MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – While much of the country enjoyed a final taste of summer over the Labor Day weekend, Battell and Stewart Halls sprang to life as hundreds of first-year students arrived Monday for the weeklong orientation known as MiddView. As families pulled up to the curb, a crew of orientation leaders descended in a flurry of greetings and handshakes, emptying each car within minutes. Boxes, rugs, mini fridges, and bikes littered sidewalks and hallways in a scene that was at once cheerful, chaotic, and efficient.
Arrival day marked the start of a busy orientation week designed to help students learn the ins and outs of Middlebury. Over the coming week, students will meet with their academic advisors and learn about the academic departments and College honor code. They’ll also dive into campus life with hall meetings, campus safety training, and social events.
On Friday, students will depart campus for a three-day, two-night orientation trip, which they chose earlier in the summer. Some will head out on “wilderness explorations,” perhaps rock climbing, sailing, or hiking. Others chose one of several trips from a “community engagement” theme, in which they’ll volunteer with local nonprofits in the communities surrounding campus. Still others selected a trip in the “Vermont explorations” category, a grouping designed to immerse students in the cultural landscape of the state.
Nyreke Peters, along with his mother and grandmother, had driven to Middlebury from North Carolina and were putting the finishing touches on his Battell Hall room. “I’m nervous, anxious, excited, scared—all kinds of emotions,” said Peters, who is happily undecided about his academic path. “I’m coming in with an interest in music, but might leave with a completely different interest,” he laughed. Peters said he’s looking forward to trying many new things, including hiking and rock climbing on the MiddView adventure sampler trip.
Some of the 638 first-year students (113 more will begin in February), who represent 43 states and 35 countries, were thinking about how different Middlebury felt from home. Isha Kothari, a New York City native, said she was looking for a change from city life and that the Vermont setting was a big factor in her decision. As she and her mother unpacked a new dorm fridge, Kothari said she was a little nervous about getting everything organized and signing up for classes. She’s thinking about economics and international and global studies, but wants to check out other areas of interest as well. She will explore several area yoga studios and stay at the Bread Loaf campus on her MiddView trip.
Down the hall, Kufre Udoh and his dad, Fabian, of South Bend, Indiana, wrestled sheets onto his loft bed. Kufre said he loved the change of scenery when he saw the mountains on his first morning in Vermont. His mother, Francesca, joked that they could have used a little more light on Vermont’s winding highways the previous night. Udoh will get a chance to explore the mountains further during his MiddView trip doing trail maintenance on the Long Trail in Green Mountain National Forest.
The students arriving Monday joined a group of about 50 classmates who arrived on campus last week for a four-day preorientation program aimed at first-generation college students. First @Midd gives students a chance to learn how to navigate the sometimes-complex social and academic aspects of college life and to acquaint themselves with resources and offices that can help them.
Orientation week will wrap up on Sunday evening with Convocation at Mead Chapel. The traditional ceremony, in which the president greets the incoming class, represents the official start of the academic year. The class will assemble for a photo immediately following convocation.
Reporting by Stephen Diehl; photos by Todd Balfour