Author Archives: Sara Cohen


One of the buzzwords most heard around campus this past week has been avocado, in light of a recent gift by the parent of a freshman Feb of 10,000 pounds of Ettinger avocados to Middlebury College dining services. As the avocados made their first appearances in the dining halls last week, students were shocked and awed at the unexpected presence of such an exotic food alongside our normal bananas, oranges and apples. Word spread like wildfire, and the dining halls became new sites of expectation and anticipation.  And as the myth of the avocados spread, so did rumors of their origin. Many speculated as the to the exact quantity of avocados that Middlebury was now in possession of—5 tons, 20,000 avocados, an entire truckload full?—yet their exact numbers and source remained something of legend.

Yesterday, Middlebury Magazine published an article online detailing the exact quantity and source of the gift of the avocados, including quotes from the chefs of our three dining halls on campus who were tasked with coming up with creative menus to make use of this windfall.  Indeed, over the past week, the dining halls have been replete with creative dishes featuring avocado, and every trip to the dining hall offers another opportunity to discover the new, and perhaps unexpected, ways that the avocado has been implemented into our daily meals. Over the past week, I have tried avocado coconut ice cream, avocado lime cheesecake, avocado salad, grilled avocado with pineapple relish, and of course, guacamole. Moreover, these dinosaur egg shaped vegetables have been showing up in surprising locations all across campus. I’ve discovered several in my suite this week, and students can be seen stashing one in their backpack to be eaten later as a snack.

All in all, the avocado has overtaken Middlebury, and from the sound of it, we’ll be eating them for a long time to come. So, if you’re going to be visiting Middlebury in the next couple of weeks, or if you’re coming to campus next week as part of Preview Days, be sure to look out for these creative additions in Ross, Proctor and Atwater! Guacamole forever!

Waiting for Spring

Over the past couple of weeks, the weather here at Middlebury has both given us tempting tastes of the spring temperatures to come, and also realistic reminders that it is still only the middle of March, and thus, entirely within the realm of winter in Vermont. Some say that the fifth season in Vermont is mud season, the time of year after the last snowfall but before the weather warms consistently, where the ground that has absorbed snow moisture for the entire winter finally emerges in a slushy and muddy mess. However, despite this sometimes unpleasant transition between the seasons, mud season signals the beginning of spring, and all of the lovely arrivals of one of the prettiest times in Vermont. I love April and May in Middlebury because the grass finally appears again, and it is green, a refreshing change after months of brown and grey. The trees on campus start to bloom, and beautiful pink blossoms appear on the cherry trees outside of Battell. During my freshman spring, my friends and I spent many Friday afternoons lying out on a beach blanket on Battell Beach, pretending to do our reading, but really just basking in the sun. Aside from the weather changes, the spring season brings some special events to campus. Midd Mayhem, an annual springtime tradition hosted by MCAB (Middlebury College Activities Board) with outdoor games, movies, and a special outdoor picnic dinner, arrives in May. The Spring Student Symposium, an entire day dedicated to students presenting original research, comes at the end of April. The spring concert, also hosted by MCAB, which will feature the artist Wale this year, is another exciting tradition that draws huge crowds of students. And here in the admissions office, we are preparing for Preview Days, a three day campus-wide event in April in which admitted students are invited to campus to get a taste of what life is like at Middlebury. The program over these three days features panel discussions for students and parents, open club and student organization meetings, chances to meet with professors, and lots of special performances, shows and presentations.

 And for me, and all the other senior fellows in the office, this spring will undoubtedly bring feelings of nostalgia and sadness as it brings our Middlebury time to a close. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of these events and many more as the weather gets warmer, the flowers start to bloom, and the beauty of spring returns to campus.

Language Tables

Yesterday I had lunch in French. In Middlebury, Vermont. In Ross Dining hall. All of this was made possible because of language tables, where you can sit with seven other students and a professor and practice your language skills over the real life setting of lunch. Language tables offer an amazing opportunity to practice your new language outside of the classroom, and to learn how to say important things like, “Please pass the salt” or “This hamburger is delicious” in whatever language you’re learning. For me, the coolest thing about language tables is to listen to the din of other languages being spoken all around you at other tables. Yesterday, aside from the French tables, there were also students enjoying their lunch in Japanese, Italian and Portuguese. For an hour out of the day, students took a break from their lives in English and practiced living, eating, socializing in another language, all made possible because of language tables.

