By Lena O’Donnell
Visual Editor

Next semester I will be one of the 60 students studying abroad. What if my anxieties affect me while I am in the Czech Republic? How will I take care of myself so far from my therapist, and friends, and family? How am I going to be okay when I am so far from my usual life?

Consider these tips from students and faculty on how to take care of yourself…

  • Get out of your comfort zone: “You definitely have to be willing to be out of your comfort zone,” said Sullivan Miele ‘20 who studied in Spain. He advised not to hold up in your room, which might be your first instinct. “You’re living there you might as well make it a home.” Miele said getting out of his comfort zone really enhanced the experience.
  • Work out: Miele found that this workout routine helped him destress during those anxious times. “I would go on a 30-minute bike ride to a local rock climbing gym. Climb for an hour or two. They had a bar at the gym, so I might have a beer after.” To top it all off he would finish with a, “ride a 30-minute bike ride home.” Full body workout.
  • Reflect: Greaves mentioned that her program recommended journaling as a way to document experiences throughout the semester. “I do journal every now and then if I want to process how I’m feeling on paper,” she said. It can also be used to document feelings with the experience. Looking back you have your own memories written down.
  • Get an international data plan: One of High’s top travel tips: “Having technology that works so you can stay connected with other people.” Which ties back to making connections with people at your program and at home. High found that wherever she was she could always find someone to reach out to. Depending on what plan you have this option may vary, but before you study abroad to talk to your provider to see if they have any deals.
  • Therapists (Bergeron, your own, online): “The counselors at Bergeron are available to support students in identifying and building internal resources before heading off on a study abroad adventure,’’ said Erin Altermatt, counselor at Bergeron. Continue your self-care routines while you are abroad. “ If you’ve been prescribed medications at home, continue them while studying abroad. Contact your Program director or host university to get support if you feel your mental health is becoming unmanageable,” she said. A costly but more adaptable option is online therapy. You can find an array of options.
  • Take to do something familiar: Rachel High ‘20 went to India last spring. “Really try to immerse yourself, that is what this program, study abroad is for,” says High. But it can be too much to completely assimilate yourself wherever you are. “If sad or stressed I think something that is really comforting is doing familiar things.” High would travel 30 minutes away to an American store to buy a block of really expensive cheddar cheese with her roommate, “we would just sit there and eat a block cheddar because we missed cheese and we missed our home.”
  • Have some “Me time”: “I’m usually aware of when I need my alone time or a quiet space to calm my mind,” Greaves said. When you are around people all the time on your program you need time to yourself.
  • Reach out to family: Amanda Greaves ‘20 is currently in South Africa on her study abroad adventure. “I continue to feel the same feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious as I would if I was at Saint Mike’s” said Greeves. “Taking care of myself has meant reaching out to my family when I’m feeling down and I need to uplift my spirits,” they are the people that know her best.
  • Make connections:
  • “I always had someone to call through my program and I knew that if something really bad was going on that I could get help,” said High. Knowing that you have someone, especially someone in your program, there put High at ease if an issue came up. “Having a local, maybe it’s a host family member, maybe it is a professor, maybe it is a program director, having someone who is from that area who can get you out of tight situations is a really important thing.”

By Lauren Walsh
Contributing Writer

I turned into a robot my senior year of high school. I remember when I came home at 7 p.m., hung out with friends until midnight, did homework until 4 a.m., and then woke at 7 a.m. Consistently I got three hours of sleep.

I’d been diagnosed with OCD at age nine and by high school I was getting panic attacks. I stopped eating and sleeping. I thought about killing myself.

That was my life in high school and in some ways, that’s my life today. I don’t know a lot of people that get a good night’s sleep and they act like it’s fine. It’s difficult to stop when it’s so normalized on campus. I’m not trying to blame my problems on sleep, but I’d feel better if I got the recommended 8 hours.

Some days I’ll spend more time in my bed than I have time to and still feel tired when I leave it. It feels like I am carrying weights on my chest. I have no desire to do anything and I’ll lay in my bed feeling unable to breathe for hours at a time. Not getting enough sleep enhances a negative cycle.

