BackgroundInterview Date:April 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Biracial: Half Black and Half White
Graduation Year: 2020
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
High School Experience: I went to an all-girls Catholic grammar in London from ages 11-16. The school had about 96 people in each class. You had to take standardized exams to get in, which impacted the demographics, so Jewish people got in too. Pretty much everybody was middle class and mostly white. Then I did my A-Levels from ages 16-18. The college had about 700 people per year group, and there were only 2-year groups. There the grade expectations to get in were not as strict as my old school, so there was more racial diversity and a lot more students from the same economic background as me. So, like low income and lower-middle class students and a few wealthier students.
Major: International and Global Studies with a focus on the Middle East
Extracurricular Activities: The main thing I do outside of classes is I’m part of an acapella group. I’m also currently running for a position in student government and I’m an RA.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
I’m taking several classes towards my major and then the rest of the requirements I’ll take I take because I want to take. The work pretty much takes up as much time as my other classes. I study often, pretty much every day of the week. I have about 3 or 4 hours every day I’m spending on free time, but other than that I’m studying.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
The reason I chose it is because it only has one specific class you have to take. Other than that, I’m choosing from a list of classes about the world in general or international politics. Because of my specialization, I’m choosing a list of classes about the Middle East and I’m also learning Arabic on the side. I’m enjoying the language aspect and I’m enjoying the freedom that I have.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I would say it’s really good. Within the classroom, the professors are really helpful. It’s a small college where the biggest class I’ve been in is maybe 80 people and I’ve never had to cross that again. Other than that, the biggest class I’ve had is maybe 30 people, so the professors are all very committed to the students and helping them out. All the lectures are very informative and there are loads of study spaces around campus. Pretty much all the students work pretty hard so it fosters an environment of caring about your work and putting in that effort. Studying with your friends is a pretty common way of hanging out with your friends. [The average class size at Middlebury is 19 students.]
What has been your favorite class in your major?
My favorite part of my major is learning the Arabic language, so my Arabic classes have been very enjoyable for me.
What has been your least favorite class in your major or minor?
This Political Science class that I’m in called Future Great Power Relations. It’s very interesting but the professor gives us a ridiculous amount of reading so it adds a lot to my course load and seems like it’s not quite worth it.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Battell Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: Single in Gifford Hall, which is a sophomore hall within my commons. Most people have singles there. Also, I’m an RA so I have a big single.
Junior: I will live in PALANA House which is a cultural social house with a focus on diversity and people from different places.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
People wise I’ve always felt pretty fine. There is this one part of campus called Atwater which is like athletes and basically like rich white men will party and can be very aggressive. So, I think apart from not going there, there are very few places where I feel ever at risk. I think the most unsafe is when it’s snowing or something and because it’s a really hilly campus you have to be careful of black ice.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Sabai Sabai. It’s technically Thai but it sells pretty much everything because it’s the only restaurant in the area that is Asian cuisine-y.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
It depends on my means of traveling. If I’m going to be nearby within the town and I’m not on campus, there’s a coffee shop called Carol’s which is pretty nice. There’s [Stone Leaf] Teahouse, which is nice. Just sort of going on a walk within the town is nice. We also have our farm, I guess that’s on campus, but that’s about a 15-minute walk from campus and it’s in the middle of a field. If I have access to a car, we have a few towns nearby, Bristol, Vergennes, and Burlington. Burlington is my favorite because it has shops and actual things and it’s the biggest town we have around for quite a bit.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Depending on the mood I’ll definitely go to a lot of the things I’m invited to, ranging from small gatherings with my friends that’s just like a couple of drinks that may turn into a bit of dancing in a suite or at a friend’s house to social houses throwing parties that are bigger and have more people. Sometimes there will be concerts hosted. We just had our yearly spring concert and they brought Joey Badass here on Saturday and I went to that.
What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
If I’m going to go out, which isn’t ever a guarantee. I’m not the kind of person that needs to go out every weekend. But if I’m going to go it’s generally Friday or Saturday. On a very rare occasion a Thursday.
Has being an LGBT student influenced your nightlife scene at all?
