My friend recently wrote a column for The Daily Princetonian in which he reflected on the meaning of community during an online semester. He notes that what makes the Princeton experience so special are the shared experiences we have with others. As he discusses, the Princeton community is more than just our close friends; it also includes the people we wave to on the way to class, and the people we end up studying near every night.
Now, almost halfway through the semester, I realize that the strength of the Princeton community has been what’s sustained me in this unusual period of college, even if making connections online takes a little more planning.
Community can be formed in Zoom breakout rooms, for example. While they can sometimes be awkward, I enjoy them because they allow me to talk to other students in a more personal setting. I’ve made connections with others by learning about my peers in our small group discussions.
While we can’t recreate the experience of whispering thoughts to the friend sitting right next to us, I’ve enjoyed group conversations in the Zoom chatbox filled with inside jokes or smart insights. I probably shouldn’t admit this publicly, but my friend and I often live-text each other during one class, reflecting on the content or laughing at our amazing professor’s extensive use of animal-based idioms.
Professors also enjoy the opportunity to connect with students virtually. By now, I’ve met with almost all of my professors for office hours. One professor remarked that these one-on-one interactions with students were what she enjoyed most about teaching. The shift to an online setting does not reduce the value of these conversations.
Outside of class, my eating club Tower held a speed-friending event where we got paired with another member in a private breakout room. I thought those minutes alone in a room would pass by slowly, but I really enjoyed these intimate conversations with people who I may not have met otherwise.
I miss gathering together to watch political events with Whig-Clio, but I thoroughly enjoyed the political commentary my friends and I shared during the first presidential debate. The Class of 2022 and many other student groups communicate on the platform Discord now, providing even more opportunites to connect with one another. Whether through text or Facebook message, FaceTime or Houseparty, I know my friends are only a click away.
It does take more effort to make and sustain friendships right now, but I’ve found most people to appreciate any sort of communication. You never know the impact you can have on someone by just texting out of the blue to check in. The support and camaraderie of the Princeton community truly does extend far beyond FitzRandolph Gates.