Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Teresa Irigoyen-Lopez ’19

Madrid, Spain • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering View Profile

Liberal Arts Education is Real!

After shopping for some classes my first-year fall, I decided to add “Chinese Politics” to my very standard engineering curriculum. Although physics, math, a writing seminar, Mandarin and Chinese politics can sound like an unusual combination, that first semester really started a trend for me.  Ever since then my semesters have been, for the most part, a similar combination of mechanical and aerospace engineering and East Asian studies classes. Although, two years ago, I would have not imagined myself following two academic interests so different from one another, I am now used to switching between writing an essay about Zheng He’s expeditions in the 15th century and doing my space flight problem set in the same evening.

I actually did not come into Princeton knowing that I would like to pursue a humanities certificate along with my engineering major. However, after sitting in on my first “Chinese Politics” lecture, with it explaining so much of my own experience in China during Bridge Year, I realized that it was important for me to also explore other personal interests in an academic setting. Since then I have not only taken language, history, comparative literature and politics courses in the East Asian Studies Department, but I have also been able to further explore my interest in China’s political reality by working as a research analyst with Prof. Truex in the Department of Politics. It is exciting for me to see how I quietly sat in on that first “Chinese Politics” class two years ago amazed at how little I knew, and how I now write scripts for a YouTube Channel to empower public discourse on Chinese politics as part of an initiative through the National Committee on U.S. - China relations. I still find myself lost often as I try to write scripts on whether China is still communist, or what the latest Party Congress can tell us about the future of the Chinese Communist Party. But I know that being lost, confused and outside of my comfort zone is part of the learning process that can make such different interests compatible. Now, I just need to convince my “China’s Frontiers” professor that space exploration has a lot to do with frontier expansion!