Being located in Lewiston, Maine is one of the most unique parts of going to Bates and can both positively and negatively affect the experience of the students. Of course, students have easy access to the Androscoggin River and mountains to hike up in the warm weather and ski down when it snows, but Lewiston offers much more to help the personal growth of Bates students through its strong immigrant population and community engagement opportunities.
Lewiston has one of the largest populations of Somalis in the U.S. and immigrants from dozens of countries in Africa, which opens up lots of opportunities for community service, learning about other cultures, and trying new foods. If you’re interested in majoring or minoring in Education, there are a lot of English Language-Learner students in the classrooms which is a unique experience to have on your resume. The community of thousands of immigrants, who are mostly Muslim, also creates many different academic research opportunities in a time where immigration is a hot topic.
Even in Lewiston, the influx of immigrants has changed some residents’ opinions on immigration law and feel that the changes are not for the better. Lewiston was hit very hard by the economic decline in 2007 and has struggled to recover fully. Currently, the Lewiston-Auburn area has about a 14% poverty rate and both the violent crime rate and property crime rates are significantly higher than Maine’s average. Some students have mentioned feelings of being unsafe and also uncomfortable with the contrast of wealth between the students at Bates and residents of Lewison, usually describing it as “sketchy.” Others have found an opportunity to get involved through community service, which you can do through the Harward Center at Bates and other community involvement initiatives through clubs.
Although Bates students are involved in the community, the relationship between Bates students and the Lewiston residents has been strained due to student-hosted house parties in the area. The city of Lewiston has been forced to crackdown on parties in the neighborhood in response and heavily fining students. There is a $300 fine for a first-offense for hosts and a there is fine of at least $500 for repeat offenders. Even partygoers could be subject to a $100 fine when a party is broken up. Students are frustrated by this with one interviewee saying, “I’m not super happy… and that is because the parties get shut down so early.”
Hopefully, Bates students and Lewiston residents can find a solution to the issue of noise from parties because the benefits of a strong relationship between the students and residents could be very beneficial to both.