I routinely describe Middlebury as “a small, college town in Vermont.” I think I’ve already talked about the smallness and the Vermontness, but with school starting again soon, let’s talk about what it’s like to live in the shadow of a college.
Now, Middlebury College is not all that big, but the town isn’t either, so the college has a big impact on life here. Some of the benefits are really obvious. We have cultural opportunities and outlets that a town this size would never have without a college: music, art, theater. I don’t always take as much advantage of them as I should (not in the last five years, particularly) but I like having the options. I don’t see students around town very often (weird, because we were all over Lexington when I was in college) but I think having students and their families here also means that we have better restaurants and better shopping than we would without the college.
We know more interesting people than we’d have encountered if it weren’t for the college. Whether it’s friends who are alums and have moved back to Addison County or faculty members who’ve been drawn to Middlebury from all over, our friends are smart, funny, diverse, interesting and, for the most part, unlikely to live here if it weren’t for some college connection.
I also really like the students we’ve met. I’ve written before about John’s beloved basketball team. Nearly every other student we’ve bumped into, whether they’ve worked with Matt or at one of John’s schools, has also been fantastic. Our babysitters are like family, and if they weren’t so smart and motivated, I’d try to persuade them to forget actual work and just move in with us. (Ruby, I’m looking at you. Forget medical school, our door is open!)
I work for a communications firm that focuses specifically on higher education, so there’s a lot of synergy there as well. (“Synergy:” see how I shift right into work language?) The rhythm of the academic calendar informs everything about life here. I think about the year starting in September, not in January. Our friends work for Middlebury in communications, admissions, advancement, alumni relations, facilities. I know what’s hard about reading admissions folders, why the advancement folks travel, and what kind of commitment it takes to keep this place running so smoothly that most people never notice a thing. The way I understand an academic community has really evolved since we moved here, and that helps me make connections at work as well.
In short: I love it. I can’t imagine doing without it, and I have a feeling that’s something that I’ll only feel more strongly as the years go by.
Great post. We feel the same way about living in Fort Collins with CSU being here. Sarah had the most incredible time at theater camp, put on by the department head ans several students. And we feel the same way about the students. We were blown away at how friendly the students were with Sarah (at age 3) when we first moved here–high fiving her at football games, engaging here in conversation on the street. I kind of expect friendly kids at small schools, but not at one with enrollment of 25,000! We find ourselves mourning the students that move on (babysitters, athletes), and I’m always amazed at how fast 4 (or 5!) years goes by.