I still remember the excitement and awe I felt as I sat through opening exercises as a first-year. It had finally sunk in that I was actually a Princeton student, with four long years of learning and growing in my future. But now, as a rising senior, it feels like no time has passed since I marched in FitzRandolph Gates during the Pre-rade and listened to President Eisgruber speak in the beautiful University chapel. Unfortunately, my time at Princeton was rudely interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing me to leave campus and struggle through 1.5 semesters without the comfort of my favorite libraries and joyous adventures with friends. I also lost the sense of independence and feelings of success that came from living on my own, when because of my disability, I had never been sure if I could. This lost time away from campus has only made me more excited for my senior year.
I am looking forward to in-person classes. There’s something about contributing to a precept discussion while sitting around a seminar table, taking notes alongside others in a large lecture hall, or exiting class with a friend while discussing what we learned that just can’t be replicated through a screen. As a senior, I can take classes that really interest me, and I know I will absorb and retain more information in exciting classes like political journalism and American Sign Language when I no longer have to be on Zoom all day. I’m also eager to return to my favorite study spaces on campus so I can make progress on my thesis.
I also cannot wait for our lively campus social life to return. Because of social distancing requirements, it was difficult to spend time with friends during the spring semester. I cannot wait to hang out in my room with a group of friends, enjoy meals and social events in my eating club, see dance performances and acapella arch sings, and hold fun study breaks with lots of good food for my advisee (zee) group in my role as a Peer Academic Adviser.
If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s shown me the power of community. I’m grateful for my Princeton family for sustaining and supporting me during a year like no other. Next school year, amid the stress of classes and writing my thesis, I’m most looking forward to strengthening my relationships with friends, faculty, and staff, because these friendships are what mean the most to me during my time at Princeton. I’ll only be a Princeton student once, so it’s up to me to make the most of my senior year.