Juleah Swanson

Juleah Swanson

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
Because Bowdoin is so far away from Seattle, people always wonder how a girl like me ended up in Maine. I have been answering this question for the past four years, and still I never really feel as though I have a sufficient answer.

Although it was an odd criteria, I knew I had to go to a school near the ocean. I spent much of my childhood on the shores of Puget Sound and fishing in British Columbia and Alaska. Yet, I wanted to go somewhere completely new, somewhere not on the West Coast. Bowdoin’s proximity to coastal Maine was perfect.

The second factor that led me towards Bowdoin was honestly their admissions policy towards the SATs. Although I was a strong student in high school,I did absolutely horrible on the SATs. For many years Bowdoin’s admissions policy has included an optional SAT/ACT component. Not submitting your SAT scores in no way hinders your chances of acceptance.

Why did you choose your major?
Especially at Bowdoin, the Women’s Studies department and the courses that are offered intersect so many other fields of study that at times the only thing in common between a cross-listed English/Women’s Studies course and a Sociology/Women’s Studies course is the simple fact that something related to gender or sexuality will be included somewhere in the course syllabus. I came into Bowdoin with a very broad range of interests, wanting to study and do everything. Without even intending it, by sophomore year many of the courses that I took were also cross-listed with Women’s Studies. Then when I took Women’s Studies 201: Feminist Theory and Methodology, I found analyzing feminist theory absolutely fascinating. At that point I was sold.

I take a lot of flak for being a Women’s Studies major, especially when people ask, “So, what are you going to do with a major in Women’s Studies?” The knowledge I have gained through my Women’s Studies courses is something I use and will continue to use everyday of my life. Bowdoin is a liberal arts school, not a university where people graduate with a specialization in a specific occupational field. So, to those liberal arts students that ask me what I’ll do with my major, I respond, “Well, what are you going to do with yours?”

What's the best class you've ever taken at Bowdoin?

It was hard to narrow it down but there are two courses that have really stood out as great courses. Sophomore year I took Sociology/History 242: Race, Gender, and Prisons with visiting Professor Micol Seigel. Professor Siegel was a firm believer in experiential learning. I think we had only one lecture the entire semester, the rest of the time we learned through dynamic hands-on activities. In addition, instead of taking a final exam we were required to do a major group project. What resulted from the group projects was incredible, one group started a book drive at the end of the semester for prison inmates, another group performed guerrilla style theater in the dining halls and build a jail cell in the union, and my group worked with Big Brother Big Sisters in Brunswick to try and connect Bowdoin student mentors with children who have an incarcerated parent or sibling.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Women’s Studies 261: Gender, Film, and Consumer Culture with Professor Jennifer Scanlon. All around it was just a solid course. The films we watched, the articles we read, and the discussions we had in class were all captivating.

What extracurricular activities do you participate in?

For all four years, I have been a coxswain on the Bowdoin Crew team. I love the sport of crew and have been rowing since I was in 8th grade. In high school I was on a pretty competitive club team in Seattle where the high school women’s team alone had 60 people. Coming to Bowdoin, where the entire team was pushing 40 people, and only boats we row are fours as opposed to eights was a bit of a shock. Beyond the sport itself, it is the early morning mist, the osprey flying overhead, and especially friendly harbor seal named “Jumpy” that keeps me coming out at 5:30 every morning.

In addition other activities have included the Asian Student Association, Safe Space (the student run hotline and awareness group on sexual assault and harassment), and I volunteer with Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine as a peer educator going into middle and high schools around the area and discussing sexual harassment and sexual assault.

What's your best Bowdoin memory?
This past summer I had the opportunity to compete with the Bowdoin Crew team in the Henley Royal Regatta in England, which is like the crème de la crème of races in the rowing world. Because I am a coxswain for the men’s team I lived in a house with six very smelly boys (and a dying cat). The experience was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the obscure, little Bowdoin crew team beat international teams of far greater prestige.

What's your strangest or funniest experience while at Bowdoin?
A hammock and random people defines living in the Tower last semester.

My roommate Alex wanted to hang a hammock, but the walls wouldn’t hold it, so she bought a concrete drill bit, borrowed an industrial strength electric drill, and spent two days drilling two inch deep holes into the cement ceiling in the common room. A cloud of cement dust permeated the room for days and our neighbors above us definitely complained. The hammock was so worth it though.

Also, quite frequently random people would visit our quad or my room at two or three in the morning. Once it was a guy in a wetsuit, another time it was someone running through the bathrooms asking for a wrench, and twice I was sound asleep and people mistakenly waltzed into my room thinking it was their own room.

Have you done any independent study/honors projects?
I am currently working on an honors project in Women’s Studies on retail tourism on Guam and how the Chamorro women who work within the retail industry perceive those who purchase high-end luxury goods. Over winter break, I have the opportunity visit my Grandma on Guam and continue my research by conducting interviews with women on the island.

Have you studied away during your time at Bowdoin?
During the fall semester of my Junior year I studied away in Independent Samoa. By far, the experience I had in Samoa is the highlight of my college career. I always had a strong desire to study in the Pacific and when the opportunity fell before me I leapt at the chance, despite my parents’ reservations. I could discuss at length the time I spent there, but I’ll spare you all and just recommend that if you have the opportunity to go somewhere you’ve always wanted, take it.

What are your plans for after graduation?
Ha! This is the question of my life these days. I know I’m not going to grad school next year, other than that, I have no idea. Getting a job, I guess.

Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you would want prospective students to know?
Bowdoin is a great school, most people love it. Don’t just choose a school that’s good, choose to a school that’s good for you.

Story posted on October 27, 2003

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