A Reflection on My First Year at Bates College


My pen pal told me about Bates, and really, I applied here because there was no essay requirement. There were already so many reaches on my list, what was one more? In my mind, there was no intention of actually moving to Maine; it was all just a fun little joke.

After being waitlisted the night before by Grinnell, I opened my Bates acceptance on March 12th, 2022 at 9:32am. I was shocked.

Suddenly, I was driving 13 hours all the way up to Maine with my family while most of my friends stayed in the state. I met my roommate, put all my boxes into my new 223 square feet of space, and then cried on a bench outside the chapel as my parents and sister started the drive back to Virginia.

Many things happen within just the first semester:

  • I started going by Catalina (my middle name) which was initially very disorienting.
  • I experienced the overwhelming events of orientation week. (I wish they had scheduled a nap time in between the ‘how to not sexually assault people’ and ‘you should volunteer in Lewiston’ sections.)
  • I was sent to New Hampshire to climb mountains, swim in rivers, and camp with other strangers. I did not poop for three days because there were spiders in the PortaPotties and our diet mainly consisted of sweet potatoes, but I really enjoyed the adrenaline-rush of grabbing onto a questionably tied rope and flinging myself into a river.
  • We started a tradition of Parker Hall baking nights in the basement kitchen (that barely deserves to be called a kitchen) after I was rejected from three different a cappella groups. I made good friends and we screamed songs and ate cookies.
  • I joined the newspaper and about a dozen other clubs (Asian Student Association, Circus Club, Bates Leftist Society, Bates Democrats, Bates Outing Club, etc.) that I never showed up to.
  • I realized that there are a lot of white people here.
  • I got COVID.
  • I recovered from COVID, tried hookup culture and collegiate stage management, eventually deciding neither of those are for me.
  • Homesickness hit hard and I realized maybe changing my name and moving 13 hours away from home wasn’t such a brilliant idea. Everyone else seemed to already have connections or friends from high school here. Hardly anyone in my high school had even heard of Bates.
  • I utilized the free therapy Bates offers (this should be a bigger selling point for this college).
  • I witnessed the first snowfall of the 2022 Maine winter.
  • On the first day of finals week, I was victim of the cross country streakers in the library – and then they were victims of my journalistic pursuits.
  • After turning in our final education papers, my friend and I went to test the newly frozen over puddle. We took about two steps onto it and then heard cracking sounds, but that did not stop me from making a snow angel.
  • Finally, it was time to go home. I spent a lovely three weeks in Virginia eating more than just dry beef, oranges and lucky charms. I learned how to crochet and spent an exorbitant amount of money on yarn. I also saw my home friends for a brief period of time during New Years Eve and most of them were exactly the same. I crocheted a hat for the majority of the party which makes me sound like a loser but I should add that I also destroyed everyone else in rage cage.

Then, it was second semester:

  • I went in with a new mantra: Demolishing 2nd semester before 2nd semester demolished me.
  • As I write this article, I unfortunately have to declare 2nd semester the winner of this ongoing battle. I surrender.
  • I was taking 4.5 credits – two gender studies classes, social psychology, voice lessons, and an English class. On Monday through Saturday, I always had somewhere to be at 8:00 a.m.
  • My roommate was determined to get up at 6:30 a.m. so she could work out before class, and I convinced myself this was a good idea and also set my alarm for 6:30 a.m. After several weeks of exhaustion, we gave up on this.
  • I started a new job as an intern for Lewison Housing.
  • I considered transferring.
  • I got laid off from my previous job but this was a thank God moment because I most definitely did not have the time to balance two jobs.
  • At club basketball, I was body checked by a grown man and then the ball hit my face as I fell. I decided full-contact sports are not for me.
  • Newman’s day arrived and I witnessed mass intoxication while jumping into the puddle completely sober with my shark slides taped to my feet (Note for next year: Tape loses its adhesiveness once submerged in water).
  • I learned how to ski and went to Sugarloaf mountain with three boys I hardly knew at the time who turned out to be very nice and also taught me how to ski better (I am now an extremely skilled skier. I can do flips and everything).
  • I barely made it through midterms with my will to live intact. Turns out, taking two gender studies classes with heavy writing-based midterms was not the best strategy.
  • I chopped my hair off and started actually enjoying trips to the gym.
  • I convinced my friends to sign up for intramural dodgeball with me and we lost in the playoffs but will spend all summer training and come back better than ever next year.
  • My family came to visit in March and we had a splendid time exploring Portland (would recommend).
  • I came to terms with my lactose intolerance and now have to carry around silly little lactase pills so I can eat my silly little ice cream cones.
  • I got over my stage fright and performed at the voice concert (major win).
  • We will soon embark into finals week and if I don’t make it, I have some things to say to any future first-years reading this article.

Here is my advice:

  • Invest in a vacuum and/or broom. They sprinkle sand on the walkways so nobody slips on the snow/ice in the winter, and then that sand gets into your room and it will not bring you joy.
  • Learn to communicate with your roommate. Boundaries are important to any living partner/friendship, and communication is a life skill.
  • Be friendly and make lots of friends but be sure to put your time and energy into friendships that fill your bucket. An empty bucket will not get you very far.
  • Don’t forget to fill other people’s buckets.
  • Join club and intramural sports. I specifically recommend club volleyball and intramural battleship and dodgeball.
  • Sign up for the Outing Club emails, they have really fun trips that anyone can sign up for.
  • Try out, join, audition, apply. There are so many opportunities here and it would be a shame if you didn’t use them to your advantage.
  • If you decide to go polar plunging off-campus, make sure it’s high tide before driving the 45 minutes to get there.
  • You should be prioritizing your own time and sanity at least 80 percent of the time. Give yourself a break, say no to things you don’t want to do, take a nap, ask for an extension.
  • Call your parents.
  • You will survive, it will all get better (if it doesn’t, remember we have free therapy and soft serve here).

There were good parts and there were bad parts, but the important thing is I survived and I’m happy that I’m going to be back here doing the same thing next year.