BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Queer
Graduation Year: 2022
High School Experience: Public school in New York City with test-based admissions with a graduating class of about 850 students. There was a culture of going to college
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Undeclared, but likely will be History
Minor: Undeclared, but likely will be Theater
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in an improv comedy group, I mentor girls at the local middle school, I’m on the club ultimate frisbee team, and I do a lot of with different political activist groups on campus.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
The political work and the improv group both have. The improv group is a really small, intimate community and it’s been a great way to meet people, structure my Bowdoin experience, and try something new. The political activism has been a defining part of my first semester. Susan Collins, a senator from Maine, was one of the deciding votes in the Kavanaugh hearing, so a bunch of us went to D.C. to protest. The political activism has also helped create my social groups.
What has been your favorite class so far?
My favorite class was Revolutions in the 20th Century. My professor was super smart. He also was really young and didn’t have a family, so had a lot of free time for us to get meals with him throughout the semester and really get a chance to know him. We got to talk to him about politics and things outside the actual material of the class, but it was also a really, really interesting class. We studied four different revolutions and studied our own for the final paper. I liked how the class combined theory and history. The class also had 15 really motivated and engaged students, and we all became very close.
What has been your least favorite class so far?
Probably Introduction to Environmental Studies just because it was 90 people, which is very unusual for Bowdoin. It also had rotating lecturers, so some were really incredible and others weren’t as good. Even that was a really good course, I definitely learned a lot, it just wasn’t very intimate and it was a broad survey course.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s a really collaborative place and not competitive. People don’t talk about grades with each other and all my friends have edited my papers. It is encouraged to help people do their best, and ask them what their study schedules are and if they’re okay. People check in and support one another.
Is there anything you feel Bowdoin has done especially well or especially poorly so far in your first semester?
They’re really good at facilitating social interactions. There are orientation trips before you start freshman year which is a good way to meet people and there’s also a College House System for sophomores. Freshmen have sophomore “buddies” that are in an assigned College House, and you can rely on that relationship as much or as little as you want. The College Houses host parties that are open to the whole campus, so as a freshman you always have an option on the weekends. The houses also host lectures and other types of events.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Yes, definitely. I find people to be pretty curious and open-minded. It’s a left-leaning school, I think by the nature of where it is and who is attracted to it. In general, people are willing to debate and have disagreements.
What makes you want to be a History major?
I think the faculty members are really exceptional in the History departments. You have to take 10 classes for the major, and I’m really excited about taking a lot of them. I also think History allows you to study different things, so there are a lot of History professors who are cross-listed in multiple departments, like African Studies or Environmental Studies, so you can explore a lot of different. The professors also have a lot of different specialties. My professor from Revolutions in the 20th Century also has been a really great mentor for me and I want to continue working with him because we have similar intellectual interests and I think he’s somebody who will support me in that way.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Maine Hall in a suite with three other roommates. We have a common room and two doubles with a shared bathroom on the hall.
How was transitioning from New York City to Brunswick, Maine?
It was really easy for me. I did a high school program in Vermont for four months, so I already had a lot of experience not being in New York City. Although you’re in a really rural area, there are a lot of people at Bowdoin who try to take advantage of what is there. It’s only 35-minutes from Portland and there are a lot of outdoor opportunities. The college campus is also pretty vibrant and has a lot going on.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It feels very safe to me. The head of security is a prominent figure on campus and makes his presence known. There’s also a level of trust on campus where people will leave their laptops out at the library and stuff like that.
Pros and Cons of being in Brunswick, Maine?
1) It’s such a beautiful area, which I think helps with stress and stuff like that.
2) There’s a really strong outdoors culture where people are always skiing, hiking, and kayaking. This is a place that encourages you to take care of yourself physically and mentally in terms of outdoors.
3) It’s really easy to be present on campus because nobody lives in Portland, so it’s not like people are commuting in. It’s a really strong campus community because most people are on 4-year meal plans and most people live on campus or, if they live off campus, they live a 15-minute walk away.
1) It’s super rural and I can imagine getting bored of being in Brunswick, Maine by junior or senior year.
2) If you like museums, going to the movies, and that kind of thing, those things are not as easily accessed in Brunswick.
3) It can be hard for people to get home if you have to fly through Boston. I’m always debating if I should drive, fly, or take a train home.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in at Bowdoin?
I like doing a lot of things, like hanging out with friends, cooking dinners, and going to parties. There are campus-wide parties through the College House System, off-campus house parties, and some dorm parties, and I attend all of those.
Where do you and your friends cook on campus?
I am friends with a lot of upperclassmen, and they either live off-campus or live in places on-campus with kitchens.
What nights of the week do you regularly do things?
Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. On a given weekend I’ll choose two of those nights.
Can you describe a typical night for you going out as a freshman?
