Caitlin Edwards '08

Caitlin Edwards

Caitlin Edwards '08

Hometown: Bangor, Maine
Major: History; Minor: English

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
Being from Maine, Bowdoin has always been on my radar. I knew it was a great school, and when it came time to start researching colleges I made Bowdoin my first stop! This is going to sound ridiculously cheesy, but I honestly fell head over heals. From the moment I set foot on the Quad I imagined myself living here for the next four years. Everything clicked, from the location to the classes to the laid-back vibe I got from students hanging out in the union—it just made sense.

During my visit I sat in on a poetry class with Prof. Ann Kibbie from the English department, and I have to admit that I was horrified when I discovered there were only five people in the class—I immediately stuck out like a sore thumb. Amazingly, Professor Kibbie handed me the poem they were analyzing that day, asked me to read it over before class began, and within minutes I was discussing prosody with a senior-level English seminar. The way Professor Kibbie and her students welcomed me into their class as an outsider (and a prospective student, no less!) I will never forget. It didn't really matter that I had limited knowledge of poetry; they made sure to help me understand all of the details. After that experience I was hooked, and there was no turning back for me. I applied Early Decision and I haven't looked back since!

Why did you choose your major?
Before I arrived at Bowdoin, I was absolutely 100 percent positive that I would be an English major. My first semester of freshman year I took three English classes and loved every one of them. I was in heaven. Yet, as second semester rolled around, I began feeling a little stagnated. My roommates and all of my friends were raving about their classes in the anthropology and geology departments, so I made the decision to branch out a little.

Sophomore year I took a medieval history class with Prof. Dallas Denery called Science, Magic and Religion, and realized how much I had been missing! Medieval history became a brand new passion and I felt completely reinvigorated; it wasn't long before I decided to change my major to history. While English will always have a place in my heart, I'm happy I was able to discover new academic interests beyond what I loved studying in high school. I always encourage new students to go crazy their freshman year and take a wide range of courses, because learning should always be fresh and exciting and you never know what you might discover!

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
As you may have gathered thus far, I am a humanities girl through and through. While I really enjoyed my science classes in high school, I never really planned on going the organic chemistry route in college (it's not for the faint of heart, so I hear). Bowdoin does have distribution requirements though, so I knew I would be encountering the sciences again within my four years here. One of my roommates from junior year is a neuroscience major, and he really encouraged me to take a sub-100 neuroscience class in the biology department, taught by one of his favorite professors. It was called From Brain to Behavior, and it was basically a crash course in neuroscience for non-majors with a focus on the five senses.

One day in the middle of winter, Prof. Jennifer Morgan greeted us as we walked into class with small cups of tea. She told us to swish it around in our mouths before we swallowed, to really savor the flavor (it tasted absolutely nasty, but few people objected to free drinks). She then offered us all some M&Ms, which was fairly exciting, but as soon as we started munching away people began spitting them out and crying, "Ugh! It tastes disgusting!" It's true; the M&Ms tasted like wax and chalk. Professor Morgan grinned and informed us that she had just paralyzed the sweet receptors on our tongues, and that we would spend the rest of the class discovering why we were unable to enjoy the M&Ms. That was perhaps my favorite class moment in the four years I've been at Bowdoin, and the course itself was by far the best. (We also regained our ability to taste sweet things 40 minutes later, so it left no permanent damage).

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
I've had so many fantastic professors at Bowdoin, it's really difficult to pick out just one person who has had the greatest influence. Prof. Peter Coviello in the English department has always been my idea of an ideal professor, because he's so passionate and invested in everything he teaches. Sometimes he gets so excited about a passage in a book that he'll begin banging on the table and gesticulating wildly; he can barely contain his excitement! It's hard to be in a class with him and not feel as though every discussion has world-altering effects.

Have you engaged in any independent research while at Bowdoin?
I'm incredibly excited to be working on an honors thesis this year in the history department with Professor Denery. In my junior year I took a class with him titled Topics in Medieval History, and I discovered this great medieval theological debate about the origins of language and what was known as the "Adamic language." I spent the semester doing independent research that culminated in a final paper, but I couldn't just let it end there! I had become far too invested in the topic, so I decided to turn it into a yearlong honors project. Right now I'm studying universal language quests in 17th-century England and France, and researching how they relate to the Scientific Revolution. It's exciting to be writing on a topic that is fairly "new," and hasn't been studied extensively by other historians. I have to say it's perhaps the most empowering project I've undertaken at Bowdoin, and I can't wait to present the final product!

