Things I Will Miss

I have begun to make a list of things I will miss about Middlebury…  Some will say it is too soon I say, NAH!

  1. Waking up 20 minutes before you are supposed to be somewhere and still getting there on time.
  2. Not having to wash dishes daily.
  3. Having extended vacations such as Winter Break, Feb Break, Spring Break and Summer Break. In the real world you get circa 1.5 sick days a month and maybe a week long paid vacation, other than that Sallie Mae, Freddie Mac and “The Man” own you…at least until the student loans are paid.
  4. Taking long showers and not directly feeling the burden of a water bill.
  5. Leaving the lights in your room/apartment on and not being shocked when the heating bill comes.
  6. Being able to have heart to hearts with your friends face to face until 3 / 4 in the morning.
  7. Having impromptu 2 hours Skype dates.
  8. Being able to see your friends face to face, daily.
  9. Procrastinating till 2 in the morning and still getting a project done…Well maybe this will still work in the real world in some situations, but not both. A doctor can’t speed up a 12 hour surgery because he over slept.
  10. Having constant access to your professors, your mentors, and your bosses through e-mail, phone or drop in visit.
  11. The joy of care packages…once you leave college you will have to buy your own cookies and snack basket.
  12. Naps. One can schedule these in but it is very difficult at a 9-5 without getting pink-slipped.
  13. Rolling over and deciding… Nah not today.
  14. Walking around a town enclosed by mountains.
  15. The quiet tranquility of the campus, most nights from 11pm to 7 am.
  16. State of the art facilities.
  17. Not paying for ink cartridges.
  18. Having a buffet and open salad bar for every meal.
  19. Eating at all times of the night and day.
  20. Falling asleep in a Library/Public place and not being judged!

Foul Ball

Just when I thought I had everything organized, fate throws me a curve ball and I strike out between 3rd Base and Home. I was so close to having the big man upstairs yell “SAFE,” and finally feel like I was putting my life to good use. But instead I am on the ground with grass stains and dirt spoiled pants wondering whether or not I made a good move just going for it.

I use this long baseball analogy to describe my present position. In less than a week I have decided to defer, grade school for year and pursue a job. There were a host of reasons that played into this decision, the top reasons which were pre-req completion, undergraduate burnout and the desire to experience the work force. In less in 60 hours I made all of these decisions, not REALLY realizing that I have less than 40 days (Roughly the Lenten season) to complete it all. Oh and let’s not forget finishing all of my senior work, organizing for graduation, beginning to ship things home and finding an internship, before I move back to New York. It’s days like this I wonder “who needs sleep” even though it is one of the day’s most tranquil rewards. Yet, I m a firm believer (you caught me on a good day) that everthing happens for a reason. My schooling, my major, my change in plans, it is all a part of the greater diagram to help me reach my vocation.

Just 4 years ago I had no idea what I wanted to major in and my desired occupations shifted from Culinary arts, to interior design to whatever was floating through the air duct that day.  I was anxious on just what this dance class was teaching more, or what if I don’t properly use the centrifuge and my experiment goes awry, what then? Now that I have been able to put a few things into perspective I can tell you either redo the experiment or improve on the next one. If none of those work you still leave with the experience that has given you more knowledge. Day by day I am becoming more confident with the decision I have made. Whatever the next year and a half brings I plan to embrace it with opens arms knowing it will all pan out how it is supposed to.

Being a Freshman, for the Third Time

Starting over. Just when you thought the application process was over, after 4 years it starts again. Well for some of us it does. And the sad part is the common app still has yet, to create a hub that services jobs, grad schools and internships in one place. For me it was graduate applications. As a High School student I never truly appreciated how efficient Common App really is. During HS I was frustrated with this Mega-computer computer that had no phone number on the website and only serviced students through an online medium or e-mail or quick chat. Applying to grad school was a whole different ball game. Each school had a unique individualized application which asks for everything short of your soul. (Kidding!) It’s also nervous because visiting Grad Schools does not take place the same way that visiting perspective colleges did. It is moreso you apply and then you are invited to visit if you are accepted. This is daunting task as the characteristics of your grad school will inevitable contrast you undergraduate experience, especially if you attended a liberal arts school such as Middlebury. I applied to all large state/research universities and now I am faced with the task of choosing one. In 3 months I will have to move to a brand new state, find an apartment, a roommate and state off as a first year student all over again. The cycle repeats. Enjoy undergrad while you can! There is nothing else like it.