One of Middlebury’s greatest academic strengths is foreign languages, and there are so many opportunities to improve your language skills here, even outside of class. Aside from dutifully attending language tables and increasing your culinary vocabulary, students can also choose to live in a language house, where they will live with other students also studying their language and pledge to only speak that language when in the house. Language houses for Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and German are sprinkled across campus, each with dedicated student residents and a TA, a college student from that country living and working at Middlebury for a year. Living in a language house is like an abbreviated experience abroad as you are living your language instead of just speaking it for an hour each day in class.

All this is to say that Middlebury is an exciting place to learn a new language, or continue one you’ve already started. Although we are located in a small town in Vermont, there are so many ways to transport yourself to another country and another culture, even if it’s just for lunch.

Carnival Weekend!

Here at Middlebury, this weekend, our 89th Annual Winter Carnival, has been eagerly anticipated since the beginning of the year.  Winter Carnival is one of Middlebury’s oldest and best loved school traditions, and it involves a wide range of activities that bring the school community together over a celebration of winter, snow and skiing.  Although the weather up in Vermont this season has left a little to be desired (ironically, there is NO snow for this weekend’s Carnival), there is plenty of fun still to be enjoyed.  Festivities kicked off last night with a huge bonfire, a spectacular fireworks show, a special ice cream flavor in the dining halls for dinner, and the well-loved 80s dance, with music by Orange Crush.  Today, the festivities continue with ski races at the College Snow Bowl and a comedian tonight. Throughout the day, the Middlebury Mountain Club will be sponsoring a “Northern Lights” competition, in which students compete in teams in several different winter sports (human dogsledding is always a highlight to observe).  Tomorrow, the main event features a formal Winter Ball with catering from a local restaurant and a DJ.  All in all, the weekend is packed with events to bring the entire school community together in a celebration of winter. Over the past four years, Carnival festivities have been some of my most favorites memories of Middlebury, and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of my final Carnival this weekend.


And…there is snow in the forecast. Wonders never cease.


Friday afternoons have always been a magical time for me here at Middlebury. I’ve been fortunate over the years to only have class on Friday mornings, so that by the time lunch rolls around, it really feels like the weekend is here. Over the years, I’ve gotten into specific Friday afternoon routines (and as someone who generally dislikes changes and loves a schedule, routines work well for me) that have always signified the beginning of the weekend for me. During my freshman year, I went to a fabulous yoga class during the lunch hour, then ate a late lunch at Atwater dining hall with friends, and then spent my afternoons hanging in Battell and attending the weekly Friday snack provided by our CRA (something to look forward to if you’re lucky enough to live in Cook Commons freshman year!). Sophomore year, a friend of mine got me hooked on Grey’s Anatomy, so we would use our Friday afternoons to catch up on the previous Thursday’s episode. During junior year, Friday afternoons usually consisted of a long lunch in Proctor dining hall, catching up with the newspaper and with various friends as they floated in and out of the dining hall. And now, senior year, Friday afternoons are particularly sweet. I usually head to Atwater around noon and enjoy a classic Atwater Friday lunch of hearth bread (like pizza, but way better and the toppings are usually always veggies), Caesar salad and today in particular, a curried lentil soup, and catch up with various friends as they trickle in after morning classes. On Friday afternoons, everyone seems relaxed and excited for the weekend and whatever stress or worries of the week fall away.

Today also happens to be a gorgeous day in Middlebury, a bright and crisp late November day that shows off the absolute beauty of our campus. The Adirondack Mountains far in the distance are already capped with snow, the last of autumn leaves are swirling around campus, but the bright sun still adds a warmth and glow to the campus. As we head into the Thanksgiving break and the final weeks of the semester, I can feel myself dragging my feet, wishing for time to slow down. And every time we get a beautiful Friday like this, all I really want to do is sit for a leisurely lunch in Atwater, catch up on some Grey’s Anatomy, and look forward to the weekend.

