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J-Term: the most wonderful time of the year!

Hello Again!

I’m back and here to talk about my favorite time of the year: January Term! As I head home to Minnesota for winter break, I can’t help but look forward to coming back to Middlebury in a few weeks for January Term. January Term or, as it’s more commonly referred to, J-Term is a one month long term where students take one class and get a semester’s worth of credit for it. This means that although you’re only taking one class, it’s fairly intensive. Many J-Term classes are often taught by visiting professors, so there are all sorts of new and interesting classes offered. For instance, every year, the former Governor of Vermont, Jim Douglas, teaches a class on Vermont Government and Politics. Even cooler, he happens to a Middlebury alum!

J-Term is also fondly referred to as “yay-term” or “play-term” by Middlebury students because it is such a fun time to be on campus. There’s a long list of workshops offered every winter. Students or community members, who want to teach one of their hobbies to students, organize these workshops. The workshops range from learning to salsa dancing to learning to properly taste Vermont’s finest chocolate.

This J-Term, I’ll be writing my senior thesis. While I’m not working away in the library, I plan to take full advantage of the extra free time that J-Term offers. I’m hoping to take a juggling workshop taught by one of my friends (he can juggle fire!!!). I also couldn’t resist taking a cupcake-baking workshop taught by another friend. I plan to try to ski (either Nordic or alpine) almost every day. Last year, I studied abroad and didn’t ski at all so I have a lot of making up to do! Here I am, during my Sophomore J-Term, skiing at Middlebury College’s Snow Bowl:

Most importantly, my friends and I decided to start a new Harry Potter movie watching tradition. Once a week for four weeks, we will watch a double feature and, by the end of J-Term, we’ll have watched all eight movies. Plus, there will definitely be some Wizarding World themed movie snacks involved!

Be back soon,

Margot Graham ‘18

My First Winter at Middlebury

My first winter was both magical and miserable. Being from Southern California, I don’t really get to experience the four seasons. The environment is actually one of the reasons I chose to go to Middlebury; I wanted know what it would be like to shop for winter clothes instead of shorts and tank tops.

This is a picture of my first-year residence hall during my first winter at Middlebury. If you look very closely near the center of the photograph, you can see two friendly snow people.

Little did I know what Middlebury winters would be like. I was convinced—and remain convinced—that my first winter was, by far, the worst winter Vermont has ever experienced. It started out innocently enough; a gradual drop in temperature, some flurries of snow here and there. And then, during finals week in December, I walked into a 7 pm exam and walked out two and a half hours later to find myself almost knee deep in snow. It was magical; I took my time walking back to my dorm, opening my mouth to let the delicate snowflakes fall and melt on my tongue. And then the wind picked up and I was nearly blinded by all the snow. I also did not have enough layers on, as I had made the mistake of not checking the weather for that night.

So, on the run back to my room, I was not very happy with the show. My thoughts went from “Why did I decide to come here?” to thinking I had made a mistake, and that I could not actually handle the weather. When I got back to my dorm, my friends were rushing to put on snow gear. “Toni, let’s go sledding!” they yelled ecstatically. Just having come from outside, I was not sure I wanted to go back out again. But, part of me was curious, since I had never really experienced snow fall. So, I changed into my snow pants, boots, and jacket, and ran outside with my friends.

We walked (with our sleds borrowed from our Commons office) to Mead hill, and started at the top near where our lovely Mead Chapel sits. I remember being scared, because I was not sure if there was a wrong or right way to sled down a mountain. But, once my turn finally came, I went down the hill so fast I felt like I was flying. And I felt like I was 10 years old again. We spent about an hour and a half outside until our fingers were numb and our ski pants soaked. The dining hall was open late, so we decided to go in for some hot chocolate together.

This is a photo of me the night we went sledding! I never realized how much of a workout it could be.

I distinctly remember sitting around the table, laughing and talking with my friends, and then remembering that THIS was the reason I had decided to come to Middlebury. I had wanted a new experience, with new people, and my first time experiencing snow was exactly that. Although winters can be tough, my best memories are about my winters at Middlebury, and I am very excited (and sad) to spend my last winter at Middlebury enjoying it to the fullest.

