BackgroundInterview Date:January 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Private all-girls Catholic school in New Jersey with a graduating class of about 60 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Africana Studies and Education
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in the Comedy Club, I do standup comedy, and am in a middle school girl mentor program.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Improv Comedy has. I joined as a freshman and it ended up being a big social group. This was a big introduction to getting to know upperclassman, and making an identity for myself on campus. It’s a pretty serious group, and we practice 6 hours a week. We’ve become a pretty tight-knit group. Bowdoin has this emerging comedy scene that’s popping up and is really cool. I did standup in an all-girls comedy group, and there are other improv and standup groups as well.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It’s a lot of reading, usually between 40-100 pages a week. I take mostly humanity classes, so I have lots of readings, essays, and sometimes presentations.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
A lot of the admissions people talk about Bowdoin being a humble place which I didn’t believe until I got here. It’s the first environment where I don’t share my grades except with my closest friends. It’s definitely not okay to share your grades in class, and people are more competitive with themselves instead of with each other. I know there are differences in majors, and I’ve heard about some competition in the STEM and pre-med tracks. In general, I was impressed with how non-competitive it is even though it’s a rigorous university.
Is there anything you feel that your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
The major has excellent professors who are knowledgeable in their field. They care a lot about the students, and their offices are always open.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I’d say the best professors do a good job at facilitating conversations. A lot of the time Bowdoin leans toward being liberal and progressive, so there is a learning curve when you get here regarding what is right or wrong to say, and what is politically correct. It’s been a good holistic learning environment for me to understand my political views, but a few students who are conservative feel that they aren’t allowed to [express their opinions] on campus. I personally don’t find it to be a problem.
What has been your favorite class so far?
I just took a seminar class called Responses to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. We sat around a big table which was what my image for a Bowdoin class would be. There was a lot of comradery in the class. We focused on reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin first, then read reading responses to it. The book was written in Brunswick Maine, and Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in a house that Bowdoin owns, so we had field trips to the house where she wrote it. We got to check out the archival evidence and went to the church where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a few scenes. It was one of the best classes I’ve had.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
They are super accessible. I choose my department because of the professors.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I picked my major because I grew up in a pretty upper-class, White neighborhood in New Jersey and missed out on African-American history. I want to go into teaching, and I felt I had this massive knowledge gap. On the other end of it, I’ve always been interested in African and African-American history. Another reason I picked this major was that it’s interdisciplinary, so I could take history, English, and education classes while being centered around lots of Black people.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Coleman Hall in a suite with three roommates. We had a central common room and two rooms off of it, with two roommates each.
Sophomore: Reed House, which is part of the College House System with 26 people. I had 1 roommate.
Junior: Brunswick apartment with 2 other roommates.
How was transitioning from New Jersey to Brunswick, Maine?
It was amazing. I fell in love with Maine, and that’s something everyone talks about at Bowdoin. The downtown is perfect. There are shops, and we have a good relationship with the town, so they welcome us downtown. There is also a great coffee shop everyone goes to. Maine has natural beauty and we are only a few miles from the coast. I’ve had days where I got to class, then halfway through the day, I go swimming, then back to class. The beauty and Maine’s landscape is a massive benefit of the location, especially in the fall.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
The security is excellent. The guy who runs it is almost a campus celebrity, where people try to take pictures with him every weekend. Security comes to parties if you register it with the school, and sometimes they will check the keg and make sure you have the appropriate amount of snacks.
Pros and Cons of being in Brunswick, Maine?
1) How close it is to the coast.
2) We have some trails and nature around us.
3) It’s close to Portland, which is a nice city to go if you’re sick of being in the suburbs.
4) The new bus service through the state of Maine. It’s a $3 trip to Portland.
5) There is a train station in town which is great for traveling home.
1) Sometimes it’s far away from a lot of people.
2) It’s not in a city.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in at Bowdoin?
Mostly small parties.
What nights of the week do you regularly do things?
Sometimes Thursday, then Friday and Saturday are open party nights. We have a big party weekend in the spring called Ivies, where people will party all weekend.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Bowdoin tries to have the college houses alcohol free, so [the school] puts on events every weekend that have activities such as board games, bubble tea, workshops, craft centers, or trivia night. I go to these programs without thinking of them as alternatives. My social scene is typically people who don’t go out.
How has identifying as bisexual impacted your nightlife experience?
I came out this semester, and there was a group of seniors who started a group called Corgi’s. This group hosts queer parties on Thursday nights. They are really fun and it’s a safe space where people can get to know each other. In general, the social scene is pretty heteronormative, but the people who I hang out with include lots of gay and open people.
