As the college application process concludes for high school seniors, newly admitted students are faced with the decision to enroll—or not—at Bowdoin next fall. As a current first year, this seems like a distant memory, though it reminds me of what convinced me that Bowdoin was for me.
Comparable to many other NESCAC schools, Bowdoin offers a multitude of resources, rigorous academics and a picturesque campus. While I heavily considered these factors, what ultimately drew me to Bowdoin was how I instantly felt at home; after all, the first line of the Offer of the College is “To be at home in all lands and ages.” Perhaps I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my time here, but Bowdoin has definitely become a home for me in the last seven months. This became far clearer upon return from an Alternative Spring Break trip to Pontotoc Valley, Miss.
Prior to the trip, the student leaders assigned the reading, “Have faith in understanding,” an Orient article written by Steve Kolowich in 2006 about his experiences on the trip. Kolowich acknowledged the preconceptions he had prior to his arrival in the South, which were comparable to my group’s collective thoughts about “red states, religious yahoos, ‘values’ voters, country bumpkins carousing around in pickup flatbeds with their shotguns and hounds, stopping periodically to participate in a hootenanny and/or elect Bush.”
Collectively, everyone on the trip had little experience in the “cultural South;” we were taken aback upon arrival in Pontotoc, a town in northern Mississippi filled with a litany of Baptist churches—we spent the week in By Faith Baptist Church—and vacated shops.
I really didn’t know any of the students I was about to spend the next week with working for Habitat for Humanity. I was wary of how we would come together as a group and I feared awkwardness with the other students on the trip—we were thrown into this situation far outside of the comfortable “Bowdoin bubble.” However, the group positively adapted to the different lifestyle where, for example, prayer was obligatory before and after most activities.
I recall that my initial reasons for participating in ASB were to fulfill the mission of the Common Good outside of the Brunswick community, while having an opportunity to explore the South by enjoying the cuisine, walking through Memphis, and conversing with locals. While I did learn how to install blinds, caulk a bathroom, and prepare a house for flooring installation, I came away with much more than just construction tips.
I intended to help make a home in Mississippi for an unknown family (the trip was aptly named “Making Mississippi Home”); however, I inadvertently made Bowdoin feel more like home. This is due in part to forging a connection with 11 random classmates and coming to understand that many others at the College share my goals, interests and beliefs. I came away from ASB with a rekindled passion to be an involved member not only of the Bowdoin community, but also of whatever community I may find myself in.