Fall Family Weekend

Middlebury’s annual Fall Family Weekend is a very special time to be on campus. Why, you might ask? A number of reasons, but primarily the excuse to enjoy a weekend with your family, or meeting parents of your friends. In short, every year, about four weeks into the semester, the college invites current students’ families to campus for a weekend of activities. The setting on campus over FFW is festive, each Commons hosts some sort of event, whether it’s pumpkin carving or hot cider and donuts. Parents sit in on classes, ask questions, and get a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of their kids.

This year Fall Family Weekend (FFW) was remarkably special because it was the first year, of my four, that both my parents were able to make the trip from Montana. That said, I feel lucky that my parents could visit, not everyone’s families can. Being able to show my parents around the place I have lived for the past four years was special. Some of the added bonuses of having them come were getting to go out to eat (and not pay!) and getting some gas money. That said, my favorite part of FFW every year is the Snow Bowl Bash.

Middlebury is lucky enough to be one of two (or three) colleges in the country that own their own ski hill. The Snow Bowl Bash consists of a festival with live music, barbeque, and chairlift rides. All of the proceeds to the Middlebury College Snow Bowl Ski Patrol, to help the patrol be properly equipped for the upcoming ski season.

Ski patrolling has been an essential part of my experience at Middlebury and helped form my identity on campus. Aside from being able to ski 40+ days every winter, patrolling allows me to deal with real medical situations. I love the responsibility associated with volunteering at the Snow Bowl.

The best part of the Bowl Bash, though, is the atmosphere surrounding the event. Families, friends, students, and people from the Middlebury community all converge on the small ski hill for a festive Saturday. Alongside the festive vibe, the fall foliage provides a spectacular backdrop for “instagrammable” moments. Case in point: the photos attached to this blog.

Until next time,



How I Got to Middlebury

Hi all!

Well, it is Fall Family Weekend; the most difficult for me because my family has never been able to visit. Being from Los Angeles, California, it makes it difficult to arrange a visit that will not interfere with my family’s schedules. Even though I am a senior, there are times when I text my mom or call my dad to tell them how much I miss them. Talking to my brother over Skype is heartwarming and overwhelming because every time I see him again, it is as if he has grown two feet! The photos below are a testament to how much I have missed these past three years. The one on the left was June 2014 at my high school graduation, and the one on the right is December 2016 after arriving home for winter break. (I promise, I am not shrinking.)


My family continues to give me strength, even from almost three thousand miles away, because they are the reason why I am here and why I have to succeed. This weekend is also really important because I always find myself reflecting on how I got to Middlebury, and the network outside of my immediate family that got me to where I am today.

For the first ten years of my life, I grew up down the street from the University of Southern California. My entire childhood, I was convinced that I would be a Trojan. Even though that is not true because I am a Panther, where I grew up was integral in establishing higher education as a priority and possibility for me. (Below is a picture of me on my first day of kindergarten!)

Throughout my schooling, I have had many mentors who have invested their time and energy into my success, and the one who stands out the most is Dr. Lori Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes was the assistant principal at my high school during my first year and, although she moved on to another school, we stayed in touch. She was an integral part of my college application process because she actually sat down with me to help me create a list of schools that I would apply to. Once we were done with my list, she noticed that I had not listed any schools on the East Coast.  When she asked why that was, I told her that neither me nor my family were ready to commit to sending me across the country. She nodded her head and said that if there was one school on the East Coast that I should apply to, it should be Middlebury College in Vermont. She said that the small class sizes would be good for me since I came from a small charter high school, I would have access to a diverse curriculum, and I would be in a place that was demographically and environmentally different from what I was used to.

So, because she was my mentor and I trusted her, I decided to apply. It was not until I got accepted that I realized the magnitude of the journey I had just embarked on. When I told my college counselor that Middlebury had accepted me, she jumped out of her chair, gave me a huge hug and then started throwing words like liberal arts college and NESCAC around. I had no idea what these words meant at the time, so I decided to find out by visiting for Preview Days. (Below are some photos that I took on my visit. The snow was very exciting for me, considering I was born and raised as a city girl.)


Preview Days was so important because as soon as I stepped foot on campus, I knew that this is where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life. My few days on campus were a whirlwind, and I returned home excited and overwhelmed. Was I really going to leave home? Was I going to spend the next four years of my life living in Vermont? YES, I WAS. Decision day came and after I committed, I actually waited until a few days later to tell my parents where I had decided to attend. You can imagine my parents’ surprise when I told them I would be leaving home. But, I think now that I am a senior, my dad has finally gotten used to the fact that I leave home every few months for college.

