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Princeton Resolutions


New Years is a time for reflection and resolutions. Therefore, I reached out to my fellow bloggers about some of their Princeton Resolutions for the coming year. Below you will find a few ways in which students are looking to take advantage of all that Princeton offers in 2017.

Michelle Greenfield '18

My Princeton resolution for this coming year is to search out new and exciting study spots on campus. Princeton has so much beautiful architecture ranging from Collegiate Gothic to contemporary that it is a shame to always sit in my room or in the basement of the library. Therefore, I want to explore the hidden gems the school offers and find those spaces that are quintessentially Princeton. I found one just before leaving for winter break in East Pyne, an academic building, where there is a comfy chair and a beautiful stained glass window of the Princeton shield. I am sure there are many more out there waiting to be discovered.

Briana Pagano '18

My Princeton resolution for the New Year is to attend more of the campus talks that pique my interest. On Dec. 1, I attended a lecture given by bestselling author Richard Preston: "The Hidden Worlds of Narrative Nonfiction."  As Preston read from his book, "The Wild Trees," and recounted daring tales of himself scaling 300-foot redwoods in search of a story, I found myself enthralled and inspired. One of the few students among a sea of grey hair, I promised myself in that moment to take better advantage of the endless hidden wonders Princeton has to offer.

Avaneesh Narla '17

As my time here comes to an end, I have been reflecting a lot on my Princeton experience. I do believe that I have challenged myself academically, and hope to continue doing so in the future. However, before I leave, I want to strengthen the relationships I have made, and seek out new ones among people that I don't ordinarily run into.

Peyton Lawrenz '19

Next semester, I'd like to prioritize forming strong relationships with my new professors! Princeton professors are very open to hearing from their students and getting to know them. I have definitely made the effort to make sure that I get to know all of my professors in past semesters by going to their office hours and setting up appointments to discuss course material or continue conversations from class, but I'd like to take advantage of Princeton's Home Dining Program (aka bring your professor to a meal). Grab a professor, grab some food (for free), and get to know each other!  

 


Class of 2020: It’s the Moment You’ve Been Waiting For


Welcome To Princeton! You will hear this phrase at least 100 times when you first step on campus. So, for all of my class of 2020 readers, let me be one of the first of many to say congratulations and welcome to Princeton. I am super excited to meet you and can’t wait to get to know each and every one of you. I wanted to take this opportunity to offer a bit of insight into the unique Princeton Orientation experience.  Princeton’s academic calendar is very different from other schools, and because of this, we are able to have an extensive orientation program focused just on our freshmen.

Orientation includes many different components to help facilitate some of your first days on campus. There are activities set to teach you about Princeton culture and history, times to ask juniors and seniors questions about their experiences, opportunities to reflect upon where you came from and where you see yourself going, and of course, moments to hang out and create friendships and experience Princeton for everything that it has to offer.  

This year, Princeton is offering three orientation programs. The first is Outdoor Action (OA), which consists of a weeklong outdoor experience. This could be a biking, canoeing, backpacking, camping, or some other outdoor adventure. (I am an OA leader, so if any of you lovely readers happen to be in my group, bonus points if you mention you read this blog post!) The second program is Community Action (CA), which consists of a weeklong community service experience. As part of CA, you could be volunteering at a soup kitchen, painting murals in the park, planting in a community farm, tutoring, or doing some other fun activity with your new Princeton friends. The third program is designed for fall student-athletes. In this orientation program, students will remain on campus and train with their teams, while still getting that same personal reflection and community-building experience.

In addition to these exciting trips and experiences, as another part of orientation, freshmen will have the opportunity to get to know their "Z-groups," which is short for "advisee." This group, run by a student residential college adviser, brings together students who live near one another in their residential college. They will discuss Pre-read, the book assigned to the entering students of the Class of 2020, and become acquainted with special Princeton traditions (start thinking of your favorite songs to sing at Step Sing). And, of course, they will start making those life-long friends everyone talks about when they mention college.

So, Class of 2020, get excited about Orientation. Are you ready?  