How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
By junior year I think it gets a little old because it’s a small campus. I was happy freshman year because I hadn’t partied in high school, and it was an easy transition when the college houses threw parties for the freshman. I learned later the sophomores paid dues, but that’s kind of a system that’s grandfathered in. Sophomore year, living in a college house was the epicenter of sophomore social life. We would throw parties in our own house which was super fun. The party scene is definitely socially isolating and not good for diverse people, and there was racial tension in my house. My junior year the social scene slowed down, and it’s more up to off-campus houses to throw parties. If there are off-campus parties, they are pretty fun, but the reality is that Bowdoin separates off into pretty distinct social scenes.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I made a lot of friends on my freshman floor which is a normal thing to happen. My activities are the other way I made friends, and I’m close with people in the improv groups, and my mentor group.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Bowdoin?
It’s pretty distinctly split between the athletes and non-athletes, especially once you get older. People love to dance, and there are a few dominating social forces. The Frisbee Team is a big source of parties for the non-athletes, and men sports houses dominate the athlete party scene. Also, the social houses are a massive force in the freshman and sophomore social scene.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I’d say that most of the people who are out [as LGBTQ+] are not athletes, and tend to be among the liberal crowd. In regards to race, we are not great at socially integrating, but it’s not terrible. I know it’s a problem for every Black student when they get on campus. It seems that men do not date outside their race, so there is tension around interracial dating. There is a great African-American Society that throws parties and is a good place for anyone to hang out. [About 67% of students are White, and about 9% of the Class of 2022 are Black.]
How do you like the size of Bowdoin? How has that influenced your social experience? [Bowdoin has about 1,800 students.]
I like the size because at points you feel that you know most people on campus. There is a lot of visibility and gossip that happens, especially around hookups, and things get spread past what you would imagine, which is annoying. There seems to be some social hierarchy that happens because of how small it is. Sophomore year it’s great because you know most people and feel comfortable showing up anywhere.
How would you describe the student body?
The majority of people are pretty outdoorsy, academically driven, and often political. People are super into school in a nerdy, passionate way, which is nice. The normal student is overcommitted and is doing as much as they can academically and in extracurricular activities. I’d say most people are openly friendly, and open to becoming friends with anyone.
Do people generally seem happy with their college choice by senior year? Do people love your school?
I’d say no. I think a lot of people don’t want to say they love the school because a lot of people felt mistreated by the administration. There is a problem with sexual assault and how Bowdoin deals with it. It’s hard for people to say they love it all the way because of these problems, but when talking to friends, they have said this is common at other schools. [See Bowdoin Orient article, “Sexual assault petition receives over 80 signatures” and article, “Personal experiences in an impersonal system: A call to amend Bowdoin’s response to sexual assault.”]
How strong is the LGBTQ community on campus?
It’s alright. I think it’s pretty sectioned off, and the Corgi scene is different than people who go to the QSA (Queer Straight Alliance) meetings. This is not a large scene because you know of probably 10 people who are queer in your grade.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yes, the alumni network is huge. I think because it’s a small school, and the location, people are very open to helping students find internships.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I have gotten my past two unpaid summer internships paid for through the career center. They have practice interviews where alumni come in to interview you, and they have summer fellowships.
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
I do have financial aid, and I was pretty disappointed in them early on. I applied early decision, and because they are need-based, I initially didn’t get enough. We had to do a lot to get enough aid for me to go. Even though I didn’t have a really positive experience with it, I know they aren’t that difficult. The aid is adjusted every year based on income.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about your school before you entered as a freshman?
I didn’t consider the location or nature. The Bowdoin Outing Club is an organization that gets so much money from Bowdoin. You get a free trip as a freshman, but usually, you pay $50 for student and professional led trips to go do things like rafting and canoeing. It’s a good place to meet people because you can show up for a trip by yourself, and find people to become friends with.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Go check out Simpson’s Point. Someone on my tour suggested I visit it, and it sealed the deal for me wanting to go Bowdoin. It’s a beautiful lookout point where you can swim during the summer.
Reasons to attend Bowdoin:
1) There are incredibly accessible and smart professors who will give you so much time and energy.
2) The small size makes it a nurturing place where you can get to know yourself and grow.
3) Maine is a great place with so many things to take advantage of.
4) The student body is pretty welcoming and friendly. People are super interesting and everyone seems to have a passion.
Reasons to not attend Bowdoin:
1) If you feel that you need a lot of space and anonymity.
2) Consider how supportive Bowdoin will be of your identity. The typical student is a White athlete from right outside of Boston. Reaching out to any students you know at Bowdoin of any specific color, or that is queer, is helpful because there are challenges you will face that you may not think of.