Yesterday marked the application deadline to study abroad. All sophomores who desire to leave Brunswick and venture into the “real” world next year have made the formal commitment to do so.
This also means that those people—a reported 50 percent of the Class of 2015—have already declared their majors and minors.
The planning this entails has made my fellow classmates and I conceptualize the rest of our Bowdoin careers on a detailed level. When I come back, will I have enough Government credits for a major? Should I major in Biology and try to minor in English? Musings like this have been commonplace among my peers over the past few weeks.
While we are going through these motions with our well-developed blinders on, it can be hard to step back and realize just how big these decisions are. Earlier this week I was sitting in the lobby of Moulton Union, outside of the Registrar’s Office, and I overheard a student walking out having just handed in his form saying, “There, I’m officially a biochem major. And to think, I came to Bowdoin as an aspiring writer.”
I, too, felt a momentous weight come over me as I handed in the single paper form—an old-school process that will soon be replaced by an online-only system. We do, as Bowdoin students, have flexibility in changing our course of study. However, the legwork we have done to get to the point of handing in our declarations means that at this point, most of us are pretty damn sure what field our degrees are going to be in.
These past few weeks have been crystallizing (perhaps a bit falsely—who knows what the future may bring) and nerve-racking. Making decisions is tough. We can study in pretty much any place we want to—Bowdoin’s Off-Campus Study Office lists 112 programs that it approves for study away, and students can petition for others. We can study a wide array of subjects—
Bowdoin offers 41 majors, and if those don’t satisfy, you can always create your own.
These two choices seem particularly consequential to me. While some of us may enjoy traveling in our future lives—or have already been fortunate to explore the globe— now is really the only time we, as 20-year-old students, can have the experience of studying at a foreign university. It is also the precise time when we are beginning to specify what it is we will study, and how this might affect in our lives after college.
Now the decisions have been made.
Of all the places I could go, I’ve chosen to go to Spain. I’ve also chosen to major in both Government and Legal Studies and Spanish. Two major life decisions (yes, I daresay they deserve the “life decision” nomenclature) in one week!
This is a new breed of the sophomore slump. It’s not the conventional phenomenon of second year grades becoming lower and once-golden GPAs becoming tarnished—although I’m sure some students in their second year are experiencing that as well. This slump is the emotional consequence of us narrowing our paths.
Common wisdom states that when one door closes, another opens. However, the Bowdoin sophomores who have just made these two choices have picked which doors we are going to enter. I’m fairly confident that I am leaving behind a career in medicine—unless of course I have a change of heart (a.k.a. crisis) and decide to go back to school to become a doctor (but from where I stand right now, it would take a crowbar for me to get through that door).
The fact of the matter is that formally stating where we will go for a semester, or a full year for some students, and what we will study for the remainder of our time at Bowdoin will have consequences. It will shape us as people. This is daunting. It is also disheartening to know that when this semester ends, the members of the Class of 2015 who choose to go abroad will have already spent the majority of their time on Bowdon’s campus.
New slumps will form as our time at Bowdoin progresses—and will culminate with the heavy-duty question of what we shall do when we leave the College. But for sophomores—whether they find themselves in Edinburgh, Sharjah or Salamanca next year—time spent away in a new world will be worth the slump.