Author Archives: Paul Hildebrand

Fall Family Weekend

Soon after leaving for college, I learned that my parents have this eccentric habit of trying to stay in touch with their children after they leave home.  Even more bizarre, it seemed that the families of many of my friends had the same habit.  Who knew?

This odd trend, surely unique to Middlebury parents, led to the creation of Fall Family Weekend.  This weekend is a campus-wide celebration of both how much Middlebury students love and appreciate their families and also how grateful they are to no longer be living at home.  The College puts on a whole host of events: lectures, open houses, performances, panel discussions, screenings, and more to bring students, faculty and families together.  These events often occur back to back and are always located as far as possible from one another.  This ensures that you spend the majority of the weekend with your parents walking around in the rain.  This goes along with the long-held theory* in psychology that family bonds are best strengthened by damp, chilly, and exhausting situations.

For me, it is always a privilege to show my family the things that I’ve accepted as normal in my Middlebury life.  Things like eating in the dining halls (my parents LOVE the dining halls), spending time with my suitemates, going to the farmers’ market, attending guest lectures, and walking up Chipman Hill are the norm for me but hardly for my parents.  Being able to show my parents and sister what my life here actually (well, vaguely) looks like helps us to better connect with one another and to see my education here in context.

And context is really what Fall Family Weekend teaches you.  When you meet your friends’ parents you realize that everyone here, as much as they appear to be completely singular and independent, comes from a background that helped shape them to be here.  At the same time, you connect your Middlebury education to the way that YOU were raised, and your parents do exactly the same from the opposite perspective.  Bringing parents to Middlebury helps to break down the barrier that all of us unintentionally place between our college lives and our lives prior to Middlebury.

Long live Fall Family weekend!

But wow, thank goodness it’s over.

*not a real-life theory

Gettin’ Down and Dirty at the Bike Shop

At Middlebury, having a bike is like having Cheez-its in your room.  Not really necessary, but extremely convenient.  The operative difference here is that it is not necessary to grease the bearings of your Cheez-its.

The solution for this is the campus bike shop.   The student-run, college-owned Bike Shop is located in the basement of Adirondack House.  When the shop is open (Wednesday through Saturday evenings), anyone can bounce in with their bicycle-related woes and find all the equipment and help they could possibly need.  Students who know their way around bikes hang around, making sure that everyone’s needs are being addressed.  There are enough spare parts sitting around that you could (and many do) bring in an old frame, scavenge the remaining parts, and build a bike from scratch.  For free.  Pretty sweet.

Thursday sessions are spiced up by the Fencing club, which holds its practice directly above us in the Coltrane Lounge.  This ensures that you work quickly, given that it sounds like the ceiling could collapse at any moment.  Adirondack House is one of the oldest buildings on campus.

My involvement in the Bike Shop started when I took the J-term Bike Maintenance workshop.  In four two-hour sessions, we learned all the basics of bike maintenance – changing tires, replacing cables, greasing axles, adjusting shifters, etc.  Since then, I’ve been in and out, sometimes to fix real problems, and sometimes to create imaginary problems so I can then repair them.

Sometimes, when you are a student, you need to work with your hands.  That’s why the Bike Shop is such a great place.