Zvi Shapiro '07

Zvi Shapiro

Zvi Shapiro '07

Major: Psychology
Hometown: Jerusalem, Israel

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I was born and raised in Israel, so I barely knew anything about colleges in the United States before I began looking into schools. To make things worse, even though my parents grew up here, their knowledge was only relevant up to the late sixties when they moved to Israel. I ended up researching schools using college guidebooks and narrowed the possibilities after consulting my relatives. After visiting a few schools I decided to apply to Bowdoin as an early decision candidate.

Why did you choose your major?
When I was a little kid my brother took an introduction to psychology class. I was immediately fascinated with the idea of investigating people. Pretty soon after that my brother decided he couldn't stand psychology, but I was already hooked. Even though psychology turned out to be very different from what I (somewhat romantically) imagined it to be, I can't imagine a more interesting subject matter.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
All the psychology classes I have taken with Professor Barbara Held fall into this category. The combination of Professor Held's intellect, humor, and extremely strong personality meant that there was a great interplay between humor and a serious consideration and reconsideration of ideas. I'm still impressed by the extensiveness of the notes I took considering the class did not have a final exam.

I also really enjoyed taking Japanese. Because I was somewhat traumatized by my past experience studying Arabic, I was very hesitant to study such a notoriously difficult language. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that despite the inevitable rigorous nature of the classes, the professors always made them fun.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
I have been lucky to be able to work closely with my advisor, Professor Louisa Slowiaczek, during the school year and the summer. She has provided me with an amazing example of being serious about your work while maintaining a sense of fun. Also inspiring has been Professor Slowiaczek's devotion to students. I don't think I've encountered a more welcoming and helpful professor.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to have taken three classes with Professor Suzanne Lovett. All of Professor Lovett's classes have been enjoyable, but her senior seminar has been especially helpful in teaching me how to seriously approach, read, and analyze academic papers.

Have you engaged in any independent research while at Bowdoin?
I previously worked on one independent study with Professor Slowiaczek. I helped her with an experiment looking at the extent to which word typicality affects people's processing of those words. Specifically, we looked into whether nouns and verbs that have typical word patterns are processed faster than nouns with verb-like patterns and vice versa.

I am currently conducting two independent studies. The first is also with Professor Slowiaczek. I am assisting in her work examining the relationship between emotions and the way we process words. I am conducting a second independent study in psychology with Professor Sam Putnam. This study mainly consists of a literature review examining the relationship between temperamental attributes and the emergence of behavioral problems.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I began my work experience at the Information Technology (IT) Department's Student Help Desk during the spring of my freshman year. I continued working there for another semester and during the summer of my junior year.

I also began working as a research assistant for Professor Slowiaczek during the same summer. I enjoyed my job at IT but I decided to focus on working within the psychology department so I could gain work experience in the field of psychology. I continued working for Professor Slowiaczek as a research assistant last semester and also as an Introduction to Psychology study group facilitator. This semester I'm continuing to work as a study group facilitator in Professor Putnam's class.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
I spent seven months studying and living in Japan. I was lucky enough to receive a Freeman Fellowship to study in Japan so I started out by taking an intensive summer language class at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU). JCMU is located near the somewhat polluted Lake Biwa (we still swam in it) in Hikone, a city close to Osaka. One of my Japanese professors, Sato Sensei, happens to teach during the summer.

I continued my stay by spending the fall semester studying in Chiba Prefecture, which is located near Tokyo, and living with a host family. Choosing to live with a host family has been one of the decisions I'm happiest about. I got to practice my Japanese every night with my host mother and sisters. I saw relatively little of my host father who worked very long hours, like most Japanese men. I even got to introduce my host family to my real family (who visited me), and to two of my Bowdoin friends when we traveled to Japan over spring break.

I also was given a "field placement" as part of an anthropology class that examined the Japanese workplace. I was placed at Meitetsu Kankou Ryokou Gaisha, which is a travel agency located in Ginza, one of the most expensive areas of Tokyo. Because I was unable to perform most jobs, I was constantly sent to pick up various leaflets from hotels and department stores. Still, I got some idea about what a traditional Japanese workplace is like.

I finished my study-abroad experience by traveling on my own for a little over two weeks. I used a special pass that allowed me to take unlimited local trains so I spent an average of about four to five hours each day on trains slowly traveling from Tokyo to the southern tip of Kyushu, the southernmost mainland island. Train rides were a combination of amazing views, meeting and talking to different people (some nice, some not), and anxiously staring out the window in case I missed my stop.

Growing up in a foreign country and coming from a family of travelers made me think that Japan would not overwhelm me. However, Japanese culture combines so many foreign and familiar elements that it's difficult trying to describe the exact differences and similarities between the cultures. I would wholeheartedly recommend the study abroad experience. As I said before, the experience inspired me to return to Japan for spring break with two of my friends. I feel fortunate to have been able to show them some of the places and things that left such a strong impression on me.

What have you done during your summers?
My lack of concrete summer plans after freshman year left me somewhat stranded in Israel with nothing to do. I ended up taking a bartending class, seeing a lot of movies at the Jerusalem film festival and on video, and spending time with all my friends. Unfortunately, my friends are attending Israeli universities, which operate on slightly different schedule. I was unlucky enough to be around during their busiest time of the year. I returned to Bowdoin with the realization that I need to plan out my summers in advance.

As a result I spent the following summer taking an intensive Japanese language class in Japan. Last summer I stayed in Brunswick and worked as a research assistant for Professor Slowiaczek.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
One of my best memories is dressing up as a spider for Halloween after my roommate dressed up as a ladybug. Both costumes were originally intended for five or six year olds, and we had to creatively solve the different problems that came up as a result (awkward midriff for example). Incidentally, another great memory also involves a giant spider costume. This time I wore it as part of the introductory dance class's spring dance show performance.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I'm planning on going to graduate school for clinical psychology in a year or two. Before that, I'm going to get some more experience in the field. I plan on getting a job, perhaps conducting research or working in a therapeutic setting.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Freshman year is like being blindfolded and sent through a maze. It's filled with terrible analogies. Just do your best and try not to get hurt. Everything will make more sense in about a year so; in the meanwhile try to experience as much as you can, be open, and maintain your individuality.

What quirky or fun thing did you wish you knew before you came to Bowdoin?
I wish I knew that being in Brunswick during the summer was a blast. Last summer three of my friends and I rented a house together. One of my friends worked in town and the rest of us worked at Bowdoin. The lack of a gnawing feeling urging me to study for a quiz, midterm, finals, or at least work on a paper allowed me to take in and enjoy Brunswick to a greater extent.

Most nights consisted of us cooking dinner and then sitting down to watch Jeopardy! while eating Popsicles, which is probably more fun than it sounds. Other memorable experiences are taking trips to the beach and nature spots (one of my housemates was a Mainer), playing in a weekly soccer game inspired by the World Cup, and watching a lot of movies, many of which ranged from the artistic to the bizarre.

Story posted on April 23, 2007

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