Building Community in the Residential Colleges


One of the topics that incoming students most frequently have questions about is residential life at Princeton. While Princeton prides itself on its superior academic program, residential life is an important component of the student experience here.

I am a Residential College Adviser, or RCA, at Butler College, one of seven residential colleges. My role is to foster and build community among students, as part of a team of Butler College staff, RCAs and other peer leaders within the residential college. One of the ways we do this is by putting on a variety of events for all students in the Butler community, to connect, have fun and take a break from studying. 

 

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A tree with green, yellow, and red leaves against a backdrop of brick buildings and blue sky.
Outside Butler College

My favorite event is the Butler Teahive, a weekly study break that the Butler College staff organizes for all students. At 3:00 p.m. every Friday, one of the rooms in the Butler basement is transformed into a social hub where students connect with each other over a cup of tea and a selection of delicious desserts and berries from a rotating cast of local bakeries and restaurants. I’ve gotten excellent academic advice from the Butler college staff in a low-pressure environment, I get to see some friends and even make new ones, and there’s always plenty of delicious treats for everyone. 

In addition to the weekly events put on by Butler College staff, the student-run Butler College Council, and RCAs like me, there are also one-time events held regularly. Resident Graduate Students (RGS) or Butler College Council often plan these fun, community building events that try their best to include every type of student. If you’re itching to burst out of the so-called ‘Orange Bubble’ you can join your residential college for a Broadway show or a Six Flags trip. Those with an artistic bent might enjoy the many arts and crafts nights, from paint and sip (with boba) to karaoke night. Or if you prefer a laid-back kind of vibe, there’s always game nights and watch parties (most recently for the World Cup). 

 

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A colorful poster advertising "Community Wall Night" at Butler College.
One of the many RGS-organized community events.

I’ve spoken about my experience at Butler College, the residence college I work for and have lived in for all of my time at Princeton. But all seven operate in the same way and offer the same amount of programming and community building that we at Butler do. No matter which college you end up in, you’ll have plenty to do and many friends to meet!


Getting Oriented on Campus: Community Action as a First-Year to Community Action as a Leader


CA, OA, DDA. These are acronyms that all incoming first-years come to know as they embark on their college journey at Princeton. Community Action, Outdoor Action, and Dialogue & Difference in Action, respectively, are three of the main orientation programs that new students are assigned to upon arrival to campus. While all three programs have their unique merits and focuses, I’d like to talk about my amazing Community Action experiences, both as a first-year student and later as a leader. 

I remember arriving at Princeton and, like many incoming students, wondering how, when, and where I’d make friends. Surely, you’ll meet peers through your classes, your advisee “zee” group (AKA the people that live on/around your floor), and through clubs. However, CA, and orientation in general, presents a special opportunity to meet a random assortment of fellow first-years that you may otherwise never have met anywhere else. It also is an opportunity to connect with communities nearby and engage in service.

My first year, I absolutely loved my CA group. Even though we were still in our COVID-era and could not do the typical overnight orientation trips, our group bonded quickly. One of my favorite memories was going to the Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC) and getting to do team-building games and go canoeing together. Another would be doing a gardening service project at the local Grounds for Sculpture. These activities really brought our group together and, to this day, I’m still good friends with many members of my CA group. And even with those I’m not, it’s nice to have a familiar face around campus to say hi to. Coincidentally, my CA trip is also where I met one of my best friends (shoutout Kelsey!). Though she was in a different group than me, we were both at the same service site and got to talking. We found out we shared a lot of similarities, like being from New Jersey, living in what was then First College, and also enjoying our CA experiences so much.
 

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Group of students posing around statue
My 2021 CA Group, as a first-year student!

That is partially what inspired that very friend and I to become CA leaders together this year for the Class of 2026. Our CA group (shoutout Group 17~38!) quickly became like a family, and the energy and positivity our first-years brought was absolutely palpable throughout our entire trip. Now many weeks past the end of this year’s orientation program, we still find ourselves sending jokes in our Group 17 chat, grabbing dinner together on Nassau St., and studying with them on our floor. I can safely say that becoming a CA leader was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and our CA trip this year was one of, if not the, best 4 days of my Princeton experience thus far. 

