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Round Table

We’ll bet you donuts to dollars Joseph Kijewski ’03 was amazed by his first visit to Lewiston and Bates.

By Joseph Kijewski ’03

Glazed and Confused

As I stared out the window of our hotel room, exhausted from the red-eye flights, I spotted another one. Across the road, between the trees, there it sat…and I wondered, just what is it about Dunkin’ Donuts in Maine? We had already seen three on the drive from the airport to the hotel. “That’s crazy,” I said to myself right before I fell asleep.

When my mother woke me up later in the day to go to dinner, the specter of Dunkin’ Donuts still haunted me. It was on my mind the entire way to the seafood place. But when I noticed that the cheapest thing on the menu was lobster, I forgot all about that silly donut shop and proceeded to indulge myself in the finest lobster I’ve ever had for the low, low price of $9.95. I could tell that, yes, indeed, I would like it here.

The “here” in question was Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, twin cities located on opposite sides of the Androscoggin River, and home to the prestigious Bates College, the sort of small, liberal arts institution of higher learning one would expect of New England. About 1,600 students, all undergraduates, go to school on the 110-acre campus located in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Half of the students live in college-owned Victorian houses. I must say, I was impressed.

As soon as we finished the lobster, I began to worry about my college interview. Whether it was going to be a question/answer session on a par with the SATs or the more informal conversation (the type you’d have with relatives you hadn’t seen in years who were dying to know more about you), I hadn’t the foggiest. I was just scared.

I sat in the waiting area of the admissions building, which was really the old home of some fabulously wealthy person (by Montana standards) redone as an office area. The wood floors, antique furniture, French doors and gigantic grandfather clock in the corner tick-tick-ticking the seconds away until my interview was overpowering. I was ready to go crazy waiting in the midst of this gorgeously furnished lounge, but at least now I know where those outrageous tuition fees go.

Just as I was about to snap, Ms. Virginia Harrison, my “case officer” as I like to call her, came in and invited me into her office to talk.

She motioned for me to sit down on an antique couch. I expected her to sit behind her desk, but instead, she sat in a chair facing mine. This little gesture, placing us on equal levels, instantly eased my fears. This would be no inquisition. Rather, this was someone who just wanted an idea of who I am and would I “work” at Bates.

We talked politics and theater, personal philosophies, and universal truths. She shared as much with me as I did with her. Ms. Harrison was quite the conversationalist, although one would imagine that an associate dean of admissions would be.

When I got up to leave, she said, “Here. I don’t usually do this, but….” She withdrew a business card from her jacket. “This has my phone number on it. If you have any questions or concerns with the rest of the admissions process, you don’t have to talk to anyone else in the department. Just give me a call.” I was sooooo flattered. “Thank you for coming all the way from Montana to interview,” she added in the most sincere tones possible.

“Oh, jeez,” I thought again. I took the card, thanked her for her time and then she led me back to the waiting room. We said goodbye, and she said she hoped to see me again. I took that as a good sign. But then, out of the blue, it struck me. What if she does this for everybody?

Promptly pushing that thought out of my mind (After all, what could I do about it?), I began to think about Dunkin’ Donuts again. I had a theory, and I was going to test it. We drove through the industrial section of town, the residential section and the business district. Rising out of the abyss in darkened alleyways, sitting in prime locations in front of strip malls or just hanging out under pretty trees, one thing was clear: In Maine, all roads lead to Dunkin’ Donuts.

My mother and I pulled into the parking lot and decided to get some French crullers and coffee to celebrate the (apparent) victory in the admissions interview. “When in Maine…,” I said as we dipped our donuts into our coffee and laughed. I liked this place, I really did.

Joseph Krijewski, who lives in Polson, Mont., wrote this essay for his local newspaper, the Missoulian, after his Bates admissions interview. Admitted with the Class of 2003 last year, he is studying this semester in St. Petersburg on a Bates program led by professors Jane Costlow and James Parakilas.


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