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Lions and Tigers: My Study Abroad Experience

This semester, I had the incredible opportunity to spend seven weeks in Kenya with the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department’s Semester in the Field program. 

The program involves taking four courses, each for three weeks, in subjects ranging from Biology of African Animals and Ecosystems to Terrestrial Paleoecology (basically trying to understand what ancient ecosystems looked like). Since I went abroad as a senior (most EEB students go abroad during their junior spring), I was there for the first two classes and returned to campus after spring break to finish my thesis. 

three students and a professor in a classroom
Bone taphonomy lecture with Professor Kevin Uno. This was one of only a handful of classroom lectures during the program –– the rest were outside, in the field! 

Nothing I could have imagined compared to the feeling of waking up to the sound of birds chirping and monkeys calling to one another right outside my tent every morning. To be so immersed in nature was indescribable. We saw endangered Grevy’s zebras and African wild dogs, of which there are only a few thousand remaining in the world, as well as lions, hyenas, rhinos, and elephants. In the first week alone, we saw 35 different species of mammals! 

The classes I took provided amazing opportunities for hands-on fieldwork. During the first course, we planned, executed, and analyzed data for four complete research projects — in just three weeks! It was definitely fast-paced, but I came out of it with a much greater understanding of the scientific process, and I’m so grateful for the experience. 

group photo of 13 smiling people in a savannah landscape
The 11 of us, on a hike with the professor and TA of our first course. 

One of the best parts of going to Kenya was the people - the 10 fellow Princeton and Columbia students I traveled with, our professors and TAs, and the Kenyan researchers, staff, and community members we got to know during our stay there. We bonded over trips to overlooks to watch the sunset after a game drive, games of soccer and darts at the research center (which we often lost), and most of all, our climb of Mount Kenya during spring break (I credit the bond between us as the reason we somehow all made it to the summit!). 

Going to Kenya was the best experience of my life so far, and I can’t recommend studying abroad enough. As sad as I was to leave Princeton’s beautiful campus and all my friends there, it was so worth it to get the chance to experience new places, cultures, and ecosystems with such an amazing group of people. If I had one piece of advice for anyone considering studying abroad, it would be to just go! You never know where it can take you. 


Top 5 Study Spots From a Graduating Senior

1. Firestone Library: The Trustee Reading Room

Firestone Library, opened in 1948, is the largest of eleven libraries on Princeton’s campus. It was designed as an open-stack lending library, meaning users can browse all library materials (outside Rare Books and Special Collections) at their leisure. With over 70 miles of shelving and countless desks, tables, and cubicles, Firestone is the ideal place for a serious study session! The Trustee Room, located just to the left of the main lobby, opened in 2020 and is the perfect place to study on a sunny afternoon. I love it because it’s open, bright, and silent, so I can really focus on my work with minimal distractions– and because I submitted my senior thesis here!

Exterior image of Firestone Library, blue sky with clouds
Glass wall with doorway entering a room with tables, letters reading "the trustee reading room" above the door

2. Firestone Library: The Solarium

Also located in Firestone, the solarium is another great place for work! It was designed as part of renovation efforts to increase natural lighting in the library, and, rain or shine, it has a lovely atmosphere. Perks include comfy chairs for reading, a great table with lamps and outlets, and proximity to the Tiger Tea Room (Firestone’s café) for coffee, tea, snacks, and study breaks with friends!

room with reading tables, arm chairs, large windows and sky lights and chandelier

3. East Pyne: Chancellor Green Rotunda

This is one of the most beautiful rooms at Princeton. Originally Pyne Library, East Pyne was built in 1897 and was the main library on campus until Firestone opened. A student center from 1948-1965, Chancellor Green is now once again a study space, crowned with a stained glass ceiling. On sunny afternoons, the octagonal rotunda is glazed with beautiful colors, and at any time of day, it is a breathtakingly beautiful place to study.

rotunda with ornate ceiling and stained glass windows, filled with arm chairs and coffee tables
ornate ceiling of rotunda with stained glasses windows

4. Tiger Inn Library

On busy days, I love working at my eating club’s library! The Tiger Inn, my club, was established in 1890 and is one of Princeton’s eleven eating clubs located on Prospect Avenue. In addition to being where over 70% of students eat all their meals, the eating clubs are important social centers for undergraduate students of all years. When I study at TI, I know I’ll be surrounded by friends!