Anxiety, OCD, and depression each have their own set of symptoms that I struggle with daily and these become exacerbated easily. The less sleep I get, the more likely I am to self-harm or start getting suicidal thoughts because I am less capable of controlling my emotions. The less sleep I get, the more eyelashes I pull out.

The world feels bleak. The days begin to melt together. They leave me feeling out of control. The less sleep I get, the worse life feels.

I typically don’t get a full night’s sleep. I’m a senior leading three organizations on campus, working and owning a dog. My friends have watched as I burst into tears for seemingly no reason in the morning. They can’t tell that my heart is racing, that my body feels terrible. And I am so anxious. I just don’t want to face another day.

It’s very nice to say you can just go to bed early and it will fix everything, but what if you can’t? Sometimes my body is incapable of allowing me to sleep no matter how exhausted. My brain simply will not turn off. Much of the time, I am just too busy to sleep.

Maybe without the anxiety, depression, and OCD, the lack of sleep would be something a cup of coffee would fix. Everyone seems to think we come to college and part of the package is that we don’t sleep. We stay up all night to do homework or to party with our friends. But it’s a maladaptive coping mechanism to the world we’ve been placed in. Not sleeping is already causing more issues for me and it will eventually cause issues for everybody.

I don’t know if people just keep how this makes them feel to themselves, I don’t even know if others know how I feel, but it’s time to change that and talk about it.

Lauren Walsh is a senior biology major who writes more lab reports than newspaper articles.

By Victoria Zambello

Staff Writer

Laces tied tight. Hair thrown into ponytails. Pre-game music at full blast.

The soccer girls of Burlington High School went through their normal soccer routine on a windy and chilled October night game under the lights.

But this was not their average soccer game. After conducting multiple interviews with media reporters from Boston to Vermont senior captain Maggie Barlow held a large smile across her face during warm-ups. By the time the game was over, she and her team showed up on CNN, The New York Post, CBS News, Glamour and Fox news among other outlets.

“We were inspired by the U.S Women’s National Team, specifically Megan Rapinoe to helping to lead the fight for equal pay for equal pay,” said Barlow.

“It also goes to show if one team starts with such a big heart and such a big passion to make something spread, it gets global,” said Payton Carson, junior BHS soccer player.

The #EqualPay jerseys sold both online and at the game itself cost $25, but this time men were invited to pay an additional 16 percent to symbolize the current gender wage gap.

“It’s really empowering that the boys team decided to also join us because I think it’s one thing to start a movement with gender equality. But to get the boys team to be there beside you is such a step,” said Senior Captain Helen Worden.

“Women in Vermont make 84 cents to every dollar men make, translating into a 16 cent wage gap,” noted a press statement from the Burlington School District. All proceeds from the sales will be toward the Greater Burlington Girls Soccer League. Specifically, the #EqualPay jerseys will provide scholarships and equipment donations for girls within the community.

“The wage gap has lasting impacts. Women in VT draw half the social security benefits that men do,” according to the Burlington School District press statement.

After working closely with the Burlington girls soccer team, Jessica Nordhause, Director of Strategy and Partnerships for Change The Story, an initiative to improve the economic status of women in Vermont, said that the group’s effort is incredible. “Their ingenuity and energy is inspiring. That’s how we are going to change the story around inequity for women,” Nordhaus said.

With three minutes left in the game, senior captain Helen Worden, along with three other teammates,  shot, scored, and pulled her soccer shirt up to reveal her #EqualPay jersey underneath.

 Just like the fans at the Women’s National game back in July, the crowd cheered “Equal Pay! Equal Pay!”; however those players received yellow cards for excessive celebration.

Maia Vota, Senior Team Captain year and BHS player wrote over text message that the school administration “has responded really well.”

“We have had to turn our assistant principal’s office into a recording studio for interviews a few times now,” said Vota.

We even had the chance to give Senator Leahy a jersey. It’s validating to know that such a large number of people are behind us. All of the players can’t stop talking about the community’s response at school!”

