Settling into college in Vermont

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Elie Jordi graduated from MVRHS in 2015 and attends the University of Vermont in Burlington. He's not keen on being landlocked. — Photo Courtesy of Elie Jordi

For the past three years, The MVTimes has asked four recent Vineyard high school graduates to share their experiences during their first year after graduation. We begin this year’s dispatches with Elie Jordi. Elie is a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduate from the class of 2015 who was also a newsroom intern with The Times during the second semester last year. He writes from Burlington, Vt., where he is attending the University of Vermont.

This past semester, I have been studying environmental science at the University of Vermont. Yes, I live in the socialist republic of Vermont, where “Feel the Bern” bumper stickers litter every corner and campus building. While I am an avid Bernie supporter — it would be hard not to be­ here — I chose to attend UVM for a different reason. Coming into the first semester, I knew that I wanted to study at UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environmental Science. Now that I am here, I couldn’t think of a better place to learn about the environment.

UVM was not my first choice. Ironically, I applied just to make sure I was going to college. When I thought of UVM, all I could think of was — weed. I felt that the ease of getting admitted to UVM would reflect on what kind of student I was. Now that I am here, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Every course I am taking is challenging me more than I ever thought possible. My grades have been good so far. I’m taking lot of introductory science classes, which are difficult. There are 245 students in my general chemistry lecture. It’s massive, especially compared with the 25-student classes that I was accustomed to at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS). While there is no individual attention, I don’t mind, since I am just taking notes and regurgitating it on tests.

The first week was weird. So many people I didn’t know. The sheer size of the student population was overwhelming. It was very different from the small Island community where everyone knows one another. Yet after overcoming the fear of introducing myself, I started to enjoy always meeting new people. I remember sitting in one of my huge lectures at the beginning of the year thinking, No one even knows who I am. I feel like I’m getting the full-on college experience. While going to a big school made transition more challenging, I am glad I decided to go here.

College really scams you. On top of the ridiculous out-of-state tuition, you have to buy books and online textbooks, which of course are not included. You might think that since it’s Vermont, the dining hall food might be “local” and “fresh.” Well, it sucks. The first two weeks, it was good. Then after that, it was just awful. Fortunately, there is a Trader Joe’s just down the street, so I make a weekly commute there. I have also been introduced to delivery food. I have never been able to have food delivered to my door on the Vineyard. It might not seem like a big thing, but for a kid who hasn’t ever bought delivery, it was a big deal. Fortunately, there are many great restaurants in downtown Burlington that I go to.

Burlington reminds me of a ski-bum town, infused with local food and vibrant bars. There are an alarming number of homeless people living on the downtown streets. Don’t get me wrong; I have been to New York City, I have seen homeless people. Yet it still surprised me to see so many walking through Burlington.

Living in Vermont does have its perks. If you’re into the outdoors, it’s a great place to live. I have been rock climbing and hiking since the first week I arrived. It is gorgeous this time of year; the mountains are red and yellow with the iconic fall color. However, last week we had our first snow. Fall is short and winter is long this far north. That is fine with me. There are three ski mountains within 30 minutes of the school. It beats a ferry and a five-hour drive. Of course I do miss aspects of the Vineyard at times. Next to my family and friends, it would be the water. This is my first time landlocked in 18 years, and I could use a swim in the ocean. Lake Champlain is nice, but it isn’t the same. The salt water is what I yearn for. Lake Champlain cannot compare to a morning swim at Lambert’s Cove or an evening dinner spent on Philbin Beach.