tudor style room with large study table, fireplace flanked by windows with taxidermy bull above it

5. Home: My Couch!

Boring, but honest– we all need to work at home sometimes. Most nights, I do at least a little bit of reading on my couch. After a busy day, it feels great to relax at home.

grey couch with three pillows, one with a Princeton design

Taking a Ride in the Mobile Lab

On a recent Tuesday, the usual lecture for the course CEE311, Global Air Pollution, was replaced with an atypical data collection session. Each student signed up for a different time slot throughout the day, and small groups met at the parking lot by the E-Quad in order to be driven by Professor Zondlo in the Princeton Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment Mobile Lab.

body of white car with metal measurement instruments on top
The Princeton Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment Mobile Lab

This car is equipped with various sensors for measuring wind speed, methane, and other greenhouse gasses in the ambient air. It's fully electric, so there are no emissions from the car that could influence the measurements. Inside the car, there's a GPS sensor so that we can pair the measurements to their exact latitude and longitude coordinates. 

Professor Zondlo drove us by a nearby wastewater treatment plant, and we recorded the methane levels coming from the plant. Gas plume measurements are highly variable, so to get a better estimate, we drove past the plant ten times (making U-turns in a nearby parking lot) in order to get more data. Once we had this data, we analyzed it and were able to use the Gaussian plume model we'd learned about in class to get an estimate of the methane emission rate from the plant. 

Plot of the methane data measurements with the Gaussian plume model overlaid
Fitting the Gaussian plume model to the data

This experience was both a welcome change of pace to the usual routine (How often do you get to be driven around by your professor in a decked-out electric car?) and an opportunity to see how an atmospheric chemistry scientist collects and analyzes data. Professor Zondlo uses the mobile lab in his own research, and his group recently published a paper where they performed a similar exercise at a variety of wastewater treatment plants throughout the United States. In being exposed to the real-world methods my professors use in their own research, I've been able to experience what working in different areas of environmental engineering would be like. This has made me feel more prepared to choose my own niche field (water, air, soil, etc.) for graduate school and my future career. I've been consistently impressed with how dedicated my professors are to creating courses that allow me experience what working as an environmental engineer will truly be like. 

If you see a car with some strange metal instruments on top driving by, and then see it turn around and drive by you again, don't be alarmed. You might be witnessing the mobile lab in action, collecting data to help understand and combat climate change.

Ecology is Everywhere: An Adventure in Summer Thesis Research

You might have heard that seniors at Princeton have to write a (dundundunnn!) thesis before we graduate, and to some that can seem like an overwhelming prospect; crafting a culminating piece of original work is no small feat! But I’m here to tell you that, thanks to Princeton’s incredible support, it’s really not as scary as it sounds. And the process can even be – dare I say it – fun! 

This summer, I spent seven weeks in Irvine, California studying the impact of wildfire on large mammal community ecology for my thesis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB). Due to the COVID pandemic, I hadn’t yet been able to do ecological field work, so diving into it for the first time was exciting. I loved being able to apply the theoretical concepts I had learned in my EEB classes on campus to the dynamic, real-world landscape I found myself in. Being out in the field was incomparable – everywhere I looked there was something new to see and learn about. 

Seniors at Princeton can apply for funding to cover research (on- or off-campus) during the summer before their senior year. I received funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research, EEB Department, and High Meadows Environmental Institute. Thanks to their generosity, I was able to travel across the country to study something I’m interested in for my thesis, and didn’t have to worry about whether I could afford it. 

Living on my own far from the Orange Bubble was at first a bit overwhelming, but I was grateful for the support I found once I got there. Each senior at Princeton is matched with a faculty advisor before beginning their thesis work, and my advisor, one of the leading experts on wildlife conservation, connected me with the director of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, a nonprofit land management organization in Southern California where I did my research. Having that network of support was helpful and I knew that if I ever had a question on aspects of my research I had several people I could turn to. 