So, while Fall Family Weekend can be a difficult time for those of us who cannot always have our parents around, it is important to remember what this weekend represents: that our families support us, no matter how far they are, and they are the reason why many of us have made it so far.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Toni Cuevas ‘18

First-Year Seminars and Picking Your Classes!


Classes are in full swing now that September is coming to a close. The first due dates for major assignments are looming and the smell of brand new textbooks is fading. Of course, the excitement is not!

First-year students are getting increasingly comfortable here on campus—getting lost less and feeling more confident. This is especially true in the academic setting because of their first-year seminars. This is the first course you enroll in as a Midd Kid. It’s a small, discussion-based, writing-intensive course.

First-year seminars exist in every department across campus. Professors are always excited to teach these classes and often come up with really creative courses. This fall, first-year students had cool options like Fifty Shades of Italy and The Women of Game of Thrones (read more about classes being offered here:

I wish I could take The Women of Game of Thrones so I could learn how to be more like Denerys Targaryen…

During my first-year, I took a first-year seminar called Global Youth. It was a geography course where we discussed how young people occupy space and place. It was a great class to take seeing as I was a young person in a brand new place (Middlebury College!).

This semester I am really excited about the classes I’m taking. Harkening back to my experience in a seminar-style class during my first fall semester, I’m taking a history seminar on fascism during my final fall semester at Middlebury. I’m excited to grapple with questions like: what is fascism? Can it exist outside the time period of the Second World War? Are fascist movements defined by their leaders? Maybe I’ll fill you in on the answers we come up with later on in the semester….

Until Next Time,

Margot Graham ‘18

Back at it!

The new crew of Senior Fellows is here and ready to share what they love about Middlebury with you, both in person and on the blog. Stay tuned this year for regular updates about life on campus, and in Vermont. Senior Fellows from left to right: Josh Goldenberg, Margot Graham, Tabitha Mueller, Christian Jambora, Toni Cuevas, and Atticus Proctor. Not pictured are Elsa Alvarado and Anna Cerf.

Weekends at Midd

The following is a schedule of an ideal average weekend at Midd (as in, nothing is out of the ordinary but it’s a great time!) All entries are based on true events. See for a detailed account of some of the amazing happenings at Midd!


  • 9:30-10:00: Make a breakfast Panini on the Proctor dining hall Panini makers (think English muffin, eggs, spinach, cheddar, cayenne)
  • 10:00-10:10: Take a leisurely walk to my class in Axinn, my favorite academic building. Analyze the state of the foliage. Say hi to friends on the path. Smile at the same people I pass every Friday at 10:05.
  • 10:10-11:00: Go to my American Studies class with Professor Nash called Livin’ for the City. Discuss and debate readings, integrate current events, and try to stump the unstumpable professor with challenging questions.
  • 11:00-11:15: Go to McCullough Student center to pick up a package (remember, this is my ideal weekend, so grandma sent me cookies!!!!!) and my paycheck for my campus job. Get distracted looking at the bulletin board… will I make it to all of the interesting lectures and events this week?
  • 11:15-12:30: Enjoy a prolonged lunch in Atwater dining hall. It’s Friday, which means it’s burger day. It also means the dining hall might be playing pump up music over the loudspeakers! The sun beats through the floor-to-ceiling windows and I hop from table to table to chat with friends from all different social circles
  • 12:30-1:00: Run over to Bi Hall, our science center, to chat with my geography professor and advisor. We talk about research methodology for my semester-long project on the urbanization of Native Americans, we discuss possible ideals for a future independent study project, and we review which classes I’m registering for the fall (we are both very excited about cartography!)
  • 1:00-5:30: It feels wrong to schedule my Friday afternoons, because the beauty of them lies in their spontaneity. Sometimes it’s a time for laundry and tidying up. On nice days, it’s the perfect window to go for a hike. Occasionally I’ll go to local Drop-In Brewery for a tasting with friends. After especially busy weeks, I curl up in my bed with a book and ginger tea. I love Friday afternoons.
  • 5:30-7:30: Unless something really unusual is happening, I spend Friday evenings with Hillel, the Jewish organization, celebrating Shabbat. We have a service followed by a homecooked meal.
  • 7:30 onward: Hang out with friends… it’s been a busy day. Who knows what tonight will bring!


