Major: Psychology; minor: Sociology
Hometown: La Crescenta, California
Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I was invited to visit the campus for Experience Weekend and during the flight from New York to Portland a lady sitting next to me introduced herself. She told me she lived not far from the College and started telling me about the campus and Brunswick. We talked for the duration of the flight and when we finally landed in Portland, she gave me her business card and said that if I was ever stuck at school during a holiday and wanted a cozy place to stay, I could give her a call. In retrospect, I realize that my interaction with her reflected not only the rest of my time at Experience Weekend, but the rest of my time in Maine and at Bowdoin. During Experience Weekend, I met people who genuinely loved Bowdoin and could not stop talking about the school; after three years here, I can see why.
Why did you choose your major?
I enjoyed AP Psychology in high school and considered becoming a clinical psychologist because of the interesting case studies we read. I took my first Bowdoin psychology class during the fall of my sophomore year and have really enjoyed my psychology courses since then. The psychology department is great because it offers a variety of different courses in several fields of psychology (rather than just clinical), and I actually ended up taking the cognitive and developmental route. It is also one of the smaller departments and the professors are all really great.
What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
I took a class last semester with Professor Craig McEwen called Maine Social Research and I loved it! For the first half of the semester, we read many articles and books about poverty, hunger, homelessness, public housing, federal aid programs, and public education. For our first essay, we had to write a research paper focusing on these issues in our hometown. I loved the fact that we didn't simply learn about these issues from textbooks, but that Professor McEwen challenged us to apply our learning in practical ways by examining our home communities. During the second half of the semester, we took an even more hands-on approach to our learning by interviewing Mainers about their experiences with Section 8 housing, food pantries, and homeless shelters in the area.
What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Professor Louisa Slowiaczek was my professor for Research Design in Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Psychology of Language, and for Laboratory in Cognition. She is energetic and has consistently been one of my favorite professors at Bowdoin. Whether the topic is phonemic restoration or how to write an essay introduction, Professor Slowiaczek has a knack for making things exciting. The fact that she shares my love for food and tries to incorporate that into our classes isn't terrible either!
One of my other favorite professors is Professor Jane Knox-Voina in the Russian department. She is absolutely hilarious and endearingly quirky. Rather than just drilling us in the fundamentals of the language, she encouraged us to embrace Russian culture by making us Russian food, bringing Russian hats to class, introducing us to Russian songs, and helping us make a Russian film at the end of the year. Not only is she a great professor, but she is a truly caring person who is patient and genuinely concerned for the well-being of her students.
What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I've worked in Moulton Union Dining Hall since my sophomore year and currently work as a display chef. I especially enjoy my job at Moulton because it has allowed me to build relationships with the amazing chefs and other non-student employees there. Oftentimes, I'm too absorbed with my own life to realize that there is someone making food, washing dishes, and cleaning tables after my meals. But working at Moulton has helped me recognize that there are people who are allowing me the luxury of being spoiled, and at the same time, made me realize that they are some of the nicest people I have met. I am also currently the Bowdoin Express convenience store (C-store) manager, and have been working there since my sophomore year. Working at the C-store has allowed me to meet new people and, as strange as it sounds, I have become friends with people who come to the store on a regular basis. Bowdoin is such a friendly place that it has been fun working and interacting with students, faculty, and staff as a result of my jobs.
I've also been involved in the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program. During my junior year, I went on an ASB trip to Lima, Peru, where our team worked in a shantytown community just outside the city. During my sophomore year, I went on an ASB trip to the Bronx, where we had an opportunity to shadow a classrom in a public school, in addition to working with the Harlem Children's Zone and its private charter school. This coming spring break I will return to the Bronx again, though this time I'm leading the ASB trip.
The Bowdoin cheerleading team has also been a big part of my college experience. Since high school I had wanted to be a cheerleader, and upon learning that a team was being formed at Bowdoin and no prior experience was required, I jumped at the chance. During the team's first two years we had to teach ourselves dances, routines, and stunts, but last year we were fortunate enough to get our own coach.
What have you done during your summers?
My summers were spent in and preparing for a summer camp in Ukraine. Every summer, my home church sends out a group of college students to Ukraine to help out with an annual Christian summer camp there. Every year it's a different team of students, but because I enjoyed my first trip to Ukraine so much, I committed myself to going back there every summer. As a team, we prepared skits, dances, and lectures for the seminars we taught at the camp and also did lots of fundraising. Spending my summers serving in Ukraine has shown me a glimpse of God's love, not only for Americans or people at my church, but for the whole world. It's been an amazing experience building relationships with my Ukrainian brothers and sisters, knowing that although we do not speak the same language, we do worship the same God, our Father.
What is your best Bowdoin memory?
There have been so many memorable moments that rather than describing just one, here's one memory for each year I've been at Bowdoin.
During my first year, some friends and I decided to go watch the sunrise at Thomas Point Beach on the last day of Reading Period instead of sleeping and studying for finals. We ventured out at 4 a.m., got lost on the way to the beach, trespassed onto private property, and then realized that we had gone the wrong way when the sunrise was blocked by a bunch of trees. Although our adventure was not as successful as we would have liked, it was still an experience I will treasure forever.
During the ASB trip to the Bronx my sophomore year, our ASB team had the opportunity to meet Geoffrey Canada '74 and a group of Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) employees who were Bowdoin alums. We all gathered around a conference table, and Mr. Canada told us that his dream of building HCZ would not have been possible without the friends he made at Bowdoin. I was on the verge of tears as I looked around the room at each individual and felt extremely proud to be a student at Bowdoin College. Bowdoin students don't simply talk the talk, but walk the walk in living their lives for the Common Good.
During my junior year, I took Russian language classes because I was planning on going back to Ukraine in the summer. Not only was every Russian class memorable, but Professor Jane Knox-Voina invited us over to her house for cookouts several times during the year. We had to memorize a short Russian poem for an assignment, and at the cookout we chanted the poem as we walked around the firepit. We must have looked like a cult! My classmates and I had an unforgettable year thanks to our awesome professor.
Before my senior year, I did a road trip from Los Angeles to Maine with my friends Rachel Lee '10 and Erika Fernandez '10. We drove a total of 4,000 miles (74 hours) over a period of 11 days. We saw the Grand Canyon (which was breathtakingly beautiful), went crab fishing in Louisiana, witnessed the devastating legacy of Hurricane Katrina, and rode mopeds around the city of Baltimore. It was a great way to kick off senior year, and it helped me appreciate the friends and memories I've accumulated at Bowdoin.
What are your plans for after graduation?
The ASB trip to the Bronx opened my eyes to a way of life that I wasn't particularly familiar with. My parents always stressed the importance of education; I neither had a doubt in my mind about attending college nor was anything less expected of me. I discovered in the Bronx, however, that equal educational opportunities do not exist for all students. It was bewildering to find that what I knew and embraced as a basic right was not even an option for many students. I had always enjoyed doing volunteer work and signed up for the ASB trip as another way to do community service. What I didn't realize was that it would change my life by challenging my conception of service. Ideally, I would love to work with kids in urban areas as either a social worker or a school counselor. However, I also realize that I've only had short encounters in such a setting, and before I go to grad school for social work or counseling, I want to be completely sure. Therefore, I'm currently looking into doing a year or two of service with a nonprofit organization that works with kids in urban areas. I think taking some time off from school to get real-world experience will give me a better understanding of what I want to do with my life.
What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Try everything and anything that interests you! Bowdoin encourages and supports people to break out of their comfort zone. Also, learn to be open-minded because every person can teach you something new. Don't stereotype people and let that prevent you from getting to know them, because most likely you will miss out on getting to know an amazing person. Finally, Bowdoin is what you make of it. If you're only noticing the negative aspects of Bowdoin, you're going to have a miserable time. Rather than dwelling on the negatives, do something and make this your school. Take pride in and ownership of this school. Once a polar bear, always a polar bear.
What quirky or fun thing do you wish you had known before you came to Bowdoin?
I wish I had spent more time getting to know my professors better. I came from a large public high school where students were forced to be independent and viewed teachers as authority figures. However, Bowdoin professors are people who have had interesting and unique experiences and I wish I had known to talk to more of my professors earlier on in college. Professors want to talk to you!