Archive for July, 2010

Whistle While You Research
July 26, 2010

Every College Guide book will tell you that at any small liberal arts college in New England (read Middlebury), research opportunities abound. The Middlebury College website itself says that, “Middlebury offers a huge array of research opportunities for undergraduates in all disciplines,” but as a prospective student (interested in Psychology, nonetheless) I always doubted whether or not there were real opportunities for research at any of the colleges I was visiting.

Tour guides and admissions counselors alike would talk about how ‘easy’ it was to do research and I even find myself telling tour group attendees that all they need to do in order to secure some form of research is to  show interest, but how true is all of this? Is it really that easy to work alongside professors and even maybe someday be published in a research periodical before you can legally drink (which would be especially impressive if you lived in Fiji apparently)?

The short answer is: yes. During the Summer here at Midd, for example, over 200 students are doing research work in every science department offered here at Middlebury. To give you an idea of what some of that work includes I did some researching (oh hardy har har) on the Middlebury website and found a section devoted to students who have done summer research at Middlebury. One of the students, Tyler Prince, discusses what his research entailed:

What was your summer research internship?
I spent the summer with another Middlebury Jr. in Professor Mark Spritzer’s lab. Mark’s research entails the effects of hormones, mostly androgens, on spatial memory and neurogenesis. So, throughout the course of 10 weeks, we, as undergraduates, were able to excercise skills such as hours of spatial memory testing and other medical procedures. It was unbelievable getting to exercise skills I may not use again until I’m in medical school. Professor Spritzer’s research is targeted towards the treatment of depression and Alzheimer’s. Through the stimulation of certain neural pathways, clinicians may eventually be able to radically alter the pathophysiology of a host of neurogenerative diseases.

Scientific jargon aside, I never cease to be amazed at the wonderful opportunities offered to Midd Kids in all sorts of academic areas. This summer, in fact, my friend Whitney and I are doing research with our FYS (First Year Seminar) adviser Professor Kimble in the Psychology department, exploring the causes and effects of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It’s been a great experience thus far and has, at times, made me forget that I’m really just a rising sophomore in college, because I’m working alongside a professor who has been doing really great research work for years.

Sounds like an excerpt from a Princeton Review book, eh?

Until the next rat gets injected with hormones,



Because, honestly, who doesn’t love Ke$ha? :


From Midd to the Mid-Atlantic: Things I Missed
July 21, 2010


That’s how the jokes goes. Freshman name their first college facebook albums after it. And it’s probably the biggest worry of prospective students: how do I stay connected to the world in rural Vermont?

To tell the truth, I’ve never felt isolated at all here in Middlebury. Sure you have to drive a little ways to get to a major city (if you even consider Burlington a major city). But that’s all part of the appeal right?

It certainly has been for me. There’s nothing better than one of the “effortlessly Vermont” weekends Cody and I talk about. And with a computer and an active RSS feed featuring the New York Times, I never thought I had a problem staying connected to the “outside world”.

Wrong. What I felt upon my first return home since March was nothing short of genuine culture shock. I’m sure Cody would agree after his report on the wonders of day-time television and 12 hours of sleep when he returned home to Texas. But to me, differences in recycling, partying, and scenery weren’t the most surprising thing about my return to the Mid-Atlantic. It was how out of date I was with pop culture.

At home, I might as well have been an 80 year-old grandmother who thinks Twitter is something done by someone with a nervous system disorder. Two examples:

1. Movies

Apparently this is the BEST movie ever. At least that’s what I’ve been told. But until I got home, I hadn’t even heard of it. Therefore, a conversation with a friend would go like this:

Friend: O my god! Have you seen Inception? It’s such a mind fuck!

Audrey: Um…is that a movie?

Friend: Seriously? Yes it’s a movie! Where have you been?

Audrey: Ugh…Middlebury, Vermont.

True story. And while it’s rather common for me to not buy into big movie obsessions (I’ve never seen Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, all the Harry Potters, Avatar, or the Twilights), I’ve usually at least heard of them.

