Four years. Nearly all of us have four years to construct a major, an identity and a home in this little academic bubble in the middle of Brunswick, Maine. Nick Tonckens ’16 is master of sessions in the Peucinian Society (the person who organizes the debates). He is also the editor in chief of the Globalist, a position very grounded in his life experience in different countries. Furthermore, Nick is a self-proclaimed policy dork (“Frankly, I’m a nerd and I love big picture policy issues and I always have,” he said). But in all of these activities, Nick has, over his four years here, created an identity and a place for himself in the Bowdoin community.

For people who have grown up in one place, four years is a short period of time to create a sense of belonging and an entire community to always have. Nick never had any sort of standardized or consistent definition of home and therefore never had too strong of an attachment to one place.

“People always ask, ‘Oh, where are you from?’ It’s a standard get-to-know-you question. So I have this set of rote answers; I’m from Maine but also kind of from France,” Nick said. The long answer is that I was born in France, lived in England, then Connecticut and now sort of Maine, sort of France. But, I’m also a Dutch-American dual citizen. Those are the facts of it.”

Going to college, in a way, acts like changing the place of home. The entirety of your life, short of family and high school friends, are in a completely different place. No matter the distance, the distinction between the childhood home and the college home and any future hopes or aspirations towards a different place tend to muddle any clear cut definition of home.

“Home is where family and social life and your personal investments all align. I don’t see that ever happening in one place. Home is where your friends, your social connections and your personal destiny all intertwine,” Nick said.

“I don’t think that there will ever be one place that accomplishes all three of those things for me. Just because I hope to have a career that takes me to all sorts of different places. And I’ll have friends scattered across all sorts of places, as I always have.”

So what is life like in a world where we have more than one place we could call home?
Nick has experienced that since he has lived not only in different places, but different countries. One time in particular is when he moved to America as a kid. 

“I didn’t feel American for a long time. It took me a long time to really accept the fact that I’ve been primarily shaped by this country,” Nick said.

“I felt fundamentally like I did not have roots in this place. But I also couldn’t say that I was English. I wasn’t really Dutch either. I wasn’t French. It made me feel a little bit like I had been robbed. I had roots. They were all just shallow.”

Is that the road each Bowdoin student is heading on? Or each person that moves away for college and then into their adult life? In a world that is increasingly small with the easy use of transportation and global communication, are we all set on a track of shallower and shallower roots?

For Nick, at least, that may be the case. “It’s doubtful that I would stay in one city for the rest of my life. I just simply don’t see that happening. I have led a life that is too open to ever see myself being comfortable just living in one place. I would go absolutely nuts.”

“I think more of the population in the 21st century is going to be like me, people with shallow roots. I think traditional ways of life and identifying to your community are going to be gradually stripped away.” 

Yet in the wake of Homecoming Weekend, is there still a sense of attachment after we finally move the tassel across our graduation caps? So many graduates came back this year, be it people from the Class of 2015 or people from the Class of 1959. Perhaps Bowdoin, in its tiny, close-knit hamlet, has done the impossible in the age of transience and created a community with a sense of home that has a little more permanence.

“When everyone’s at Bowdoin and has been there from their first year all the way through, everyone has an equal claim to being from Bowdoin to a certain extent, in that we all have an equal stake in this place,” said Nick. 

“No one is more Bowdoin than anyone else. There’s kind of an equality there that I really love. Because we’re all at Bowdoin and we’re all equally from Bowdoin and that’s really affirming to me.”