Earlier on in the year when I didn’t know as many upperclassmen, I would go to the College House parties. As the semester went on, I went to more off-campus parties, but that is more based on what’s going on and who’s hosting them. Then there’s SuperSnacks, which is when one of the dining halls is open late, so people frequently end their nights there. They have stuff like nachos and french fries.
How has identifying as Queer impacted your nightlife experience?
I don’t think it’s significantly influenced my experience here. There’s not a huge Queer community, but it’s definitely present. It hasn’t been a super defining experience.
How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy. I like to go out, but I don’t like crazy giant parties, so Bowdoin fits what I like perfectly. If someone came in looking for crazy frat parties that would be harder to find. Although there are other party subcultures that I’m not a part of, like the athletic scene, so I can’t really speak to that.
How did you meet your closest friends?
A lot of them I met through my dorm. I met people through my improv group, through political groups, and I also came in knowing a few people.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Bowdoin?
I think it’s culturally divided between an athlete and non-athlete scene. There is a party scene, but it’s certainly not as vibrant or crazy as some other schools. I’ve visited some friends at big schools and it’s a really different experience. Everybody attends the College House parties and there are specific events and nights that all of Bowdoin will come out for, like Halloween weekend and the spring music festival, Ivies. But, on a given night that is not a special night, parties are pretty divided by athletes and non-athletes, and that pertains to certain sports. Like, I have friends who do Nordic Skiing and that doesn’t necessarily have the same culture around it. The divide is especially noticeable in the off-campus parties because teams will have their own off-campus house. There are different cohorts of things, like people who are more into music, so I think student interest groups dictate the party culture.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
People of different sexual orientations mix very freely. Bowdoin is a very White school, so people do mix but frequently there is a White majority in certain spaces. There is also a very strong African-American scene that has its own social scene. There are events thrown by the African-American Society, like dinners and events, that are just for that community but also some for everyone. I think people mix, but it happens more in situations with affinity groups. [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 really love the size. It’s definitely very small, but I think that allows for a really strong community. At the dining hall where I spend most of my time, I know a lot of people there and I can really comfortably move from table to table. I also think it allows people to get out of their comfort zone because they know people really well and [can do different things with those people]. Then again, I can imagine by the end of my experience I might feel frustrated with the number of people here.
How would you describe the student body?
Generally, people are intelligent, curious, open-minded, and engaged with different things. People are very passionate and have passions that vary from football to politics to acapella. People are really engaged, so there’s pressure to be engaged in clubs and stuff like that. There are also really strong currents of White New England culture, which is definitely different from where I grew up. There are also pretty strong subcultures that can play a part in your Bowdoin experience, whether that be the athlete scene or more alternative scene. [About 31% of students come from New England and 24% come from the Mid-Atlantic. About 67% of students are White.]
How strong is the LGBTQ community on campus?
There’s a lot of effort put into the LGBTQ community. There’s the SWAG, which is the Sexuality, Women, and Gender Center. That’s a really great community that people can choose to opt in to or not. There are weekly dinners where anybody who identifies as not straight is welcome to go to. I haven’t attended them, but a lot of my friends really enjoy those spaces. There are also more informal queer events that are not school-sponsored, like parties, and I think that’s a really good space as well. It’s not super widespread, but I think if you look at the grades you can see the culture at Bowdoin changing.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something that you learned from your friends at Bowdoin that made you want to go?
The relationships with professors are pretty incredible and pretty unique. I also think being in the really small community is a very defining experience. The dining halls very much function as the center of campus, and it’s a common thing to meet people at a party and say, “Oh, we should grab a meal together.” It’s also really common to ask people who you don’t really know to grab a meal as a way to get to know them better. I really like that people are always looking for new friends and because it’s a small school there are a lot of intergrade friendships.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I think the College House System is really underreported on visits. The college lets the College Houses have beer, so it’s a form of public health alcohol regulation because people [of legal drinking age] won’t drink hard alcohol at the campus-wide parties there. It’s a really thoughtful thing the school does to create a safe party culture. The College Houses are also a really good way to mix up your social life because you can apply to them with two or three friends but then end up living with 15 or 18 people you don’t know. It’s a really good way to break down the social groups that form freshman year and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Reasons to attend Bowdoin:
1) Go to Bowdoin for the community.
2) There are really, really incredible teachers.
3) The location, if that’s what you want.
4) The dorms and housing situation are great and make your experience so comfortable. It adds to the overall experience.
Reasons to not attend Bowdoin:
1) If you have a very specific interest and that department doesn’t exist or it is not as strong here. It’s a small school, so it will not have the sort of options that a big university does.
2) If you want a school that has a strong pre-professional culture or a pre-professional major, that doesn’t exist here.
3) If you don’t want to be around a very wealthy, very New England culture, it can be overwhelming if you never experienced that before. You can find people who don’t subscribe to that and isn’t where they come from, but it is a strong trend at the school. [Socioeconomically, 20% of students come from the top 1%. About 31% of students come from New England and 24% come from the Mid-Atlantic.]