All this to say, orientation and Community Action is one of the many ways Princeton helps foster community amongst the incoming class. From the start of your Princeton career, you’re able to build strong connections with your peers — connections that will hopefully end up lasting a lifetime!
 

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Students and man posing for group picture in front of tree
My 2022 CA group, as a sophomore and leader!

Staying Connected With Your Residential College as an Upperclassman


Before Princeton changed its residential college system and transformed all of its residential colleges into four-year colleges, the tradition was for juniors and seniors to move out of the hallowed halls they had called home for the past two years. Room draw for the 2022-2023 academic year was the first year this change was implemented, and while my draw group and I had hoped to stay in a residential college for our final two years at Princeton, we ultimately drew a room in junior and senior housing.

There are a lot of moments where I reminisce about my time at Forbes College, the far but cozy residential college known for its community and Sunday brunch (though I would argue Saturday brunches are better!)

I miss not having to walk in the cold during the winter to get to the dining hall, rolling out of bed on the weekends and walking six feet to the most popular weekend brunch spot, watching movies in the Forbes theater and sitting in the backyard and doing work while watching the sun set over the golf course with the graduate tower in the distance. 

Forbes felt like a home, and I missed that community aspect of my dorm as I migrated further up campus for my junior year. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to share my living space with people outside of Forbes (a perk of junior and senior housing) and the shorter commute to my classes, but every now and then I do find myself thinking of my old residential college.

Just my luck, at the end of September, Forbes held an Oktoberfest event for juniors and seniors –– where we were invited to the home of the Head of Forbes College, Maria Garlock, to have dinner and mingle with our fellow Forbesians. Once again, I found myself trekking across the lawn in front of the Lewis Center for the Arts and crossing the familiar crosswalk where familiar pillars welcomed me. 

The event was held in the string light adorned backyard, where my roommates and I indulged on pretzels and currywurst and the like. Throughout the hour-long duration we were there, I saw many faces both familiar and unfamiliar, and realized the durability of the Forbes community. Some of the seniors there hadn’t lived in Forbes for over a year but were still present and chatting with the deans and staff.

Little events like this made me feel like an integral part of the community. My roommates and I (one of my current roommates was also a Forbesian) had a great time reminiscing about our time in Forbes, concluding that we should come more often for weekend brunches. 

I realized then that it really isn’t that difficult to stay connected with your residential college as a junior or senior. Read your email, make the walk on weekends to use your dining hall swipes and never forget the memories you made there as a first-year or sophomore. And maybe you’ll be lucky enough in your room draw to keep living there as an junior or senior. 


Traversing the Orange Bubble


Navigating your way around campus can be intimidating during a visit or just after move-in, but after several weeks, you'll likely find yourself realizing that the campus is actually quite compact. Traversing the Orange Bubble for your various classes throughout the day is quite doable on foot or on bike, which is why very few students have cars on campus (that, combined with the lack of practically any place to park one). Additionally, Princeton's buildings are becoming increasingly accessible. For instance, Naomi Hess '22 has a wonderful blog on the recent renovations to Nassau Hall that allowed her to be the first person using a wheelchair to enter the building without assistance. In short, getting around campus without a car or shuttle is easy, and the impromptu conversations that occur while entering, leaving and traveling between campus buildings are an unsung but vital part of the Princeton experience. 

For example, after working on a paper or problem set for several hours, I might summarize verbally what I've been doing to a friend I pass on my way out of the E-Quad or library. The simple act of condensing the main points of my work can be very helpful in synthesizing and organizing the material in my mind. Other times, the walks between classes provide an opportunity to catch up with friends when we don't have the time to organize a formal meet-up or get-together. Even though we might not have the time for a concert or event together, we can always chat as we walk from class to class. I really appreciate the moments with friends as I get around campus, as they've been the start of both great ideas and friendships.

Campus is very self-contained, but there may be times when you need something from a destination farther away. For those moments, you can take the Tiger Transit shuttle bus. This bus is free and drives around campus daily, and on the weekends it follows the Weekend Shopper route. This route proceeds down Route 1 to stop at the various shopping centers that include a Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Staples, Home Depot and other stores. I've taken the Weekend Shopper to buy groceries, and my friends have taken it to buy supplies for their art classes. 