So happy Friday from Middlebury and all of us Senior Fellows!

200 Days…Not Counting Down

At the risk of fixating too much upon our impending graduation, I’m going to continue in Teresa’s theme and write about the 200 Days party that took place this past weekend in McCullough Social Space.  As a member of the Senior Committee, I’ve spent considerable time and energy over the past several weeks planning this party, working with catering staff to decide exactly which Grille delicacies we wanted to eat, coordinating with Student Activities to have a large helium tank delivered to blow up several hundred balloons, and collaborating with a friend with an exceptional amount of artistic talent to design and print a poster for the event.  At the party, everything came together in a fabulous way, and everyone had a wonderful time.  Because the event was open only to seniors, it felt exclusive and intimate like few other parties do on this campus, where almost every social event is open to everyone.  It was a great opportunity to catch up with classmates I hadn’t seen in several years (including my freshman year roommate) and just generally to enjoy each other’s company and of course, to savor one of the final 200 days of our senior year.


Many friends I spoke with said it reminded them of freshman year all over again, except without the nerves, loneliness and anxiety that we all came to college with.  After having lunch with a friend who is in her first semester at Middlebury this past week, I’ve been thinking back a lot about my freshman year, and the transformations that I’ve made during these past four years at Middlebury. I very clearly remember coming to college feeling a little lost, eager and anxious to make friends and find “my people” at Middlebury, and excited and nervous about fitting in at a new place. Now, four years later, I easily consider Middlebury my home away from home. I have found fabulous friends here who I know will last for life, I have cultivated relationships with professors and consider many of them friends, and I have come to love this campus and the state of Vermont through many driving excursions, hiking trips, farmers market runs and picnics in the organic garden.  Even though starting college can seem impossibly daunting at first, it really does get easier, and chances are good that you’re not the only one feeling a little overwhelmed.  And then, before you know it, you will have found those friends, taken those classes and met those professors that inspire you, and found your place, wherever it is, at Middlebury. And then, before you can blink, you too will be attending your 200 Days party.


Perhaps I’m experiencing a premature wave of nostalgia at leaving Middlebury (Midd-sickness, as I heard one alum friend refer to it), but I am reminded now of the great challenge college represents, but also how rewarding the experience can become.  I’m determined to make the most of these final 200 days, spend quality time with my friends, and try not to count down the days until the next party…100 days (yikes!).

65 and November

One of the best things about going to school in Vermont is that the weather is never predictable. There’s a saying in Vermont that goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.” While this is something of an exaggeration, it is definitely rooted in fact, as you could wake up to a bright sunny day, eat lunch during a rainstorm, head to the library in hail, and return to your dorm in driving wind. Middlebury’s location between two mountain ranges (Adirondacks in New York and Greens in Vermont) and within the Champlain valley makes us particularly susceptible to changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure (and I’m no weatherman, so all of this is based solely upon personal observation and not scientific acumen) so that really, anything goes in terms of what’s happening outside. I’ve experienced some of the craziest weather of my life here, whether it’s a monster snow storm, a menacing thunderstorm that knocks out power for the entire campus, or an impossibly stunning sunset behind the Adirondack Mountains that makes it hard to imagine a more beautiful place on earth.

However, one of the best things about this unpredictable weather is that we can get moments like these past few days, the first week of November, that roll in with beautiful, sunny, warm weather reminiscent of early spring and late fall, rather than nearly-Thanksgiving. This past week, the campus exploded with people taking advantage of this gift of gorgeous weather, whether it was playing Frisbee on Battell Beach, taking some reading outside to the Atwater terrace, or enjoying lunch outside Proctor. Students shed their polar fleece and boots in favor of dresses, leggings, shorts and even flip-flops. Yesterday I even witnessed a professor taking her class outside for discussion section. Even though most of the trees have lost their leaves and the squirrels have started their maniacal foraging of acorns, these past four days brought a reminder of the end of summer days we have left, and a teaser for the beautiful spring to come after the long, long winter.

