Making Space

Photos by Bob Handelman

Bowdoin’s campus is steeped in history, and most alumni know at least a few key places: that was Longfellow’s room; that’s where Harriet Beecher Stowe worked on Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and this is where Martin Luther King Jr. gathered to talk with Bowdoin students after he spoke at First Parish Church. Those are all great, and worth pointing out on a walking tour. But in some ways, it is the minor places that fill us with the deepest sense of time. Among these carrels, hundreds of essay writers have found just the right word. On this sun-filled court, generations of players arced ball after ball to perfect a shot. Every Bowdoin student sits and walks, learns and listens, succeeds and sometimes struggles in the very places where their predecessors have done the same. In all of these, and even in our newest spaces, they will be followed by a long, long line of students to come. As seniors get ready to leave Bowdoin, we photographed a group of them in spaces they have come to love, and we asked them to leave a message of sorts for those who will take their places in years to come.

 

Lydia Caputi ’18

Sargent Gymnasium

Lydia Caputi '18 in Sargent Gym

Lydia Caputi ’18 in Sargent Gym

 

“This place was so much more than a gym.”

I never thought I’d be nostalgic about my ten-year-old self scrounging up quarters for a pack of Starbursts from the C-Store in between a game of knock; about pushing through a last rep in practice; about sneaking in to take a few shots to cure a case of writer’s block. The gym has been my go-to and my getaway for the past eighteen years. But, while my mind will be filled with those scenes, these memories would not mean as much without the people who created them with me. This place was so much more than a gym. In the winter, it might not be warm. In the summer, maybe not cool. Embrace it. Turn the music up a little bit louder. Try to grab the rim even if you know you can’t. Play one-on-one with the stranger at the other end of the court. Think of the players who stepped on this floor before you. Know that they are rooting for you. Maybe you don’t have the luxury of making this campus home for nearly your whole childhood like I did, but relish your own time, find your escape, make memories. Show appreciation.

Lydia is a basketball and lacrosse player, a sociology major, and a reunion student ambassador from Brunswick, Maine. She has been playing in Bowdoin gyms since she was four years old.

 

Jorge Gómez ’18

Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good

“I realized that community service wasn’t about changing someone’s life in a week, or making a change at all.”

I had a lot of preconceived notions about community service, what it meant, and why people engaged in it. I knew little about it as a crucial component to growth. I naively applied to go on an Alternative Spring Break trip through the McKeen Center to Guatemala City looking to “make a change.” I quickly realized that community service wasn’t about changing someone’s life in the span of a week, or making a change at all, but rather it was a learning experience that allowed students to understand more about a specific issue. I found a new way to critically think and engage with others through the notion of the common good. It’s okay to have questions and to not understand a lot at the beginning; knowing everything is not expected of you. Give the common good your own meaning. It doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone because we all bring different passions, talents, and skills. Use these for the benefit of others, and you will find your definition.

Jorge is a National Science Foundation research grant fellow and a chemistry major who studied abroad in Kyoto and who led service trips through the McKeen Center. He is from Brownsville, Texas.

 

Parker Lemal-Brown ’18

Sargent Dance Studio

“There are no spotlights or audiences. But for creators, this is where the magic happens.”

In any studio on campus, I feel like a kid again. I can access the parts of my brain that make up worlds. I feel free to explore the contortions of my face and body without anyone watching, and just be weird. It feels both liberating and safe. Studios are for the hesitant first read-throughs, blocking, vocal warm-ups. There are no spotlights or audiences. But for creators, this is where the magic happens. Spaces like these are our workshops. The amazing thing about theater/performance is that all you really need is a room. Those moments are the most meaningful, when other people work to bring my writing to life. Immediately take off your shoes. And socks. There are so few chances to do that. Don’t be afraid of the mirrors. Play music. Explore the space. Touch your surroundings. Pay attention to little details you usually don’t have time to notice. Move around. Be still. The time and the space are yours to use. Create something for yourself.

Parker is an award-winning playwright, a sociology and Francophone studies major, and a slam poet from Hamilton, New York.

 

Jonah Watt ’18

Abrahamson Reading Room

Jonah Watt ’18 in the Abrahamson Reading Room Jonah Watt ’18 in the Abrahamson Reading Room

“This space imbues my work with a special kind of energy and meaning.”

When I hop off the elevator, I prepare for a long night of work. But I also feel relaxed, ready to settle into my carrel for the next few hours. I am reminded of my friends who sat in these carrels and the late-night conversations I had with them while they completed their honors projects. Now I am in their shoes and understand the dual sentiments of stress and excitement. Several times this year, I’ve almost been moved to tears reading an article or writing a section of my thesis. Perhaps it’s a product of exhaustion, but usually it’s my passion and excitement for what I am reading or writing about. This space imbues my work with a special kind of energy and meaning. Be comfortable—sprawl out on the couches and stash snacks and tea in your carrel. Spend enough time there that it becomes special, but not so much that it loses its excitement. Introduce friends to the lofted ceilings and spacious bathrooms, but make sure that it remains something of your own secret.

