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On Getting Back to Princeton

Thoughts from the first flight "home"

In getting to know me, you learn very quickly that I have a penchant for nostalgia. In fact, there are probably few people who enjoy a good #tbt as much as I do, so a few are bound to come through as I blog this year. Consider this the first of many.

I wrote the post below at the beginning of my junior year as I was applying to write for Speaking of Princeton. Then, just as now, it was the day after the fiasco that is 'Tomi Moving In'. This time, though, I'm preparing to start my senior year (what?!) and the post feels even more relevant today than before.

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There’s something strange I’ve recently found about returning to Princeton after a long time away (three months, to be exact) –– it matters a lot how you get here. I don’t mean “get here” in some profound, metaphorical sense; I’m talking about good old-fashioned transportation.

You see, this is the first time I’ve flown to campus to start off a school year. The two previous times, I enjoyed (I think I can say that retrospectively) a 12-hour drive from my home on the south side of Chicago to my home here at Princeton. In that time, I’d let the final days of my summer and the start of a new semester meld together, coming to terms with the reality of both events as my family and I traveled along winding interstates. I’d mull over the happenings of the preceding three months and mentally prepare myself to take on the next several. While it’s no secret that you don’t really have the same luxury of a seamless transition in the two hours bookended by the ascent and descent of a Boeing 737, I still saw fit on this “first flight” to ask myself the same question that I always do: “Did I make the most of my summer?”

 

The summer after my freshman year left much to be desired. After a fulfilling but (not surprisingly) exhausting two semesters, I needed a summer to relax and recuperate. A week into it, I made a list of summer goals beyond becoming reacquainted with my DVR – reading five books, improving my photography skills, getting my driver’s license (it’s a long story), and the like. Though I didn’t cross off everything before I began the drive back to campus, by the end, I felt I had accomplished enough to call the summer fairly successful.

This summer, I was fortunate enough to spend an amazing month abroad with the Princeton in Spain program before taking on another summer goals list in Chicago. I undoubtedly did more this summer than last, so why was it that I suddenly felt anxious when I asked myself my annual question? It may have been the thin air, the slight turbulence or the adrenaline of barely making the flight, but I really do think it was the lack of time to process. In fact, I’m confident it was the here one moment, there the next nature of the plane ride that left me feeling unsettled.

There are only so many college summers – only so many trips you can make back to campus to start an academic year. To think that I have so quickly made my second-to-last trip to a place I’ve come to call home is astounding to me. So now when I wonder, “Did I make the most of my summer?”, my mind immediately jumps to the day when I’ll be asking myself, “Did I make the most of my time at Princeton?” Of course, “making the most” of one’s Princeton experience means something different to everyone, but I think every student would agree there is so much you can do and only so little time to go for it. What could be a 12-hour drive can very easily become a 2-hour flight.

I guess what I’m advocating is trying to enjoy the time between your first and last (or even second-to-last) back-to-school trip as much as possible. Do your best to take the scenic route, as I’ll be doing from here on out –– whether that includes a physical return to the road trip or not.

…Maybe I did mean “get here” in some profound, metaphorical sense.

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So here I am, two weeks from the start of my final year at Princeton, and you can probably guess how I got here (in the literal sense, of course).

A quick snap with a car full of things I've acquired over the past 3 years. I can't believe it's already my last move-in!
The fourth and final move-in. Not pictured: 5 exhausted family members waiting for me to stop holding up the moving process.

 

Hint: I took the scenic route.