  • 10:30-11:30: Brunch in Ross dining hall. Should I make a Belgian waffle with homemade peanut butter? Local yogurt with homemade granola? Cinnamon swirl pancakes?
  • 11:30-2:30: Do work at Midd Chocolates. Enjoy a mocha with homemade whipped cream and marshmallows along with unlimited chocolate samples. If I need wifi to do work, I might go to the Stone Leaf Teahouse in Marbleworks, another one of my favorite spots.
  • 2:30-4:00: Go on an afternoon adventure to get some exercise and enjoy the Vermont outdoors. Maybe I’ll check out the Trail around Middlebury or Chipman Hill, both within walking distance from campus.
  • 4:00-6:00: Continue doing work or hang out with friends…only time can tell.
  • 6:00-8:00: Cook dinner at home with my housemates. Perhaps we will make a homemade pizza and salad again?
  • 8:00-10:00: Pop by a college-sponsored event with friends. Maybe it will be roller blading in the student center? A Riddim hip hop concert? An a capella performance? A student-produced play in the Hepburn Zoo (the Zoo is a performance space—there are no live animals there)?


  • 10:00-10:30: Breakfast in Proctor
  • 10:30-1:30: Head to one of my favorite spots on campus to do some homework: the tables in the back of the library, the Abernathy Room in Axinn, a nook in Bi Hall, the cubicles with amazing natural light in Hillcrest…so many options!
  • 1:30-2:00: Grab more food. We don’t have a swipe system, so why not? The more the merrier!
  • 2:00-4:00: Check out a sporting event with a friend. This weekend we will be attending the Quidditch tournament, which is especially exciting since Muggle Quidditch was created at Middlebury! #BringQuidditchHome
  • 4:00-6:00: Continue catching up with friends, or do homework, depending on the weekend.
  • 6:00-7:00: Grab dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. So much to catch up on!
  • 7:00-11:00: Go home and get ready for the next week. This includes but is not limited to calling mom and dad (normally I’ve already called my mom like 10 times by now, but I’m putting it on the calendar just in case)

They Came To Vermont? Like, Actual Vermont?

Last night, along with hundreds of others in a standing-only, busting-through-doors Mead Chapel, I saw New York Daily News Senior Justice Writer and political activist Shaun King speak on the relevance and reality of the Black Lives Matter movement, and field questions from the audience. As perhaps the most widely shared and circulated writer on my Facebook feed right now, to finally see Mr. King in real life was a fantastic experience. When he first began to speak, his natural ease made the gravity and significance of his points so much more impactful that at some lines, he was met with a deafening wall of silence, completely at a loss because of the truth to that point. To not only see this event, but see it for free and a five minute walk from my suite was incredible.

But this sort of relevance in performance and events is not new to this talk or this year: Middlebury College, and in particular its student leadership, has consistently done a great job bringing things to our campus here in Vermont.

An event that comes to mind for me is last fall’s performance of the King’s Singers, a world-renowned all-male vocal sextet from the UK. These guys. In Mead Chapel. My God, were they good. They performed a two hour set, the first half consisting of classical church hymns and the second half a collection of songs from their album, “Postcards,” traditional songs from various world cultures. I accidentally rose to give them a standing ovation at their penultimate song, but it was well deserved if not poorly timed. They gave an encore performance of Paul Simon’s “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy,” and if that wasn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve heard come out of a person’s mouth in my life then I just have no conception of beauty.

It speaks volumes about the College for it to bring such a group here. At my time at Middlebury, I’ve gotten the opportunity to see Donna Brazile speak on the state of politics, watch artists like Chance the Rapper and Misterwives live in an intimate, small college venue, and that’s on top of the range of visiting scholars and academics that come pretty much every week for smaller lectures and discussions. This past Friday we had our annual International Politics and Economics symposium on the global illicit drug trade, featuring researchers on the subject from top organizations and programs, and next week the primary Art Critic from the Wall Street Journal will visit campus.

And on top of all the wonderful student acts and performances, I think seeing these events is when I feel luckiest to be at Middlebury.



Danny Dignan

Halloweekend at Midd

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I’ve dressed up on the whole spectrum of costumes from the classics (witch, ghost) to puns (taping two quarters on me to be “50 Cent”) to completely random (an olive… just an olive. Not sure where I came up with that one). We’ve had pumpkins out in my suite since the beginning of the month, and had costumes planned from the beginning of the school year. As college students, you may think we’re pushing the limit of acceptable trick-or-treating age. You’d be right. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t get into the holiday spirit in our own way here on campus. This past weekend, MCAB hosted its very first Haunted House, and I got to be part of it!

