The Junior Paper: Abroad Edition

June 8, 2024
Melissa Ruiz

3,853 miles away. Six hours ahead. A city I’ll never forget: Copenhagen, Denmark.


This past spring, I spent four months studying abroad in one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited. However, there was one challenge: I had to complete my spring junior paper (JP) while also trying to explore this amazing city.


Completing a junior paper is challenging enough when you're on Princeton’s campus. My fall JP was not the easiest paper to write, but at least I was surrounded by students also engaged in their research or independent projects. 


Abroad, people traveled every weekend, and I constantly struggled to balance this incredible opportunity with my commitments at Princeton. I had lab meetings every Wednesday, and due to the time difference, they were scheduled for 11 PM local time. This time difference made it really difficult to set up meetings or call people.


For my fall JP, I conducted a literature review on First Generation Low Income Students from Latinx and Asian backgrounds, exploring themes such as cultural mismatch, stereotype threat and family achievement guilt. I found a notable gap in the literature concerning the differences in experiences between two-year and four-year institutions, with most empirical studies focusing on selective four-year universities.


My spring JP was centered on creating a pre-registration for my upcoming thesis research. Pre-registration, a growing practice in psychology, aims to promote transparency, reduce p-hacking and address the replication crisis. My task was to submit a pre-registration form along with a codebook detailing the survey items I intended to measure. This process demanded significant time and effort. I had to clearly define my research goals and outline how I planned to analyze the data.


Fortunately, I had an amazing mentor, my lab manager, Danny. We met weekly to discuss my progress, clarify any questions about the pre-registration process and offer edits and suggestions. Being part of a lab while conducting independent work is one of the best aspects of the process. You not only have your primary advisor but also the support of knowledgeable lab members in various research areas. The support I received from my lab made submitting my JP abroad something manageable. 


Overall, despite the difficulties, submitting my spring JP was one of the most rewarding experiences. I grew significantly from the process, setting a strong foundation for my senior thesis, which I'll be working on over the summer. Although Danny is leaving soon to pursue a PhD in Utah, his mentorship is a testament to the incredible people at Princeton. The ARC lab team made 3,853 miles feel not so far away.