Melissa Hudson '05

Melissa Hudson '05

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
Major: Government and Legal Studies, with a minor in Asian Studies

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I had planned on going to school in the south, but I came up during the Bowdoin Invitational, and I just fell in love with the college. Literally the moment I stepped on this college campus, I [thought] "Wow, this place is really special, and this is the place I want to be." It was raining, so I knew if I liked it [when it was] raining I would love it when the sun was shining. I just liked the people that I met, and I was really intrigued by the energy of the professors and the energy of the campus. I felt like people were interested in me holistically, not just academically.

The thing I always tell people is that Maine is the most southern state of New England. I feel like Mainers are generally nice. Particularly in Brunswick, it's like everybody knows everybody, people wave and speak to each other. [There's] that southern hospitality here in Maine.

I was coming from a place where I was somewhat of the majority to a place where I was clearly the minority. I was coming from a place where my faith was very prominent, and I feel as though here at Bowdoin [most] people are not as religiously aware. So I think there are a lot of things about where I was coming from that were completely different from here, which is something I liked. I wanted that challenge. I wanted to go up to a place where I could really find out who I was away from all the comforts that I had been used to. So I think that was another thing about Bowdoin - that it was completely unfamiliar.

How did you decide on your major?
Well, I knew coming in I wanted to be a government major, based on a lot of heavy community involvement that I had done my junior and senior year of high school. I didn't know I wanted to be an Asian studies minor. I took this course "Transnational Chinese Cinema" and the class was amazing, my professor was amazing, and I kept taking the courses. I just found China and Asia in general to be fascinating.

What's been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
I would have to say "Politics of the European Union" with [former Government Professor] Marcia Weigle, and "West European Politics," also with Marcia Weigle, were two of the most fascinating classes. I was really able to monitor my development as a student here at Bowdoin, probably because of her instruction and the way she worked with me as an individual to help me with my critical thinking and my writing. I developed so much more confidence in myself as a student as a result of those courses with her and I was able to translate that to my general academic life here.

My major is government and my minor is Asian studies, and I always say that if those two are my loves, then I have an affair with west Europe from time to time. I just love the European Union. I love looking at the ways countries integrate with one another - the supernational vs. the national. I just find the study of those countries remarkable in the grander scheme of policies. That led to study abroad in London, and that led me to think about a possible future in policy work.

What extracurriculars do you participate in?
I am the Vice President of KASA, which is the Korean American Students Association. And that's a mix of fun and a lot of grassroots organizing because we try to be a social group and be a support network for people to just hang out, but we also try to keep issues that are pertinent to the Korean diaspora and Pan-Asian diaspora in general [visible] on this campus.

I'm the chair of the Judicial Board this year, which is always a challenging task, but it's very rewarding and very fulfilling. The Judicial Board is a body of Bowdoin students and some faculty members who come together to hear cases of suspected violations to the academic and social honor code.

I find it an honor and a privilege to have been chosen chair, because the responsibility of that position is so great. The process is just as emotionally charged for both sides - for those bringing the case [and] for those hearing the case. As the chair, it's your responsibility to make sure that people [on the Board] feel comfortable with the process, to make sure that people feel okay with the decisions that they're making, and to help them understand the importance of the service that their doing for the college.

There's also a responsibility for anyone who comes in front of the Board, because you're the human part of the Board. And as the chair, you're the person that gives the decision. It's a hard job to say, "I think that you should leave the college or that you should go on probation," or whatever the recommendation may be. You fully understand how [the student] feels about being a part of this community because you're a part of this community. [Being the chair] means trying to make the process as comfortable as possible for all people involved, but at the same time, giving the entire community a standard, and saying that certain behaviors are acceptable and certain behaviors are not. I find some aspects of it to be tremendously emotional.

And I work at the theater, [as] house manager and assistant production coordinator, which keeps me very busy, but it's so exciting. I think it's the best job anyone could ever have on this campus.

Did you study abroad? Where?
London was fantastic. It's bittersweet because the program that I did, the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin program - this spring is its last year. But it was an absolutely fascinating and fantastic time. We had British professors and then we had one Bowdoin professor, Professor Henry Laurence, of the government [department] and Asian studies [program]. He taught two government classes, one on the politics of the British media and another on the politics of finance. It was great because we looked at these financial institutions, [and] the heart of them lie in London. We had access to speakers and went to facilities and talked to people that we never would have in the States. And if you're studying British politics, no better place to be than London!

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
I would say some of the best have been the moments with my friends. Not even necessarily going out on the weekends, but just the moments we've spent in our room hanging out, sitting around and laughing and talking and joking with one another - particularly during finals periods when everyone's a little bit delirious and the conversation gets a little bit strange! It's [during] those moments that you really understand that Bowdoin shapes you as an individual and not just as an academic.

What are your plans after graduation?
Well, I actually have a fellowship, the Thomas Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship, which basically pays for my last two years of college and then [as a part of the Fellowship] you go onto grad school, and then you serve five years as a Foreign Service officer. This summer, as a part of it, I'll be spending ten weeks in Washington D.C., and then from there I'll be going to grad school for a program in public policy and international relations. It's funded by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, through Princeton University, and the State Department administers part of it, as well.

I know that no matter how long I'm in the Service, I want to spend the majority of my career in Asia, and then the rest of it in west Europe.

Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you'd like a prospective student to know?
My experience at Bowdoin has been one of the best experiences I've had so far to date. On the one hand, the institution is an incredible institution. It has so many resources, it's so supportive of its student body and it has gone far above and beyond my wildest imagination. But I think at the same time, there's a responsibility of the student when they come into this place to really make it their home, establish themselves here, make it their college. That's something each individual has to do for themselves. Go get involved, find your passion, do things that you wouldn't normally do, and really make this place yours, because that is the true life of Bowdoin College: its students' incredible capacity for stimulating the classroom, and making this environment really warm, receptive, active and just all-around great.

Story posted on December 08, 2004

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