As the BHS girls watch their role models to support them, Voita explains how it feels to have college classes talk about them. “It feels surreal! We’ve had a couple of graduates who played on our soccer team reach out and tell us that they talked about it in their college classes,” said Vota.

The Burlington High School #EqualPay protest has continued to be covered and supported nationally, but it does not end at the Oct. 18 night game.

“I think that everyone should get the jerseys like all sports. Because it represents that we are saying the same thing not just for soccer but for every woman,” Carson said.

By Lorelei Poch

Environment Editor

Some parents and students have noticed that the cost of attendance at Saint Michael’s College increased this academic school year by $1,670. What used to be called the Student Activities Fee, priced at $325 since the 2012/13 academic year, is now named the Comprehensive Fee and was set at $1,995 for the 2019-20 school year. The fee covers the cost of services outside of tuition and room and board for students.

For decades this fee was recognized as the Student Activities fee which funded the Student Association in part. “Now with the comprehensive fee, we’re going a step further to say the fee covers lots of things in your Saint Michael’s experience, but not in an itemized, explicit way,” said Vice President of Finances Rob Robinson.

The breakdown of specific categories included in this new comprehensive fee, for example, the cost of library services, the fitness center, health services, streaming services and IT, are bundled into the single comprehensive fee and not itemized for students or parents.

The structure of the former activities fee has an important historical context. “At some point 15 years ago someone said we want to implement a student activity fee to protect SGA’s funding,” Robinson explained. This revenue was kept separate from tuition, room and board to ensure funding did not waver from any instability in Saint Michael’s funding. According to Robinson, the cost of attendance typically increases 3-4 percent every year. “That has been applied equally to tuition and to the residence fee but not to the Student Activities fee,” Robinson said.

“For the current year we froze tuition and increased the residence fee at a higher rate based on the analysis of where we stood in the marketplace. We changed the fee structure to now be a comprehensive fee. Those things combined led to a total cost of attendance increase of just over four percent. But we didn’t apply any of that to tuition.

“There are lots of parallels, Netflix, for example. You can’t sign up for just television shows and not movies, you do not then ask Netflix, well of my $10 a month how much is related to television shows or movies? It’s packaged together as a thing. There are elements of the comprehensive fee that are like that. No one at SMC is experiencing it in the entirely same way. You don’t go into Alliot and say how much is for vegetable-based proteins versus meat -based proteins. If you’re vegetarian and not interested, that’s something that’s there if you are interested,” Robinson said.

Since this fee is non-negotiable in order to protect aspects of the Student Association, no financial aid may be applied to this charge. Despite this, Saint Micahel’s is still trying to competitively enroll students who require financial aid. “We want to be competitive. You can’t be academically successful if you’re worried about financial aid,” said Kristin McAndrew vice president of enrollment. 

The process to change the fee was relatively quick. According to Robinson, the comprehensive fee was encouraged mostly by Robinson and Sarah Kelly, the former vice president of enrollment and marketing. The President and the President’s cabinet were also involved. “The cost of attendance is really integral to what enrollment does. So when the fee was set Sarah Kelly and I made a presentation to the SGA to talk about the change in the fees and some of the rationale behind getting to that,” Robinson said. “We looked at a variety of things and the places where our expenses have risen and tried to make some determinations about which of those things were and weren’t funded conceptually in which category.”

Tenley Mazzerolle ‘21, SGA Secretary of Finance, said she was not particularly fazed by the change and increase in the fee. Nor was she concerned about the broad sweep of the fee, rather than an itemized list. “I think transparency never hurts. So, it could be fair if they posted everything that was being paid, but it’s gonna have to be paid one way or the other whether I pay it toward the fee or for tuition. So it doesn’t bother me that much,” Mazzerolle said.

“It would be wonderful if we didn’t have to raise fees, but that is unfortunately not the financial reality,” Robinson said. The reasoning behind the fee, he explained, was to collect money where Saint Michael’s needed more and to be comparable to other institutions.