2. Silly Bandz


Really? This is the latest fad? Evidently, yes. At first, I just dismissed it as a stupid middle school trend, although I would dare to say that wearing awareness bracelets (Livestrong, wuddup) at least benefited good causes. But no. I’m pretty sure all of my friends from home (college students might I add) were wearing at least one when I visited them.

I don’t get it. They’re deformed rubber bands people.

Needless to say, I think I’m much better off back here in Vermont; where I can relax, read a book, and look at some mountains. Perfectly suited for my 80 year-old tastes.

Until the next pop culture crisis,


July 21, 2010

We only wish we would have written this:

How to Vacation in Vermont
July 19, 2010

Last Wednesday, my family made a trek similar to the one shown on the map above, traveling over 1,000 miles from Dallas to visit me in good ol’ Middlebury. They left this morning, heading onward to Cooperstown, NY to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, after which they’ll head to Boston and then fly home.

While my family was here, I tried to take them to all the quintessentially Vermont destinations I could think of, sparing no expense in making sure they got to experience at least a small slice of what a summer in Vermont is all about. After their visit, I decided it would  be a good idea to write a post about how best to vacation in VT, family included.

Stay in a Road Side Motel

My family decided that they would stay in a road side motel called ‘Greystone’  for their visit. This was a good call made by my Aunt  because (at least I think) the best way to experience any semblance of authentic living in Vermont is to stay in a road side motel.

They are all locally owned (the Greystone by an old married couple, for example) so the vacationers get to experience the ‘locals’ of whatever small town they’re staying in, which is what all the tour guidebooks always tell us is so important anyway, right? Save the Hiltons and Holiday Inns for when you visit a big city, but in Vermont, as the saying goes, “Go Local!”

Go to a festival/fair in small town America

Nobody does small town fun like Vermont, and, I would caution to say, that Middlebury does an exceptionally good job at promoting the Main St. mentality. By attending a local festival or fair, you can really come to appreciate the culture of Vermont because, at the end of the day, the people and how they choose to party and get funky is what makes Vermont so unique.

Luckily for my family, the Festival On the Green was going on this past week in Middlebury. It was, essentially, a huge music festival full of local and not-so-local bands. My family and I ate it up, reveling in how the festival was able to bring together so many of the town residents (it would be shocking if our home town could pull off something half as authentic).

Get outdoors!

Seems simple enough. When you go to Chicago you eat Deep Dish pizza. When you go to New York, you see the Statue of Liberty. When you’re in Vermont you have to go outdoors. In a state that seems to be covered by huge mountains, rivers, water falls, swimming holes, and hiking trails, it would be a complete and TOTAL shame if you didn’t spend at least some time outdoors while visiting.

To remedy this problem for my family, my brother (who has never been on top of a mountain before-the largest mountain in our hometown of Carrollton, TX is the city dump) and I decided to hike up Snake Mountain. It’s a relatively easy hike located really close to Middlebury and the views are amazing. Overlooking the Champlain Valley with glimpses of the Adirondack Mountains in the background, this mountain had my brother screaming, “The world is ours to explore!”


Go to a Farm

In no other state would I tell you to go see a farm. It would probably be impossible and not very pleasant for you or your family. Plus it would probably be located on a flat plain with amber waves of grain (shout out Katharine Lee Bates).

Not so in Vermont.

The farms in Vermont are beautiful, located amidst rolling hills and lush green fields. Plus, a lot of the farms in Vermont double as educational centers where the farmers/owners use their knowledge of farming and the environment to educate people on how they should interact with their planet.

My family and I decided to visit Shelburne Farms, a beautiful, expansive farm/nonprofit environmental education center located just outside Burlington, VT. The farm has a lot of animals and a lot of events going on (everything from cheese making to goat milking). My family and I had so much fun holding chickens, picnicking on the grounds, and, of course, milking/posing with Feta, the goat in the above picture.

Yes, her milk is used to make Feta cheese.

Clever Shelburne Farms, clever.

If you had asked me a year ago today what my family of Suburbanites could possibly do in rural Vermont during an almost week long vacation, I would have told you that there was no way that we would (or could) spend 5 days in Vermont. But, after a year of living here and having just recently shared my knowledge of the state with my family, I can honestly say that it was one of the most interestingly authentic vacations we have ever experienced together.

