There can be a stigma associated with attending college close to home. But the small group of students from Brunswick here on campus couldn’t be prouder to represent the town we all consider a second home.
“Just because I was so close shouldn’t exclude the possibility of attending a really good college that seemed to have a lot of things to offer me,” said Mark Richter ’14, who said he felt he had a lot of exposure to Bowdoin growing up and always heard good things.
“The relationship between Bowdoin and Brunswick is so cohesive. Anyone feels safe and welcome here,” said Chelsea Bruno ’14. “And being part of both communities is great.”
All students the Orient spoke to highlighted the ability to see their family often (and pets) as one of the best parts of going to school so close to home—though Richter noted with some sadness that he never gets any packages.
Living in Brunswick means the comforts of home are never far off—Michael McGlinchey ’14 admitted to only doing laundry on campus once since matriculating—and they can share those comforts with friends who live farther away.
“I love being close to home,” said Wilder Nicholson ’16. “It’s the best of both worlds. I can get a home cooked meal whenever I want or have my mom do my laundry.”
“My friends and I go to my house a lot and we have big holiday dinners,” said Bruno. “Every year my parents do an Easter egg hunt and pumpkin carving and fun things like that for me and my friends. That’s a really unique experience that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else.”
But despite having their families so close to campus, each native said that Bowdoin and its bubble have made it easy for them to separate themselves from the town they grew up in.
“I don’t really feel like I’m in Brunswick most of the time,” said Paul Sullivan ’16.
“I try to make Bowdoin a home away from home and try to separate from my past Brunswick life,” said Nicholson. “I don’t go home that often. But I still want to see my family so I take them out to dinner.” He went on to say that he “wanted a new experience and to get away.”
All five reminisced on their interactions with Bowdoin when they were younger, whether it was attending sports games, using the gym, or just strolling through campus. Richter graduated from Brunswick High School in Farley Field House. The campus became a familiar place for these students and a couple of them noticed during the college admissions process they were comparing every school to Bowdoin.
“But it used to just be a place. Just buildings and fields and I never knew anyone,” Nicholson said. “Bowdoin is different now because I know the people.”
A few of them had the same impression that many other visiting students from have: that Bowdoin is filled with bros who wear lax pinnies. Their opinions changed, however, when they came to know the range of people that make up the student body.
“My friends and I used to make fun of [Bowdoin] as just a bunch of bros. Like ‘Bro-doin,” Sullivan said.
When it comes to their relationships with the town, some said they feel more deeply connected to Brunswick than their friends at the College do.
“Because I’m a Bowdoin student I know I stand out as a Bowdoin student to other townies. So there is definitely self-consciousness about that, that I’m no longer just a townie. But I still feel like a townie,” said Sullivan.
“I understand the dynamics of Brunswick more. Brunswick is a very socioeconomically diverse place. I think it’s hard for Bowdoin students to get a sense of that because there’s no way you would be exposed to it,” said Bruno.
“It’s funny to hear people talk about things that I’ve known for a long time,” said McGlinchey. “They have different names for certain things that people in Brunswick just don’t call them, like Scarlet Begonias. I think people call it ‘Scarlet B’s’. I never called it that.”
Sullivan said he has emotional attachments to his favorite restaurants in town and will actually get defensive when someone says something negative about them. Moreover, unlike most Bowdoin students, he is not a fan of Gelato Fiasco and actually thinks that the ice cream situation in Brunswick is not so great—Dairy Frost is his favorite.
When asked about a Brunswick secret, Nicholson talked about a small prayer garden by the Androscoggin right across from the dam on the Topsham side.
“It’s just this old guy and he has a rock garden with a maze you can walk through and then a bunch of prayer flags…and there are inscriptions on the stones,” he said. “There’s also a stall with glass and you spin a barrel and in the barrel there are paintings with different prayers on them.”
All of these students said that attending Bowdoin has made them more appreciative of where they grew up. Not a single one of them said they regret their decision to enroll at the College.
“It’s crazy to see how full circle I’ve come,” Richter said. “Brunswick will always be home. I am forever linked to Bowdoin and this community and I’ve come to appreciate myself and where I come from.”
“I used to ask ‘should I feel guilty for not challenging myself by going elsewhere?” said Richter. “But I did challenge myself by staying in Brunswick against the pressure.”
No students from the Class of 2017 hail from Brunswick.