Shankin’ My Fanny Muscle

No We Can’t !
YES, You can!

Oh crap. I really can’t. I can’t sing. Why I am just thinking about this now? Mona you knew you were going to be auditioning for a musical! But I thought they would just need back-up dancers and if it’s one thing I can do it’s shake my Von-tusle! Well what are you going to do now? The door is too far away and the director looks so excited. Well, let’s hope there is another tone deaf soul in the room. Here goes nothing.

        Such was the internal turmoil I experienced when I auditioned for Hairspray. I was soooo excited over the musical that I forgot the obvious. You have to know how to sing, dance and act. The latter two I have experience with, but singing. Let’s just say when I sing solo’s I sing so low no one hears me. In fact I am so skilled that I was actually part of the original Milly Vanilli. I am someone who sings at the top of my lungs when I am right in front of a speaker, but when other are in my presence I try to practice social cues and not embarrass others.
Needless to say I made it in. We were told we would be given voice lessons and have group practices. So far what I have learned is. When you have 25 people who can sing and 7 who can’t. The majority do a stellar job of drowning out the rest of us. I have slightly improved however. If I stand next to an alto, I am pretty talented and mimicking their pitch. However if a tenor, or bass or soprano get to close. I get thrown off and attempt to see all the tones. I try though. I am truly excited for J-term though. This is when we will begin to learn all the choreograpy and the script and if it’s one thing I will perfect it will be the hussle. This J-term, my final J-term at Middlebury I have decided to do something a little out of my comfort zone. In the past I was nervous to use J-term as a time to do something just for me. My past three J-terms I have taken  Micro-Economics, Living with Illness(Best class I have ever taken!) and last year I became a certified Hospice volunteer.  All have taught me something about myself, but have truly been classroom based. Hairspray will afford the opportunity to be in Town Hall theater everyday from 1-4 pm then from 7-10 pm. I await J-term with sheer happiness and anticipation. Get your tickets early! They go on sale January 8th. For Middkidds. Look it up at go/obo!

Waiting for Godot

Walking home from the library this weekend I looked around and said out loud, “There is something missing,” without missing a beat my suitemate said, “The leaves, we’re missing the leaves.” Ah yes, the leaves. Normally walking around we always have some visual obstruction. Whether it is the plush green leaves or the lightly layered snow on the bare tree branches, weather transitions here at Middlebury are blunt. It’s warm and then it’s cold. Yet, this year Mother Nature has been playing with our emotions and Old Man winter has been a uncharacteristically absent. (Something I honestly do not mind.) As Middkidd you know two things: (a) You are either cold or (b) Surprised you are not as cold as you thought you would be.

My freshman year at Middlebury was a doozy. We had freeze warnings like it was no one’s business. And it was always worded so nicely. If I recall correctly they went a little something like this *ahem*

“Please minimize time spent outdoors as a freeze warning is in effect.  The temperature is 2 below, but the wind chill makes it feel like -20.”

Just reading that makes  me cold. Thinking about to my fist freshman winter, there was snow, there was ice and there were plenty of falls. 

Sophomore year I prepared for the worst, increasing my fleece arsenal, gloves, hats and prayers. And we got 1 big snowstorm.  Technically we had two. The first was the day before we were supposed to return to campus, so I will not count it. (Although my friends and I had an adventure seeing as our 5 hour drive turned into a 36 hours ordeal…but that is a story for another day.) But the 1 big storm we had (in March or April) only knocked out power for 3 hours, not enough to cancel class, but just enough to make you bitter you had to walk in it. Overall it was a pretty easy winter. Nice enough where some days I could keep my window open and let the sun shine into my room.

Junior year hmmm…I think people in Antarctica were colder than usual last winter. I spent my Fall in Atlanta, Georgia at Spelman College so I had a real transitional season. A true Fall. With brisk winds, a light jacket and gradual shift to the cold. Coming back to Middlebury in January was a complete slap in the face. It seemed like every day it was snowing. I mean it was as if Old Man Winter’s snow blower was stuck in the “On” position. I would wake up and there was a new level of precipitation to battle with. But I made it.

