Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Jonathan Zhi ’21

Plano, Texas • Comparative Literature View Profile

My Introduction to Academia

Alice fell down a rabbit hole to get into Wonderland. Dorothy rode a tornado to Oz. I took a Writing Seminar to discover the world of academia. When you think about it, we share the same journey: an innocent protagonist (that would be me) is transported to a strange land where excitement, adventures and danger await and, eventually, returns to the real world relatively unscathed and hopefully wiser.

I took my Writing Seminar, or Writing Sem as we call it, in the spring of my first year, which gave me ample opportunity to hear the entire range of praises sung and groans issued by my peers who took it in the fall. When it came time for my first seminar meeting, I collected the required materials, printed out the readings and entered with both hope and misgiving.

As it turned out, I enjoyed the class greatly. The instructor was captivating, commuted in from New York twice a week and he taught an equally captivating class with great enthusiasm for the material. Through conferences with him and my classmates, chalkboard dissections of various arguments and positions and fruitful harvests of academic articles to challenge and defend, I developed the skills needed to engage in scholarly work. If you’ll permit one more reference to children’s literature, consider the Pevensie children, who were transported by wardrobe to the snowy country of Narnia. In the middle of their adventure, they are met by Father Christmas, who presents them with personal gifts to aid them in their journey. Like Father Christmas, my Writing Sem provided me with tools -- tools I needed to thrive as a new university student beginning to engage with the voluminous and curious world of academia.

While I have learned more about academic writing since taking the course, Writing Sem set the foundation for my written work at Princeton. Coming to the University, I didn’t expect to feel comfortable writing about Locke’s view of the wage-labor relationship (for Writing Sem), defenses of pacifism (an ethics course) and the American executive branch as a policy maker (a politics course), but I have done all of those things now. And more than that, I’ve enjoyed them, too.