BackgroundInterview Date:April 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: White, British
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in northern England. It was about 50% white and 50% Asian. A lot of students were from families from Pakistan and India. It was quite small, probably about 90 people in my grade.
Minor: Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies
Extracurricular Activities: Middlebury Foods, which is a student run non-profit online food store and food delivery service that tries to make food more accessible and cheaper in the local area. I probably spend the next most amount of time being involved in my Social House. Social houses are like our version of Greek Life but it’s much more low-key.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
A big part of the work is Geographic Information Systems (GIS) which is more technical and involves Excel. Then there’s human geography and that’s mainly readings, lectures, and writing papers.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
I don’t have a huge amount of experience with it because I just declared. It’s kind of unique that Middlebury has a Geography department in the first place. I was drawn to Middlebury for that reason partly because I was planning to be a Geography major if I stayed in the UK because that’s very common there. They are pretty strong at GIS and making sure every [student] is good at that because that is something that is really employable post grad.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
We have the Commons System and they try to make people have team spirit for their commons. I’m in Ross Commons. I live in Ross, it has a whole freshman dorm and has sophomore, junior, and senior housing as well. It also has a dining hall and a couple of classrooms which is really nice. We have three dining halls on campus but I really like living in Ross because it has a dining hall inside, which is great when it’s snowing outside and you don’t want to leave, which is a lot of the year.
Freshman: freshman part of Ross with one roommate. It was a nice big room and we were well-matched roommates.
Sophomore: Ross section with sophomores in a single.
Junior: Social House
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve felt super safe here. It’s a very small campus and also a very small town. Public safety is pretty present on campus. You will see them around and they’re friendly. We have Midd Rides and you can call them and they’ll drive you anywhere on campus at nighttime. I honestly don’t think people use it very much for the safety aspect but more for the warmth aspect. Right off campus and the neighboring area is definitely less safe than being on campus. There are robberies and petty crime, but I personally feel okay about it. I’ve never been in a situation that’s bad. [The property crime in Middlebury, VT is 57% lower than the national average.]
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
The food in Middlebury is nice but pretty limited because it’s small. My favorite is probably Sabai Sabai which is a Thai restaurant.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
We have really nice nature in Vermont. There’s a lake called Lake Dunmore which is about a 20-minute drive away and that’s really, really nice when it’s warm in the fall and the spring. It’s just a really pretty lake with some mountains around.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I’m not 21 yet, so everything I do is on campus. I can’t go to Bar Night or anything like that. For me, there are a few different social scenes. There’s Atwater/Allen Hall, which are [overpacked] parties usually hosted by sports teams, there are small parties in peoples’ suites, and there are college approved parties in college spaces that you can book and throw a party that doesn’t have any alcohol. They’re pretty fun as well. The Social Houses also throw parties so I probably spend most of my time when I go out at my social house. At Middlebury, people go out pretty early because everything shuts down pretty early. The night always ends in The Grille, which is a late-night food place in the student center which closes at 2:00AM. So, you’ll always make sure you get there before 2 and everyone is there and then everybody heads home.
Can you describe a typical night freshman year?
A lot of freshmen go to the gross, overpacked parties that the sports teams throw, which is kind of what I think is a typical American frat kind of scene but on a small scale at Middlebury. So, freshmen will go there typically because they’re not really sure where else to go yet. We might go there, or we would head to a friend’s small party or go to one of the school events, like a Latin dance night or various events like that, or we’d head to the social houses if they were having something.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
A lot of people will stay in and have a movie night or something. Middlebury often has film screenings on Friday or Saturdays. There are some popular student performances, like we have some really, really good dance troupes. And everyone knows someone in them because everyone kind of knows each other here.
How happy were you with the nightlife at Middlebury? If you could change anything, what would you change?
I love Middlebury, it was definitely my first choice. I’m really happy with it. It’s kind of how I expected it. I never visited before coming to start freshman year, but I had done so much research that I kind of felt like I already knew it, and it was pretty much how I imagined it which was nice. I was prepared to come to a pretty quiet, low-key school anyways so I wasn’t really looking to rage all the time. It is a little bit frustrating to not be able to go to bars until I’m 21, and there’s no club scene in Middlebury.
How was adapting to Middlebury socially as an international student?
