Peter Schoene '05

Peter Schoene '05

Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Major: Religion and Environmental Studies, with a minor in Biology

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I originally came to visit Bowdoin on a whim. I was in the area with my dad doing college visits and Bowdoin wasn't even on the map at all. But [my dad's] friend said, "Oh, you know, you should check it out. You'll probably like it. Anyway, you'll like Maine a lot." So we made the voyage up and I remember stepping out of the car right by the Admissions Office and I just thought, "Ooh, I really like this place a lot." I don't know why. My theory is that it was the pine trees and the sea, which is very much a Northwest thing, and it's also a Maine thing. Things were clicking and I was pretty much set on [the College] right after that.

How did you decide on your major?
I pretty much knew, coming into college, that I wanted to do Environmental Studies. I've been an outdoor enthusiast for a while and that's just what gets me going. Then once I got to Bowdoin, I found out that ES is a [coordinate] major, and I thought, "Oh, what's it going to be?" I thought it might be Biology, or maybe Anthropology, but I took a religion class on Buddhist thought my freshman fall, and I thought, "Wow, this stuff is really cool." Then I took another religion class and I took another and I thought, "Man, this stuff is just awesome." So I kind of fell into [Religion] just because I found the classes so compelling. With Religion, I liked the questions that they asked and that they ask you to think outside yourself and understand different people's way of understanding the world, which I think is very admirable in academics.

What has been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
I think my favorite class was Asian Religions and the West, which was my first senior seminar, so it was very challenging. I took it sophomore year. [The class] looked at how Asian religions have been interpreted by English and American scholars, and whether or not those interpretations have been true to the subject or cast it as something totally different than what it was. It was a very compelling subject and it can obviously apply itself to most any kind of humanities study.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in? Do you have an on campus job?
When I came to Bowdoin I was very overwhelmed because there are just so many opportunities. I did two years of soccer and I was in a lot of dance performances and World Music Ensemble, and I was having a great time, but I was just getting totally overwhelmed. So then in my sophomore year, I said, "You know what, I think I need to focus a lot more." So I started dedicating myself to the Outing Club, mostly for my own sanity, and I've been very happy doing that. [This year,] I'm one of the co-presidents with Callie [Gates '05].

One thing that stands out was just this last fall, for Fall Break, we did a beginner-intermediate whitewater kayaking trip. I'm not a huge whitewater kayaker, but I still really like it a lot. And on that trip, it was an overnight, so we had a raft that had all of our gear and then the rest of us were just kayaking. And it was really memorable not only because it was in the fall, so all the leaves were changing, and there was a mist on everything and it was this idyllic setting. It was also the fact that I came to Bowdoin with zero whitewater experience at all. I was mostly a climber, and coming to Bowdoin, and through the Outing Club, I [learned about] kayaking, canoeing, and raft-guiding, which has been a lot of fun, and I've enjoyed [those activities] throughout my four years here.

I'm a librarian, too - over at the Music Library.

Did you study abroad?
I studied Natural and Cultural Ecology in Belize through SIT [School for International Training]. I went into it with pretty much zero expectations, which now I think is a good thing because I was totally blown away by the entire experience. We were looking at different ecosystems in Belize, and then we were also looking at all the different cultures there and how they interact with the land and with the ecosystems. There are five or six major ethnic groups who are totally different from each other, and yet they have this common Belizian pride, which is, I believe, somewhat of a lesson for us in America. They get along very well and they are very friendly to each other. That's something they take pride in, the fact that they treat each other with dignity and respect.

For my independent study down there, I mapped out one of the keys which the University of Belize had just attained. So I was out there with a Global Positioning System (GPS), which is a little computer that you have in your hand and it hooks up to a whole bunch of satellites, which, through complex stuff, tells you exactly where on Earth you are. Then you download that onto a computer with a program called Geographic Information System (GIS), and then you can map it out and compare maps and lay them on top of each other. So it's a different way of looking at geographical information. I was mapping out its borders and then also mapping out the different ecological features of it. I was also going through its channels and doing salinity tests to see how fresh water permeates into the salt water in the channels and mapping out those water flows. And any time I saw an alligator, I mapped that out. The idea was, then, in a couple of years, the University of Belize would take that information. They're hoping to maybe develop a research center [on that key] to understand that kind of ecosystem.

What's your best Bowdoin memory?
The Spring Gala freshman year. It was awesome, being out in the Field House with the live band playing cheesy but good songs. There was so much space in the Field House that [my girlfriend] Laura and I had a twenty-foot radius to dance in, which is how we like it. It was great. As much as I'm not into huge parties, I'm a sucker for formal dances, being all dressed up, everyone looking half nervous-half excited. Unfortunately, the Galas since then haven't struck the same chord, but we always get real excited for them. Can't wait for this year's.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be at Chewonki, which is just down the road, about twenty minutes away from here in Wiscasset. It's a wonderful organization that has all kinds of components to it, but in general, it's an organization that focuses on environmental education and sustainable living education. I'm very excited about that. I'll be on the environmental education staff, teaching mostly middle schoolers on [Chewonki's] four hundred acre campus, taking them out for usually four or five days at a time, doing different natural history lessons and team-building challenges. All kinds of stuff. That will start mid-August.

What advice about the Bowdoin experience would you give to a prospective student?
I would say that the Bowdoin College experience is what you want it to be. Like I said earlier, there's so much here that you need to pick and choose what you want to do, both academically and extracurricularly. At Bowdoin, you can pretty much do whatever you want, but it takes initiative on the student's part, which is something you have to do in order to take full advantage of Bowdoin. Don't expect Bowdoin to give you anything. Use it as an opportunity to get what you want.

Story posted on April 22, 2005

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