I used to think my time at Bowdoin would be separated into a “before” and an “after” with the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 being the cataclysmic event. But as I sit here thinking about the last four years, I’ve realized that there is no such “great divide.” And while my life now does look different than it did during my pre-Covid first-year, perhaps that’s to be expected when the world stops. Since first-year, my friend groups have changed and evolved. I’ve joined clubs and activities (shoutout to our little old paper) and explored all kinds of academic interests. I learned that I like taking classes on archaeology and that maybe I’m not meant to be a lawyer. There have been throughlines and diverging branches along my path. And in hindsight I think I’ve enjoyed every second.
I remember returning to campus in the spring of 2021. In the fall, the administration had encouraged us to stay connected to campus, which was a difficult task on its own. I had been trying to find ways of creating community through online school, and I started getting to know many upperclassmen. Usually, awkward Zoom small talk would eventually default back to Covid and its myriad effects. I heard this sentence a lot: “At least you got to experience six months of normal Bowdoin.” And to be honest, I bought into that idea. I accepted that I would never get to experience the mythical Ivies and that my one Lobster Bake would be the social highlight of my Bowdoin career. I would probably never get to realize my dream of studying in a new country for a semester or make the lifelong friends Bowdoin promises we’ll graduate with.
During the bleak midst of lockdown there were so many parts of Bowdoin I never thought I would get the opportunity to experience again. After my semester and a half on campus, I missed the things I had grown used to. Being stuck at home made me long for tall pine trees and chapel bells that play ‘Simple Gifts’ every Friday at 2 p.m. I yearned for the community that I had just begun to build. But eventually we returned to campus. And I was able to experience the activities and events I longed for.
And it’s true: we’ll never go back to that ‘pre-Covid’ Bowdoin world. And maybe it’s because I never really experienced it that I don’t care if we’ve changed. Even if we have, I’ve enjoyed my time here. It wasn’t perfect, but it was right for me.
I (along with many of my fellow seniors) was able to study abroad and explore the world. Classes moved from Zoom back to in-person. Clubs and social events returned in full-force. Activities that seemed obsolete–like making music or going on trips–have become part of everyday life again. I’ve made so many friends and connections that I hope will continue beyond graduation. Many of these people are ones that I didn’t even know existed four years ago.
Maybe the message of this is adaptability. Maybe it’s resilience. Or maybe we just decided that we didn’t want to live in the shadows of ‘what-if?’
The world we enter after Bowdoin won’t be the same one we left four years ago. It’s changed and so have we.
As we move towards graduation, I know that I didn’t miss out on the “Bowdoin experience.” And I hope that you feel that way, too.
Katie King is a member of the Class of 2023.