And to top it all off, as we were driving to visit Fort Ticonderoga, we ran into this. As my aunt would say, “you can’t say anything about Texas. Only in Vermont would you see a cow crossing!”

Until the next cow crosses the road,


July 17, 2010

Sorry for the lack in blogging for the past couple of days! Both of us (me and Audrey) are somewhat distracted at the moment by catching up with family (with Audrey at home in Maryland and with my family visiting in Vermont from Dallas). After all, what’s more important, typing blog posts about the summer or actually experiencing it with those you love?

Don’t answer that.

Expect a slew of blogging to come forth shortly with updates about our separate family experiences, reporting on the Festival on the Green, and other crazy anecdotes about summer life at Middlebury!


Illegal English
July 12, 2010

“In signing this Language Pledge, I agree to use ______________ as my only language of communication while attending the Middlebury Language Schools. I understand that failure to comply with this Pledge may result in my expulsion from the School without credit or refund.”

This is the language pledge that all students at the Middlebury Language Schools take upon their arrival at Midd. It’s supposed to be a very strict pledge; it is, after all, where the Language school catch phrase “No English Spoken Here” comes from. Not adhering to the pledge is actually a very serious offense and, as the pledge suggests, you can get kicked out of the program without getting your $7,000 back.


With all the gravity that is placed on the pledge, you’d think that language school kids would be very good about only speaking their chosen language, both fearing potentially-wasted money and getting on the bad sign of the infamous ‘language-school police.’

But you’d think wrong.

Language school kids break the pledge. A lot. And it’s understandable- Imagine if you were a level 1 (beginner) Chinese student, forced to adhere to the pledge. For a week and a half you wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone, awkwardly and, more importantly, silently bearing both the weight of social isolation and a ton of homework. Sounds pleasurable, eh? What I, and a lot of the summer workers have found, is that language-pledge-violators can be grouped into 3 categories based on both severity and frequency of breaking the pledge.

1. The broken down violator: These students are serious about the pledge. They paid $7,000 to come learn Portuguese or Japanese and they ain’t playin’. These are the kids you see pouring over their materials in adirondack chairs, scorning English speakers with their judgmental eyes, reveling in their language’s culture.

And then they crack.

They miss speaking English because they’ve realized that you can only last on phrases like, “Hello, my name is Cody and I’m from Dallas! I like to eat. I like to sing. I like to write. What do you like to do?” for so long. Further, they miss their family, people who probably don’t understand Arabic or Hebrew or whatever language the student is speaking. So what do they do? They run to the English safe spaces on campus (Admissions, Help Desk, Public Safety, etc.) with ‘problems’ that they need to talk about to the employees (for example, going to the help desk and asking the workers to help you set up an email account or open a word document).

Or they cower under their beds, in cars, anywhere that is confined and far away from other language school students, desperately calling family members, friends, or listening to English music. After they get out of their English funk, they hurry back to their language school pals, pretending like nothing ever happened. If you’ve got to break the pledge, this is the way to go.

2. The cautiously-constant violator: This person, like the one above, breaks the language pledge because he or she is feeling burnt out, broken down, what have you. They’re typically a level 2 or level 2.5 student, someone who has a pretty good grasp of the language they’re studying and doesn’t haven’t to try quite as hard as beginners to make sense of what they, or others, are trying to say.

They break the pledge because they want to speak English, yes, but their motives extend far past being able to communicate for a few minutes without intense concentration: they want to hang out, party, and get to know each other (and the summer workers) in a tangible way (seriously, how well can you get to know someone when, all of a sudden, you’re all speaking a foreign language that takes away your humor and personality).

Often times, they know English speakers on campus and decide to, whether begrudgingly or not, meet with their English speaking friends once or twice a week at a designated location for some ‘English-only’ time. In this way, they can get a consistent break from their language and a chance to catch up with their friends. They respect the pledge, for the most part, and are wary of getting caught or being found out by friends that they are speaking English.

