Week three of the semester is when things start to get busy. First papers are due, you have a standing date at a professor’s office hours, and you’re starting to question why you took microeconomics in the first place. In any normal year, this moment would feel like a natural settling of our busy lives, an adjustment that has or will become routine after a year or so at Bowdoin. But the chaotic turbulence of the last 18 months has disrupted our routines and, for many of us, erased our internal sense of normal and left us with only an unfamiliar setting within which to orient ourselves.
Although clubs, athletics, jobs and “grab-a-meals” can eat up your time—and all of those things require some readjusting as we return to campus—there are certain specific elements of our academic experience that are worthy of consideration.
The quality of our education in the past year has undoubtedly suffered, no matter how hard our professors tried. You’ve spent hours upon hours in Zoom classes that resulted inevitably in email-checking, watching TikToks, staring at the wall or DM-ing classmates in a sad simulation of in-class banter. You might feel unprepared for a return to a full in-person course load or total immersion in an academic environment.
Last year, it was hard to remember that classes consisted of anything more than clicking a link and shooting off a half-baked discussion board post on Blackboard. Now that we’re back in the classroom, and in recognition of this acutely disorienting and stressful moment, it seems appropriate to consider a few ancient truisms about academics at Bowdoin that may have been forgotten in the past year.
First, take advantage of in-person classes and get to know your professors. At the risk of this Editorial becoming the proverbial stick with which we are beating a dead horse, this point is worth making. Our professors have chosen this place, at least in part, because they, too, seek the same interpersonal relationships that initially drew many of us to Bowdoin. Given all that has been lost in the last year, these relationships may have become secondary or tertiary concerns—don’t forget that we have at our disposal a wealth of unique and generous minds who are excited to exchange ideas with us.
Second, set some academic boundaries. Work has a creeping tendency that enables it to fill every free moment. Fight that. Whether you don’t let yourself work after dinner, after 10 p.m., before 11 a.m.—whatever works for your habits, be sure to set aside time to do anything but work.
Third, consider taking a class Credit/D/Fail. You can do this four times throughout your Bowdoin education and for good reason. Take a course in a new department and allow yourself to fully enjoy the challenge without the anxiety of it tanking your GPA. Do this strategically—take some work off of your plate by switching to Credit/D/Fail and enjoy the class for the sake of curiosity.
Taking full advantage of your Bowdoin education can look any number of ways—use this semester to readjust and find what works for you.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Editorial Board, which is comprised of Kristen Kinzler, Diego Lasarte, Rebecca Norden-Bright, Lily Randall, Reuben Schafir, Emma Sorkin, Ayub Tahlil and Chris Zhang.