By Charlie Pritchard
A Small Hello From Middlebury
The concept of liberal arts education has only recently become something of a trend amongst British higher education institutions, having taken inspiration from American models, with currently 23 universities offering BA degrees in the subject. The liberal arts in the US however differs in encompassing an institutional ethos rather than focused specialised study. Many are eager to pounce upon this academic regimen with accusations of indulgent elitism over utilitarian value, and to a historical extent, such criticisms are well founded. After all, the Latin root liberalis was inextricable from the concept of nobility, and thus by implication, the liberal arts were subjects worthy only of patricians. Yet despite its isolation, hidden away between the sublime Green Mountains and the Adirondacks in Vermont, Middlebury College has an admirable worldly conscience. Its location instills a concentrated and committed work ethic amongst its student body, which while showing its rewards in university rankings, can take its toll. The curriculum workload is demanding, and yet in spite of its difficulties, its gift takes hold of your intellectual curiosity. Professors set questions provoking fascinating ethic-centred debate among the class with great encouragement with a real pleasure in seeing their students develop. Middlebury gives students time to decide their direction in life – there are many second year students who haven’t yet decided what they are majoring in. The freedom with which students can choose courses from across sciences, humanities and arts is something to be cherished – to my knowledge there is no institution in Britain which compares to such eclecticism.
Towns in Vermont are dominated by their churches. Some towns around Middlebury are worth visiting for their churches alone. The city of Burlington, about 50 miles from the Canadian border, is the closest thing you will get to a metropolis in Vermont. Lazing by the waterfront of Lake Champlain, the centre possesses a modesty combined with smart charm with more coffee shops you can shake a stick at and some great second-hand bookshops full of rare findings.
There are two drinks that keep New Englanders going – coffee and cider. They are serious about their coffee consumption, and with their coffee so cheap, it’s amazing they don’t explode. I remember sitting in a diner in Middlebury town and ordering a coffee for two dollars, and after ten minutes a waitress came round offering free refills. I’d never seen such generosity with coffee. I could almost hear my heart in my ears by the time I came out. Their cider, however, is something that British people might get confused about. New Englanders make a distinction between sweet cider and hard cider, the former being non-alcoholic and the latter being the ‘real stuff’ as it were. I admit my disappointment when college organised events would serve cider and finding that they were in fact only serving sweet cider (I’m missing alcohol, as you can probably tell).
But winter is here now, and I’m currently rejoicing in the hefty snowfall. Here’s some snaps.
Mead Chapel at Middlebury
Old Chapel at Middlebury