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Weekend shopper bus approaching in parking lot of shopping center

Weather permitting, it's also possible to increase your mobility on a bike. Many students have bikes on campus, because they make it possible to get from New South to the E-Quad, for instance, when you only have a 10-minute change-over between classes. There is also a biking route down Alexander Street and Canal Pointe Boulevard that you can take to reach the shopping centers previously mentioned. When it's nice outside, I like taking a bike ride along that route to get to the Whole Foods to buy groceries. Most students store their bikes outside on the numerous bike racks outside the dorms. I cover mine with a plastic tarp when it rains. It looks a little ridiculous, but it does help prevent rusting!

 

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bicycle under gray plastic tarp

Getting around campus and town is one of the most enjoyable parts of my daily routine, and I never fail to appreciate both the buildings and the friends around me as I get from place to place. Furthermore, campus is becoming increasingly accessible to everyone, which you can find out more about from the AccessAbility Center. Additionally Parking and Transportation Services also provides information on accessible pathways and entrances on campus.  In summary, traversing the Orange Bubble is a simple everyday treat.


Building A Home Away From Home


 

The summer before college, I did a lot of preparing. Through dinners with family and gatherings with friends, the stinging pain of saying goodbye eventually softened to a dull ache.

As August slipped away, my suitcase began to fill while my bedroom began to empty. In my spare time, I read the pre-read. I dug through my drawers and pulled out my passport, which hadn’t seen the light of day for the past two years. When I boarded the plane to Newark, I knew that everything that was within my control had been taken care of. Yet, even with all this preparation, the most daunting question still lingered in my mind — how am I going to make friends?

Unsurprisingly, my first semester at Princeton was absolute social chaos. Between the heavy workload and extracurricular meetings, it was hard to carve out time to create community. I often had meals with people, only to never see them again. I talked to people at events, only to forget their names within a week. More than anything, nobody seemed to measure up to the friends I had at home. And of course they didn’t — I was trying to mold these strangers into best friends within days without realizing that this “ideal” friend group I was so eager to recreate had taken years of care to cultivate.

So, I did what any reasonable introvert would do — I spent the rest of the semester lonely. Oddly enough, it was during this time of loneliness that I started to find friendship. Winter break left me stranded on campus in a climate I longed to leave. And so I did. I gathered the courage to text that friend I only hung out with twice, and a week later, we were somehow in Los Angeles. For Christmas, I caught COVID, and we traded our itinerary for eating takeout on opposite ends of our hotel room. It was during this time that I really felt at peace. Stuck with nothing to do, I learned to appreciate someone’s simple company on its own. And although I spent that week lamenting our abandoned plans and pretending I didn’t have a banging headache, it was then that I finally began to see others without trying to shape them into someone I knew from home.

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Selfie of two woman and Shrek character, in front of a fantasy backdrop, with an outdoor restaurant visible on the left
Universal Studios during Winter Break 2021.

Spring found me spending my lunches in WuCox (a campus dining hall) at a table of engineering students (scary, I know). My one friend had extended into a whole group of friends. Even though we studied vastly different subjects, we found joy in doing the simple things in each others’ company. We grinded problem sets together and spent late nights rewriting our Writing Seminar papers in JRR (the Julius Romo Rabinowitz Building, which connects to the Louis A. Simpson International Building, home to the Davis International Center) — all the wonderfully chaotic first-year experiences. Outside of schoolwork, we screamed in support at each others’ performances (my friends are crazy cool dancers) and played card games over the weekends.

 

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Seven people stand on a stage, in front of blue lit backdrop
Watching the Princeton University Ballet x eXpressions collaboration show.

When Spring Break rolled around, and the seasonal depression started to ease, I found myself on another trip, but this time with six others (and no COVID!). We spent that week visiting art museums, making a mess in the kitchen of our Airbnb, and eating copious amounts of Chinese food. As we walked through the streets of Philadelphia at night, I realized that I had come a long way since the fall semester. And while Princeton isn’t quite the same as home, I’ve started to carve out a special space for it in my heart.

