Sam Tung '09

Sam Tung '09

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Major: English with a minor in Visual Arts

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
In high school, I wanted to attend a small liberal arts school, and Bowdoin was a perfect fit except for the lack of a fencing program. I actually wasn't accepted into any of my top choices and did my freshman year at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Northwestern, for me, was way too large and pre-professional, and certainly not the liberal arts experience I'd been looking for. I applied to transfer, this time including Bowdoin on my list—I was a good fencer but didn't have career aspirations, and in the long run decided that it was more important for me to be at a school I actually enjoyed, and was getting the education I wanted. I was accepted and haven't looked back since.

Paradoxically, coming to this small liberal arts college is what gave me the space to do what I needed to do to explore my passions. The flexibility of a liberal arts experience has been incredibly beneficial as I've explored territory that has, in some instances, been a little uncharted as far as typical college studies go—my passion for comics and fencing in particular.

Why did you choose your major?
I've always been fascinated by stories, whether it's Norse mythology or Marvel comics. I've also been drawing for as long as I can remember, and have long been convinced of the power of images to communicate. The union of English and visual arts was a very natural choice for me. Jim Mullen, my Drawing I teacher, was actually the professor who encouraged me to pursue an English major. A liberal arts education—where the connections between academic disciplines is highly emphasized—has been really great in giving me an education in "visual storytelling," rather than an unrelated major and minor in English and visual arts.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
I really enjoyed History of Science and Technology of the Twentieth Century with David Hecht. It's the only class in the history department I've taken at Bowdoin and I initially signed up simply because it fit my schedule. However, it not only clarified the history of important scientific events of the last 100 years, but provided an interesting perspective on the public's perception of scientific advancements and scientists. Professor Hecht is not just knowledgeable, but passionate about the subject. We had some very interesting readings and some really lively class discussions. It was fun and interesting and something a little outside of the classes I usually take, which I think is pretty much the best anyone could hope for in a liberal arts program. I'm also a pretty big science fiction geek, so the class also provided ample fuel to add to the fire of my imagination.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
One of the most important parts of my Bowdoin experience has been my work with Anthony Walton, writer in residence in the English department. I first took a class with him the fall of my junior year—Nonfiction Literary Narratives. He was gracious enough to mentor me under a Surdna Undergraduate Research Fellowship the summer after my junior year, and we have continued independent study work this year. I've learned an immense amount from him about storytelling, and he never accepts less from me than my absolute best.

Professors Mark Wethli and Jim Mullen in the art department have provided a great deal of support and insight into developing my artistic skills. Professors Elizabeth Muther and Mary Edsall in the English department have been really supportive, guiding me in the exploration of story and narrative.

Sam_Tung_Fencing.jpg
Sam Tung '09 (second from left) with the Fencing Club, founded by Carl Barron '38 (center) pictured with his grandchildren at his sides.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
Something I'm wildly proud of at Bowdoin is the Fencing Club, which I started my first (sophomore) year at Bowdoin with a few of my friends. Again, I think it's something that I only could have done at a small school like Bowdoin—we applied for funding and were able to outfit a small group of beginners and bring a coach up from the Portland Fencing Center. Over the last couple years, we've been able to expand the team and acquire more gear, and began competing in individual Maine tournaments as well as on the intercollegiate circuit. All of this came to a head last spring when we fenced at Club Championships and ran into the Northwestern team! It's been great getting to continue fencing, sharing the sport I love and being at a college that has been so supportive—I've really gotten to have my cake and eat it, too.

I'm also a member of BOKA, the oldest coed a cappella group on campus. I don't actually sing, but snuck in on vocal percussion. It's a lot of fun making music, and I've made some great friends who I probably wouldn't have met otherwise. We have a new CD out called "Down to Business"—it's very cool and I can't recommend it enough.

There are so many great things to do on campus and I've done my best to sample everything. I was also a member of Burnett House the first year it was a College House, I'm an admissions tour guide, and have been known to play flute in the concert band.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I didn't study abroad. I only have three years at Bowdoin and I wanted to make sure I got to enjoy it as much as I possibly could. I think off-campus study a great experience for everyone who takes advantage of it, but with my unique circumstance it didn't really seem practical.

What have you done during your summers?
The summer after my freshman year of college, I rode my bike across Missouri and basically got excited to come to Bowdoin.

After sophomore year, I found a summer job through eBear working at Bibli's Bookshelf, a small online library featuring illustrated stories. I got paid to spend the summer in Philadelphia, reading and drawing. It was great to spend some time on my own and see some more of the East Coast. More importantly, I was able to really hone not just my drawing ability, but my sense of storytelling through image.

This past summer, I was awarded a Surda Undergraduate Research Fellowship under Professor Anthony Walton. I worked on writing and illustrating a fictional graphic novel. It was a really productive experience for me both in terms of creating art and gaining an appreciation for how much hard work that creation is. It was really great getting to spend the summer in Maine, too!

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
A single memory? That's a tall order. I can think of 50 anecdotes I'd like to share, but I'm going to go with the following: After having a better first year at Bowdoin than I could have possibly imagined, and a great but long summer away from Maine, I couldn't wait to get back and start my junior year. My first night back on campus I went to Moulton Union dining hall with my friend Margo Clark, a fellow transfer student. Midway through dinner, the entire dining hall—through some psychic link—began singing "Raise Songs to Bowdoin." We joined in and belted at the top of our lungs, punching the air on "FRIEND." It was a great moment, with everyone brought together with their love of Bowdoin and the excitement of starting a new year.

What are your plans for after graduation?
This summer, I have an internship at HBO in Santa Monica, California, under Kary Antholis '84, who is the vice president of miniseries. In the future, I'd love to break into the film, television, or comics world and I think this could be a great first step into the entertainment industry.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Bowdoin's opportunities are rich and diverse, a true liberal arts experience. In terms of both classes and extracurricular activities, definitely try out new things. Whether it's Computer Science 101 or auditioning for an a cappella group, get out there and try new things!

What quirky or fun thing do you wish you knew before you came to Bowdoin?
You can get a punch card at the Café! For every six drinks you buy you get a cup of coffee for FREE!!

Story posted on February 04, 2009

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