3. The ‘I’m in language school?’ violator:Before spending a summer at Middlebury, I never thought that these kind of students existed. I assumed that, sure, people broke the language pledge, but that, most of the time, people pretty much stuck to the language of their choice.

I was wrong.

This classification of rule violator, as you can probably gather from the name, breaks language pledge all the time. And not necessarily for important reasons. It could be that they just want to have a conversation with a fellow language school student without stressing about grammar rules or they want to talk to an English speaking worker, but the frequency with which they break the pledge is astounding.

These are the kind of kids you see every weekend breaking the pledge in an unapologetically abrasive manner, shouting English across streets, daring the language police to discover them. For me, at least, it becomes a question of why they even decided to come to language schools at all; sure they’re learning a lot and are probably being very studious but, at the same time, if you don’t spend your time fully immersed in the language, how can you ever achieve fluency?

Thankfully, all of the friends I have in the language schools here at Middlebury are pretty good about keeping the pledge, breaking it only to spend time with their favorite English speaking bloggers.

Until the next language pledge violation,


Peace out, Girl Scout.
July 9, 2010

It is now my turn to venture home and leave this blog in the faithful hands of my pal Cody. I’ll be in Maryland starting tomorrow till the 20th, so my posts will be on the lighter side. Maybe you’ll get an entry on the cultural relativism of the Mid-Atlantic, but I’m not sure it can compare to the antics of those Dallas folk Cody reports about.

For those of you in Middlebury, enjoy the continuing heat and humidity. It’ll be even worse where I am; seriously. But, try not to have too much fun without me.

Much love from the 21903,


Party like it’s 1776
July 6, 2010

Nothing says Independence Day like clean energy campaigns and fireworks. Or well, at least for us it doesn’t.


Cody and I spent our 4th of July (er well 3rd of July) up in the good ol’ city of B-town. Pairing up with the Race to Replace team, as well as trusty photographer Ryan Kellett, we spent the day canvassing Church Street and later the Champlain waterfront, in the name of promoting clean energy awareness in Vermont’s upcoming gubernatorial election. That’s right; we spent the day being those annoying people you try and avoid whenever you’re out in public. And yes we got rejected more times than a 12 year old boy with acne, glasses, and braces at a middle school dance, but that didn’t damper our spirits. With ukulele in tow, we owned Church St.; registering youth voters and informing people on the importance of clean energy issues like it was our job (cause for some of us it is). It’s a tough job, and I definitely have mad respect now for those who put themselves out there for a cause they believe in.

One perk of the job would have to be meeting all kinds of different people. And when I say all kinds, I mean all kinds. There are those who are genuinely interested and not crazy (rare), those who want to prove you wrong, and those who are just bat-shit-off-the-wall insane. And our favorite: the people in costumes, always good for a photo-op (moose, blue wolf, Charlie Chaplin, etc – examples? See our profile pics).

We're voting for clean energy. Are you?


“I always have the most fun on the Fourth of July. You don’t have to exchange any gifts. You just go to the beach and watch fireworks. It’s always fun.” (James Lafferty)

What would the 4th of July be without them? There is no better way to celebrate independence than by blowing things up. Our dear friend Abi so poignantly stated, “Isn’t it funny that when guns explode people freak out but when the explosions are accompanied by pretty lights, everyone ooohs and aaahs?” Regardless of whatever skepticism there might be surrounding fireworks and how ‘silly’ they are, Burlington does an amazing job with their fireworks.

After increasing the fireworks budget to $45,000 (so much for the recession? poverty? improving education systems?), Burlington put on a monster of a show full of all the wonderfully loud and colorful expulsions of light that make even the snobbiest cynics smile with the most well-intentioned Amurrrrican pride.

We also spent the night before in Bristol, enjoying their fireworks display, which although not as impressive as Burlington’s, was still respectable for such a small town. It was a quaint night; full of creemes, freedom, and cool Vermont air.

Truth Quote

Overall it was another great, effortlessly Vermont weekend!

