Millan AbiNader '10

Millan AbiNader

Millan AbiNader '10

Major: French; minor: Biology
Hometowns: Washington, D.C./Philadelphia, Pennsylvania/West Bath, Maine

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I became excited about Bowdoin when I saw that department offices were housed in Cape Cod style buildings and that there was a Calder mobile in the middle of the library. Once I learned more about Bowdoin than just its appearance, I knew it was the place for me. It was clear from the stats and curriculum that Bowdoin is an excellent academic institution. The College encourages students to explore many disciplines and its low student to faculty ratio of 9:1 guarantees individual support.

More than this, however, was that everyone I spoke with was happy. All the students loved their professors, jobs, and friends. Alums I spoke with got twinkle-eyed reminiscing about Bowdoin. It became clear that the College was not only an intellectually vibrant and pretty place, but a supportive and fun one as well.

Why did you choose your major?
I chose to take French on a whim. I had taken Spanish most of my life and wanted to try a new language. I quickly fell in love with it. I started to dream in French, think in French, and became absorbed in the poetry and sound of the language. This prompted me to decide to study abroad in Toulouse, a small city in southern France.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
I love the course Writing Corporeality in France that I am currently taking with Professor Katherine Dauge-Roth. We are talking about how the body is understood and described in different contexts. We've talked about the soul-spirit-body relationship, the body as a machine, gender and sexuality, and the diseased body. It has been really interesting to read about how the body was treated in the 15th through 18th centuries and how some central principles still exist today. Ideas, such as illness is caused by an imbalance in the body's system, remain fundamental ideas in our current culture. Professor Dauge-Roth has designed this course based on experiential learning, which is very rewarding. Instead of analyzing the texts we read about gender identity and expression, we were challenged to spend some time as the opposite gender, and to reflect on how it felt. The experience of going into town dressed as a man helped me learn more about the construction of gender identity than reflecting on a book would have, because it was personal and not abstract.

MillanDinner.jpg
The student planners, ASAP advisor, and speakers at the 2009 Sexual Etiquette Dinner: Emily Skinner (advisor), Gina Rourke (Nomia Boutique), Glenn Quint (Planned Parenthood), Shana Natelson '10, Millan AbiNader '10, Morgan Taggart-Hampton '11, Margo Clarke '09, and Julia Bond '09.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
They are not professors, but Meadow Davis from the dean's office, and Kate Stern from the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, have been incredibly inspirational. Both of them are amazing facilitators; through observation and direct instruction in workshops, I gained many skills and tricks for facilitating. They trusted me to direct programs and gave me a lot of freedom to design creative programming. I am unable to express how grateful I am for this trust. Meadow and Kate are both wonderful and knowledgeable activists and helped me learn how to use my voice and passion effectively. On a personal level, they are both amazing moms who seem to magically balance their work, family, and personal lives. They model a lifestyle that I can only hope to have one day. They have not only served as role models but as advocates for me. They have supported, listened, and laughed with me. I cannot imagine what Bowdoin would be like without them, and I am so glad they are part of my life.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
Most of my non-academic activities at Bowdoin centered on sexual assault prevention and support services. I am co-leader of Safe Space and am the student director of the Alliance of Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP). As a Safe Space member, I have the privilege of hearing some of the stories of the incredible, strong survivors on this campus. Working with ASAP allows me to extend campus and community resources to survivors and to do prevention programming through campus-wide events such as "Date Week" and "Consent is Sexy Week."

I also volunteer with the Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine (SASSMM) as a peer educator with other Bowdoin students. We go into elementary and high schools and talk about healthy relationships. Over my four years at Bowdoin, the campus's attitude towards sexual assault has changed. When I was a first year, consent—words or actions showing voluntary agreement to engage in a mutually agreed-upon sexual activity—was a word that only Safe Space members really understood. Now, every first-year can define consent thanks to Speak About It, a fantastic presentation during orientation which discusses healthy relationships and sexual violence. Silence often surrounds the topic of sexual violence because of fear, discomfort, and shame. I am really proud to be one of the many at Bowdoin people fostering a safe environment.

MillanFrance.jpg
Millan sitting in the wall of the medieval town La Couvertoirade in Aveyron, France.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I studied abroad in Toulouse, France. I walked everyday to school on a street laid out by the Romans when they constructed the city; it was pretty unbelievable. I did a School of International Training program that focused on social change. In an independent study, I looked at how women try to reconcile their professional, familial, and personal lives. The Pyrenees are a beautiful part of France and I enjoyed exploring the area with my group and my host family. I stayed with a very caring, welcoming, and fun family who made my experience abroad absolutely incredible.

What have you done during your summers?
I spent my first summer at Bowdoin researching Harmful Algal Blooms with the geology department. The following summer I studied French at the University of Pennsylvania. Last summer, I did a community education internship at the DC Rape Crisis Center, one of the oldest centers in the country. I led facilitations on healthy relationships at community centers, worked the hotline, and accompanied survivors to the hospital for forensic exams.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
My favorite Bowdoin memory is a collage of moments: the first meal I cooked in my kitchen this year with friends, the Bowdoin-Colby hockey game my first year, the first facilitation I did at the Hyde School with SASSMM, Ivies my sophomore year, the first "Sexual Etiquette Dinner," and many small exchanges with friends. Bowdoin has been an amazing experience. I know the rest of this year will continue to be filled with wonderful moments.

What are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation, I aspire to continue working to prevent sexual violence. I am not sure how I will do this, but I envision three possible routes. I could become a counselor who works with individual survivors; create awareness campaigns and encourage youth education; or research sexual violence, how it manifests, how it's defined, how it's "treated," etc. I hope to take the next year to figure out exactly what I want to do by working at a resource center in the United States or abroad.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Don't think you know everything about yourself or where you are going. Give in to uncertainty and explore who you could be. I know it's scary; it's something that I did not give myself enough time to do. Because you will change so much in the next four years, allow yourself the opportunity to change. It may feel like you are just wandering about, but somewhere in the meandering, you'll find yourself.

What quirky or fun thing do you wish you had known before you came to Bowdoin?
I wish I had known about the comment cards in the dining halls. I think the comment cards are a perfect example of how much Bowdoin cares about its students; Dining Service caters to our requests! I once requested peanut butter sandwiches for a bag lunch and they were actually made for me. It was the best.

Story posted on December 01, 2009

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