It's finally time to put away your skis, coats and winter hats, and take out your sandals, sundresses and sunglasses. At long last, the never-ending Vermont winter is over, and spring has sprung! The days of bitter-cold walks to the dining hall are through, now replaced by leisurely strolls to class, town and clubs.
With wide lawns, plenty of outdoor seating and impressive views, the college’s campus is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of spring. While the season is gorgeous, it unfortunately aligns with one of the busiest and most stressful times of the academic year for Middlebury students. With wrapping up end-of-semester projects, finals just around the corner and what often feels like a never-ending chasm of work, it can be difficult to enjoy the new-found warmth, flowers and green all around.
Luckily for students, there are a myriad of different ways to simultaneously enjoy the outdoors and complete schoolwork. The college has made it relatively easy for students to be able to accomplish both with a wealth of outdoor seating options. The picnic tables enjoyed by students during the fall have reappeared outside dining halls and McCullough Student Center, and Adirondack chairs are scattered throughout the McCullough lawn, Battell Beach and near Atwater dining. These are perfect places to study or complete class readings while enjoying the sun and warmer weather.
“I like the Adirondack chairs around the main quad because they’re so convenient,” said Mei Dwyer ’24. “It’s more spontaneous than a ritual, if I see there’s a chair then I’ll take it and soak up the sun if possible.”
One can also find outdoor seating around Mahaney Arts Center, making use of the spacious back patio. Students get creative too, turning the steps of buildings, such as The Chapel, and nooks around buildings, like Bicentennial Hall, into workspaces.
“The view from the Davis [library] second floor balcony is great as it overlooks the rest of the campus, and it’s a nice place to unwind and do some light readings for my politics class,” Michael Eller ’24 said.
While not all assignments can be completed outdoors, and computer glare can pose a real challenge to outdoor productivity, simple adjustments such as printing readings or handwriting problem sets can be well worth it to get a little extra time to soak up the sunshine. It can make completing work during this hectic time feel a little less stressful and may make time spent working go by faster. Eating meals outdoors is another way to fit in time to enjoy the sunshine.
“During Covid, my friends and I would study on picnic blankets outside of Starr. Because some classes were outside, the Wi-Fi from Axinn was boosted and reached just far enough to accommodate such a luxury,” Owen Mason-Hill ’22 said.
Though the college is surrounded by beautiful mountains that are begging students to hike them, this can be a time-consuming activity during such a busy time of year. The time it takes to complete a full hike may feel like too time consuming an activity depending on workload and required transportation time. With mountains within driving distance, transportation can also be difficult to find, inconvenient and a stressor. Luckily for students, the Trail Around Middlebury (TAM) surrounding campus offers a more efficient substitute for a long day-hike. These trails serve as a nice escape from the main campus, without ever having to leave. Within walking distance of the main parts of campus, it’s easy to sneak a moment away from the fast-paced hustle of campus. The trails are tucked into the woods, and campus life feels far away as you become surrounded by nature. The tall pines shield you from buildings, making stress and work feel miles away. On the trails, the mountain view, beautiful wildflowers and animals provide a peaceful escape from the usual bustle of life
If you can’t stop sneezing and spring allergies have you down, it’s also possible to get in touch with nature as the weather warms without ever leaving your dorm room. Many Middlebury students enjoy the company of potted plants in living spaces. There are many student organizations and events that sometimes offer students the opportunity to participate in activities such as potting plants for their dorm rooms. One club, Creating Art Together, celebrated Earth Day by potting herbs in self-decorated plant pots. Be on the lookout for plant-related campus activities such as this.
Another great way to get outdoors during the final weeks of the semester is to take a trip to Middlebury’s very own vegetable garden, the Knoll. The garden can be found along the TAM, off of Route 125. With a gazebo and Adirondack chairs, this is another possible springtime study-spot — though reliable internet may be hard to come by. It’s also another nice scenic break for students walking or running the TAM. Students can also attend what the college calls “Knoll Hours” at the Knoll, the college’s organic farm, allowing students to flex their green thumbs. Volunteer hours are offered Sunday through Friday and can be found at go/knollhours.
Middlebury’s campus is full of nature; around just about every corner is an opportunity to enjoy the spring weather. Keep a lookout, and don’t be surprised if these unique Middlebury moments turn you into an avid outdoors-person.
Arts & Culture Editor Olivia Mueller ’24 contributed reporting.
Editor’s Note: Owen Mason-Hill ’22 is the Senior Arts & Culture Editor for The Campus.