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I'm incredibly lucky, because I've somehow found a way to get paid for doing what I'd normally be doing for free. I'm a technical assistant for the Department of Theater and Dance, which basically means that I get a paycheck for putting up theater productions on a weekly basis. I help build sets, run the lights, play with sound equipment, and I'm ridiculously excited to be stage managing the spring musical next semester. I loved being involved with technical theater in high school, so actually having it be my job here at Bowdoin is a dream come true (plus, the work-study crew and my bosses are some of the funniest people I've ever met).

Apart from my work-study job, I'm also really involved with Masque and Gown, which is Bowdoin's student-run theater organization. We receive a budget from the school to put on plays that are chosen, directed, acted and teched exclusively by students. As a member of Masque and Gown you're able to play a huge role in theater at Bowdoin from day one (literally...I started off stage managing a Masque and Gown play in my first week of freshman year). I know it's cliché, but get involved early and often! I've met so many amazing people through extracurricular activities, it is by far one of the best things Bowdoin has to offer.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I did! I spent spring semester of my junior year in Rome, and I'm still sort of in awe that I was able to live in Italy for four months. Learning Italian and studying Roman history in the middle of the Forum or right next to the Colosseum was beyond incredible. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention all the spectacular artwork and architecture throughout the city—an art history class in Rome is a must! In addition to the amazing classes, I was also able to travel all around Italy and Europe on the weekends. I even made it to Egypt to see the pyramids over spring break! Suffice it to say that I took more than 2,000 pictures during the semester and my dorm room walls are decorated with maps and souvenirs from all over the continent. Studying abroad is a fantastic experience, and spending time in another culture definitely puts your own views into perspective (I personally believe we should adopt the Italians' afternoon siesta into American culture; everyone would be much more relaxed!). I hope that all students consider going abroad during their time at Bowdoin; it's an adventure that shouldn't be missed.

What have you done during your summers?
I've had all sorts of great summer jobs, from teaching at a summer camp to taking Italian classes at Boston University and working at an awesome little Buddhist bookstore on Newbury Street. This past summer I was able to stay at Bowdoin and work as a senior interviewer for the admissions office. I definitely remember what it was like as a senior in high school getting ready to apply to college, so being able to help with the process and make it as fun and painless as possible was very rewarding. I met so many interesting people and had some really hilarious conversations, and I can't even begin to describe how beautiful Maine is during the summer!

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
I've been dreading this question since I started the survey! I have had way too many fantastic "Bowdoin memories" to even begin describing them in detail. My freshman year roommates and I did some pretty bizarre things, and all of the theater antics I've endured are beyond ridiculous. My friends and I have piled into cars for late night trips to Popham Beach or the Desert of Maine, we've had snowball wars on nearby playgrounds and insane adventures to Portland, Boston, Vermont, and even Canada. Yet, despite all of the craziness, some of my favorite memories involve sitting around late at night, while everyone's reading or writing papers, and just talking. The people you meet here at Bowdoin are infinitely entertaining and intelligent, and being able to start a conversation about anything with just about anyone has led to some pretty spectacular memories. I suppose the moral of this story is that roommates are invaluable; I suggest you collect them like baseball cards and keep them around forever.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I've decided that I'm going to take a year off before applying to graduate school, just to get some work experience and try my hand at cooking for myself (I'm seriously going to miss the food at the dining hall). It's exciting to imagine life after college, even though I know I'm going to miss the atmosphere. I'm confident that I'll be prepared for whatever career I choose, and having a liberal arts education under my belt is always an asset. It's a pretty great feeling to know that I have the ability to pursue whatever I find exciting; so as for now I'm just figuring out what sparks my interest.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Take crazy classes. Meet as many people as possible. Go to the Little Dog Café and order the hot apple cider in November when it starts getting cold. There's a great study spot on the catwalk between the theater stairwell and Memorial Hall. Go to the Coastal Studies Center and watch the sun set over the ocean in October (watch out for the tide). Get to know Darlene at Thorne Dining Hall; she's the nicest woman in the world. Eat dinner at Granny's Burritos in Portland and then wander up and down Fore Street. Discover the magic of toasted cheese sandwiches at SuperSnack. And most importantly, if you're on your way to the coast, go all the way through Phippsburg before you call for directions.

Story posted on December 10, 2007

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