By Molly Humiston
Staff Writer

Three weeks away and a single Thursday already hangs in the collective American mind, Thanksgiving.

For students, it is a chance to leave classes and schoolwork behind for a short while, but when they take off for home, 113 international students who can’t go home for the holiday.

The international students range from a stay of eight weeks to four years, said Christina Mager, the associate director of English Language Programs and an instructor of Applied Linguistics.

“Cross-culturally there’s a lot of similarities, and I think for us as Americans and for Chinese, Latin American, Vietnamese, whatever they are, family is something that is shared and something that is valued in all of our cultures,” said Mager. She has opened her home to international students and provided them with a traditional American Thanksgiving.

For those whose time in the U.S. overlaps with the holidays, some chose to travel the U.S. or go home with American students to celebrate with their families.

“I’m going to travel New York and Quebec City with my Japanese friends,” said Kumi Nagano ‘21, an exchange student who came to St. Michael’s last spring from Osaka, Japan. “This is the last time for me to see around the U.S. and Canada during my studying abroad so I’m happy to have this long holiday.”

Lia Christ ‘21 enjoys Thanksgiving with her family in Vermont with Brazilian friends and other international students from campus. “Everyone else is doing [Thanksgiving], so we might as well,” Christ thought after she moved from Brazil to Stowe, Vt. when she was 13. “My parents try their best to have their own little holiday and then make food and invite friends over,” said Christ. “We usually get together, have food together and we make some kind of Thanksgiving food and some kind of Brazilian food and Brazilian desserts.”

Talia Torkomian ‘21 brought home a Japanese and a Taiwanese student last year for Thanksgiving. “I didn’t realize how special for my family the holiday is until I got to share it with people who didn’t know the full concept of it,” Torkomian said. “When my family came over, I thought that they were going to be kind of shy, but [they] completely opened up and kind of took on the day by themselves.” The two international students even broke the wishbone.

“Living abroad myself for a number of years, I always appreciated when someone welcomed me into their home during a local holiday,” said Ben White, the Chair of Applied Linguistics/TESOL Department. “Not only does it enable one to observe meaningful traditions in a new culture, it provides the opportunity to participate and engage in those traditions.”

Mai Thi Thao Chi’s first thought of St. Michael’s was whimsical. “The college is very lovely with old buildings like castles in stories and also this is the first time I see the color of the fall.”

A lecturer at Vietnam’s Danang University of Architecture in business administration, marketing, and entrepreneurship, Chi, 32, is here as a fellow from the American Council for International Education. At home in her free time, she goes to the beach, watches movies, and goes to coffee shops with her husband and 5-year-old son. On-campus she has worked with the Business Administration Department since October 18 and will be here until November 19.

You are a trainer at an incubator for startup teams in your home city. What’s an incubator?

It’s a business incubator. Teams want to start their project, but they don’t know how. So, they can go there, and we provide training courses and we help them to build [a] network. We have an incubation journey and an acceleration journey. After the incubation journey, you will have a model that you apply. We will help them connect with partners or with investors. Startups is something that our government is investing very much at the moment.

What do you hope to accomplish at St. Michael’s?

I have three goals here. The first one is to observe the teaching practice, so that’s why I go to different classes. The second one is that I want to learn more about entrepreneurship here. We went to The MakerSpace and The Generator in Burlington. We also went to Entrepreneurship Club in University of Vermont. In my university, we haven’t had an entrepreneurship club yet, because we don’t know to do it. So, I want to learn more about it so I can come back to my university to create something like that. The third one is because I have a social project, which is called “a better Vietnam”, where I connect the volunteer native English speakers with English learners. So I also want to recruit new teachers and broaden my network so when I come back home I can keep in touch with them and find new teachers for the project.

How does the Vietnamese media portray the U.S.?

Before I came here I never heard about Vermont. I just know about America from movies. Recently I watched some vlog on YouTube. Some people make a video on their daily life. I know a little bit more, not only about New York but Las Vegas.

How different is the weather from Vietnam to here?

