Laura Han '05

Laura Han

Laura Han '05

Hometown: Fulton, Illinois
Major: Gender and Women's Studies, with a minor in Economics

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
My sister, Paula, first told me about Bowdoin when I was a freshman in high school. So I was able to research the school before officially starting the college search. After going through the whole application, I got to the day before enrollment cards were due, still debating between Bowdoin and another liberal arts college. Bowdoin was the only school I hadn't visited, and actually I ended up applying [here] sort of on a whim. But for some unknown reason, the couple weeks before I had to make a decision, I ended up really attracted to the school. At that time, I had always put so much thought into everything I did, so all of the time and careful consideration I invested in the college search sort of went out the door. I guess I decided to take a risk and I submitted the Bowdoin form.

How did you decide on your major?
I took Introduction to Women's Studies spring semester of my freshman year with a visiting professor, Rachel Groner, who made me very proud to learn the material being studied. Women's Studies, now Gender and Women's Studies, is also an interdisciplinary major, which is wonderful because you get the opportunity to cover and discover a variety of issues, and explore new topics. What I learned from GWS program was to welcome everything as a way to create new knowledge.

What has been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
This is tough because I have enjoyed many of my classes. But one that sticks out in my head is Economics of the Lifecycle with Professor Rachel Connelly of the Economics Department. I took this course (which was cross-listed with Women's Studies) spring semester of my junior year and liked it because we were able to work with Maine's childcare policies. And by then, I had learned about Iowa's childcare policies through previous summer internships, so it was interesting to be able to compare the methods used by each state. It also sparked my interest in possibly doing policy work later in life.

Have you ever done any independent studies?
During the fall semester, I worked with [Associate Professor] Jennifer Scanlon of the Gender and Women's Studies Department to analyze the effects of government policies on the interpretations of East Asian women in U.S. film. This topic had been an interest of mine since I took the Gender, Film and Consumer Culture class with Professor Scanlon the spring of my sophomore year. That class opened my eyes to the many ways images of women (of color) are portrayed through film, as well as advertising. I will probably never look at film the same again.

I also did an independent study while I was abroad in Jamaica, fall semester of my junior year. As a part of the program, each student had to conduct a month-long independent study project (ISP) on a topic of his/her choice. I chose to analyze the feminization of the Jamaican household and its impact on women and children. A requirement of the ISP was doing field research, so I interviewed ten teenaged girls and their mothers. From these interviews, I was able to delve into specific issues of nurture, allocation of income and gaining agency as a woman in an impoverished country. I hadn't really been able to get to know too many people at this point, so I probably learned the most about certain Jamaican life experiences from these interviews.

What extracurriculars do you participate in? Do you have an on campus job?
I was active with the Bowdoin Women's Association, as co-chair of the group. The format of the leadership duties was great this year. There were five of us sharing responsibilities, so we were all able to bring our own agendas to the table for discussion/action. My agenda was to revive the campus women's publication. With joint effort from other members, Kerry Elson '05, Alison Driver '08, and Tasha Graff '07, we created The F-Word. By including a combination of personal narratives, factual information about women - emergency contraception, for example - and campus news, we created a magazine for everyone.

I have worked on campus for the past four years at Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. The past three years I worked specifically with the Maine InfoNet department, processing the incoming and outgoing materials within Bates, Bowdoin and Colby. I enjoyed my job very much and I enjoyed the company of the librarians. They were always so friendly - even when I was feeling down, they could put a smile on my face.

Did you study abroad?
As I mentioned earlier, I studied abroad in Jamaica the fall semester of my junior year. I stayed in Kingston, the capitol, with a host family. What I enjoyed most about the experience was meeting new people. I was so unfamiliar with Jamaican culture that all I knew was that I was going to meet a variety of people unlike others I had ever met. Though this happened for the most part, I also realized that despite the cultural barriers, I could joke and form friendships with anyone in Jamaica the same way I would if I were in the U.S.

What's your best Bowdoin memory?
There are many, but I guess one of my best Bowdoin memories is arriving on campus the first day of orientation and meeting my two roommates, Jenny Bordo '05 and Catherine Davies '05. My sister, Sandra, helped with the move and she was getting confused, which I thought was funny because she was a fresh college graduate at the time. Anyway, I remember the dorm room being a mess with computer boxes and luggage, and without a moment to really relax, we all scurried into the proctor's room so we could meet each other. That is when I caught my breath, looked at everyone and realized that I did not have a single clue as to what was in store ahead.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be taking a couple of years off school and working as a litigation legal assistant in New York City. I had been interested in law since high school but sort of got sidetracked from it after my first year at Bowdoin. I am now interested again, and this experience is what I want before going to law school. But then again, who knows what will happen in the next few years - I may join the circus or something.

What advice about the Bowdoin experience would you give to a prospective student?
I have two pieces of advice. The first is pretty simple: be nice. Each person's presence creates and changes the campus dynamic, and kindness or a simple kind gesture is an easy way to make the Bowdoin experience a positive and memorable one for everyone. Secondly, earlier in the semester, a friend pointed out how every semester is and can be really different from the previous one, which I think is true. So Bowdoin can be whatever you want it to be. Make it what you want and get out of it what you can - learn about yourself, others and life.

Story posted on August 05, 2005

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