Joanna Buffum '11

Joanna Buffum

Joanna Buffum '11

Major: English
Minor: Anthropology
Hometown: Morristown, New Jersey

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I knew I wanted to go to a liberal arts school, and I love snowboarding and other cold weather activities so I focused on looking at schools in New England. I was also considering continuing my field hockey career since I had played every season since fourth grade and it was a huge part of my life, so I was immediately attracted to Bowdoin's renowned field hockey program. I looked at more than 20 schools because I was trying to keep an open mind, and when I was doing the standard Maine college tour, Bowdoin stood out to me. My tour guide was a friendly senior who seemed to love going to Bowdoin. I identified with the campus way more than any other school I had visited so far; I could really picture myself going to school here. I will admit I was definitely a little hesitant about going to such a small school, as Bowdoin is smaller than my public high school, but obviously I got over it.

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When Joanna studied abroad in Denmark, she also had the opportunity to travel to such places as Cairo during spring break.

Why did you choose your major?
I have always known I was going to major in English. In high school I loved reading and writing and it was the only subject I was really passionate about. It was an added plus that Bowdoin has an amazing English program.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
I loved Tolkien's Middle Ages, taught by Professor Mary Agnes Edsall, because I am a huge sucker for fantasy fiction and she was passionate about the material and made it even more interesting. It was assumed that you had previous knowledge of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, so it was great we could just skip over the basics and get into the historical context and Tolkien's motivations for creating Middle Earth. It was cool because I ended up designing my own final essay topic so I could write about something I had been wanting to study in Lord of the Rings before I even took the class.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
My academic advisor Professor David Collings has been my English professor several times now and he is just fabulous. He is very helpful during office hours and is always interested in hearing your ideas; he becomes personally invested in helping you create a great paper or nailing down an innovative thesis. As an advisor he has given me advice on everything from which classes to take to how to recover from stressful personal problems. I miss him so much because he is on sabbatical this year!

Which staff members have you connected with most?
I used to work at the Smith Union Bookstore until about a month ago and I developed a great relationship with all of the amazing women who work there. I miss them! Kathryn Baribeau is hilarious; I could chat all day with her while folding the same Bowdoin sweaters over and over and labeling Bowdoin Dad mugs. I'm also just getting to know Melissa Quinby of the Women's Resource Center and Allen Delong and Christine Drasba from Student Activities with all my recent work with Her Campus Bowdoin (see below); they are all so great and I'm excited to work with them throughout my senior year.

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Joanna and a friend snowboarding.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I ended up not trying out for varsity field hockey at the last minute, so since my junior year I single-handedly created and ran the intramural field hockey program. It has helped me not miss playing as much and I've met some great people. For on-campus employment, I was a cashier at the pub for a period during my freshman year and then worked at the Smith Union Bookstore from the beginning of sophomore year until the first few weeks of my senior year.

In August 2009 I became a contributing writer at HerCampus.com, a national online magazine for college women, and they have 70+ "My Campus" branches that are like online magazines for specific schools. Junior Sarah Vallimarescu applied to be Bowdoin's My Campus correspondent last spring and I recently became the other co-correspondent. Right now Her Campus Bowdoin has seven official writers other than Sarah and me, and the two of us act as the editors in chief and do all the editing, uploading, and publicity projects on campus. It has been exciting (and also really time consuming) and I am loving every minute of it.

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The view from Joanna's apartment when she studied abroad: the frozen lake in the heart of Copenhagen.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
In the spring of 2010 I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, through the DIS program. I loved the quaint cobblestone and historic streets of Copenhagen and took some great classes relevant to the area, like a course on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales (yes, we did spend a day watching Disney's Little Mermaid) and I studied Søren Kierkegaard's dissertation and philosophy. I even got my fantasy fix in a course called From Homer to Harry Potter. It was such an amazing experience and I am so happy I decided to go abroad because I doubt there will be any other point in my life when I will have such a perfect opportunity to travel. During the DIS extended two-week spring break I was able to travel to farther cities like Budapest, Cairo, and Alexandria.

What have you done during your summers?
After my freshman year I wasn't quite ready to dive into the stressful world of internship hunting, so it's a little-known fact that I spent the summer as a professional dog groomer.

After my sophomore year I had two internships in New York City: an advertising intern at OK! Magazine for three days a week, and also an editorial blog intern for Zagat Survey for two days a week. I love Zagat so it was a great way to learn about the food critic industry and I wrote postings on the website for special events and deals like great prix fixe menus during Restaurant Week.

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Joanna interviewed Far East Movement while interning at MTViggy.com.

This past summer I was an editorial intern at MTViggy.com, the website for MTV World. I essentially had the workload of an editorial assistant and worked full time five days a week, writing concert reviews for artists like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, top ten lists, album reviews, and transcribing interviews. The whole summer was pretty surreal: I got to assist on a production of a music video for the Colombian band Bomba Estéreo, personally interview Far East Movement at the end of the summer, and had a special press pass to see a Robyn, Kelis, Dan Black, and FM concert to write a review. It was also an extremely busy summer since I was basically writing full time for two different companies, Her Campus Magazine and MTV, but it definitely paid off.

What are your plans for after graduation?
For a long time I have been focusing on pursuing a career in some kind of professional writing, whether its magazine journalism, book publishing, or even television script writing. Right now I would say my dream job would be a freelance writer for major magazines or an editorial assistant. I would love to write for Time magazine, The New Yorker, or Vanity Fair, and secretly I also really want to work at Cosmopolitan.

Recently with all of the creative event planning and publicity I have had to do for Her Campus Bowdoin I have discovered I would also love a job working in public relations. It's a nice feeling that there are so many different jobs I am excited about pursuing after graduation. Despite the discouraging prospects for getting an entry-level job in this economy, I am trying to approach the job hunt like the world is my oyster.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first year about the Bowdoin experience?
I'd say my only regret as a senior is not living in a College House. The house system is a unique and incredible approach to combining your residential and social life, and I have absolutely no idea why I didn't try to live in one my sophomore year. I would highly encourage any first year to try to have the house experience because I definitely feel like I missed out on an important part of Bowdoin culture.

What quirky or fun thing do you wish you had known before you came to Bowdoin?
I wish I knew that the Café made the supremely delicious creation called the Sunrise Smoothie. It's a shot of espresso blended with ice, milk, a banana, and vanilla syrup. What could be better than an espresso and banana smoothie to get your day going? I also wish I knew about the Shannon Room in Hubbard Hall for studying; the fact that it looks like the Gryffindor Common Room would have had me sold in a second.

Story posted on November 18, 2010

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