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Friday, Jan 28, 2022

Welcome home, baby Febs

As we begin another semester that challenges us to embrace the new and the unknown, we’re greeted by a comforting tradition of each Middlebury winter: the welcoming of the next Feb class.


For those who are beginning their Middlebury experience now — which also includes transfer students and those who were remote in the fall — the current Middlebury is likely not the college experience you anticipated. Following an entirely remote orientation and a Covid-safe arrival to campus, Febs were greeted by delivered meals, online classes and perhaps only vague ideas of what lies beyond the confines of their dorms.

Considering this uniquely challenging semester, we wanted to extend a friendly welcome to those joining us by offering some advice for this transition and for the next few years. (Think of this as a conversation you’d have at a crowded Proc table of yesteryear or walking from class with an upperclassman who hopes to impart a few lessons they’ve learned along the way.) And for a quicker read, check out this cheat sheet to Middlebury slang and things to know. 

Let’s start with the topic of making friends. It’s no question that socializing is one of the biggest questions right now. It’s easy to assume that you’re the only one feeling lonely. Believe us, you’re not. Trying to meet “your people” is just as much on any junior’s mind as it is on yours. And believe us, “your people” aren’t usually found through Atwater parties anyway. Without parties, forging connections will have to be more intentional. Embrace that. (We often wish we did earlier!) Be the brave soul who asks the people in your halls or your classes to grab meals. And remember that you can go beyond your Feb class or even your year to make connections. Be open to cross-grade friendships, too — you’ll probably be happy you were.

And when you start to reach out to more people and expand your circle, don’t put too much pressure on those initial relationships. It’s natural to want to spend all your time with the first few people you meet, but remember that spending time alone is important too. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a “happy” social life, so don’t compare yourself to your roommate or peer. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Friendship is not a race, and you are not behind.[/pullquote]

Evaluating who you genuinely click with is hard, and it’s not a process that ends with freshman year. This is only one semester of a four (or more) year journey.

Moving onto academics — presumably a big reason you ended up here. You’re lucky enough to be surrounded by students and professors who care a whole lot about whatever it is that they’re studying (or teaching), so take advantage of that. Go to your professor’s office hours even if you don’t have a specific question. Reach out to peer tutors and professional tutors at the CTLR early in the semester to start off on the right foot. Engage with your classmates in and out of the classroom. Reach out to upperclassmen to find out about all their favorite classes and study spots on campus.

Speaking of spots on campus, take advantage of physically being here. Just because classes are online and there are limits on room capacities doesn’t mean you can’t safely explore different corners of campus. Take a walk to The Knoll. Do your reading in Davis. Go to the Athletic Center to get a workout in, not just to get your Covid test. Explore the town of Middlebury — when you can. And while the weather’s still cold, go skiing, DIY sledding and ice skating, or warm yourself by the fire pits. 

Before you know it, you will get to experience all the stereotypical aspects of college and life at Midd. You will go to loud, crowded parties with people you barely know and squeeze yourself into a table over breakfast, recapping the night before. You will get to know the rest of Vermont and maybe even go to Montreal for Feb break. You will go to sports games and trek up the Bowl for Winter Carnival. 

And as for all the readers who aren’t baby Febs, if you see a Feb by the fire pits or aimlessly wandering around campus, reach out and say hi. And maybe give them directions. In a semester where physical isolation means safety, we must find ways to socially integrate Febs into a campus community so excited for their arrival.

But for now, baby Febs, just hang tight. Don’t waste too much time hypothesizing about what could have been or wishing you waited another year to start here. Get excited for the normalcy that’s to come, but don’t let it put a damper on whatever great memories the next few months hold.

This editorial represents the opinions of the Middlebury Campus’s editorial board.