Yet this year, no one knows. It was uncharacteristically warm in September. We have had a quick wintry mix, where everything was evaporated by noon, but that has been it for snow. I am weary of being too optimistic as at any time we could just be hit with freezing rain, but I will say this. Whatever the season brings I will embrace it. As this will be my last year of first snows in the Green Mountain state.

Just. Ask.

The question: “What does she look like?” is a normal question one would ask when trying to identify another human being. However at Middlebury I have learned it can turn into a game of 21 questions.

Is she short? Kinda

How long is her hair? Um shoulder length…

What is her style? I dunno, depends on the day

Does she play a sport? No…

Does she hang out with any athletes? I’ve seen her at a few games…

Does she do any clubs? Yeah, I think she is in Riddim and does other orgs too…

What  is her major: I think she is in the sciences

Well what does she look like!? Um she is kinda short, black hair, brown eyes…

Oh, is she black? (Long Pause.) She’s African American, I believe…

The topic of race is one that many like to approach with deliberate ambiguity. I could tell you that Middlebury has 22% U.S. students of color, but what does that mean? What does that truly tell you about our institution?

I have realized in the past 4-years that Admissions counselors have one of the best jobs on campus. Not only are they able to meet prospective students, but their job provides them the medium to truly gain a more holistic view of each student. They have the luxury of looking at a student’s academic history in relation to their character. In the fast-paced academic bubble of Middlebury we rarely make the time to learn about each other outside of the classroom. Based on our majors, friends and personal assumptions we sometimes create artificial boundaries and stick to them for our four years. I thought I would take the time in this blog entry to shed light on a touchy subject.

Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m proud! (Did you say it?) Probably not, and simply reading it I know it made some people uncomfortable and wary of reading further. But bear with me as I flesh this out. I bring the race topic to the table with humor because I feel it is one of the few ways to address the issues without causing conniptions or heart palpitations. Let’s start with a basic fact.  We all have varying levels of melanin that cause our skin color to be different shades. So to all those folks who like to say they are “color-blind”…Please leave that to the folks who really have that genetic condition. You see me, and surprise, I am black.

The whole topic of race is something subjective, so I will leave that for each person to individually define. But I can speak for myself…and I shall. Ethnicity-wise my parents are Grenadian. Grenada (pronounced GREN – NAY – DUH) is an island in the West Indies (not to be confused with Granada, the city in Spain.) The national language is English (as we used to be a British colony) and one of our major exports before Hurricane Ivan was nutmeg. If you ever have a chance to visit, you will experience views such as these everyday.->

The Spice Island


Now, just who is Mona? (I’m getting there…)

I was born in Suffolk, England. (Gasp, What?  And she has no accent?) Sadly, no, I was teased and the Queen’s tongue left me faster than you can say PIPPA.  I am a military brat and it is a title I hold near and dear to my heart. I am an American and I am very proud of my parent’s dedication and service to this country. That being said, I also identify heavily with my Grenadian and British roots. My house is always filled with Cream Crackers, Marks and Spencer’s products and nutmeg. To throw another hook in there, I also identify as a southerner as I lived in Sumter, South Carolina for 8 years. And Before Midd I lived in Brooklyn, New York for 10 years. My life is a mezcla of Urban, Southern West Indian cool with a hint of English austerity. I go through all this to prove a simple point. Get to know me. Don’t assume by my clothing, my surroundings or my skin color that you know all there is to know about. In the words of the artist Mateo, Just get to know, I’m here… Till May, that is  🙂

Unlike Mastercard, College has a Pricetag

One of the hardest things about college for me has been affording it. Coming to Middlebury has been a dream, but I know my forefathers and future progeny already feel the strain. (You laugh, they cry.) Debt is a real thing that many at Middlebury have to luxury to overlook.  Experts all say College debt is GOOD DEBT, yet I say COLLEGE DEBT, is STRESSFUL DEBT until you pay it off in your thirties or forties only to accrue more debt when your children begin their higher education journeys. (Simply thinking about it makes me head spin.) Yet, my parents have told me from day one, “we will pay for you to get the highest degree in your desired field because your education is something that no one can take away.” My grey hairs on the other hand, well those are simply small battle wounds.

