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Sophomores struggle with disjointed college experience

September 10, 2021

Missed Connections: The Class of 2024 has struggled forming bonds with each other after a fragmented first year.

After a disjointed year on (and mostly off) campus, the Class of 2024 returned to campus this fall as sophomores. Having experienced an atypical year at the College, the class is still expected to step into leadership roles within the community. However, many of them have not finished processing the time they have lost.

Many students spent only their fall semester on campus, which had heavy restrictions on socialization, while other students spent their year remotely and are now on campus for the first time.

Aidan Muttiah ’24 was on campus for the fall 2020 semester and spent last spring at home. Now on campus, he is focused on building connections after an isolated
first year.

“It got pretty lonely during the fall semester, and I was living in a double room by myself. There was no way to feel positive about anything going on,” Muttiah said.

Last fall, students were restricted to socializing within predetermined spheres such as their core groups and first-year writing seminars, with few other ways to meet classmates. This fall, the sophomores are back with a mission to make up for lost interactions and missed connections.

“It was very isolating being on campus last fall. There were only, like, three people of color in my core group, which made it hard to bond and added to the isolation,” Alondra Castillo ’24 said.

“I think it was sort of unspoken that everybody realized the groups that formed last year were very circumstantial, and everybody’s excited to meet new people and make friends based on clubs and classes and things that are more normal than being dropped into a random predetermined group before even getting to school,” Lucy Watson ’24 said.

Beyond opportunities to socialize, the sophomore class also lacked Bowdoin traditions that would have otherwise welcomed them into their new phase of life, such as lobster bake and pre-orientation trips.

“I feel like a lot of kids in my class feel as if we’re kind of the neglected grade,” Watson said.

Watson was on campus in the fall of 2020 and expressed a sense of displacement within the school. Unlike every other class currently enrolled at the College, the Class of 2024 has yet to take a class photo, go on a pre-orientation trip or get inducted into their College Houses and sports teams.

“I want to be welcomed to campus with all the traditions that everybody else gets. I want the events; I want the dinner inside Thorne; I want the class photo; I want an initiation from last year’s Quinby House members,” Watson said. “So while it’s exciting that we get to be leaders, I still feel like we missed out on being wrapped up in the excitement of all those special moments.”

The sentiment of missing out was not uncommon, particularly regarding the pre-orientation trip hallmark of the Bowdoin experience.

“I was hoping they would make up for the orientation trip we didn’t get. Supposedly the [Bowdoin] Outing Club is doing Class of 2024 exclusive trips, which I haven’t seen anything about yet,” Muttiah said.

Given that they have not felt much guidance from the school, students are looking toward specific groups and clubs on campus to orient them.

“I really expected to have an orientation experience [this fall] since we didn’t really get much during the fall [2020] semester. I was expecting at least an orientation trip. And then I expected even more [than the] brunch they were planning, but it keeps being pushed,” Castillo said. “So I am waiting on THRIVE to be more supportive, because I don’t know where else to go.”

Rin Osathanugrah ’24 spent his entire first year studying from home in Thailand. He arrived on campus this fall for the second time ever with many questions and very few places to ask them.

“I felt like a first year, myself, when I got here; I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know where anything was. I’d never lived in the U.S., so I feel like everything is totally new to me,” Osathanugrah said. “Moving in this fall was overwhelming and challenging, but luckily my housemates have been very supportive to help catch me up.”

Osathanugrah was offered attendance to the Class of 2025’s international student’s orientation, but he was logistically unable to attend.

Athis Osathapan ’24 also spent his first year abroad in Thailand and felt that he wasn’t able to fully immerse himself in the Bowdoin community while online.

“I like to meet new people, but when you’re over Zoom, you don’t really get a chance to do that. And there were homework groups that kind of helped me as an international student, but there weren’t that many social resources,” Osathapan said. “[Bowdoin] did a decent job supporting me, but that was academically. They didn’t really support me socially.”

Osathapan also could not make international student orientation. Osathanugrah, Osathapan, Watson and Muttiah all expressed how helpful it has been to live in a College House where they can get to know their housemates and finally build a community.

“I’m in Quinby House, and I really like the group of people in the House. We have a little community going on, which is what I was really lacking that first semester. My core group was not close at all,”
Muttiah said.

The College Houses have provided physical spaces for the sophomore class to bond in a way that they were unable to last year.

“Even though we had our House Olympics canceled, we do a lot of House bonding sessions, and I think that’s really fun. I’ve gotten to know quite a few of my housemates pretty well. They helped me find where things are on campus and have been very supportive,” Osathanugrah said.

During College House orientation, leaders stressed opportunities for the sophomore class to rewrite or change the College’s culture. Given their lack of experience on campus, the Class of 2024’s responsibility to guide the first year class is a point of confusion for the
sophomores.

“There is so much emphasis on changing and starting fresh and starting new when all I really want to do is learn from the upperclassmen,” Watson said. “I want to do the traditions so that I can carry on the traditions. It feels like the blind leading the blind right now.”

Lucas Dufalla contributed to this story.

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