The Rachel Lord Center for Religious and Spiritual Life hosted its first installment of the “Belong at Bowdoin” workshop series on Wednesday. Led by Director of the Rachel Lord Center for Religious and Spiritual Life Oliver Goodrich, the series intends to help Bowdoin students build new relationships and nurture established ones.
Two attendees, Esther Fernandez Rosario ’23 and Amari Polk ’24, reflected positively on their first workshop experience. Both hope to find a tight-knit community on campus centered around empathy that fosters vulnerable conversation.
“I feel like I wanted to come to a space where everybody is going through the same things as I am, in terms of not knowing exactly how to approach somebody new or just getting into a [new] situation in general,” Polk said.
Fernandez Rosario is looking forward to talking with other Bowdoin students who share her experience of struggling with belonging at Bowdoin. She was surprised at the turnout of the workshop’s first night. As a senior, Fernandez Rosario saw the workshop as a bittersweet reflection of what campus life looked like during her first year.
“I know a lot of people on campus are seeking connection. But it’s not often that they come to events like these. So when I saw the room full of people, I was like, ‘this is awesome,’” Fernandez Rosario said. “One of the good things that I feel like has come out of the pandemic is that people are more vulnerable and just human.”
Polk feels that the workshop series will help her be more present in her conversations. A popular topic of discussion was active listening. Specifically, attendees discussed using active listening as a means of community building and brought up personal stories of when they felt heard.
“Something [was said in the discussion] about not feeling like you have to prove yourself always in conversation,” Polk said. “We talked about how it’s better to just learn about the other person and be there genuinely in the moment and not so much in your head. That was probably one of the biggest takeaways from the conversation.”
Fernandez Rosario and Polk are both grateful for the structure of the series, emphasizing the effectiveness of applying what was discussed in the workshop in their day-to-day lives. For both attendees, modeling what belongingness looks like is the most effective way of feeling like they belong, too.
“It’s about seeing how you can develop the tools to fit your toolbox personally, because not everything that anybody in this group is probably going to throw out there is going to be the most useful for you,” Polk said. “You just come in here to learn and build off of that learning. Because you are your own teacher, going about your days and discovering yourself and discovering others.”