Undergraduate Student Blog, Speaking of Princeton

Undergraduate Student Blog

Author: Jonathan Haynes ’20

Midland, Michigan • Politics View Profile

Princeton Sponsored Self-Reflection

Opportunities for personal growth at Princeton

Coming back from the summer is always an adjustment, but an exciting time nonetheless. One of the more fun parts of returning to Old Nassau is hearing about all the incredible things friends have done during the summer months. It is also a great chance to hear more about the experiences offered to undergraduates here. In fact, that is what led me to how I spent my summer.

After hearing about some of my upperclassmen friends discuss their experiences, I ended up pursuing the Martin A. Dale ’53 Summer Award. Every year, the Office of the Dean of the College selects 12-15 sophomore applicants to spend the summer working on their proposed projects. The unique aspect of the award is that all of the proposed projects must be non-academic and focused on self-growth. By accepting the award, students are encouraged to take at least eight weeks away from the rigorous sphere of academia and structured internships to interact with the world in various ways and make space for self-reflection.

Some of the successful projects this year include a friend of mine working to gain his family’s citizenship of the Cherokee nation, reaching the summit of Mt. Denali in Alaska and exploring what queer parenting looks like around the globe. My project was focused on exploring the cuisine of the French-African diaspora. Coming from an African American background, food has long been a way for me to understand my family’s history. With my six years of French education, I went off to explore how other groups relate their food to their cultural cuisine.

I learned that the Martiniquais cuisine carried heavily elements of traditional French cooking such as the use of creams and meats. However, some key differences I noticed was the heavy reliance upon seafood, use of seasonings and incorporating side dishes. Moroccan food had similar differences, but with a greater usage of non-bovine livestock as opposed to seafood. Meanwhile, traditional French food capitalizes on France's plentiful grazing space to embrace cuts of beef and foul in the cuisine. 

The project took me to Martinique, the South of France and Morocco. All throughout, I ate some incredible foods- learning a multitude of family recipes, spoke with a variety of individuals about identity and engaged in some incredible personal reflection. At the end of my summer, I was left grappling with questions on patriotism and racial identity and a plethora of memories.

Princeton offers an inordinate amount of summer opportunities to us undergraduates, often with opportunities for funding to reduce financial hardship. But, this awards embodies a special part of the Princeton community, an emphasis on growing together and encouragement to have new experiences.