To all the first-years,
I’m sure you have already received plenty of advice on how to make the most of the Middlebury experience, so my apologies if I inundate you with similar information. But after spending the last three-and-a-half years in this beautiful part of the world, I think I have some valuable information to share. Now that you’re a couple weeks into classes and are beginning to settle in, I figured it was time to provide some recommendations.
1. Go to some meals without a plan. Meals are an integral part of Middlebury social life, as they’re great opportunities to take a break from our busy schedules, catch up with friends and meet new people. At times, the dining halls can be intimidating (during the lunch rush, for example), but they are also a place where people from all corners of campus come together. Some students like to make plans to eat with specific people for each meal, which can be great. However, I really enjoy walking into the dining hall without knowing who will be there. Sometimes I sit with my closest friends, and other times I sit with people I’ve never met before and strike up a conversation. It’s exciting to connect with people you’ve never met and learn about their life stories or share similar interests with you. From my experience, this adds some variety to life, and it’s a great way to meet and get to know students outside of my typical social circles.
2. You’ve probably heard this a million times now, but go outside. There are many reasons students choose to attend Middlebury, but one major draw is the remarkable outdoor access. The fall foliage is spectacular, and there are countless places to swim, hike, run, fish and camp. Snake Mountain, the Moosalamoo Recreation Area and the Snow Bowl are all within 25 minutes of campus, and Mount Abraham, Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump are all great day trips. It’s also relatively easy to access the Adirondacks in New York. Lake Dunmore, Silver Lake and the East Middlebury Gorge are all great places to swim close by. The point is, Middlebury is in a remarkable location, and it would be criminal not to take advantage of that.
3. Go to office hours. One of the primary appeals of a small liberal arts college like Middlebury is that professors are here to teach undergraduate students; they’re not focused on graduate students and are far more accessible than at larger universities. Professors tend to be quite prolific in their respective fields and are eager to discuss their work with students. Additionally, these professors genuinely want to get to know you — though they have very busy schedules, professors still carve out time to meet their students. Obviously, it’s super helpful to meet with professors while preparing for an essay or exam, but office hours are also a unique opportunity to build relationships that I think really enhance the Middlebury experience.
- While those are the three main points I wanted to emphasize, here are some additional quick recommendations:
- Nordic ski at Rikert Outdoor Center
- Sunrise hike the Snow Bowl and then sunset hike Snake Mountain (bonus points if it’s on the same day)
- Go to Dolci, the student-run pop-up restaurant in Atwater (I’ve actually never been able to get tickets, but it’s supposed to be fun)
- Check the depth of swim spots before you jump in
- Attend athletic, fine arts and performing arts events — support your peers.
- Sleep outside (not in a tent)
- Have a ride lined up before you go to an off-campus event
- Be kind to everyone you meet
- Try the chocolate chip cookies at Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, Vt.
By no means is this list exhaustive; it’s merely a collection of thoughts I strung together on a Sunday afternoon. Middlebury has its fair share of issues (like any college or university), but it’s also a pretty special place. It is a unique community filled with people from fascinating backgrounds who have a desire to learn and better themselves. The remarkable setting in Vermont enhances this community and opens doors to great opportunities. I believe I have made the most of it, and I sincerely hope you all do as well.