Jonah, from Lexington, Massachusetts, is a Latin American studies major who has won prizes and fellowships for his work and research. A McKeen Fellow, he worked with Maine Migrant Health.

 

Cindy Rivera ’18

Druckenmiller Hall

Cindy Rivera ’18 in Druckenmiller Hall

Cindy Rivera ’18 in Druckenmiller Hall

“I have studied here, I have struggled, I have laughed, I have cried. Druck is a space I have come to belong to.”

Druck gives me a sense of power. For the longest time, being in these labs felt foreign. There have not been many people that look like me here. It is easy to feel like an impostor. But I have claimed this space. There is a great pride that comes with being a woman in STEM. I try to bring that pride and power into the spaces I spend time in. I have studied here, I have struggled, I have laughed, I have cried. Druck is a space I have come to belong to, one that I can pass along. Push through the moments when you want to give up. Pay attention to how much these professors care. Look at your peers and build them up. Bowdoin is a place where people build each other up. In the moments you feel you cannot do something, know that someone may have sat in the exact same chair and thought the exact same thing. You belong here. We are making up the era where no identity will ever negate that. Cindy, who is from Las Vegas, is an award-winning neuroscience major and English minor and a research assistant in lobster neuropeptides in Patsy Dickinson’s lab.

 

Latif Armiyawa ’18

Hatch Science Library

Latif Armiyawa ’18 in Hatch Science Library

Latif Armiyawa ’18 in Hatch Science Library

“After a high-energy practice, I could always regroup and refocus my attention.”

Hatch is a very quiet library with a wonderful atmosphere. I feel relaxed and focused as soon as I step into the building. After a high-energy practice, I could always regroup and refocus my attention toward attaining a calm state of mind, ready for learning. It is a great space for me to focus on work. My advice to Hatch’s next studiers is this: do not miss out on trying the high tables. I always use them while standing up—they are perfect for when I feel myself starting to doze off.

Latif is a football player and runner on the track team, a biology major, and a McKeen Fellow from Fairfax, Virginia.

 

Jae-Yeon Yoo ’18

Gibson Practice Room

Jae-Yeon Yoo ’18 in a Gibson Practice Room Jae-Yeon Yoo ’18 in a Gibson Practice Room

“I love the sound of the open fifths, the ritual before every rehearsal and performance, and the anticipation for the music we are about to play.”

I’ve spent hours in these rooms with singers, a chamber ensemble, or just friends. I love how there’s a whole community of practice room residents here, people you start to recognize and become friendly with. One room is the one with the drummer who’s always practicing, another will always be busy with the rowdy a cappella group, and this is the one with my favorite piano. As a pianist, I usually give the starting pitch and wait for the others to tune around me. It’s a musical cliché, I suppose, but I love the sound of the open fifths, as a string instrument tunes, the ritual before every rehearsal and performance, and the anticipation for the music we are about to play. Tuning is when the active musical listening part of my brain starts working, adjusting and taking in the sounds without necessarily needing to do anything. It’s enough to just listen and be with my fellow performers. I’ve seen a room shift vibes and atmospheres dramatically depending on what kind of group is practicing. No space is fixed with what “should” happen there, especially musical or artistic ones: it’s up to you.

Jae-Yeon is a pianist, a director, an English and music major, and a Russian minor. She is from Seoul, South Korea.

 

Tess Trinka ’18

Main Lounge

Tess Trinka ’18 in Main Lounge, Moulton Union Tess Trinka ’18 in Main Lounge, Moulton Union

“My rehearsals allowed me to forget about my responsibilities for two hours and just make music.”

Main Lounge has been a space where I have been challenged to grow, as well as given an opportunity to escape from the business of life at Bowdoin. I am thankful for this space for bringing me together with two communities of people I may have never interacted with had I not worked in residential life and sang a cappella. The ResLife meetings that took place here were formative, teaching me to embrace being vulnerable and connecting me to an amazing community of leaders. My a cappella rehearsals allowed me to forget about my responsibilities for two hours and just make music with my talented peers. Future students who occupy this space, my advice is to challenge yourself to feel uncomfortable. While this lounge is one of the spaces I feel most connected to, there were many times when I felt uncomfortable, participating in a difficult conversation with the ResLife staff or singing the wrong notes in rehearsal. Learning to accept and deal with discomfort is formative and valuable.

Tess is an All-American captain of the women’s tennis team, a biology major, and a member of Ursus Verses from Oak Park, Illinois.

 

This story first appeared in Bowdoin Magazine, spring/summer 2018.

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