A Community Like No Other

April 20, 2018
Michelle Greenfield

“Hi, I’m sorry to bother you, but I saw your ‘Princeton Dad’ shirt and I just had to ask, do you currently have a student at Princeton?” This was how I started a conversation with a total stranger last summer when I was working in Key Largo, Florida. I had been living in the Keys all summer and had not seen or heard about any other person related to Princeton in months. Therefore, when I saw this man who was visiting the same beach, I just had to find out if I knew his son or daughter. Well, it turns out his daughter was a graduate student in the MAE (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering) Department and I had no idea who she was. Yet, by reaching out to him, we ended up having a great conversation about Princeton and the research his daughter was doing. Although I had just met this father I felt connected to my Princeton family.         

While I do remember the lesson my mother told me about refraining from talking to strangers, there is something about Princeton that encourages me to reach out to other members of our community. I love hearing the stories from alumni about their experiences and how the campus has changed since they graduated. I also love meeting fellow students whom I had not had the chance to meet earlier on in my Princeton career. Sometimes, my attempts at conversation leave me looking silly, but other times, they have helped me tremendously.

For example, when I was recently studying abroad in Panama, I was given the contact information of a family who could help me find Shabbat services and kosher food while I was abroad. I had absolutely no connection to them apart from the fact that one of their sons was a Class of ’06 graduate and that they were Jewish. I sent an email introducing myself, explaining how I would be studying in Panama for a few months and asked tons of questions of what life was like there. Even though they had long since moved away from home, this family took me in and became my adopted Panamanian family. They invited me over for holidays, gave me warm food and let me stay at their house. I am thankful that Princeton provided me with the opportunity to be introduced to this family.

In a slightly different example, when I flew back to campus in January, I was waiting for my luggage at baggage claim when a girl came up to me and asked if I went to Princeton. She had seen the orange Princeton bag tag on my suitcase and figured there was a good chance I was a fellow Princetonian.  She explained that she was a first-year student and had never gone back to campus on her own. She was looking for someone to help her. Of course, I was more than willing to explain the train process and go with her back to campus. We ended up talking the entire ride back and now we are good friends on campus.

I’ve met so many fellow Princetonians out and about. I can’t tell you how many wonderful conversations I have had with total strangers in the airport because of my Princeton sweatshirt. I have met alumni, fellow classmates and even professors from the University. My conversations are always engaging and I learn something new about the University every time I meet someone.

Furthermore, our alumni network is so helpful when searching for jobs and internship opportunities. Alumni are always willing to provide advice and even help with job opportunities. While I personally haven’t taken advantage of this resource yet, I know in the coming years once I graduate, this will be extremely helpful.

It may be hard to understand, but once you become a Princeton Tiger, you are able to connect with an entire community of people offering their experience and guidance. These people may provide engaging conversation while you’re stuck on an airplane or they may be a wonderful resource when you are abroad. Whatever the case may be, they’re proud to be a Princetonian, and I am too.