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Six students jump in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Jumpshot outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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Six students stand in a kitchen with white walls, grey cabinets behind them and a white refrigerator to their right
Baking contest with friends over Spring Break 2022.

To Find a Home


As an international student from Haiti, I have always been aware of my national identity, especially when traveling abroad. The first time I visited the United States, I realized how my Haitianness was not just a label, but had tangible and observable consequences for how I integrated spaces, how I was perceived and what kind of learning, unlearning and resistance I would have to perform. When I decided to commit to Princeton in April 2021, this awareness was front and center in my mind. Would I find my belonging without compromising who I was at my core? I wanted college to be a space for growth, but I didn't want that growth to come at the expense of my authentic self. I wasn't averse to challenging myself and being uncomfortable, but at what cost? I knew there were many affinity groups on campus that intersected with my national identity that would help me protect and nourish what I thought to be my identity. What I didn't know whether or where I would find a home. I carried these questions and doubts with me on the plane.

In the fall of my first year, I attended an event organized by the African Students Association (PASA). It was an event of delicious food, traditional board games, music and fantastic atmosphere! There were people from diverse backgrounds: first-generation immigrants, international students from the African continent or the diaspora, black students of all backgrounds, generational African-American students, and all those beautiful and complex intersectional identities. I immediately felt at home! I understood the humor, people laughed at my jokes, the music was engaging, the energy electrifying and the food seasoned. I felt seen and welcomed as part of a larger community. At that moment, my national identity made space for my other identities to be. I became part of something greater: a cultural community.

I experienced the same feeling over and over again. It was not just happening at PASA events. It happened at the movie nights organized by the Davis International Center. It happened again at study breaks with other first-generation low-income students. And again at the weekly dinners of the Society of African Internationals (SAIP). And again at the game nights organized by the Black Student Union (BSU). Over time, I came to see community, identity and belonging as dynamic concepts that can only be spoken of in plural. So far at Princeton, I have learned to see myself as more than Haitian. I have been encouraged to recognize and explore other aspects of myself. Other identities that make me who I am. I stopped chasing this single community where I would feel at home and instead welcomed the idea of ​​belonging through multiple communities and spaces. Thanks to a variety of student groups, only some of which I have officially joined (I am now the Vice-President of PASA), I was able to feel at home. Today, my Haitianness remains an extremely important part of who I am and of what drives me. Yet, I have found peace and joy in knowing and accepting that I am much more than that, however proud I am to be Haitian.

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Two friends in front of a lake in Seattle

A Guide to Free & Cheap Things at Princeton


I think people fail to emphasize the “broke” part of the phrase “broke college student.”

That is why I am writing this article: I was once you, young grasshopper. Now, I am happy to share what I have learned in my year of navigating Princeton and discovering the best ways to procure free and cheap things around campus. 

To start, here is a list of things I’ve gotten for free (or cheap) during my time at Princeton: a mountain bike, a bike helmet (to go along with the bike), a sewing machine, a six piece glass Tupperware set, an iron, clothes hangers, a mini fridge, a fake plant (which is thriving), a real plant (which started dying the minute I bought it), a saucer chair and multiple mirrors.

I do not list all of these things to flex (I just did), but rather to showcase what is possible.

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A fake plant that has large, green leaves and is in a white pot.
Doesn’t she look so ALIVE!? Email name suggestions!

Here are the resources I’ve used:

1. TigerRetail

TigerRetail is a website where Princeton students can sell items they don’t want/need. If you pay attention to the listings, there are often items listed for free, or whole moving sales being advertised.

It is easy to fall into the trap of buying things I didn’t need just because it was a good deal, but otherwise I love TigerRetail.

2. Move-In Resale

At the beginning of each school year, Student Government puts on a resale event, where they sell second-hand dorm items. The only things to keep in mind are that the sale tends to sell out fast (so you need to stand in line at least 1-2 hours in advance) and if you intend to buy large furniture, make sure to bring people with you who can help you carry it.

3. Helping Seniors Move

Of COURSE you should help seniors/your friends move out of/into their dorms just out of the goodness of your heart. That said, it’s also a sweet bonus that while you are helping them move, you’re in the prime position to alleviate them of any items they may no longer need. 

