Peter Rocco '07

Peter Rocco '07

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Major: German and Sociology

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
The only stipulation I had in my college selection process was that my school not be in New York City. I'm from Brooklyn, and while I love my hometown, I thought it would be beneficial to get away for a bit. I first heard of Bowdoin from a high school friend in the class ahead of mine who decided to go there. I visited him in April of my senior year and got a really good vibe. The things that stayed with me from that trip were my friend's rave reviews of life at Bowdoin, the great weather, and a certain positive energy that I can't really explain. On a more practical level, I liked that Bowdoin was connected to what seemed like a vibrant little town, so it wasn't totally isolated.

Why did you choose your major?
I knew I wanted to learn a foreign language. I had positive associations with German from a high school history teacher who would include strange and interesting words like Weltanschauung and Schadenfreude in her lessons, so German it was! Four years later, I've learned many more strange and interesting words, but more importantly I've learned to think critically in cultural and historical (and of course linguistic) contexts foreign to my own.

Sociology is a similar story, insofar as I just wanted to try something new. I took Introduction to Sociology during the spring of my first year, and it was like a whole new intellectual world opened up. I had to think about issues in a way I had never previously known. That excited me then, and remains stimulating now.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
A number of classes stick out. A poetry workshop I took sophomore year with Professor Anthony Walton was a lot of fun. It met once a week for three hours on Monday night, and there were only a handful of students. It all made for a very intimate and intense experience.

My junior spring I really enjoyed a seminar in the German department with Professor Birgit Tautz that dealt with changing conceptions of color, race, and ethnicity at the turns of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Last semester I took a 200-level history class on Germany from 1919-1945, with Professor Page Herrlinger. It's a period I hadn't dealt with extensively, and looking at Nazism through an academic (rather than an emotional) lens was absolutely fascinating, not to mention disturbing.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Professor Kristen Ghodsee in the gender and women's studies program was very influential on my way of thinking during freshman and sophomore years. Unfortunately, she has been on sabbatical for what seems like forever, so I was able to take only two classes with her. I also had contact with her through what is now called the Democratic Left, for which she was the faculty advisor.

Music Professor Robert Greenlee, whom everyone calls Robby, has been my choir conductor for the past four years. He's kind of indescribable, but in a good way. Suffice to say that at the end of every semester the choir compiles a list of "Robbyisms," which are generally Robby's unique descriptions of how he wants us to sound (as opposed to how we do sound), or what he wants us to sing like. Examples range from singing like Russian peasants (good) to sounding like wet cardboard (bad). The best part is that this works!

If there is any professor I could call a mentor, it would probably be Professor Tautz. She taught my German 101 class, and I feel a certain debt for that splendid introduction to the language. In all of my dealings with her, she has displayed patience and perceptiveness, and she has always prodded me to achieve my intellectual potential.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
Though the Chamber Choir is technically a class, I consider it a respite from my other academic activities. It's been a joy and a privilege being instructed by Robby for four years. An added bonus is that the choir has traveled to California and Chile during my time here.

I am also a member of Ursus Verses, one of two coed a cappella groups on campus. Ursus is really my pride and joy, something I'm just proud to have been a part of since before I even started here (I sang a gig with the group the summer before my freshman year). Some of my closest friendships and fondest memories are directly attributable to my being in Ursus.

Freshman and sophomore years I worked at Thorne dining hall as a dishwasher, line server and SuperSnack assistant. I am proud to say that I was named an Outstanding Student Employee my freshman year, for which I received some cool stationery and ice cream with hot fudge. Since last spring I have worked at the circulation desk of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. It's a great job because my supervisors are really wonderful people, and I just love being around books.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
During the Fall 2005 semester I studied in Berlin through the Center for the International Education of Students (IES). It was important for me to finally immerse myself in the German language, and I was able to do that, thanks in part to my absurdly friendly host family. I strongly recommend that everyone — and I mean everyone — visit Berlin at least once.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
A short list: riding the mechanical bull with a broken finger my freshman year (bad idea), Chamber Choir trips to California and Chile, and a weekend retreat with Ursus my sophomore year.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Try new things. You don't have as much time here as you think. Also, don't get stuck fulfilling requirements your senior year (ahem).

What quirky or fun thing did you wish you knew before you came to Bowdoin?
Just how many great little stores there are in Brunswick. Two of my favorites are Gulf of Maine bookstore and Bart and Greg's DVD Explosion.

Story posted on June 07, 2007

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