MIDDLEBURY –– Attending college close to home has its ups and downs. One positive, according to two Middlebury Union High School grads who now attend Middlebury College, is saving quarters.
“I can get free laundry,” said Ethan Roy, a 2011 MUHS graduate who attends college a little more than a mile from home.
Roy and MUHS classmate Katie Ritter, both 19, jokingly cited going home for laundry as a plus among many other reasons why they enjoyed going to college in their hometown.
Recently two Middlebury College grads and three current undergraduates weighed in on their experience going from MUHS to Middlebury College.
The current and former students described the benefits of going to school in or near their hometown and what they’ve since learned about the college and town.
Lynn, who graduated from Middlebury College in February of 2006, said the college felt totally new, even though she grew up in Middlebury and Leicester.
“I had everything I needed there and was completely involved in the college life,” she said. “It can feel like a totally separate place, if you want it to. It also helped that I didn’t have a car, so my travel radius was limited. I couldn’t go home to do laundry without calling my parents for a ride — and that just didn’t happen.”
Lynn, who last year moved back to Vermont after living outside the region for several years, liked having knowledge of the town and area because she could recommend fun outdoor activities.
“I like being the expert and showing off some of the best Middlebury –– and Vermont –– has to offer,” she said. “I took people mountain biking on the TAM (Trail Around Middlebury), hiking up to Falls of Lana, running on the Sheep Farm Road loop, to Field Days, maple sugaring, apple picking, and skiing at all my favorite places.”
Lynn’s view of the college shifted once she saw it from the inside.
“My perspective changed 100 percent,” she said. “Not that it was ever a bad perspective, just very different. College life is all about walking to everything, which makes Middlebury similar to an urban experience. There are tons of activities, lectures, classes, concerts and people to meet and there is never enough time to do all that you want to. In high school, my routine was school, sports, dinner, homework, bed. College is just so different, it doesn’t matter if you go far or stay in your own town.”
Evan Parton, Middlebury College class of ’05, did not initially go to Middlebury. Parton, 29, grew up in Cornwall and wanted the standard college experience of living somewhere totally new.
“I didn’t want to stay in Vermont because I’d always been there,” he said. “I went to a different college, Union (in Schenectady, N.Y.), first. I was at Union for a year but decided to transfer to Middlebury. Union didn’t have the academic rigor that I was looking for.”
Parton enjoyed expanding his classmates’ views of the town and state and providing an insider’s perspective.
“When I met out-of-towners I could tell them what’s it’s like to grow up and live in that area,” he said. “Many people, when they come to Middlebury from out of state, they have all of these impressions that are solely based on the Middlebury College bubble. You don’t get to see real aspects of Vermont, so I enjoyed being able to speak with the people that I met and give them a better impression of things.”
Parton, who now lives in Cambridge, Mass., ensured that he had a typical college experience of living somewhere totally new by studying abroad in Ferrara, Italy, for a year.
“If you grow up in Middlebury and go to Middlebury College it can be really positive if you use the college as a means for getting out of town,” he said. “Using the amazing language school in order to study abroad, for example. That way you can take advantage of what the college has to offer.”
Kristen DeGraff, who will graduate from the college in February of 2014, did not initially consider Middlebury in her college search.
“When I was applying, I actually was not even looking at Middlebury because it was in my hometown,” she said. “But I soon realized that Middlebury was exactly what I wanted in a college and nothing else could compare.”
DeGraff, 21, enjoys going home to spend time with her family and eat a homemade meal.
Familiarity with the town has enhanced her experience at the college so far. Having hometown knowledge made the jump from high school to college easier.
“I really like having the insider knowledge of the area,” she said. “I know all the good places to eat and what things there are to do. It was really nice as a freshman because I didn’t have to start from square one.”
She explained that her knowledge of the town helps her connect with incoming freshmen in her role as a first year counselor, or FYC.
“Growing up in Middlebury has really helped me be a better FYC because as a residential life staff I was constantly being asked questions about where to go in town by my freshman,” she said. “They really enjoyed that they could ask me any sort of question about the town and I would know the answer.”
Roy, a rising sophomore, said he could not find another school that felt like Middlebury.
“Going into the whole college selection thing I was trying to find Middlebury that was not in Middlebury and I couldn’t find the exact carbon copy,” he said.
Even though he didn’t necessarily want to be close to home, Roy realized the perks.
“It’s nice to get a home-cooked meal every once in a while and other times when you’re really stressed out it’s good to be able to escape and go home and relax for an afternoon,” he said.
He already knew professors at the college, which helped him adjust to campus life.
“I have connections with a lot of faculty,” Roy said. “I get to meet with them and talk about what classes to take, what are good options. That’s been useful, knowing people right off the bat.”
Roy explained that at the college there are plenty of “interesting people with interesting stories.” Now that he’s home on break for the summer, he misses that diversity and excitement.
“I’m surrounded by tons of people my own age at college and that’s fun and exciting,” he said.
Ritter explained that she liked Middlebury, but the proximity to home delayed her final decision to go there.
“It was probably the factor that was making me go back and forth between Middlebury and other schools so much,” she said. “But Middlebury has everything I was looking for and the closeness to home wasn’t enough to make me not go there.”
The rising sophomore enjoyed running into people she knew around town.
“I liked seeing friendly faces the whole year,” Ritter said. “Seeing people downtown, catching up with them, being able to connect with people who I hadn’t seen in a while.”
Ritter, a varsity lacrosse and basketball player at Middlebury, likes that family, friends and people in the area can go to games.
“The high school teams would come a lot,” she said. “It was nice to see the town coming out for the games and keeping up with athletics. I was seeing familiar faces in town and they were asking how the season was going.”
Going to the college offered a new perspective on living in Middlebury, and Ritter feels like she appreciates that more.
“I definitely learned just being around people that were so excited to be in Vermont and in Middlebury,” she said. “I learned to be more appreciative of where I was. For example, my roommate was from Singapore and had never seen snow before. When it first snowed she was so excited. I kind of took the area for granted and being with people excited about it and who appreciated it was really great.”