We have a Queers and Allies group on campus, and that group will host parties. I am invited, but so is everyone, it’s not closed or exclusive. I will usually stop by and say hi to people because I know it’s a community that I’m a part of. I wouldn’t say that it’s something that I actively seek out and it’s not like it’s a big part of my identity so it doesn’t impact it a massive amount.
How happy are you with the nightlife at Middlebury? If you could change anything, what would you change?
I think coming from London, somewhere where there is always something happening, it was definitely very different. There are nights where pretty much nothing is happening and you may have a thing to stop by and it’s not really happening, so you just kind of go home and are like, “Cool! Nothing’s happening tonight.” It is not a certainty at all that there will be something really kicking off. Now that I’m finding more people and being invited to more smaller things, rather than when I was a freshman and I was relying on more of the things that were publicly known on campus, it’s a lot better now that I have knowledge of things happening within my friend groups.
How did you meet your closest friends?
A lot of them I met through my acapella group. They’re people from all across the campus and we spend a lot of time together. There are some people that I just clicked with at some point and we brought our relationship outside of our acapella group. I’m very talkative and sociable and know people from every corner of campus in more different ways. I’ve met some people in classes and we’d sit next to each other and walk away together and there were some people in my dorm I got talking to and made friends that way.
To what extent do students of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I can probably speak to race more than sexual orientation because my association with the LGBTQ community isn’t that strong. I know it exists, but it hasn’t felt very accessible in prior years and that’s something that my friend that I mentioned before is working on now. It’s not one that I seek out and it doesn’t impact who I hang out with that much.
I think race is a pretty big factor in a lot of cases, intersecting with a lot of other things for sure. There are definitely people who come from backgrounds where they come from towns full of people like them, and I think they come to this new environment and they [gravitate] towards other White people that are exactly like them. For me, coming from a very diverse place where most of my friends were people of color, I have a lot more White friends now because of the population here. I also have friends that are of color. Again, I say it’s probably representative of the population itself. But, there are definitely places where I can tell that my race is a barrier to them feeling comfortable and being close to me. [As of Fall 2018, about 61% of the students are White.]
How was mixing with the domestic community as an international student?
My freshman year, I think being from the UK there’s such a fascination with the UK and accents, I pretty much had to filter my way through people that were just fascinated by the fact I’m British and I don’t really hang out with them anymore. Freshman year I was meeting people and putting up with ridiculous stuff, like I had a lot of people and they would reply to me imitating a British accent which was really annoying. One big thing about being an international for me was that being from the UK but not being white, people were so fascinated by where I was from. It really did feel play into feelings I have because of my race, like feelings of dehumanization and just being a color. But that was also exacerbated by being an international. Like, if someone wasn’t obviously looking at me as a Black girl they were looking at me as a British person. It definitely was a process.
Were there any parts of Middlebury or American college overall that surprised you?
Well, other than the general culture shock itself, I was surprised by how much it plays into the stereotypes in terms of the more bro-y parts of it. I think it was more general culture shock than a certain part of the college surprising me. Everything was surprising me basically.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew before entering Middlebury as a freshman?
I didn’t expect the demographics that Middlebury has. [I understood the racial demographics], but I was not prepared to see wealth as I do here. Just having friends whose families are millionaires. Also, the amount that my wealth and my race would define my experience here, I hadn’t expected that in a lot of ways. [Socioeconomically, 23% of students come from the top 1% and 4.4% are from the top 0.1%.]
Reasons to attend Middlebury:
1) Beautiful campus.
2) Professors are amazing. If you show the vaguest amount of interested in the topic and desire to do well in their class and they are so willing to help you and get to know you. I’ve been invited to Thanksgiving at professors’ houses. I think that’s a big part of going to such a small school.
3) Middlebury has really great language programs and which is really cool. I picked up Arabic and I never saw myself taking a language, but here we are.
Reasons to not attend Middlebury:
1) There is work to be done in terms of people of color feeling comfortable on campus. Wealth is very obvious and very much the majority here and it can feel very isolating for people who are not from the East Coast or are lower income. [Socioeconomically, 23% of students come from the top 1% and 4.4% are from the top 0.1%.]
2) I would say there has recently been a lot of disappointment how the administration has handled recent events, like the Charles Murray incident. Some students have not been impressed by the amount the administration has done to come up with concrete solutions for these things.