Vietnam is a tropical country, so it is very different from here…We have the dry season and the raining season. Usually, the temperature in summer is 33-35 C. [91-95 F]. In winter, the lowest temperature is maybe 15 C. [59 F]. Right now, in my city, the temperature is 30 C. [86 F]. Because of the humidity, I sweat all day.

What do you want people to know about Vietnam?

In Vietnam you can see motorbikes everywhere, you can see a whole family on a motorbike, a husband and wife and two small children. We also live in a community that we help each other, and we are friendly to people around us a lot.

What do you like about Vermont and St. Michael’s? 

I like the environment and the architecture. It’s really historic and beautiful and peaceful. We don’t have autumn in Vietnam and I like it very much. Also because St. Mike’s is quite small and the size of the classes are also very small, just 18 or maximum maybe 25 it is very like a close community, that really knows each other. The professor can pay attention on each student. In my university, the average number of students in a class is 50 so it’s very crowded. Because I am staying in a townhouse, it is very convenient.

When I knew about my placement, Vermont, and St. Mike’s, it is a little bit not what I expected. I thought about [a] fancy city, New York. But when I came here, I am very pleased with this placement because I love nature. It is a very normal side of American life, it is not something you can see on television on social media very frequently. It is a chance for me to explore more about America. I really love this placement.

What do you think about American students? Do you find the classroom climate very different?

Students everywhere are quite similar, some are very good, some are lazy, some pay attention on other stuff but not on studying. Therefore, for me, the classroom climate is not very different. However, there are some minor differences that I can think of.

In Vietnam, students show a little bit more respect to the teachers. For example in greetings, students enter classroom usually have to say hello to teacher; or stand up when teachers enter the room.

American students seem to be more mature and be given more responsibility. They wear suit when having presentation or they drive school’s van to take other students to volunteer activities, to hiking mountains which makes me quite surprised.

By Hannah McKelvey
Staff Writer

Did you know, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, only about 46 percent of Americans 18-29 voted in the 2016 presidential election? That means that either 38.6 percent of Americans could not vote, did not register, or simply didn’t vote at all. Did you?

“Not voting is signaling to politicians that they can do whatever they want because they will not be checked in any way,” said professor of political science Patricia Siplon.

With the 2020 election quickly approaching along with all the other elections in between, here are a few simple ways to get registered to vote or get an absentee ballot.

There are a couple of different ways to register to vote. “You can register in person by paper, you can register online at the secretary of state’s website, and that information will get filtered down to the town that you’re registering in,” said Wanda Morin, assistant clerk at the town of Colchester. Vermont also has same-day voter registration, which means all you have to do is find a polling location in your town, go, register to vote, and then you can vote right away on sight.

For people who are not interested in registering to vote in the state of Vermont, there are easy ways to register in your own state. “ is a website that tells you how to register to vote and also request an absentee ballot form for every single state,” said Abby French, a senior at St. Michael’s, who did canvassing work for Get Out the Vote. “So, they tell you the requirements for your state; it will give you the address for the city hall in your town that you need to send everything to, it will also tell you if you cannot register to vote online.”

When it comes to registering to vote prior to election day in Vermont with your St. Michael’s College address, head to the Colchester Town Clerk’s office (781 Blakely Rd, Colchester, VT) to pick up a piece of paper with detailed instructions on how to register and where to send in your forms. Or go online to the Vermont Secretary of State website, click on the Election tab, then click registration in the left column, then click the Register to Vote tab, and then follow along with the steps to register to vote in Vermont.

Not every state allows you to register to vote or request your absentee ballot online. In New Hampshire, for example, you have to do it at your city hall in person a certain amount of time before the election, which is a way to decrease voter turnout for young people who are in college. It also might be a way to keep New Hampshire a swing state. Swing states are those states that change from democratic majority to republican majority with almost every election. It is important to figure out where your vote will matter most; if you live in a swing state, it might be more beneficial to vote there rather than another state that always stays to one political side.

Don’t forget that after you vote, your civic duty does not stop there! “Voting is a really important first step,” Siplon said. “Following up when the person is in office and letting them know that you like or don’t like what they are doing is how you make that vote more meaningful.”