Semper Fi,

Audrey and Cody

(title credit: Casey Mahoney)

Lost in Translation
July 2, 2010

As mentioned before, Cody and I have a good friend, Nial, who is currently studying at Middlebury’s Chinese Language School. He wanted to write a blog post for us, detailing his experience thus far with language schools. However, it had to be in Chinese. Therefore, I give you the Google-translated version of Nial’s saga:

You! My name is Cui Lexiong (English – Nial Rele), I am Matilda Chinese University of summer school a third grade student. Matilda I am a normal student, majored in environmental studies, my little professional as Chinese. I give you Matilda language schools inside the University of consumption. At first I should tell you – I let the Cody and sheen O Lee (Audrey) has been translated using Google the words I write, so if a little strange translation, not my fault, is Google. I also hope that this blog is good to the appropriate level. In addition, we called the Middlebury College “Matilda (MingDe) University” because it is the Chinese name of our university. I heard that using Google translate to English time, MingDe the English translation is the English name – “Matilda”. However, I give you take, Middlebury College’s Chinese name is really meant more beautiful. For those who are interested, Ming means “bright”, De means “morality.” So Matilda is a very bright university places, many of the moral. Yes! However, first of all, our weather has not so “bright”, and they tell you that the University’s language school Matilda could be your life’s most difficult learning experience, you’d better believe they. I am now waiting for lunch, and quite happy because we finished the week to do. But the terrible meaning, we still have six weeks. Three weeks, we have nearly finished a text, learning a lot of hundred words, many new syntax. On the other hand, on the road, my level of Chinese must have been raised, there are a lot of very interesting I know the Chinese students. I think the most interesting thing is, many people from all walks of life to learn a very mysterious yet very unique language. That gave birth to a very attractive situation, every conversation (of course with the Chinese) on the attractive special life story. I am now finally excited to Hangzhou next semester. Also, I found interest in calligraphy and tai chi. It is very fun! Those extra-curricular activities are school teachers of Chinese teaching. They are really quite convincing. Looked at a lot of people I do not know on my campus so I feel a little strange, but I am willing to share. I miss my English in the world, friends, family members, but the occurrence of language schools in the Matilda is really amazing.

The original text (in case you actually know Chinese):

你们好!我叫崔乐雄(英文- Nial Rele),我是明德大学的中文暑校的一个三年级的学生。我是一个正常的明德大学生,专业是环境学,我的小专业视中文。我要给你们明德大学的语言学校的内线消。开始的时候我应该告诉你们- 我让了Cody和妵澳李(Audrey)用Google一直翻译我写的话,所以如果翻译有一点奇怪,不是我的错,是Google的。我也希望这个博客是好的到合适的程度。另外,我们叫做Middlebury大学“明德(MingDe)大学”因为这是我们的大学的中文名字。我听说用Google翻译到英文的时候 ,MingDe的英文翻译就是那个英文名字-“Matilda”。但是,我给你们把握,Middlebury大学的中文名字的真的意思比较美丽。为了有兴趣的人,Ming的意思就是“光明”,De的意思就是“道德”。所以明德大学是一个很光明的地方,也有很多的道德。不错!然而,首先,我们的天气还没有那么“光明”,而且,他们告诉你明德大学的语言学校可能是你的生活的最难学习经历,你最好相信他们。我现在在等午饭,而相当高兴因为我们的星期来做完了。但是很可怕的意,我们还有六个星期。三个星期来,我们已经差不多做完了一本课文,学习了很多百生词,无数新的语法。另一方面,在路上,我的中文的水平一定已经提高了,还有我认识了很多很有意思的中文同学们。我觉得最有意思的事就是很多人从各行各业还来学习很神秘很别致的语言。那,生了一个很迷人的情况,每一个谈话(当然用中文的)关于诱人的特别的生活故事。我现在很兴奋下个学期终于去杭州。另外,发现了我对书法和太极拳有兴趣。那都是很好玩!那些课外活动都是中文的学校的老师们教的。他们真得很心悦诚服。看着很多我不认识的人在我的校园上让我有觉得有一点奇怪,可是我愿意共享。我很想念我的英文的世界,朋友们,家人,可是在明德语言学校的发生真的了不起。

O we do miss this guy.


Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind
July 1, 2010

For the past few days, I have had many strange encounters with Language School students. When relaying some of these tales to my beloved friend R. Kelly (better known as Ryan Kellett), he cleverly told me to name the title of this blog post “Close encounters of the 3rd kind.” I decided to humor him, and in doing so, discovered that the movie’s tagline accurately represents my language school experiences thus far:

“Close Encounter of the First Kind – Sighting of a UFO (language school students). Close Encounter of the Second Kind – Physical Evidence (the expulsion of foreign languages). Close Encounter of the Third Kind – Contact. WE ARE NOT ALONE”

Before the language school students arrived, I couldn’t get over how excited I was about interacting with all the new people on campus. I thought, “oh, this is going to be FANTASTIC! I can practice my Italian, Spanish, and French and all the language school kids will love me!”


To put it bluntly, the language school kids instill fear like no other. If a language school kid catches you speaking English anywhere on campus (how dare we attempt to communicate with one another) they will give you the kind of evil eye that only a true foreigner could give an ignorant American. As mentioned earlier, I have experienced many funny and terrifying moments with the language school kids, a few of which I will detail below…

1) During one of my first ‘language school sensitive’ tours of Middlebury, I was walking through Bi-Hall, giving my usual spiel (“Yes, this is the largest window in Vermont, much to the chagrin of the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory”) when, out of no where, a blonde woman appeared. I was speaking with my 6-inch voice (many thanks to my Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Armstrong for teaching me about that one) , trying not to let my English derail the progress the language school students have been making. As if saying “And here’s another classroom” could throw off someone’s foreign language feng shui, but I digress.

As soon as I passed the girl, she shot me an evil look and said “no.”

I stared back, dumbfounded. Was she telling me that I couldn’t give a tour or that I couldn’t speak or that my means of communication were ‘wrong’? I didn’t bother to find out, shutting my mouth and continuing my tour, supplementing any useful information in English with exaggerated hand gestures.

2) Some kids are coming to language schools as beginners (or level 1’s) , fine, perfect. I understand and fully support them stumbling through simple sentences with no accents (Si, voglio andare a la biblioteca or Oui, je m’apelle Cody, merci). We were all beginners at one time or another, and I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes with languages (in Spanish one time I told my professor, “pero professora, estoy embarasado,” which instead of translating to “but professor, I am embarrassed,” translates to “but professor, I’m pregnant.” Fun day for Cody).

However, I have very little tolerance for students who have taken a language for several years (entering as advanced students at levels 2 or 3) who still manage to sound like they just learned the language. The other day, my friend Syd and I were sitting on the Proctor terrace in front of a group of 3rd year Spanish students who all sounded like this:

It was painful to listen to and, after eavesdropping for 10 minutes, my friend and I went over to talk/help/completely renovate their Spanish. Let’s hope that after a few weeks they’ll develop good accents and stop saying sentences like “Yo necesito tu me ayudar” (which, translated, means almost nothing, although the intent is “I need you to help me,” a phrase that we should have taught those bewildered gringos).

3) One of the most amazingly-awful interactions that any of my friends have had with the language school kids happened to my friend Whitney. Braced with laundry that desperately needed to be done, Whitney decided to go to Forest Hall and do her laundry, the dorm where all of the Chinese language-school students are living, which in theory doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. She would silently navigate her way to the laundry room and keep her English expulsions to a minimum.

Except she had no idea where the laundry facilities were located.

Equipped with 3 Chinese phrases (‘Hello,’ ‘Darn it!’ and ‘Long time no see’), Whitney entered Forest determined to discover where she could do her laundry. When she saw a group of Chinese students in the main lobby, she said, “ni hao,” which is Chinese for hello. They responded with greetings, at which point Whitney said, “no, ni hao,” pointing dramatically at her laundry. After repeating the phrase several more times, a girl caught on and led her to the laundry facilities.

Whitney then used the phrases for ‘Darn it!’ and ‘Long time no see’ to express her gratitude.

So, as you can see, she’s fully prepared to move to Beijing.

And that is really what a lot of English to Language School interactions are all about, comically tragic meetings that end in hilarious stories.

Or all out language-based warfare.

Hasta nuestro próximo encuentro,