Sarah Mountcastle '05

Sarah Mountcastle '05

Hometown: Orono, Maine
Major: Anthropology and Spanish

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
My two older brothers came to Bowdoin. David is class of 1999 and Andrew is class of 2001, so I had come to visit, watch sporting events, and do the tour and everything, and it was just kind of a place that felt like home to me. When I went on the college circuit around New England and then through Virginia, I kept comparing [the colleges I saw] to Bowdoin, so that was how I knew [Bowdoin] was the place I wanted to go to.

How did you decide on your major?
I actually always knew I liked anthropology before I knew what anthropology was. I had this love of cultures when I was a little kid, and I used to love reading books about different countries and different places in the world. Then, the spring semester of my freshman year, I took Anthropology 101 with Professor Dickey and knew exactly that [Anthropology] was what I wanted to major in. I just remember loving the paper assignments. It really got me to critically think about experiences I've had in my life and put them in an academic perspective.

I've kind of always had this interest in Spanish and kept taking the courses every semester because I wanted to keep it up. And then, once I had done some traveling with Spanish, I knew that I also wanted that to be a major because I want to keep speaking Spanish throughout my life.

What has been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
The first one would be Genocide and Political Violence. That was with Professor White [of the Sociology Department] - he was visiting from Colby. That class was by far the most emotional class that I've taken at Bowdoin, but because it was so emotional, it really got me to delve deeply into all the topics. We had to do a group project on a genocide, so I picked Sudan with my partner and we ended up getting involved with the Sudanese community in Portland. That was an awesome class. I loved everything about it. There was a lot of reading, but I did everything because I cared for it.

Another one of my favorite classes would be Women and World Development with Professor Ghodsee. I loved the practical aspect of it - we had to create a non-profit organization [in] groups. My group and I decided to do an organization focusing on women in the cut flower industry in Ecuador, so we did this whole mock project on getting goods donated from Bowdoin College like goggles and plastic gloves and aprons, and bringing them down, and educating the women in the cut flower factories. That was just a really neat opening to non-profit world, which I think I want to go into.

Have you done any independent studies?
I did one in Spanish with Professor Yepes. It was part of the Latin American Studies grant, where they give you a grant to study in a Latin American country for the summer, for six weeks, and then you have to continue the project the following fall semester. So the summer after my sophomore year, I went [to Quito to] work with Center for the Young Working Girl. It's an organization that deals with children who work on the streets - selling candy, selling flowers, cleaning shoes - and keeps them in school and provides food and housing for some of the students. So when I came back, I volunteered with People's Regional Opportunity Program with Spanish-speaking kids in Portland - a Head Start program - and I compared the two non-profit organizations, [comparing] the economic status of both of the organizations and funding and management.

My second [independent study] was this past fall. [Last] summer, I got the Public Interest Career Fund [Scholarship] to go to Safe Passage in Guatemala City, which is another organization that helps children, but [these children] live in and around the Guatemala City dump. When I was there, I started an adult literacy organization for the moms, [and] when I came back, I didn't want to have it end after two months, so I took an independent study with Professor Ghodsee [of the Women's Studies Department] to learn how to write grants for non-profit organizations. I went to a grant-writing workshop, and I read up on adult literacy and the pedagogy of teaching adults, especially in third world countries. That was a great independent study. I applied for five grants, and I didn't get two of them, but I have yet to hear from three of them. They give you a six to nine month waiting period to find out. The grant would go to Safe Passage for an adult literacy program. [Editor's note: Safe Passage was founded by Hanley Denning '92.]

What extracurricular activities do you participate in? Do you have an on campus job?
My freshman and sophomore year, I was involved in the Admissions Office. I was a tour guide starting my freshman spring, and sophomore year I was an overnight coordinator and also a tour guide. [Also sophomore year,] I was a proctor.

Throughout my four years I've been involved in Obvious, a hip-hop dance group. It's a lot of fun. I didn't know how to dance before I came to Bowdoin.

Then this past year, I led an Alternative Spring Break trip to Nicaragua...through the Community Service Resource Center. It was so much fun. We got to gain all sorts of skills about being leaders - behind the scenes things, [reading] different things about service, and connecting service with academics. [The trip is focused on] building houses in a rural community.

I applied to be a YALP (Young Alumni Leadership Program) intern the spring semester of my junior year because I wanted to gain a greater understanding of Bowdoin as well as get a chance to meet and speak with senior administrators. Being the class relations intern with YALP has allowed me to meet new people in my class as well as take an active role in planning events for the senior class. Because of YALP, I have also been able to make friends with people I hadn't met until this year.

Have you studied abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I studied abroad in Grenada, Spain, with [the School for International Training]. The program focused on art history, anthropology, and Spanish. We got to do a lot of traveling with the group and with our professors throughout Spain, which was a really neat aspect of this particular program. In the end, we got to do an independent study project on anything we were interested in. I chose to go into some of the local schools to get "a children's perspective of the world." And I ended up with this bilingual book with children's quotes and drawings and then a supplementary essay about it. I included questions like "what's war?", "what's peace?", "what's money and how is it important?"

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
My favorite part about Bowdoin has been dinners in the dining hall, for many reasons. I feel like it's the one time in the day when I can talk with my friends and have really great conversations without feeling the pressure of having to do work or having to go somewhere or having something else to do. Our group of friends is known for staying at dinner for an hour and a half or two hours, but I always end up having great conversations and it's always really fun.

My favorite actual memory-memory [is when] my friends and I dress up like widows on Halloween - widows on a cruise. It's always a lot of fun. We get really into character. It's funny because we're known to some people on campus as being one of the widows. I'll see people in November or December [who say], "Weren't you a widow?" It's annual. I think it's going to be revived next year.

The reason it got started is because so many girls take Halloween as "Oh, I'm going to dress up like a nurse and wear a short skirt," and we're like, "No, that's not what Halloween is! We want to look ugly and we want to have fun doing it!" So that's why we did it. It's just so much fun - we have complete characters that come out. It's amazing. The tote bags and the accents and the nametags. We have a cabana boy - Roger Burleigh ['06]. It's great.

What are your plans after graduation?
I've applied for a job as the Service Learning Coordinator through the Community Service Resource Center. It's an AmeriCorps VISTA program. And I'm also a finalist for the Samuel Huntington Scholarship to do service for a year. So I have an interview this upcoming week, and that would be to go to Guatemala City and do the adult literacy program and run it.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first year about the Bowdoin experience?
Make Bowdoin your own college. There are so many things that are being offered and there are so many different groups that you can [join], but if there's something that you're really passionate about or really interested in, go for it. Bring that passion into Bowdoin, whether it's through bringing a guest speaker or starting an organization or bringing back your personal experiences into the classroom, because Bowdoin means so many things to so many different people. It's amazing place and you have to take advantage of all it has.

Story posted on April 29, 2005

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