By Meg Friel
Executive Editor

They say our generation is lazy.

Gen Z is often associated with hiding behind a screen, using social media as a platform to express our opinions and Tweet protests into the void. Compare this to our parents, and our parents’ parents, marching on the street, arranging sit-ins that lasted for days – and the tradition of activism is seemingly on its last legs.

Not so fast– activism is still very alive and well. Youth within Saint Michael’s College and within the Burlington area is continuously proving that activism still exists, but we’re changing the narrative. With events such as the ICE protest in Williston, the display of #EqualPay shirts at the Burlington High School women’s soccer game, and the anti-racism posters made by SMC women’s soccer team. Generation Z is actively trying to make a change.

Anyone who says it’s dying hasn’t seen what a day across our generation looks like. Sure,we still use tools like social media as a way to spread awareness around one idea or opposition, but the idea of protesting in person proves the passion and soul that young people feel.

We are the next generation of street marchers, of sit-ins, and we’ll post it all along the way.

Mission Statement

We, the voice of St. Michael’s College, strive to create high quality journalism collected on a foundation of integrity. We represent the pulse of our campus by facilitating a forum for informative, enlightening and thought-provoking conversation. Through in-depth reporting, accurate storytelling and exceptional visuals, The Defender aims to professionally and ethically deliver the truth to our diverse audience.

Calling all:

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The Defender needs you!

If you would like to publish your content please contact executive editors Meg Friel or Matt Heller.

By Lena O’Donnell
Visual Editor

On October 21 the Custodial Workers Union that represents St. Michael’s employees filed a grievance that said healthcare fee increases of four to five percent proposed by the college violated the union agreement.

The agreement between the AFSCME Local 1343 Union and Saint Michael’s College, says “Employees shall be responsible for their share of the premiums based on the following schedule: Employee Only – 10%, Employee +1 – 16%, and Family 16%.” Monthly total costs are thus factored into these percentages that the employee has to pay.

So when the college proposed a four to five percent increase the fees would have changed from 10 to 15 percent for the Employee only gold and platinum plan and 16 to 20 percent for the Employee +1 and family plan on the gold and platinum plans. The silver plan was below and met the contract guidelines.

When custodian Graham Lebel, a union representative for the custodial staff. He first heard of the premium increase, he reached out to students in the club Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM). Madison Sousa ‘21, Patrick Richards ‘20, and Reagan Welch ‘20 and I aided Lebel in trying to find out what would be done about this error.

Originally there was just one standard healthcare plan for employees. Now there are three. “The platinum plan which is the most expensive is the most similar to the current plan we have,” Lebel says. The other plans; Lebel feels lacks the variety of coverage the original plan did.

SLAM members and I went to the office of Rob Robinson, the Vice President of financial services, to ask some questions about this change from one to three choices.

“Saint Michael’s is now moving away from our previous single offering of one healthcare plan design to three different plan designs that individuals can pick the plan that meets their best needs,” Robinson told the students.

He advised us to speak to Eileen O’Rourke who is the Vice President of Human Resources. She emphasized the same idea. “Quality of care is equal in all plans being offered,” she said regarding the newest healthcare plans.

“It’s the illusion of choice if you’re low-income,” said Lebel. For a low-income family looking for healthcare, they have to opt for the most expensive plan if that is what best fits their needs. Luckily for Lebel, his wife works for the state and is on her healthcare plan.

The Union actually won. Lebel was thrilled and messaged me “Update: we won the grievance!”

O’Rourke said that after a deeper analysis they made a change.“In the future bi-weekly employee contributions for employees making less than $50,000 per calendar year, reducing the employee portion for the Platinum and Gold plans,” said O’Rourke.

Exciting day for the Union as they have been heard and recognized.

As a member of SLAM, I feel as though I can use my voice as a writer, student, and resident life staff member to make a change. Staff and faculty work for us, they are constantly dealing with us. On this campus especially, their voices are just as important as the students.