Hometown: Elgin, Illinois
Major: History and Government
Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I grew up in the midwest and new very little about the east coast, but New England always seemed like an attractive place to go to college. I think I first heard about Bowdoin when I read The Scarlet Letter and did some research on Nathaniel Hawthorne, an alumnus. I applied kind of on a whim, and it wasn't until I visited after being accepted that I really felt this was the place for me. I stayed in a dorm with a Bowdoin student, and everyone was so interesting and nice. I think that experience made up my mind. When I went back home and told people I was going to a college in Maine, they thought I was crazy - it was like saying I was going to Siberia - but I haven't regretted it.
How did you decide on your major?
I had always had an interest in History, and my first history class at Bowdoin, Tudor-Stuart England with Professor Tananbaum, confirmed that it was something I wanted to continue studying. I also really enjoyed Spanish and Visual Arts, and for a while I minored each. I chose to major in Government because after 9/11, I felt a sense of urgency to learn more about politics and law and international relations, and because I really enjoyed the classes in the Government department. Fortunately, both of my majors have complemented one another.
What has been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
It's hard to choose a favorite, so I'll list a few. Printmaking I with Professor Wethli, The U.S. in the Nineteenth Century with Professor Rael, Religion and Politics with Professor Franco, Latin American Revolutions with Professor Wells, and Bridging Divisions with Professor Deane. Bridging Divisions stands out to me as a particularly memorable course. It concerned the regulation of ethno-national conflicts such as those in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, and Israel-Palestine. I learned so much about world history and international relations in that class, and we also got to do weekly conflict simulations where we would have to play different roles, such as militia groups, NGOs, and state powers, and try to achieve our objectives.
What extracurricular activities are you involved in? Do you have an on-campus job?
As a first-year I played water polo and acted in a student performance of the musical Hair. I enjoyed both, but sophomore year, I went off in a completely different direction. I started working at the Visual Arts Library on campus, and began volunteering at the Maine Volunteer Lawyer's Project in Portland. I have done both ever since. The Volunteer Lawyers Project is a federally funded program that provides legal services for low-income Maine residents who cannot afford attorneys. As a volunteer, I screened calls once a week and referred clients to the legal services for which they qualified. It has been a great way to help people who find themselves in really adverse situations, and also to learn about the law.
Did you study abroad?
Yes. I spent the spring semester of my junior year in Santiago, Chile. My dad was born and raised there, and I had visited several times before, but never for more than a week. Most of my relatives still live in Chile, and I lived with my aunt [during my semester abroad]. I took classes at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago, and at the center of my study abroad program. Going to Chile really allowed me to connect to a part of my life that I didn't know very much about.
Have you done any independent studies?
I did one independent study in printmaking and book arts with Professor Anna Hepler, who is fantastic. I made copper etchings and worked with a professional bookmaker in Portland to do letterpress. With Anna's help, I printed and bound ten editions of an original illustrated book. This year, I did an honors project with Allen Wells on the history of the Jewish community in Chile, which I became interested in during my study abroad experience. I actually received funding from the school to return to Santiago over winter break to gather primary sources and conduct interviews, which figure heavily into my project.
What's your best Bowdoin memory?
Maybe it would be returning to Bowdoin this fall after studying abroad. The atmosphere had changed, and everyone seemed so engaged in national politics and the presidential election in November. That was really exciting to me. Other than that, the thing I will remember most about Bowdoin are the moments of clarity, the feelings I have had after a class or a reading or a meeting with a professor, when something very complex suddenly became more manageable or simple. Those are the moments when I really felt fortunate to go to school here.
What are your plans after graduation?
I am moving to New York immediately after graduation, and will begin training as a New York City Teaching Fellow. I will be teaching special education in a high-need secondary school in the city while earning a Masters in Education. I expect it to be pretty challenging, but I have known I wanted to teach high school for a long time, and this program provides a lot of training and support. I am ultimately interested in a career in law, journalism, and education, so if anyone has any ideas about how to integrate the three, please let me know.
What advice about the Bowdoin experience would you give to a first-year student?
First, I would say get off campus as much as possible, especially if you're not from the area. Don't listen to people when they tell you that Bowdoin is a "bubble," because [that's] really self-imposed. Maine is an amazing place, and this area has so many outdoor, cultural, and community service opportunities. I would also recommend getting to know your professors, because there are some really amazing ones here. More generally, I would suggest that students not expect everything to fall into place right away. If you are having trouble finding your place here academically or socially, give it some time, and gradually, things will click. This school encourages students to be independent and make a lot of choices for themselves. I've found that periods of uncertainty, while not always comfortable, are when you learn the most about yourself.