To Bowdoin

Since arriving in India, I’ve done a terrible job following current news events. I’d like to think it’s because I’m too busy or trying to conserve my limited 3G Internet access, but neither is true. I haven’t been keeping up with news because I actually like the feeling of getting away from it. It’s nice to escape. This week, though, it was hard to get away from one news story.

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Last Friday night, a fraternity at Duke hosted an Asian-themed party. The email invitations for the party included insensitive and demeaning language. Later images showed partygoers dressed in costumes that promoted Asian stereotypes. Everyone on the GSA program got word of the party soon after it happened. They vented their frustrations, and one girl even drafted a letter to Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle. Two days after our discussion, I opened my Facebook and noticed a featured article on my feed: it was a Yahoo News story about the party. Shocked that the party was making national news, I sent the article to my parents. They said that they’d heard about it on The Today Show that morning.

The party has been a constant topic of conversation this week among my friends on the program. They were all embarrassed and appalled by the event. It’s an unfortunate incident that only represents the insensitivity of a small portion of the Duke student body. It does not at all reflect the intense compassion and kindness that I’ve experienced from the other 17 students on this trip, all of whom are Duke students.

ImageBeing the only non-Dukie has been something I’ve been conscious of the whole trip, but it hasn’t bothered me. It’s only natural that conversations involving a handful of Duke students will center on Duke-related topics. I’m learning a lot about Duke and am often asked about the way things work at Bowdoin. It’s been fun to learn about Duke and introduce the others to a school that many had never heard of or known how to pronounce before the trip.

At the same time, I’ve been included as a Dukie myself. This morning, I donned my Duke t-shirt and cheered for my first Duke basketball game. We all arrived at school early (7:30) to catch the live broadcast of the Duke-NC State game. The game brought out a team spirit unlike anything I’ve seen at Bowdoin. There have been moments on this trip where I’ve realized what I’m missing out on at a school like Bowdoin: no arenas filled with thousands of fans, no “tenting” (sleeping in tents for nights on end to snag tickets to a big sports game), no sororities, no fast food joints on campus, and no majors in topics like Global Health or Public Policy. But more than anything, this trip and especially this week has made me realize how proud I am to be a polar bear.

ImageOver the past four weeks, Bowdoin has come to define who I am. Some people have started calling me “Bowdoin.” And at a birthday celebration this week, the birthday boy even included “to Bowdoin” in his toast. I’ve loved telling people about traditions back at school and explaining what life is like there. Before leaving, people told me that study abroad would make me really appreciate Bowdoin. And especially in this group, Bowdoin has come to be something that distinguishes me from the rest in a way that I’ve never experienced before. Now, I’m really owning the school rather than sharing it among the other 1,700 students there.

The news story that broke earlier this week cast an unfortunate, dark shadow over Duke, for which I feel sorry. The 17 Dukies whom I’ve come to consider close friends have all been incredibly thoughtful, welcoming, and considerate. They’re some of the best-traveled, intelligent and interesting people I’ve ever met, and the party does not reflect any of their morals. And while I’ve come to enjoy wearing the title of pseudo-Dukie myself, this week, it’s been nice to fully embrace my Bowdoin identity.

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Collin is visiting Bowdoin for the weekend before he leaves for Tasmania and has been updating me as the campus hunkers down for what is predicted to be a historic blizzard. All I can hope is that everyone there stays safe, gets a snow day, and that the blizzard begins to take the place of the Duke party on the news. Things continue to be amazing here in India, and I’ve loved getting a glimpse into life at Duke. I will be very happy to return to Bowdoin in June. All I can say is, the salad bar better be ready for me.

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