MCAB is the Middlebury College Activities Board, a student group in charge of organizing fun campus events including concerts, speakers, dances, and themed events like the Haunted House. They’re responsible for bringing performers to campus, which is great because the concerts are affordable and convenient for Middlebury students to attend. In my time here we’ve had some big names like Chance the Rapper, Matt and Kim, T-Pain, Borns, and many more. MCAB is allotted a hefty budge to host these types of events, and as students we get a say in how that money is spent.

Any student can submit suggestions for a campus-wide event they’d like to see happen, and this year people showed interest in a Haunted House. MCAB took that idea and ran with it, going all out with spooky decorations and incredible costumes and makeup. It was held in the Bunker, an open performance space that was converted into a dark maze with various themed rooms. They recruited actors and affiliates of the theater department like myself to perform as zombies, mummies, prisoners, ghosts, and other scary figures.

I may have gotten a little too into character as a creepy haunted spirit (black and white face paint can do that to you), but we all had so much fun. I guess we all played our parts well, because we managed to make some guys on the baseball team scream like little kids. All my friends who went through the house said they were genuinely terrified, which means the event was a success! I decided to keep my costume on for the rest of the night because at that point I was committed, although I did notice other students keeping their distance from me as we crossed paths. I later realized that the friendly smile I had on just made me look like even more menacing with my blackened eyes and lips and long, ragged dress. Oh well – all in the Halloween spirit!


The Top 10 Fall Activities in and around Middlebury

  1. Apple Picking: Nothing screams fall in Middlebury quite like a visit to Happy Valley Orchard with some friends. Pick your favorite type of apples and then cook your favorite apple dessert. Don’t forget to taste the fresh cider, homemade apple sauce, and other delicious apple products at the orchard (or in our dining halls!)
My first adventure to Happy Valley Orchards during fall 2013

My first adventure to Happy Valley Orchard during fall 2013

  1. Harvest Festivals: All of the best things come together at harvest festivals: fresh food, great friends, fall weather, and live music. Whether at Middlebury’s very own Organic Farm, the town co-op, or Shelburne Farms, you’re sure to leave with a full stomach and a replenished soul.
  1. Walk/jog/run in and around Middlebury: Take the foot bridge for a fantastic view of the Otter Creek Falls, saunter in an out of local shops, and get to know this picturesque New England town in a personal way. For a more extensive adventure, discover the Trail Around Middlebury (“the TAM”) for eighteen miles of fun.
  1. See the views from above: For an iconic view of fertile Addison County overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains, check out Snake Mountain. In less than an hour, you can experience an unparalleled view of fall foliage. If you hate hiking, fear not! You can get permission to take the elevator up to the roof of McCardell Bicentennial Hall (our science center) for a 360 degrees view of campus.
I took my grandparents on the roof of Bi Hall and they loved it!

I took my grandparents on the roof of Bi Hall and they loved it!

  1. Fall Family Weekend: Whether you have family visiting or not, Fall Family Weekend is the perfect time to take advantage of fabulous fall activities. Take the free shuttle to the Middlebury College Snow Bowl (our very own ski mountain!) and ride the chairlift to see the foliage from up above.
  1. Swim: Yes, the water is freezing, but the thrill is so worth it. Some of my favorite bodies of water for swimming are Dog Team, The Middlebury Gorge, Bristol Falls, Falls of Lana, Silver Lake, Lake Dunmore and, if you’re up for the trek, Warren Falls.
  1. Class Outside: Convince your professors to have a class outside. Get the best parts of Middlebury all in one moment by engaging in thought-provoking conversations while enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds you.
I had an amazing Portuguese class sitting in this grass

I had an amazing Portuguese class sitting in this grass

  1. Homecoming: There’s nothing like seeing friends who have graduated back on campus. The Midd spirit abounds, whether over meals in the dining halls or over cheers at athletic events.
  1. Eat a maple creemee: Try Vermont’s version of soft serve ice cream in its best form before the weather gets too cold. Rainbow sprinkles are a must.
  1. Picnic: Grab a to-go box from Proctor and head to the Organic Farm for a sunset dinner. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, drive to Champlain Bridge on the Vermont/New York border for what’s guaranteed to be a magical sunset moment.
There's no better way to start off senior year than a dinner by the lake with friends!

There’s no better way to start off senior year than a dinner by the lake with friends!

*All photos are my own; #nofilter