Mike Chan '05

Mike Chan '05

Hometown: San Francisco, California
Major: Government

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
My math teacher in high school was a graduate and he really was pushing Bowdoin. But my main [reason] was just to move away from the West Coast, because I felt like a lot people on the West Coast stayed on the West Coast, and never explored. So this was, for me, an exploration, a way to find out a little more about myself.

Why did you decide on your major?
My major right now is Government and Legal Studies with a concentration in American government. Originally, when I started out, I was a Biology major, and I was doing pre-med. So for the first three semesters I was really intense about that, I think to the point where I burned myself out. In reality it wasn't actually what I really liked or really had a passion for doing in the first place, so sophomore year, I took two government courses, and I really liked them, and I did well in them, so I stayed with that.

What has been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
Freshman year, I took Racism with Roy Partridge. That for me set the tone as a freshman for what I would be expecting for writing assignments and what kind of stimulation I'd get [academically]. I made a lot of friends in that class.

I have to say, [also] maybe Chinese Politics with Lance Guo and Japanese Politics with Henry Laurence. And African American Poetry with Elizabeth Muther. Those have been really good classes. And I'm taking International Law right now with [Professor] Springer, and it's a really good course.

What extracurricular are you involved in?
I've always loved taking part in IM Basketball. I never played [in] the A [league], but I've played B and C.

I co-head a poetry group with Alkaaliq Bashir and Walkens Petit-Frere which we started freshman year. It was just two years ago that we got funding from the [Student Activities Fund Committee] and we were able to make t-shirts and stuff like that, so it really became a group that just blossomed, and it was the one group that I really identified with. We've been able to do a lot of performances in really different venues, in coffeehouses, Parents' Weekend stages, and opening for Mos Def; that was one of the most significant moments I've witnessed in the club.

I'm involved with the Asian Students Association, which has been around for a long time. This is my third year being the political chair. For me, it was somewhat of a support group, but also it was a good chance to meet other people who were just kind of interested in Asian or Asian-American culture.

What's your best Bowdoin memory?
I remember on my Pre-O[rientation] trip, I went to Kent Island. I made a lot of friends, and it was just a different experience. I just remember making breakfast, lunch and dinner with the eight or nine people that I was with, just exploring and getting to know some people that I was about to go to school with. When you go on your Pre-O, especially when you're not from the East Coast, let alone Maine, it's just a shock to you. So that's what set the tone [for the year].

Also, the biggest memory I have is doing Blood Feathers, which is the play I just recently had a part in. I played a character who is very similar to me, and surprisingly, I think [director and playwright] Elaine Johanson, who graduated last year, was trying to model it after my sensibilities. I had never acted before, never had any acting experience, but after doing that I just felt like I was a professional actor. It was empowering. I just felt really good about it. In the history of Bowdoin, [it was] the first Asian-American-themed play. I was really happy to be a part of a revolutionary event at Bowdoin.

Have you studied abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I was shooting to study away in London my junior year, but I just got burned out doing pre-med, so that's why I picked up Government. I guess I could have studied away [in] London taking government courses, but there's more options [for courses] at Bowdoin.

On top of it, I'm not from the East Coast, so just traveling out here was a study away project in itself, and I have plenty of fun visiting Boston and New York and traveling up and down the East Coast. So I'm not disappointed at all not having studied abroad.

What are your plans after graduation?
Well, right now I am trying to matriculate into law school for Fall 2005. I realize that it's a big jump to go from thinking med school to law school, but I wanted to make sure that I came out with a professional outset as soon as I [graduated] from Bowdoin. I felt like what I want to do is attack being an activist. And even doing premed, I wanted to be an activist-type in the medical field. It's always been my passion, to be an activist. I felt like in order to be a true peacemaker and someone who can change the world, I needed a law degree. As far as taking a year off, I might do that, but I'm trying to shoot for Fall 2005.

Is there anything else about Bowdoin or your experiences here that you'd like prospective students to know?
If you're doing premed, spread everything out, take [Organic Chemistry] second year, take Physics third year, and try to get your math out of the way as soon as possible. That's what I learned.

It helps a lot if you know what you're doing already, but don't feel pressured if you don't know what you're doing yet. You have four years to decide. Look at me, I didn't decide what my major was until the last week of sophomore year, [when] I decided I want to be a government major. And even then you can change.

Also, get involved. If you're a new student, get involved. Don't stick your nose in the books all the time, because there are people out there, and that's also part of the college experience. Sure you can be a bookworm and do all that, but there are so many cool people out there that you need to see.

Story posted on October 19, 2004

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