4. Move-out

Move-out is the perfect time to score any of the bigger/more fragile dorm items (think mini-fridges, mirrors) if you’ll be staying on campus for the summer or you have a place to store them. The key here is to wait a couple weeks after people start sending “summer sale” emails if you want anything for free: eventually these dorm items will just be discarded all around campus and you will be able to take them for free.

5. The Free Food Listserv 

This listserv is a gift from the heavens. All it is an email list where people send out emails whenever there is free food being given away. Google “the Princeton freefood listserv” once you have a Princeton email to find instructions on how to subscribe.

 

I have two tips when it comes to these resources: First, negotiate, negotiate, NEGOTIATE! If an item on TigerRetail or someone’s student sale says that it is negotiable, don’t be ashamed to suggest a different price and see what happens. Second, when all else fails, ask around to any group chats you’re in to see if someone may be selling/giving away the item you desire.

 

That’s it from me, folks! Which of these resources are you most excited to utilize? If you end up using any of them to get free stuff, I’d love to know!

 


Why Can't Fish Play Volleyball? Because They Are Afraid of the Net.


Tuesdays are my favorite day of the week. That is partly because I only have one class all day: my 10 AM Spanish class. It's also the day when I get to organize my time however I want, do as little or as much work as I feel like doing and lock myself in one of Firestone's cubicles to finally read a novel for fun. But all of these are just additional factors that contribute to my particular affection for Tuesdays. The real reason is that I have my first volleyball practice of the week on Tuesday evening, in Dillon Gym.

I am an Outside Hitter for the Men's Volleyball Club in Princeton. Twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday), about 20 of us get together to throw a few balls here and there and have a good time. This is definitely one of the highlights of my time at Princeton so far and one of my favorite extracurriculars.

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11 volleyball players posing on the court

I started playing volleyball nine years ago. I took part in several volleyball tournaments for my high school, was team captain and even trained with the Haitian National Under 16 team in 2018. After the end of the season, however, I stopped playing competitive volleyball due to socio-political problems in my country. Soon thereafter, the pandemic started. As a result, I went from 10 training sessions per week to occasionally hitting a beach volleyball two or three times per semester for almost eighteen months.

When I decided to join Princeton, I knew I wanted to continue with the activities that brought me joy. Volleyball was one of them. However, I was worried that I would not be prepared to walk on the official varsity school team, especially after such a long break. Also, I was not sure the level of commitment required by varsity teams generally aligned with my professional and social aspirations at Princeton. I love volleyball. However, I was only doing it for fun. I wanted to leave time to explore other interests and pursue other passions in college. It was then that I was told about the Men's Volleyball Club and I immediately knew that it was going to be the right level for me.

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11 volleyball players posing on the court

Upon joining the team, I realized that there were a lot of people like me, who had played volleyball in high school and desired to continue at Princeton in a competitive setting, but with a lower level of commitment than varsity. Participating in the club is first and foremost an opportunity to play a sport that they love and stay physically and mentally healthy. Personally, after a long day, the only thing I often look forward to is hitting a few balls over the net, playing a few sets with my teammates and even shouting the exhilarating "1,2,3… Tigers!" at the end of practice. Volleyball helps me de-stress and forget about my academic responsibilities for a while. At the same time, it also helps me be much more productive in the long run. More than anything, the volleyball club ended up becoming a community where I feel safe. I have forged friendships with my teammates around our common interests and passions. Even off the pitch, we always find time to crack a solid joke! 

There is a wide variety of extracurricular groups in Princeton covering all interests, ranging from the most common ones (like dance companies or chess clubs) to the more specific ones (like bad movie viewers or chocolate makers). There are even affinity groups, like the African Student Association or the Black Student Union. And if a group is missing, you can always create one (I personally know the founder and the only member of the Princeton Macedonian Association)! Ultimately, Princeton fosters the pursuit of a sense of belonging on campus by interacting with people who share similar interests and a common vision. For me, it was through volleyball. For you, it can be through anything. Start envisioning it now!