At the close of each semester, Middlebury students scatter across the globe — returning home and traveling to wherever they will spend their breaks. Although it's easy to think of time off from school as a break from learning, the environments and experiences in which we find ourselves in between semesters gives way for a whole new type of learning. And we find that what we learn while apart might actually be helpful to our peers and inform our experiences on campus. This article therefore seeks to answer one question: What did we learn over break?
“I learned how to make [Mole], a traditional Mexican dish that my grandmother makes,” Madelyn Garza ’25 said.
Having witnessed the dish’s preparation, but never cooked it herself, Garza seized the opportunity to learn something she had been curious about for a while. “This [was] the most important thing I learned over the break because it is one of my favorite dishes, and I was able to spend time with my grandmother.”
She can see herself in her grandmother’s shoes one day.
“Now that I’ve learned how to make this dish I am able to pass it down and teach future generations in my family about a dish that is so important to my family,” she said.
She says the free-time that break offers allowed her to have this moment, one that brought her great happiness.
“I feel a lot closer to my grandmother and connected to my culture,” she said. “This is a very hard dish to make, and now that I know how to make it, I feel joy.”
Spending her winter break at home, Hannah Sayre ’24.5 also reconnected with loved ones during her time away from Middlebury.
“When I was home for break, I was reminded of the fact that I really appreciate the two or three close friends that I have from high school,” she said. “I may not talk to them all the time when I’m at school, but it’s always a joy to catch up with them, and they hold a special place in my heart. I think it’s nice to know that I will always have a community in my hometown.”
Yanruo (Alice) Zhang ’23 discovered more about how to care for herself.
“Setting a routine is helpful in maintaining a relatively healthy lifestyle and sanity,” she said.
When asked how she came to this realization, she answered, “[I credit] the Bread Loaf Mountain Zen sangha [community]... and all my friends that held me accountable and made doing those things fun.”
“Break leaves more spaciousness in my life, allows me to connect better with my body, listening to what it would like to do,” Zhang reflected.
Although the semester doesn’t offer the same amount of free-time, Zhang is determined to use what she’s learned moving forward by picking and choosing things from her routine to commit to.
“It made me happier,” she said. “I felt that my life was more organized and spacious.”
Although semester breaks offer a time of relaxation, the curiosity that fuels our learning throughout the semester does not just turn off. Time off from school may provide less obvious moments of learning, but nonetheless, they exist, and they are easier to find than we might think.
Correction 5/14/23 - A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed a quote to Hannah Sayre '24.5. This quote was actually from Alice Zhang '23. This error has been corrected.