Jamie Nadeau '10

Jamie Nadeau

Jamie Nadeau '10

Major: Government and Legal Studies; Minor: English
Hometown: Leominster, Massachusetts

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I knew rather early during my junior year of high school that I wanted to attend a small liberal arts college with strong government and English departments. I desired a close community of students and professors, and found that many NESCAC colleges possess this quality. However, what struck me about Bowdoin—aside from its proximity to the coast, which originally drew me to the College—was the feeling I got when walking on campus. I remember exactly where I was on a tour when I realized that Bowdoin was right for me. Call it a gut feeling, but there was something unique about the sense of community at Bowdoin. I felt welcome, wanted, appreciated, warm, like I was already at home. These feelings have not faded at all throughout my four years here.

Why did you choose your major?
I originally planned on majoring in English and minoring in government, but decided to major in government after taking my first several classes in the department. I have always been interested in politics and social change, and as someone who has prioritized service and volunteerism throughout high school and college, I knew that studying law, government, and politics—which are all avenues for social progress—was the right academic path for me.

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Jamie in Cape Town, South Africa, while studying abroad his junior year.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
There have been so many courses at Bowdoin that stick out for me, so this question is a little difficult to answer. International Law was definitely one of my favorite classes. Taught by Professor Allen Springer—a living legend in the government department—the course examined the incredibly complex legal system and, among other things, important historical debates over various areas of international contention. Professor Springer was dynamic and passionate; he had the teaching the course down to a science. However, what makes this class stand out is that it is one of the first courses I can remember having fun studying for tests. Professor Springer conducted the exam by creating a complicated international dilemma—complete with fictional countries, and characters—and asking his students to argue as counsel for one side of the debate. I absolutely loved putting the pieces of the case together, searching for connections with court cases we had learned in class, and presenting a coherent argument for or against one of the countries, leaders, or citizens Professor Springer provided.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Bowdoin's government department is one of the best in the country among small colleges, so it is no surprise that many of its professors—Allen Springer, Michael Franz, Paul Franco, and others—stuck out for me.

However, one especially inspiring professor is David Collings in the English department. My 300-level seminar, Living in the Ruins, will be my fourth class with Professor Collings, and there are many reasons for that. I have never in my life had a professor so skilled at facilitating discussions. Professor Collings has mastered the art of welcoming all comments from students, weaving them into his lectures, and also subtly steering the conversation in a certain direction. His eloquence and grasp of the English language are incredible; he is passionate and brilliant, a clear leader in his field.

Classes I have taken with Professor Collings—English Literature and Social Power, Natural Supernaturalism, and Radical Sensibility—have proven to be among my favorite courses. Professor Collings pushed me to think in a different way, to analyze and examine literature from a perspective I never before thought possible, to appreciate the incredible subtleties embedded in the works of writers like Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Dickens, Austen, and Blake, and, most importantly, to strive to pursue difficult questions in my writing.

However, what makes Professor Collings stand out as a professor is his incredible dedication to his students. Some of my favorite Bowdoin memories are our conversations in his office in Massachusetts Hall (I never, ever, wrote an essay without talking to him beforehand). Furthermore, Professor Collings makes it a point to write long responses, sometimes lasting several pages, to each and every student essay he reads, discussing its strengths and weaknesses, showing where arguments could be pushed further, and engaging with the work philosophically. For all of these reasons and more, I am so grateful to have at least one more class with this very special professor.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I have always been very involved on campus. I have worked as a Bowdoin tour guide (and a member of the leadership team) and as a member of Residential Life as a proctor and RA. Additionally, I have participated in intramural soccer, basketball, and dodgeball, played drums in a campus cover band called Eleven, and worked since my first year as a desk monitor for the athletic department. However, the bulk of my extracurricular activities have involved service, and thus, the McKeen Center for the Common Good.

I spent a lot of time volunteering with and acting as a student leader for a Portland nonprofit called the Volunteer Lawyers ProjectAlternative Spring Break trip to Guatemala City, volunteering with the nonprofit organization Safe Passage. This year, I am co-leading that very same ASB trip.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I did, and it was the most incredible experience of my life. I spent five months studying in Cape Town, South Africa, taking classes at the University of Cape Town. There is so much to say about this experience, and for those interested, there are many more details on my blog.

