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Sunday, Jun 26, 2022

Welcome Baby Febs: Navigating Normal Together

As a board, we have a somewhat informal tradition of kicking off the semester by welcoming the newest students to campus — whether through offering advice during a Covid-19 semester, for example, or making recommendations for bridging the Feb-reg divide. This year, however, we  recognize that first-year Febs have arrived at Middlebury at a critical transition point amid the pandemic. Thus, this welcome warrants more nuance and clarity than those that came before it.

While we wish we could tell you that it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out, we know that to do so would be naive. It would be more apt to tell you to buckle up and get ready for the possibility that things could change at any given moment, as it has for us more than once in the last two years. But amid it all — from Box, Label & Leave to takeout-only dining to ambiguous testing requirements — we’ve stuck it out together, discovering pockets of gratitude along the way. 

Entering college invariably means shouldering a new level of independence. You, and only you, can decide where you want to be and what you want to do. And now, as Middlebury is moving toward a reality in which we are not told when to go to get tested, or how many people to gather with, or what level of contact tracing warrants isolation, these are decisions we all need to learn how to make for ourselves. 

For many of us, Covid-19 has become less of a genuine threat and more of a looming inconvenience. And while the stakes may be less high post-vaccines, we also must recognize that the effects of such choices do not solely fall on our own shoulders. This is not to say that you should feel either inward guilt or outward judgment (we, for one, are glad the go/snitch era is over), but that it's OK to feel uncertain and uneasy about the vacuum of responsibility we have been left to parse through. 

Living with Covid-19 at Middlebury no longer hinges on “following the rules.” To move forward means balancing and considering a myriad of factors that are different for each of us. The ability to dictate your own experience is unnerving — but, in many ways, also invigorating. 

Nevertheless, you don’t need to always be searching for it. Some of your friends might be joining every club and learning everyone’s name, but their experiences don’t need to be yours. As upperclassmen, we’ve come to relish (and crave…) alone time, and value intentional relationships that take more than a few weeks to develop. 

In short, the expectations you had for college may take some time to come to fruition — we’re all still figuring out how to reestablish the foundation for our social lives while keeping our community safe. During a pre-pandemic weekend night, you could walk across campus and it would be, well, alive. But now we’ve become accustomed to smaller, intimate gatherings among our closest friends, and we haven’t yet relearned how to unite the student body in the way we once did. 

In essence, we’re still figuring it out too — about personal accountability, everchanging social dynamics, and individual and collective fulfillment. We’ve found that even with months of Zoom, infinite collections of face masks, and new super variants, four years can still fly by. We’re happy to have you on board to navigate “normal” together. 

A Glossary: 

Box, Label & Leave: a phrase coined by the Reslife team, it described the actions suggested to students during the evacuation of campus in March 2020 due the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 go/snitch: website shortcut for Middlebury’s Covid-19 violation reporting page that was active during the fall 2020 semester.