I’ve only had one full year on Middlebury’s campus, and I am a senior. Let me elaborate.
I started at Middlebury in the fall of 2019 and was only there until we all got sent home for Covid-19 in March 2020. The following year, I decided it would be best for me not to enroll for the spring semester because I didn’t want to rush through my time at Middlebury and I didn’t feel like going to school on a TV was what I wanted out of college. The 2021–2022 school year was finally my first and only full year on the Middlebury campus, and even then I lived off-campus because the only college housing available to me was at Breadloaf. I was abroad for the fall of 2022, and this fall I am once again not on campus because I want to graduate in the spring and get as much out of my Middlebury baseball career as I can. I have an internship this fall as well to which I commute about an hour and fifteen minutes both ways, so I’m staying plenty busy between driving, working and everything in between. That makes one full year within the Middlebury bubble, and it’s something I feel lucky enough to have been able to pop throughout my four years.
Part of why I was so excited to attend Middlebury was to be in that bubble during the year — to be on campus and away from the real world that we would inevitably be part of after (what was supposed to be) four years. The thing many of us love about this school is also something that, at times, takes away from it: the lack of physical connection to the rest of the world. As you’ve all surmised from the precious summary, this will be my fifth year as a student here. Yes, I feel old. Yes, I miss being around everyone. But I’m sure this path was the right one for me, to not leave anything unfinished in my Middlebury career and to learn in the environments that I want to, not the ones I’m forced into.
Like many students, I wanted to use my time in college to figure out what I want to do with my life. While studying is a great way to identify what I enjoy learning about, putting what I’ve learned into practice in a professional environment has been completely different. I’m learning technical skills and have now gotten more comfortable with them, more so than just trying to understand them in theory. Without this time away, I have a feeling I’d still have no sense of direction, but I’ve been able to use these job experiences and learn in situations outside of the comfort of a classroom.
I understand I’m lucky to be able to postpone my education by a semester, but I promise all of you that I’m not taking my time away from campus to sit around and do nothing. My job this fall is strenuous. Between the long days and a much longer commute than from Ross Dining Hall to the Athletic Center, I have not been getting nearly as much time to relax at home as I thought. I think about people I miss on campus, in addition to classes and missing spending time with the baseball team. Then I think about the future. With this, all my FOMO disappears knowing how much more I’ll appreciate everything when I come back to campus for the spring. I look forward to seeing all the leaves grow back, the green and life return to everyone and everything that we eagerly await after the long winters in Vermont. It’s true that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I’ve come to appreciate my time on campus more than I would have without all my time away throughout the years.
This is all to say how I think taking a leave of absence has been the right decision for me. I understand if you are thinking that I took the $10,000 stipend that the school offered us late in the summer, but they did not actually let those who were already planning to take the fall off have a chance at the money. It certainly would’ve been a nice bonus, but I didn’t get it. Regardless, the popping of the Middlebury bubble has been eye-opening for me. If it fits within your financial capabilities and academic goals, I would highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance.
The lack of physical connection to the outside world is one of the things that many of us adore about where we go to school, but it may also occasionally be a drawback. Now, my time away hasn’t given any groundbreaking benefit to any of my campus endeavors (i.e. grades, connections with faculty, sports), but I know that it hasn’t taken away from them either. I live about a four-hour drive from campus, so I’ve been fortunate enough to visit plenty. Although I am not a J.O.B. — Just Outside of Boston — I have been able to see friends while off campus which also helps me stay connected to the community. The biggest drawbacks have been athletics and socially. I wish I could spend more time training for the spring baseball season, which the schedule at school allows while the schedule I’ve had at work does not. I’d also love to spend more time with the people I only get to visit on weekends. But I know there will be time for all of this when I get back.
I’m working, I’m learning and I’m doing things that most students don’t get to do in the short months off for summer break. And, best of all, I still have more time at Midd to look forward to. My dad always said this when leaving home for work trips when my sister and I were younger, and the older I’ve gotten the more it makes sense and the more it applies here: “How can I miss you if you won't go away?” There’s a whole list of clichés that fill the same sentiment, but distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder.