Student Profiles

Darren Fishell '09

Darren Fishell '09

Major: English with an Italian minor
Hometown: Diamond Bar, California

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
It would be a long story, and arrives only at a guess, but I distinctly remember feeling some kind of comfort as I wandered around the Quad after my tour. I had decided to tour colleges in April after all of the responses had rolled in, and was fairly nervous because it was only my second time on the east coast. Really, the whole visit was a big question mark. Yet there was something about the size of the campus, the atmosphere, and the food in the dining hall that eased the tension of the college tour. I took that as a good sign, whatever its causes.

Darren in Washington, D.C., during the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Why did you choose your major?
I've had an interest in literature and writing since my sophomore year of high school, so the decision seemed natural when I arrived at Bowdoin. My pre-major and now major advisor, David Collings, told me that I was certainly an English major, based on my pre-major profile form. For a while though, the decision seemed too natural, and I considered majoring in history instead. I took [retired professor] Kidder Smith's course Modern China in my first year, which didn't make the decision easier in the least, but I knew from my first-year seminar, The Thirties, that Kidder's course was not the best indication of what the rest of the major would be like. Ultimately though, I wanted to write journalism and decided based on what I believed would prepare me best for that. Now, I think the right answer may have been physics!

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
I took an independent study in Woody Allen films with Professor Bill Watterson last semester that was great. I had not previously taken a film class (though I am a big fan of Allen's), and it was nice to be able to discuss his work in great detail. I'm working on a video project now that looks at the films I watched this semester. It is to be titled "What I Like About Woody Allen." It could, alternatively, be titled "What I Like About Bowdoin."

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
I still remember Peter Coviello's class Introduction to Poetry, which I took as a first year, being particularly inspiring. It was a good time for receiving inspiration, I suppose, and it made a lasting impression. In fact, I have heard a few non-English major friends echo that sentiment when they took the course the following year. As for a list, I would say Arielle Saiber (Italian), Aaron Kitch (English), David Collings (English), Bill Watterson (English), Kidder Smith (Asian studies), and Dan Levine (history) have all been influential. Still, I can't help but think of the words of one of my professors on the matter: "The idea that professors are to provide students some kind of Promethean spark of inspiration is a bunch of [crap]."

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
Working at Bowdoin is great; there are interesting and peculiar jobs a-plenty. I've worked at Thorne Dining Hall, Hatch and Hawthorne-Longfellow libraries, Studzinski Recital Hall/Kanbar Auditorium, and Bowdoin magazine — all of these rewarding in their own ways. (At Thorne, I learned how to cut pineapple.) The most rewarding extracurricular activities for me have been freelancing for the Brunswick Times Record and the Maine Democrat, editing and writing for the Bowdoin blog at, and writing for Bowdoin magazine. Working with the Bowdoin Democrats was also really rewarding at times. Oh, and I was in a short-lived campus band called Octopus Junk, which played at two parties. That was fun.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
Yes, I was abroad for one semester in Bologna, Italy — the fat and learned city. To show for it, I have two semesters worth of fat and one worth of learning. It was my first time in any European country and I cannot say enough good things about it. I began thinking while I was there that one could easily construe my academic pursuits as entirely directed by food — first Bowdoin, then Bologna — an idea that does hold water. But there was much besides food that was great about the city. The courses, students, and surrounding areas were all fantastic.

What have you done during your summers?
The first summer I returned home to Diamond Bar, California, to wash dishes at the Diamond Bar golf course and file patient registries at an optometry office. After that, I decided to stay at Bowdoin the next summer. Following my sophomore year, I worked at H-L during the morning and Hatch in the afternoons, freelancing for the Times Record when I could — mostly on weekends. I also started collecting the memoirs of a local jazz musician named Brad Terry in a project that has since fallen by the wayside, but still may have potential. The summer following my junior year, I worked on Bowdoin magazine.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
Driving from California to Maine with my friend Dustin. I don't know that this really counts as a Bowdoin memory, but it certainly would not have happened had I decided not to matriculate at Bowdoin. You can read about it at; we blogged the whole trip. It was just like Travels with Charlie, but more interesting. Other than that, my best memory definitely comes from a video called "Workin'" that I recorded during my sophomore year.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I am currently looking for a job as a reporter for a newspaper or magazine. My goal, ultimately, is to help save local news and local newspapers, most likely by finding a way to move them online and still turn some profit. I'm currently looking at journalism programs that cost less than Columbia's.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Don't take yourself too seriously. Just in general. At the same time, don't be afraid to be passionate about something. Above all, as Mr. Vonnegut writes, "peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."

What quirky or fun thing did you wish you knew before you came to Bowdoin?
The Brunswick Diner has hot turkey sandwiches and they are delicious.

Story posted on February 19, 2009

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