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Simon Chow ’19

Los Angeles, California

Born in China, Chow moved to inner-city Los Angeles when he was five. He lived with his family in Chinatown, speaking Cantonese with his parents and working at his godfather's Korean restaurant. Every weekday morning, he would leave his neighborhood to attend Bravo Medical Magnet, a predominately Hispanic magnet high school in East LA where 82 percent the students were socioeconomically disadvantaged.

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Shawn Bayrd ’19

Brunswick, Maine

Bayrd’s after school job in high school was working at Thorne Dining Hall, alongside his mother. Though he attended Brunswick High School, he didn’t strongly consider attending Bowdoin until he received his acceptance letter. "I'm a first-generation student, so my mom and my dad didn't know colleges," he said. "I was not aware that Bowdoin was a good school. Like I knew it was a kind of good school, and then I got my acceptance letter and started researching it and I was like… ‘14.9% acceptance rate? I didn't even know that.’”

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Camille Farradas ’19

Miami, Florida

When describing something as "chi chi" at Bowdoin, Camille Farradas '19 is often met with puzzled looks. "It just means cute, like small or quaint. Like, you're chi chi," she explained. Born and raised in a mostly Cuban community in Miami, Farradas explained that “it was a bit of a shock coming here.” Despite this, Farradas said her transition to Bowdoin has been relatively easy. Education is important in her family; her parents were forced to flee Cuba in the 1960s and never got the opportunity to go to college. In order to pay for her and her sisters’ education, Farradas’ father, created and licensed a patent for a piece of trucking machinery. “Going to college is about validating what they’ve done,” she said.

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Diamond Walker ’17

New York, New York

Walker tried to challenge herself in high school, taking all five of the AP classes that her high school, the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, offered. Due to budget cuts, after school programs and academic support were rarely available to Walker and her high school classmates. But Walker persisted in her education, traveling across the city every Saturday to learn math, writing and critical reading skills with a program called Sponsors for Education Opportunities. "That program changed my life and is the reason I am at Bowdoin today," Walker said.

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Christina Moreland ’17

Fairlee, Vermont

Moreland grew up in rural Vermont, but didn’t hear about Bowdoin until a college fair during the summer before her senior year of high school. She was attracted to Bowdoin for its small class sizes and sense of community. “I think a good amount of my friends probably don’t know I’m first-gen, not because I’m not telling them, but just because it hasn’t come up in any particular way,” she said. An English and sociology major with an education minor, Moreland is also a leader in Residential Life at Bowdoin and said she hopes to work in either teaching or higher education access after college.

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Simone Rumph ’19

Quakertown, Pennsylvania

Raised by her single mother, Rumph fell in love with Bowdoin after visiting for the Explore program during the fall of her senior year in high school. She credits the Questbridge program—which gave her a full scholarship—with making Bowdoin a possibility for her. “As a little kid even, my mom told me ‘you have to work hard in school, because we can’t afford college and I want you to go because I never was able to.’’ she said. ”So I’m absolutely 100 percent proud to be a first generation student.”

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Mohamed Nur ’19

Portland, Maine

Though Nur’s family is just 45 minutes away in Portland, he said there’s still a lot about Bowdoin—and college in general—they don’t understand. “The whole social aspect of collegiate life I don’t think they really understand,” he said.

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Michelle Kruk ’16

Chicago, Illinois

Kruk said that her transition to Bowdoin was initially easy, because she was so excited to be here. It was only after Winter Break of her first year that she started to feel the disconnect between her life at home and the life she had built for herself at school. She explained that she wishes her parents could experience Bowdoin the way many others do. “These moments, like having your family come with you to a football game, are experiences I will never have,” she said. Her family plans to visit for the first time in May of this year, to watch her graduate.

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Zac Watson ’16

Charleston, South Carolina

Watson attended the Academic Magnet High School, one of the top public high schools in the nation. While he said he felt academically prepared for Bowdoin, Watson noticed economic differences between himself and other Bowdoin students, but didn’t necessarily attribute this to being a first-generation college student. “I didn’t even really know what first-gen was until I started taking like a sociology class here,” he said. Watson credited his first-year floor, which was chem-free and housed several first-generation students, with making his transition easier. “I’m actually still really tight, and really close friends with them, today. And I think they face some similar hardships,” he said.

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Anu Asaolu ’19

St. Paul Minnesota

For Asaolu, starting high school was more than just navigating a new school. A recent immigrant from Nigeria, Asaolu transitioned to American high school while acclimating to a new country, building a new life in Minnesota with her family for the promise of an American public education. Like many of her peers, Asaolu has struggled to balance academics and extracurricular interests—for her, rugby. "I already knew what life without education could be like and I didn’t want that," she said. "I really didn’t have to like dig deep to find [motivation] because I knew without education there are not so many options."

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Kenny Cortum ’16

Des Moines, Iowa

Though Cortum completed a one-year exchange program in Poland before coming to the College, he said he still found the transition to Bowdoin difficult, in part because of the cultural differences between New England and the Midwest. While he ultimately overcame these differences, Cortum said he now finds a gap between himself and his Bowdoin experiences and his family back home. “I feel like being a first generation student has kind of sundered me with my family. Because my family is not composed of academics. But more composed of simple farmer-like people,” he said.