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A group of elephants drinking from the Chobe River, spotted by Jamie during his study abroad semester, which also found him traveling to Zimbabwe and Zambia.

For me, Cape Town was the perfect place to spend a semester abroad. I met people from all over Africa and the world, learned about the country's fascinating and disturbing political history, and spent time volunteering in a nearby township with an organization called LAWCO that teaches political knowledge to local high school students.

I loved learning about the modern politics of South Africa, and was fascinated to see the incredible enthusiasm of its people around the contentious presidential election last year. One of the most important experiences of my trip was a weekend-long home stay I did in Tambo Village, a nearby township. South Africa still suffers from stark inequality since Apartheid ended, and sometimes it was easy to get lost in the sprawling, beautiful, cultural metropolis that is the city of Cape Town. However, my home stay taught me a lot about the amazing communities that surround the city. People were so welcoming and honest, and I could tell right away that it's the community that binds township residents together, despite the serious problems they face on a day-to-day basis.

I also had the chance to do some pretty incredible things: diving with great white sharks, bungee-jumping at Victoria Falls in Zambia, a walking safari through the bush in Zimbabwe, motorbike tours of Robben Island and Cape Town, and dining on ostrich and kudu. It was an experience that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

I learned as much about myself as I did about South Africa, something that was invaluable. The best advice I can give to incoming students is this: If you can, try your absolute hardest to study abroad!

What have you done during your summers?
During my first summer I interned at a local government office. My second summer I stayed on campus (which is an incredible experience) and interned as a Community Action Fellow at the Volunteer Lawyers Project, and as a Common Good Day Fellow. The latter position required me to coordinate the 10th Annual Common Good Day, a treasured Bowdoin tradition. The event brings 500 to 600 Bowdoin students, faculty, staff, and alumni together for three hours of service at local organizations. The event, which falls in line with the College's emphasis on the common good, is meant to foster a sense of volunteerism and community responsibility on campus.

Last summer, after returning from Cape Town, I worked as a senior interviewer in the admissions office.

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Jamie, three friends, Prof. David Collings, and the snow beast.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
This is a difficult question because there have been so many special memories over my four years. Something that will always stick out, however, is this anecdote, because it represents so fully what Bowdoin is all about. A couple months ago, during one of the first substantial snowfalls, four friends and I decided to have a snowball fight on the Quad before English class with Professor Collings. The fight transitioned into a group snowman-making effort, and we constructed what we named a "snow beast" right outside of Professor Collings' office. When he walked through the door, he stood for a while admiring our creation, and when we revealed that we had made it for him, he agreed to take a picture with us and the snow beast. At what other school is such a thing possible?

What are your plans for after graduation?
While law school was my plan for most of college, I am taking some time afterward to think more about that decision. I was recently awarded the Princeton in Africa Fellowship, so next year I will be working in Lusaka, Zambia, with a small grassroots organization. The foundation, called Kucetekela, gives scholarships to low-income students to attend the prestigious secondary schools that most of the population cannot afford. I will be there for 10 to 11 months.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Practical advice: do a Pre-Orientation trip! This is the perfect way become very close with a small group of your classmates before Orientation starts. Besides, groups do some pretty amazing things. For example, I spent three days kayaking around Casco Bay, camping on different islands ever night. General advice: be flexible. Almost every worthwhile experience I had at Bowdoin happened because I was willing to take a risk. The College offers so many opportunities—academic and extracurricular—that it can be overwhelming, but the best way to ensure your Bowdoin experience is the best it can be is to take the plunge once in a while. Go on an Outing Club trip and learn to whitewater kayak. Join a random student group. Take a class entirely out of your comfort zone (Theater 101, for instance, was one of my favorite classes). College, especially at Bowdoin, is about taking risks and learning about yourself in the process. I believe that the best way to grow is to be willing to stray from the path once in a while.

What quirky or fun thing do you wish you had known before you came to Bowdoin?
Super Snack! If you have meal points left at the end of the week—which can be a difficult requirement because of our incredible Dining Service—you can access this spectacle of nachos, grilled cheese, cookies, flashing lights, and thumping music in Thorne Dining Hall that lasts from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Some of my best memories have been at Super Snack. And the College freezes over part of the Quad every winter to make an ice rink. And the Dining Service responds when you leave a comment card requesting certain foods! I could go on and on!

Story posted on March 18, 2010

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