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One of the best things about Bates has to be the size--it's a small place which is home to a lot of tight-knit groups of friends, most of whom are on the lookout to meet new and exciting people. If you're looking to remain anonymous, I would say that Bates is probably not the school for you. Likewise, if you're looking to be in a bustling city, Bates is also probably not your speed. The Lewiston-Auburn area is about 60,000 people and primarily composed of blue-collar people, who are sometimes less than overjoyed to be reminded of the presence of an elite college in their midst. That said, I think that Lewiston often takes students by surprise both by being a big fat reality check for those from wealthy backgrounds, and by having far more to offer than one would initially assume. Frequent student complaints include the lack of things to do in Lewiston (I would write these folks off as not being adventurous enough), and people who are displeased with the lack of big-school resources at a small college.
Bates is a home away from home - with all the good and bad that implies. The good is your friends become family, the staff are family, and the professors can become just that close. The bad is tensions do arise, just as in a family. It is a small campus that tends to become isolated (especially during the cold winter months!) from the rest of the world unless you make a concerted effort to expand your bubble and participate in the Lewiston/Auburn community. That closeness means you know everything about everyone, and they know everything about you. In reaction, most students -over half - spend at least a portion of their junior year abroad experiencing a new envrionment. This makes the campus more dynamic with a wide range of experiences. Everyone has a unique and interesting life story to tell that shapes the culture of Bates. In recent years there has been significant racial tension and complaints that Bates is not as welcoming to non-white ethnicities. Personally, I never found this to be the case. But in response to these concerns the administration is making a concentrated effort to expand our diversity. Bates is in a transition period where they are defining how we want the college to look in the next 50 years and the students are happily included in this process. The biggest complaint I have is the Bates Apathy - in an effort to accept everyone and PC, controversial topics are shied away from in daily conversation, though often discussed in the classroom.
The students are the best part about Bates. They are all really friendly and enthusiastic about being at Bates. Most students are genuine, engaging, and caring. Since the student body is small, you really get to know most people in the school at least by their face. You do not see many strangers on campus. You also become very close with the people in your grade. I think this is a great size for the campus because you still meet new people each year, but you are not overwhelmed by a huge student body. You never get lost in the crowd. The big spots to hang out on campus are commons, milts, and anywhere outside when the weather is nice: the quad, football field, etc. The town of Lewiston is not too exciting and I don't think that students go there often. However, there are some nice restaurants if you want to go out and people take many trips to Walmart and Shaws during the week. There is a lot of school pride. A lot of students go to the school events, like sports games, plays, dance performances, concerts, etc. People are very eager to get involved and support their friends in activities. One experience that I will always remember is the puddle jump, a winter event in which students jump into the frozen pond. It was an exhilarating experience in which many students attended and cheered each other on. It is definitely an experience that all students should try at least once before they graduate.
When I tell people familiar with Bates' setting that I go there, the first thing they ask is, ÒHow do you like Lewiston?Ó Lewiston is known as the grittiest of Maine cities. I mean, this is Maine, and even it's grittiest is still tamer than plenty of bad neighborhoods in college cities. I feel completely safe walking around by myself during the daytime. At night, I donÕt stray far from campus if IÕm alone. Lewiston was actually one of the things that made me want to come to Bates. Lewiston is real. Every college campus has great security, so it's nice to be able to have a few minute walk into town that can immediately rattle you back to reality. I really wanted to go to school in a city, but I knew that it was more important to me to attend a small school. With Bates, I was able to compromise these two desires (small school, real--but small--city.) Sometimes you'll hear students complain that Bates is too small. While it's true that gossip gets around pretty quickly and you can almost always find a familiar face in a crowd, that's one thing you have to think about when considering a small school. And, of course, on the flip side of having a small student population is the small class sizes and individual attention you get from professors.
Bates itself is a great place to live and learn. Though small, the campus is a great setting for what takes place there. Part of its appeal is that the student body is a mere 1800 students, which is great in terms of living arrangements and class sizes. Batesies tend to flourish in the environment, particularly because the campus's size means that one can really stand out in one's area of specialty. Batesies are radically loyal to their school, though that loyalty seems to be lost post-graduation in terms of alumni dollars. In terms of town-gown relations, try again some other day; there is a definitive divide between students and residents of Lewiston. Bates has a lot of interesting traditions, among them Lick-It and the Puddle Jump. The former is a dance the night before the All-College Gala, in which students wear as little clothing as possible and dance until 2 am. It's a great time. The latter activity, the Puddle Jump, happens in Winter Semester, where students cut a hole in Lake Andrews (the on-campus lake) and jump into the frgidly cold waters. I very much like Bates. As a first-year, it was important to me that I find a place where being a first-year was not a limiting factor in terms of access to activities. Bates, in its egalitarian tradition, holds that all activities whould be open to everyone-- and they stick to it. I didn't feel lost, something I feel most first-year students elsewhere do feel. When I came to Bates, I really did not know what to expect. The winters are horrible and depressing, but there are ways the college compensates for that. Bates was very welcoming and though I expected that college would bring more things to do, I soon found that Bates provides enough to do and the opportunity to create your own fun. If you're from a city, transitioning to Bates is very hard, but ultimately worth it. The people are the best thing about the school; its the people that make Bates such a great place to be.
While Bates is a highly reputable school with an incredible faculty and very driven students, the atmosphere is definitely relaxed and friendly. In fact when I hear the word "college" it reminds me of some pillared ediface looming over everyone, and that isn't the feeling I get at Bates at all. I think one of the best aspects about Bates is that it knows not to take itself too seriously. There's no staunchness or stuffiness that usually is accompanied by "brick and ivy institutions". It's challenging and very engaging, but by no means intimidating. For the most part students and professors are really comfortable with each other and interact outside the classroom as well as during class time. I wouldn't hesitate to ask my favorite professors to join me for a beer, and I've enjoyed dinner at professors' houses.
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