Francesca Perkins '10

Francesca Perkins

Francesca Perkins '10

Major: Anthropology; minor: Russian
Hometown: Englewood, New Jersey

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I traveled to many liberal arts colleges before Bowdoin. My philosophy was that I could be happy at any school, although I had not found a school which made me thoroughly excited and happy. By the time I visited, I had already applied regular decision to Bowdoin and a number of other colleges. The tour was the deciding factor for me; my tour guide was quite eloquent and knowledgeable, the campus was beautiful, and the students were friendly (everyone we passed smiled). As soon as I got home, I wrote a letter to the admissions office changing my application to early decision. I have not been disappointed—I still get excited about Bowdoin.

Why did you choose your major?
I have always been interested in cultures and languages. I come from a multicultural background—Chilean, Swiss, and Italian—and while it may not be the most exotic mix, the result was that I grew up hearing four different languages. We spoke Spanish and English at home, I heard French with my dad's parents and Italian from my mom's father. In addition, I grew up in an area that was predominantly Spanish-speaking, and most of my friends spoke Spanish at home although they were all from different countries. Since I was surrounded by so many different cutltures both at home and at school, I knew I would enjoy studying cultural differences and similarities.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
My Russian courses have been really excellent. I started learning Russian as a first-year with Professor Jane Knox-Voina, and I got addicted to the challenge. I like that Russian is so different from the Romance languages I grew up with, though it can be very difficult sometimes. Yet as I begin reading Pushkin in Russian this year, I realize how far I've come, from struggling with the Cyrillic alphabet three years ago to now discussing Russian literature in Russian.

I also enjoyed my course on anthropological research taught by Professor Krista Van Vleet, particularly our main research project that was the focus of the course. We were able to choose our theme and research it through interviews, participant observation, and library resources. I worked with a partner, and Professor Van Vleet was extremely helpful in providing guidance to narrow down our thesis: pregnancy's effects on a woman's identity and how the woman and culture define her identity. I enjoyed the hands-on experience of conducting research outside of Bowdoin—we conducted all our interviews in Portland—and Professor Van Vleet's guidance in focusing our research. The project gave me a new perspective on motherhood and the course provided me with the tools to conduct research, as well as the confidence to do it.

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Francesca and Kevin Kowalko '12 in Masque and Gown's An Ideal Husband.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Professor Davis Robinson, from the theater department, has been an excellent mentor for me. He directed my first Bowdoin performance in Enemy of the People, and I took Directing with him my sophomore year. He has a wonderful perspective on life, is open-minded, and encourages students to try new things and pursue their dreams. Talking with Davis is a highlight of my day because he always has some piece of news, whether a new play to read or a piece of advice on graduate school, that gets me thinking or reading for a few days.


Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I studied in Barcelona, Spain, during the fall of my junior year. While people always talk about the party atmosphere of Barcelona (there were plenty of parties and discotheques), I wasn't interested in that aspect. I was interested in seeing how Catalán, the language and the people, coexist with the Spanish, because the Catalán are a separate culture and Catalunya does have a certain amount of autonomy. Not only did my Spanish—written and spoken—improve, but I learned a great deal about Spanish culture and history, and became more confident about traveling alone. After exploring Barcelona on my own and making friends, I realized that I'm much more outgoing than I had ever imagined.

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Rowing in the Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I was on the crew team for my first three years at Bowdoin. Before college, I had never been on a sports team, and the crew team sports like no other. Rowing requires each member of the boat to give 100 percent all the time, because if one person gives any less, the whole boat can feel it. It's a poetic experience, rowing at six in the morning when the water is the most calm and the sun is just starting to come up, hearing only the blades and the boat cutting through the water as each person moves completely in sync. I learned a lot from rowing, from my coach, and from my teammates.

Theater has been another big part of my experience at Bowdoin. It has been my creative outlet, so this semester I decided to dedicate more time to the theater department and Masque and Gown, the student-run theater organization on campus. I have performed in a number of productions and I've done some directing for the One-Act Festival. This semester I'll be in the department's production of Drums in the Night.

I have worked at the Language Media Center, which allowed me to get to know its knowledgeable faculty members and become more familiar with foreign films. I've also worked for the Dining Service at Thorne and gotten to know those who make our top-quality meals. Working in the dining hall has given me a better appreciation for everything that goes into every single meal. I've also tried Capoeira, swing dancing, and yoga, and I help out at the Organic Garden when I can.

What have you done during your summers?
The summer after my first year I worked at a Boy Scout camp in the Adirondacks as a canoe guide, taking scouts on five-day expeditions, teaching them the basics of living outside, and showing them how to practice Leave No Trace camping.

The summer between sophomore and junior year, I worked in Switzerland for the Swiss postal service, delivering mail to a small village called Bussy-Chardonnay, where there were more cows than people.

This past summer I had two jobs. In June, I worked for the Student Conservation Association in Arkansas, where I was one of two leaders who led six high school students. We lived at a basecamp right next to the Little Missouri River and did trail work in the Ouachita Mountains. In July and August, I again worked as a canoe guide in the Adirondacks. It was interesting to bring new experiences and confidence to a job I had held two years earlier.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
It's hard to choose just one Bowdoin memory that surpasses all others. While I was abroad, I missed the dinners that begin with a few friends and end with the entire table full as more people join in. Crew breakfasts are also a fond memory. Smelly and sweaty and loud, we would take up at least one long table, sometimes two, in the dark room of Moulton Union at 8 a.m.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I have a lot of ideas for after graduation, but nothing set in stone. I will probably work for the Student Conservation Association again this summer. My plans after that get a little bit foggy. My thoughts shift between three ideas: move to South America and teach, apply to be a teacher's aid in Spain for a year, or pursue theater. Ultimately, my goal is to work with children either as a teacher in South America or in the United States as an outdoor educator.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Branch out and explore! Try something new—I picked up swing dancing last semester and it turns out I love it! College is the time to uncover a hidden passion and develop it. Bowdoin is the perfect environment to discover new facets of yourself because everyone is here to help you learn.

What quirky or fun thing do you wish you had known before you came to Bowdoin?
I wish I had known about the Common Grounds Country Fair before coming to Bowdoin. It's an awesome event; full of food, crafts, music, and green merchandise, it takes place in Unity, Maine, for a weekend in September. I was able to attend it once sophomore year for maybe an hour. If I had known about it as a first year, I definitely would have gone. It's a fun way to get off campus and experience Maine.

I also wish I had known about the puzzles in Hatch Science Library. If I had known earlier in my Bowdoin career, I would have procrasinated so much more. Maybe it is better that I learned so late!

Story posted on October 05, 2009

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