- Class: Sophomore
- Major: Other
- Gender: F
- High School: Wayland High School
- Transfer Student: N
The best thing about Bowdoin is definitely the fact that you know everyone. Obviously, there are situations where that might be a pain, but in general, I love being able to walk around campus and know the names of half the people I pass. The size also helps the school really take care of its students -- the food and the housing wouldn't be so good if the facilities had to manage a population twice this size. The only reason that I would want Bowdoin to be bigger is so that we could get more prestigious speakers and music artists. Other than that, the size is perfect -- I really like that I wtill get to know most of my class by graduation. I spend most of my time on campus in my social house or in the Union. The rooms are so big that I really never want to leave, but I try to make use of a few really good study spots. Bowdoin has lots of random study rooms with amazing old furniture and huge windows that I never spend enough time in. Brunswick is by no means a college town, but it is really nice -- the town of Amherst might be the only NESCAC town that's bigger (but still worth visiting). There's a Hannaford's and a 7/11, a movie theater, a bunch of thrift stores, a ton of restaurants (the highlights are Shere Punjab, an Indian restaurant, and Frontier Cafe, which is overpriced but gives you an awesome view of the river). If you can get a car, there's also a bunch of bigger stores in another part of Brunswick called Cooks Corner, where there's a much bigger movie theater and a Starbucks, as well as even more shopping in Freeport ten minutes away, and more stuff in Portland twenty-five minutes away. There are a few bars in Brunswick that seniors do actually go to, but I've never been there because they're pretty strict about fakes. Town-gown relations are good, for the most part -- we've had some problems with high schoolers trying to get into our house parties, but I've never heard of any of them actually getting inside. The Bowdoin administration is pretty accessible; I've babysat for the Dean and they all meet with the student government every month to talk about whatever issues come up. I think one problem Bowdoin has is the tendency to let some problems remain unsolved in favor of one big sweeping solution -- for example, the Health Center and the gym both really should be renovated, but instead of doing it now, they're going to build a fancy schmancy "Wellness Center" for both in 2010. That's kind of a small complaint, though. There was a controversy on campus recently over some hazing, but it was unbelievably tame as far as hazing horror stories go. Some people on the sailing team posted their "initiation" photos on Webshots (not even Facebook) and there was an inquiry, but believe me, I am not shilling for Bowdoin when I say there are seriously no hazing problems here. It was one woman claiming to be a "hazing expert" trying to raise some publicity for herself and one team that gave their photo album the wrong name. There's definitely a lot of school pride at Bowdoin -- it can almost make you feel weird if you aren't 100% happy all the time because everyone else seems to be. There's also a big rivalry with the other two Maine colleges -- you can always hear us shouting "mules are sterile!" at the hockey game with Colby. One thing that's unusual at Bowdoin that I really would have liked to know is that there is technically a ban against hard liquor and drinking games on campus, even if you're 21. In practice, this doesn't really have any effect, and it basically sanctions beer drinking -- but if you have a party in your room with either of those things and Security happens to come, it can be a real pain to deal with. As long as you're responsible, though, you probably won't even attract their attention.
Academics at Bowdoin are pretty much all they're cracked up to be. I have only been dissatisfied with one professor I've had so far, and it was in a math class that I took to fill a requirement. Bowdoin's requirements are easy to fill - you need to take a science course, a math course, a course that "explores social differences," a course in "international perspectives," and an arts course. I haven't had any problems filling my requirements at all -- it might be more difficult for math/science people as they're very humanities-centered, but that's the price you pay for going to a liberal arts school. I would say I've only had two professors at most who didn't know my name (or at least weren't good at pretending they did), and both of them were my freshman year. I have never had a class with more than 45 people in it and my smallest class was seven. Many people are on a first name basis with their major advisers and there is definitely some of that typical liberal arts stuff that you hear about babysitting for professors' kids (I've done that) and going to professors' houses (done that as well). The time that I spend with professors outside of class is almost entirely within the Government department, unless I have a legitimate question and need to go to office hours. I definitely have things in common with my professors besides the work that they're assigning me, though, and I have gotten to know two of them very well after only a year and a half here. Bowdoin students do have intellectual conversations outside of class, but it doesn't just happen spontaneously. I thought when I got here there would be a late night philosophical debate practically every weeknight -- it's not the case. Usually it will happen if you grab lunch with people after class. Also, in my experience, Bowdoin students are really not competitive at all. My high school classes were constantly "what'd you get? what'd you get?" and I haven't had that asked of me by anyone unless we're complaining about how hard an exam was. Education at Bowdoin is a mix of being career-oriented and academic. It's really what you make of it and who you hang out with. I would say about half my friends are majoring in something that's clearly applicable, like Gov, Econ or Pre-Health, and the other half are majoring in something that will leave them living in a cardboard box.
Bowdoin is very diverse for a NESCAC school, but that's pretty faint praise. A Bowdoin professor actually wrote a book called "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?", although she wasn't referring to Bowdoin specifically. There are some social groups along ethnic lines, but there are also plenty of people who are friends with people inside those groups and there's never been any tension between them. The LGBT community is small, with a lot more L's than G's. Whether you think Bowdoin is accepting depends in large part with who you hang out with -- the women's rugby teams and the theater program would probably say their friends are extremely accepting, the football team maybe a little less so. No one who's out gets harassed or made to feel uncomfortable if they're out, but I think that at such a small school, coming out is a big enough deal that a lot of people wait until after graduation to do it. All these different types of students definitely do interact, though -- the more you get involved with extracurriculars at Bowdoin, the more diverse you realize it is. Most Bowdoin students are from New England; 25% are from Massachusetts alone. A friend of mine at another school told me they had a "Rep Your State" party and I told her Bowdoin could have "Rep Your Town in Boston Metrowest" with the same number of people. That said, there are a ton of people from the tri-state area, a lot from Pennsylvania, a lot from Chicago, and a decent amount from the West Coast. There are very few people from the Midwest or the South. Politically, Bowdoin is no Vassar or Hampshire, but we are still very active. A number of Bowdoin students have gone on to work for College Democrats of America and the founder of Students for Barack Obama is a senior; she now sits on his national campaign's board of directors. There are like, ten conservatives on campus -- I think the rest are in hiding out of shame. As a public school student, I think it's incredibly easy to tell who went to private school and who didn't, but the class divide is definitely not that simple. There are a lot of international students, a lot of people from wealthy towns with excellent public schools, and a lot of students who are on financial aid. Many of the people I know who are on financial aid are not embarrassed to talk about it at all -- during my freshman year, I was not on financial aid, and I actually was more uncomfortable about admitting that than admitting I'm on it now. Girls actively compare their bargain shopping, which I always think is a good sign that we're too rich and entitled. People definitely would not talk about how much they'll earn one day -- even the ones who will earn millions would never be that crass. There are people who will namedrop or talk a little too much about their vacation house(s), but I've been surprised multiple times to find out that someone completely down-to-earth is one of the wealthier people I know. There's only pressure to dress up for class if you don't like being in the minority wearing sweats, but no one is going to stare at you if do -- especially in the morning. I will say this, though -- I didn't know much about designer jeans before I came to college, and now I can recognize almost all the major brands; I think they osmosised into my brain. There are a few girls who will wear heels to class, but I think everyone kind of agrees that they look like idiots.
The Best Things
The close proximity of a city, a major outlet center, an adorable New England town, great hiking/skiing, and the ocean.
The Worst Things
The long winters.