So, when you’re packing for Middlebury, you definitely need a warm winter coat, boots, and lots of hats, mittens, scarves and warm socks. But, don’t forget your shorts, t-shirts and sandals (and don’t pack them away too soon) because you just might get a day like we did, when it’s 65 degrees in November.

Commons Dinners, and Harry Pottter

One of the most rewarding aspects of my Middlebury experience has been my involvement within Cook Commons, one of the five residential neighborhoods on campus within our Commons system.  Through Cook, I’ve met some of my best friends, cultivated lasting relationships with professors and staff, and attended some of the most fun and memorable social events during the past four years at Middlebury (notably, the annual Foam party and Cook Prom).  Yet, as if all of those fun things weren’t enough, the entire Commons community occasionally gathers to eat dinner all together in Atwater dining hall, in something known as a Commons Dinner.  Each Commons hosts these dinners, in which all students within the Commons are invited, along with the faculty and staff members who work within that commons or are affiliated with it.  Besides offering a chance to enjoy the delicious Atwater fare, Commons dinners become an opportunity, at least for me, to share a meal with some of my most favorite people and closest friends on this campus, students and adults alike.  Plus, it’s always fun to feel like you have “special” plans for dinner.


Many people like to compare the Commons system at Middlebury to the houses in Harry Potter, and everyone thinks that their own commons is Gryffindor.  In reality, our school is not so similar to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, yet I still think of Commons Dinners as a little bit like the big banquets in Harry Potter, where everyone sits by their house.  For some people like me, the commons are a source of pride and identification on campus and have served as a way for me to develop many meaningful relationships.  Commons dinners in Atwater offer the chance to sit down and share a meal with faces you might recognize from freshman year, a professor who you might have had in class somewhere along the way, or in my case, to have dinner with my current suite-mates, all of whom I met while living in Battell, in Cook Commons, nearly four years ago.

Fall Break: Food and Friends

Today marks the first day of Fall Break, a strategically placed four- day break in the middle of the fall semester that gives everyone a chance to take a breather after the first round of midterms and papers and projects has been completed.  For some, this break provides the chance to head home for a round of home-cooked meals and free laundry. Others take the chance to visit Boston, New York, Montreal or other nearby cities with friends, and still others choose to stay on campus and take advantage of the peace and quiet to catch up on sleep or work. Students and faculty alike appreciate this built-in pause in the middle of the semester as a way to regroup and refresh for the remainder of the semester, which includes such exciting events like Homecoming (next weekend),  Halloween, the annual Fall Concert and finally, final exams.

This fall break, I’m embarking upon a mini road trip with a friend, starting down in Boston to visit a friend who graduated a couple of years ago and then winding our way back up to Middlebury, via several small towns with culinary establishments we’ve been wanting to visit. This trip combines two of the things that have been most important to me about my time at Middlebury; good food and good friends. Middlebury, and environs, offers much to its students in both of these areas. I’ve been fortunate over the course of my four years here to develop many close friendships that I know will last long after we’ve all received our Middlebury diplomas and Painter’s canes. These relationships enrich my life everyday and have made Middlebury more than just a school, but a home.

Also, for those of us who often have food on the mind, Middlebury has a lot to offer as well. On this trip, we’re hoping to visit the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory and the Cabot cheese factory in Waterbury, Vermont. If you haven’t yet experienced the wonders of Cabot extra sharp cheddar cheese, I encourage you to try it. We’re also hoping to catch the tail end of the Vermont foliage season, which never ceases to amaze me.  Closer to home, the town of Middlebury also offers a lot to the foodie. The farmer’s market, which takes place every Saturday morning, brings together many farmers and producers in Addison County, offering  apples, bread, veggies, meat, wine, cheese, and much more. The Middlebury Co-Op is a natural foods cooperative offering anything and everything your vegan, organic, gluten-free heart could desire.  And American Flatbread, an iconic pizza establishment in Vermont, serves up delicious hearth bread pizzas, salads and desserts five nights a week in a wonderfully cozy restaurant with red-checkered tablecloths and tea lights. These places have been the foundations of my food life at Middlebury, and when I want a brief break from the dining halls, they always deliver.

So, on this trip, I’m looking forward to enjoying the best that Middlebury has to offer—good friends, good food, and a brief break from homework.