Forbes: It's Worth the Walk
Underclassmen at Princeton live in one of six residential colleges, each with its own distinct identity. Yet perhaps no other college prompts as immediate a reaction as Forbes. It’s a name that inspires both sympathy and curiosity—the former sentiment because of its location, and the latter because of its uncommonly effective ability to foster community.
Housed in an early 20th-century hotel bookended by more modern additions, Forbes is situated just behind the train station, perhaps a three-minute walk from the edge of central campus. As with many things, though, the additional distance has taken on a hyperbolism of almost mythical proportions, and for many campus residents, Forbes seems impossibly remote. Prospective students hope not to live there, fellow Princetonians invariably express sympathy that you do, and a surprising number of your peers will never venture there once during their four years at the University. Yet strangely, ‘Forbesians’ as they are affectionately known, seem perpetually content—uniformly happy with their residence, despite the perception of their peers. What gives?
As I enter the final months of my time as an underclassman (and a Forbesian), I wanted to offer a few words of wisdom about this building and community that I’ve called home for two years. If you’re reading this post as an incoming freshman or as a recent admit, perhaps dreading the fact that you’ve drawn into a room at Forbes (or hoping that you won’t), I understand the feeling; I’ve been there, too. But I hope to convince you that things are likely far better than you think, and that should you end up here, you may very well come to appreciate Forbes as the most important feature of your first two years at Princeton.
While it is true that Forbes is less central than its five other peer colleges, its location off-campus offers a variety of unforeseen but rather pleasant benefits. Perhaps most prominent among these is a sense of real detachedness, an impression that Forbes is at once well-integrated yet uniquely distinct from the rest of the University. Princeton can be a hectic place, and after long days filled with classes and activities, coming home to a building physically separate from everything else can be wonderfully refreshing. For me at least, there was always something grounding about having home and high school as discrete entities, and if you appreciate that feeling, then Forbes fits the bill.
In much the same way, the walk to and from your classes offers something of a decompression zone, a space separating your life at Princeton from your life at Forbes. As strange as it might sound, the few minutes of solitude afforded by this trek have proven endlessly valuable, and as you cross Alexander Street each day, you are reminded that there’s more to your time at Princeton than the academic grind.
There’s something to be said, too, about a sense of community. Forbes is contained in a single, sprawling building, and the other end of the complex is never more than a five-minute walk away. Self-confined as it is, the faces of your neighbors become quickly familiar, and by the end of your sophomore year you will have the distinct feeling that you recognize nearly everyone. In a campus that can sometimes feel overwhelmingly large, it’s a comforting feeling.
Speaking more practically, Forbes’ proximity to the train station means you’ll be the envy of many when you return from holidays. Instead of lugging your baggage across campus, the Dinky is mere steps away from your room. Near the train station is also the newly renovated but historically famous Wawa, a campus fixture for decades, recently rebuilt in sleek black aluminium. Inside, you’ll find all the trappings of college cuisine, including warm hoagies, steaming coffee and greasy pretzels, all available 24 hours a day.
All told, Forbes is a wonderful place to spend two years, the common myths notwithstanding. So whether you end up in Forbes now, in a few months, or perhaps even in a few years, you’re in for a treat.