I can hear the sea, the waves crashing on the shore, the seagulls crying out as they wheel overhead. I can hear the trees swaying in the wind, their leaves rustling as their branches swing to and fro. I can smell the pines on the wind, their needles clattering to the ground as robins, blue jays and chickadees play amongst them, calling out to one another when the sun rises in the east. At night, I can hear the sounds of the nocturnal, of deer and turkeys and raccoons, their faint shadows elongated before me as the dying sun sets in the west. 

In the summer, I can hear the sounds of working men, of lobster boats and hauling motors, fishing vessels and the slap of hull against wave, of wave against rock. I can hear the sounds of tourists as they explore the beaches and waterways, see the locals as they converse on their porches and walk from place to place. I can smell the restaurants as they start business for the day, their heavenly scent wafting across the water and eliciting sensations that no food could ever satisfy. I can also smell the bait of the lobstermen as they go about their work, the sting of their diesel engines and the odor of the catch that they have dredged from the bottom just as pleasant to me as the smell of the wharf-front eateries.

In the winter, all is quiet. The world is covered in a soft blanket of snow. Candles light the windows and fires roar in the hearths as the populace buckles down for the long, unrelenting cold. As the sea begins to freeze over during the long winter nights, the light of the full moon shimmers and dances off the frozen ocean. The sea comes alive in this light, frothed by the northeasterly winds that murmur us to rest.

This is my home of Harpswell, Maine. As anyone who knows me will tell you, Harpswell is “seven miles that-a-way, as the crow flies.” With a year-round population of under 5,000 and a summertime population probably double that, Harpswell is much like any other coastal town in Maine, a small hamlet loved by locals and visitors alike. It is also the home I have left to come to Bowdoin.

There are still parts of Harpswell thatremain unchanged here inland. The pines still smell just as sweet, the birds still chirp with the same fervor and the days are still just as cold. However, many things are different here. The chatter of squirrels has replaced the cries of the seagulls, the smell of Thorne and Moulton has replaced that of the lobster houses and the revelry of fellow students has replaced the sounds of nighttime critters.

What has not changed is the feeling of being home. The famous Bowdoin Hello, which many think is unique to the college, is a natural extension of the open and welcoming sensibilities of Maine, and I feel as at home here as I did in Harpswell. In my hardworking and dedicated fellow students, I see those same men and women who taught me the value of hard work. In the community that my fellow students foster, I see the family whom I have left behind, their compassion for one another evident around me every day.

From my first visits to the college I have known that Bowdoin could be a place that I could call home. Though it may look, sound and smell different from my old home, Bowdoin is not so different from that which I have known all my life, and I look forward to spending my next four years here. So from a lifelong Mainer to his fellow Bowdoin students, I say:

Welcome to Maine.
Welcome to Bowdoin.
Welcome Home.