By Olivia Nickerson
Janvi Baweja is our current student body president and friend. She’s a double major in art history and political science. Born in Kolkata, India, she then moved to Bangalore until she came abroad for university. She went to an international school for the entirety of her education, so she participated in IGCSC’s and A-levels in high school. She described her schooling before high school as an integrated system meant to prepare you for the Cambridge program of the British International School. It was a mixture of the Indian and British system. I asked which curriculum she preferred, and she said British. She felt the main differences between the two were that the Indian system is very based on memorization, without much critical thinking, and very exam oriented.
She began applying to art schools in high school, some in Canada, some in Australia. After high school graduation she took a gap semester to figure out what direction she really wanted to go in. As she was seriously contemplating western Australia for university, she stumbled across McDaniel College online. She was interested in the idea of going to school in Europe and McDaniel seemed like it could be a good fit. She applied to McDaniel, and when she found out she got in, she described it as feeling like the “perfect move” for her.
Next, I asked Janvi if there were any events that happened during her time at school, that either hindered or helped her in a significant way. Her eyes waivered a bit when I asked this question. She began “Almost a year ago now, my friend passed away, which was really difficult for me because I was living with him. I couldn’t come to school for a couple weeks.” She talked about the impact this had on her mental health and her difficulties focusing on school for a while. But her eyes lit up a bit when she began to describe the support that she had received from friends during such a hard time. “I realized how many people were really there for me.” During this time, the school was very accommodating for her and made sure she knew she could take off as much time as she needed to heal. Understandably, she expressed “The last thing I wanted to think about was school.”
We shifted to the topic of positive events from her time at McDaniel, and she said she felt she found her base here at school in her last year. When she first started at McDaniel, it was right before Covid began. She was here for a month and a half before everything shut down and classes went online, and this kept her from being able to settle down in this new city. When classes began in person again in 2021, she was still figuring her way out around the city and on campus. She feels that now, she has people she trusts. Being part of the SAC (student activity council), although stressful at times, has been a good source of community for her. “It’s helped with my confidence.”
I then asked if there were any professors or faculty at McDaniel that made an impact on her. First, she named Dr. Christopher Cox (a common favorite). She explained how she enjoys his teaching style. “He has this approach towards students where you feel comfortable talking to him.” She works harder in his classes due to the way he structures his courses. Dr. Jessie Labov is another faculty member who made a positive impact on her throughout her time at McDaniel. Janvi described Dr. Labov as having a personal relationship with each student and joked about her being our school mother figure (I can also attest to this). “She understands we have our own lives, and our own struggles, and always tries to help make our lives easier.”
As a key member of the SAC, I wanted to see how Janvi feels about leaving her time as class president. She feels (and I agree) that her and the rest of the SAC made a positive difference in our school. They planned more events than any previous groups we had seen before. The SAC made McDaniel a friendly environment and built a beautiful community. “I do feel like finally I belong somewhere.” She explained how she always struggled with that, but she now feels at home here much like many other students.
Her advice for upcoming students is as follows: “Liberal arts isn’t for everyone, but there’s a good kind of structure and support we get from professors here. Be open. To trying new things and meeting people from all over the world”. Her general plan after graduation is to find a job and work a bit before applying to a master’s program. She’s open to new possibilities in her career path but currently contemplating getting involved in either international relations and foreign affairs or something writing based.
In her absence, Janvi hopes the upcoming SAC members keep up the good work and maintain the welcoming community she helped build. We’ve all been very lucky to have such a kind, intelligent, friendly face represent our school, and I’m honored to have had the privilege of interviewing her and getting to share her story with our community.