Coming to college was an eye opening economic experience. In high school, I was quite frankly oblivious to the financial dedication my parents had to my prowess as a student. My awakening started when I got my first Middlebury tuition bill.  My mother held her heart (I believe college bills may have caused her to develop an arrhythmia) and dad said “If that’s where you want to go, we will make the necessary sacrifices.” I was giddy, but I had no idea what the word sacrifice truly meant. It means refinancing the house, it means removing investments, it means dipping into life savings, it means taking on more hours at work and never complaining. When I came to Middlebury, my first mission was to solidify a job. I was so determined, I solidified two.

In October of my freshman year I began receiving bills for minimum payment on my loan. Now mind you this is not to pay back my loan, this is simply trying to tackle the TAXES on my loan. The way the government sees it, if I make minimum payments for the rest of my young adult years, I will be paying them for at least 20 years. Not to mention I will not actually begin paying off my loan until 2016, 4 years after I graduate. When realities like this began to set in, my stress levels rose. Bills are one thing, but in high school you have everything you need right at home: food, clothes, toiletries, school supplies, the family checkbook, are all at arm’s reach. I have always been economical and never really desired many material items (I wore a uniform for basically my whole life).  So coming to college was eye opening on just how much living on your own costs. Let’s just give a basic Mastercard example. Buying a ticket home $200

Paying for the monopoly kingpin: Midd-Transit $110 each way, (if you are alone or they just happen to forget you in the airport. -_- )

Checking in luggage, first bag with Jet- blue is FREE (Thank God for small mercies.)

Getting home on the MTA (which has jacked up its prices, so we will say) $7.

Filling up your parent’s car with gas because you desire you use it. $50+…and the list goes on.

Not to mention you have not even left campus for a solid 24 hours yet. In one day alone that is roughly $360 of your hard earned money gone. Money that you never thought twice about because *coughyouhadastudentmetrocardcough* and quite frankly day-to-day costs were not salient before.


(Unlike Mastercard, nothing here is priceless. Except maybe the look on your face when check your bank statement.)

Being a student worker has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my collegiate experience. I have a strong sense of autonomy and I have become much more financially independent from my parents. Although the hours can be taxing and the ultimate sacrifice is sleep, reduced social, personal time, vision (the list goes on, but I digress.) I have truly been afforded the ability to see that the real world is not all about nightly highlighter wars with your sheets, but interpersonal skills that cannot be mastered sitting in a classroom.

True Life: I Survive in the Green Mountains

It may come as no surprise (if you are a middkid) and the people from U.S. News Today, that we have lots and lots of homework. And I do not mean the busy work they give you in high school that you procrastinate on and ultimately finish 5 minutes before class. I mean a never ending supply of assignments, labs, papers and research proposals that if you truly calculated would take you about 7 years, 3 months, and 4 business days to complete. Middlebury on the other hand wants you to do it all in 4 years, plus or minus 2 J-terms.

Coming to Middlebury, I was excited! I planned on being a History and English major so I would be able to read and write all day. Then I had a few epiphanies and decided I like the sciences and film studies; two academic areas that would absorb my time both meta-physically and cognitively. Not only did I have classes during the day from 8 – 4:30pm, but I would have night classes at least 2 days a week, rendering me exhausted and dazed as I trekked through the snow back to my room during the wee hours of the morning only to sleep 5 -6 hours and do it all over again when the birds began to sing. I have tried many times to operate on auto-pilot. Yet as technology would have it, something always malfunctions and I am left troubleshooting my way back into the swing of things.

Reading this, many Middkids would probably respond with a face resembling one such as this -> 0_0.  Wondering why did she break the blue panther shield of silence? We are supposed to keep up the image that we are unstoppable, indefatigable in our attempts to achieve excellence and raise the bar of liberal arts academia to new heights. Yet the reality is: We  All Struggle. Each and every one of us has had a day, or two or three (hell, let’s round up to a semester) where we question why we are here. Are we really smart or are we just exceptional skimmers and plot over-viewers? Where we look at a lab write up and ask ourselves “Would Chinese 101 be easier?” Where we sit in class looking at the clock, praying that our eye-lids don’t close for too long and our notes will be legible later on today and not resemble ancient Sanskrit.  But the reality is, we do it. We make it though. We might not be unscathed, but if it is anything we have learned from this 200k education, it’s how to fake till you make it. Welcome to the Big Midd Blue.