This fall, many students have chosen different paths for their college experience. Some have chosen to take a gap year, others are social distancing at home, and then there is the third option: quarantining with the roomies. I fall into the third group. This semester I am living with two of my friends in a quaint little airbnb just ten minutes away from Princeton’s campus. I am originally from Nashville, Tennessee so the change in scenery was very much appreciated. It has a porch that looks onto Lake Carnegie; it is a view to take your breath away. I would like to think I got incredibly lucky for getting to room with such great people in such an amazing place.
Each morning, I wake up to a refreshing breeze from the lake and the vibrant greenery all around. It feels peaceful and secluded, but the location actually provides relatively easy access to Princeton’s campus. Every now and then when we go into Princeton for groceries, we pass by the campus and Nassau Street. Suddenly, a wave of nostalgia washes over me and I get a little wistful. No one had any idea what would happen just a year ago, and now the Class of 2022 has a handful of memories from simpler times. I miss the littlest things from campus: running from one end of campus to another within a ten minute time span, late meal at Frist Campus Center, and sitting in Firestone Library for hours on end. I may be in the town of Princeton, but it is so different from being on campus, from being a part of Princeton University. Right now many students who have made this campus their home are feeling the same distance no matter where they are in the world, but I also think it is important to revel in that nostalgia.
Nostalgia is how I make it through the tough days. I think of my favorite spots on campus and I recreate them. Whenever I reach for a cookie while studying for an exam, I accompany it with a cup of tea, put my headphones on, and imagine myself in Murray-Dodge Café. Towards the end of the night, I sit at my desk by the window and picture myself in the glass reading room in Firestone Library. When I start getting zoom fatigue, I step out into the living room, lay sideways on the couch, and trick myself into believing I am laying on the square blue couch on Firestone’s second floor. I have also zoomed professors from previous semesters to reminisce about good times, and it has been a while since I have laughed like that.
For those who look forward to living on campus when this is all over, I stress the importance of finding your niche in its diverse types of spaces and atmospheres. I cannot think of late summer without Forbes brunch with friends, chatting over the açai bowls. Fall is synonymous with the golden crisp leaves dancing along the path to Marquand Library. Winter is frozen in time with me sledding down Whitman’s snow-covered hill; it was a night where only the moon illuminated the dark indigo sky. Spring is intertwined with memories of me walking back to my dorm at one in the morning after a girls night in because I still had assignments due that week. The places and people who are there for the ride alongside are just as important to our experience as what we choose to learn.