Over the past two and a half years here, I have learned to move around Princeton's campus in different ways. Each year, equipped with a new schedule of courses, new interests, new friends and new habits, I have found different rhythms for life here.
As a first year student, timid and unfamiliar with Princeton’s campus, I adventured, explored and discovered new spaces with an urgent desire to know every inch of Princeton’s campus. I tromped from library to library, lugging heavy books and notebooks, to find the spots where I felt most comfortable — nooks, crannies and corners where I could settle in to devour books, write essays and study vocabulary in Spanish. Craving solitude, I spent time outdoors, exploring the tow path that runs along Lake Carnegie and spending hours reading and working outside on Poe Field and in Prospect Gardens. Somewhere in between the endless buses, trains and flights it took to reach my hometown each break, I discovered that Princeton, too, felt like home.
Now, several semesters later, the rhythm of my life has changed again. Princeton is still a home to me, but life, of course, has changed.
As I grow and my rhythm on campus changes, the campus itself remains just the same. Although new buildings pop up and old, familiar ones seem to morph and change through renovations, Princeton’s campus is the enduring heart of the University. Many buildings have stood for centuries since Princeton was first transplanted from its original site in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to the town of Princeton in 1756.
Princeton’s past is a part of its present. Princeton does not tell its history, but contains it in the pieces of our campus and the University that stretch across generations, the past lives of buildings that have been renovated to serve the new and the people that have contributed to the University’s evolution and longevity.
Princeton’s history hides in the walls of Nassau Hall, which have stood through multiple devastating fires and now bear plaques from graduating classes since the late 1870s; it hides in buildings that have been made anew, serving new purposes and functions — in East Pyne and Chancellor Green, once home to the University’s only library, a student center and a pub, or in the Julis Romo Rabinowitz building, the Old Frick Chemistry Laboratory, a building which, when I arrived to campus, was just in the early stages of renovations to become a new home for the Department of Economics and the Louis A. Simpson International Building. History lurks in the corners of classrooms, where perhaps John Foster Dulles, Princeton Class of 1908 and United States Secretary of State from 1953 to 1959, studied diplomacy or where Albert Einstein once lectured on the theory of relativity. Students today share our campus with the legacies and histories of those who have come before us, taking part in Princeton’s living history.
As students at Princeton, we are privileged to move through the same spaces, embody the same intellectual values and share the same Princeton spirit as the generations of movers and shakers who have graduated from Princeton before us — authors, artists, Nobel Laureates, Supreme Court Justices and even Presidents. As undergraduate students here, our time here is fleeting. Four years are but a blip in Princeton’s history; the buildings have stood for years before us and they will stand long after we are gone, accumulating new histories.
Yet, as one of my favorite plaques in 1879 Arch proudly proclaims: “Princeton is part of you. You are part of Princeton.”