We have a really good international orientation program at Midd. We arrive on campus four days earlier than everyone else. There were about 100 of us and you do a lot of orientation then and you get to know the people in your international class, which is really nice. It wasn’t hard to meet people in that sense. I roomed with someone American which I think is also useful because you then automatically have a friend that isn’t from international orientation. I think it’s a little easier for people from countries which aren’t super different. Like, the UK isn’t crazily different from the US and we speak the same language so I didn’t find it to be a huge shift. It was fine for me, I never felt like I was having a more difficult time than everyone else was making friends and adapting.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My closest friend I actually met waiting for the bus to Middlebury at the airport on the first day of international orientation. She’s Canadian so we’re both international but not super international. We were on the same freshman hall which was really nice. Then we ended up becoming really close friends with two girls from LA, we just had mutual friends and kept bumping into each other. And then I would say a lot of my closest friends I met on my freshman hall just because that’s where you hang out a lot and go to the dining hall. Now a lot of my close friends I’ve kind of got close to because they share my social house.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Middlebury?
I think there are different aspects to it. A lot, a lot of people are athletes but they’re obviously not as intense as the huge schools. There’s kind of an athlete, non-athlete split because you end up so much time [with your team]. But, it’s not like sports are a huge aspect. Teams hang out together and throw parties and live together. There is very much a nature of the quirky, hippieish, and very outdoorsy type of scene. There’s an Outdoor Interest House. People go hiking every weekend and go camping together. I think there’s kind of an international social scene a little bit. Just like low key small celebrations and gatherings. It’s all very friendly, I don’t think anything is super exclusive.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
There’s a little bit of a racial divide, but I think that happens a lot more because of people being friends with people of the same race. I guess, in a white dominant school, people who aren’t white get a little bit separate. I guess it’s kind of inherent to a NESCAC school that it’s a lot of these people from the Northeast, like a bunch of rich white people to some extent is the mainstream. [In 2018, the most common places students came from were New York (16%), Massachusetts (14%), and California (11%). About 61% of the students were White. Socioeconomically, 23% of students come from the top 1%.]
To what extent do international students and domestic students mix socially?
I think they mix pretty well. It’s definitely not a huge divide. Some of the students who share a different language that is their first language probably get closer and tend to join cultural student organizations and end up hanging out together a lot more. I know some of my different Asian international friends do tend to stick together a little bit more and have activities and stuff together in their student groups. [About 11% of students are international students.]
Was there anything about Middlebury or American college that surprised you when you arrived on campus?
This is like, I’m sure this is to some extent Middlebury specific, NESCAC specific, or elite school specific, but in the classroom, I’ve found that Americans are very outspoken, really well spoken and very comfortable with presentations and group discussions and very small classrooms where you’re expected to talk a lot. Whereas my experience in the UK I felt the classroom was definitely quieter and less professional and polished. I don’t think anything else has really surprised me.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew before entering Middlebury as a freshman?
I don’t think I was quite prepared for how much work it was going to be. I had a particularly tough freshman fall in terms of workload, but it hasn’t been as bad since then. It really hit me like a ton of bricks that first semester which was unlucky. I wasn’t prepared for how much work I was doing versus how much work my friends in the UK would be doing, which was not much in the first year.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I think on a visit you would definitely miss how nice Middlebury is as an area, and the town. I don’t think people really make enough use of what a lovely place it is to live. So maybe just going off campus a little bit would be a good way to see that.
What is something an international student should know that we haven’t touched on?
I think Middlebury is a very, very welcoming place and like obviously I’ve mentioned some things that are negative in here but the overall experience internationally is really good here. I think if you think you’re going to like Middlebury based on what you see online and whatever you hear about it, you’re probably going to really like it. It definitely doesn’t suit everybody because it’s a small school in rural Vermont, but if it appeals to you then I think you’ll love it when you get here because I really, really love it and it’s how I wanted it to be. [About 11% of students are international students.]
Reasons to attend Middlebury:
1) If you like a close-knit atmosphere where you’ll recognize a lot of people on campus.
2) If you like nature and outdoorsy things.
3) Even if you don’t want to go hiking every weekend, it’s nice just being in a beautiful place. I love that aspect of it. I walk outside and see the mountains every day which is amazing.
4) The academics are really great. Obviously, it’s not a research university so if you want that it’s not the best place. But the classes I’ve had have been amazing and I’ve learned so much.
5) The professors are super, super friendly and willing to help you and want to get to know you. They’ll all know your name and they’ll make sure you interact a lot with your classmates.
6) I think it’s a really warm place. It’s a really open, liberal type of setting. Everyone is really willing to learn and is on the same page about social issues and that’s a nice atmosphere if you want that kind of vibe.
Reasons to not attend Middlebury:
1) If you think you’ll get bored or be unhappy being in a rural, small town. I love it here, I maybe wouldn’t live here, but it’s great for being a student.
2) If you want a big Greek life or a huge party scene it’s definitely not the place for you. You can go out here on the weekends but you won’t be going out on Tuesdays and Thursdays.