In April of 2021, shortly after being admitted, I visited campus with my parents for the first time. After grabbing a quick breakfast on Nassau Street, we walked towards campus, warm coffee in hand as I tried to take it all in—I think my parents fell in love with campus before I had a chance to fully process where I was.
We spent the morning wandering around aimlessly, first passing through FitzRandolph Gate and walking by Nassau Hall, then towards Blair Arch and down to the rest of campus. Eventually, we made it to Prospect Gardens, where the beginning of spring had left behind the sweet smell of blossoming flowers and bright colors everywhere.
I remember my mom turning to me and saying, “Odette, I can just picture you reading a book on that bench over there.” (With the knowledge I have now, I can confirm it is a very comfortable bench. I read several excerpts of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America on that bench, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.)
Everywhere we walked, we passed by students talking about the relief of completing their senior theses. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were visiting shortly after many departments had already required submissions of the senior thesis for their students. It was intimidating to think about, but I was also fascinated by how excited they all sounded about their work. When we ate lunch later that day at Proof Pizza, we sat next to a group of students who very quickly transitioned from discussing their weekend plans to debating a topic from their math class.
Back on campus, we started to realize many of the trees were labeled with their scientific names.
“What a nerdy thing to do,” I joked with my parents.
For some reason, this particular anecdote stuck with me the most when I returned home. When my friends and family asked about how my visit had been, I could only reply with “they label their trees up there.” Entering my third year, the labeled trees scattered across campus are still one of my favorite things about Princeton, and although it was something that was merely kind of strange and amusing back then, I think it’s a testament to what Princeton stands for.
Maybe this goes without saying, but knowledge is everywhere, and I mean everywhere on campus.
If you asked me now what it’s like to go to Princeton, I think I’d start with the same response. No mundane fact is too insignificant, no question unworthy of being asked. It is inspiring to be surrounded by thousands of students who are as passionate about learning as I am. I could not count the number of thought-provoking conversations I’ve had over Wawa mac and cheese, or the number of times I’ve left a class absolutely in awe of my classmates.
Curiosity and the quest for knowledge are central to all that Princeton is, and if this sounds like the sort of environment you’d love, then I’d say you’re already halfway home.