Image of a mountain lion walking towards the left
A mountain lion, one of several species of mammals I studied for my thesis

As with any research project, I encountered obstacles while out in the field; malfunctioning cameras, waking up at 5am every day, and even an encounter with a rattlesnake! But it was all worth it when my data collection started and I began seeing footage of mountain lions and other elusive mammals, getting to think more deeply about their interactions and how human influences are changing the way that they relate with their habitat. It’s exciting to me that my research could possibly have larger implications for land management and wildlife protection as the climate changes, and this motivated me to continue despite the setbacks I faced. This is one of the reasons that, in my mind, the Princeton thesis is so special; you get the chance to take a topic that’s excited you academically during your time here and bring it to the next level, contributing your own original research to the field. 

My experience this summer was one I won’t forget, and I’ll take with me everything I learned as I venture into the field of ecology going forward. Though being back on campus this fall had me missing the sunny California weather, I’m (actually) excited to dive into analyzing my data and finishing writing my thesis. The senior thesis truly is the capstone of your college experience here, and I’m grateful that Princeton has given me this opportunity for learning and discovery. 

Image of the ocean with a sunset and two birds flying overhead
Though this summer was a busy one, I still had time to enjoy some beautiful California sunsets.

Let's Choose Courses

A ray of sunlight peeks through the window and your alarm clock rings for the fifth time. You wouldn’t be caught dead waking up this early in the morning normally, but it’s fall course selection time and it's an inevitable part of the process. Slowly, you rise up from bed and anxiously open your laptop to TigerHub. You remind yourself that today you are waking up this early so you have the luxury of sleeping in next year. Hours spent perfecting and curating the best schedule can all turn to dust if you don’t press enroll right at 7:30 a.m. I’ll take the story back a few weeks so you can have a clearer picture of my course planning process. 

Princeton usually releases courses for the fall semester a few weeks before course selection (this year course selection runs April 18-20). Depending on your year, you may go about course selection in a variety of ways but I’ll be speaking from the perspective of a rising junior who plans to major in psychology. So far, I’ve completed all my distribution requirements and pre-requisite courses for my major. As an A.B. concentrator, I had to take 11 general education courses to fulfill all of the distribution areas (not including the writing seminar and the foreign language requirement). All of the courses I’ve taken so far have been genuinely interesting; some I may not have anticipated taking before entering college, but nonetheless I’m glad I was able to expose myself to different areas of study. Meanwhile other courses, I can’t imagine a life without: LAO347: "Latinx Literature and Film", ANT308: "Empires of Debt" and AAS201: "African American Studies and the Philosophy of Race."

You need to have a game plan when you go into course selection. First, you should identify which courses you need to take for the semester. This usually includes prerequisites for your major or certificate. I need to take PSY300: "Research Methods in Psychology" because it is advised that I complete it before the end of my junior year and it's only available in the fall. I add that to my course planner on TigerHub; some students use ReCal (a course planner website made by Princeton students) but TigerHub is easy enough for me. Once I have that time sectioned off, I can begin to work my other courses around it. I use the Princeton course offerings advanced search feature to look for days and times that are convenient for me and browse through courses that I might be interested in. If I’m being honest, there’s no perfect way to find your courses. Sometimes I’ll search through all the subjects hoping that something interesting might pop up but usually I look under areas I’m interested in. My go-to subjects are Psychology, Latino Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies

While this is not a required step, I like to ask my friends about any courses they might be taking next semester. There’s nothing better than entering a lecture hall and having someone already saving a seat for you. I also think it's helpful to have someone to bounce scheduling ideas off of and get a second opinion, so definitely make it a group effort, it’ll make the whole process seem less stressful. Since I am trying to complete a Latino Studies certificate, I look for classes that fit my time frame and that I think would be interesting. I found SPA250: "Identity in the Spanish-Speaking World" which has a really cool description. Then, I check out the requirements and grading system. I see that there are no exams and that I’ll be mainly graded on participation, papers and presentations. I tend to steer towards classes like this because I’d rather write papers than take exams. Other people prefer the opposite so there’s definitely a variety of classes that can fit either preference. One cool thing about this course is that there is a mandatory travel component where we would travel to Puerto Rico during fall break. 

Students sitting on a picnic blanket in the park eating food.
I recently went on a field trip for a different Latino Studies seminar. We went to El Museo del Barrio and toured East Harlem, we ended our trip with a picnic in Central Park. I love classes that have exciting outside the classroom opportunities.

Once I have planned a first-choice list of courses, I also search for backups. This is especially important for small class sizes like seminars, which tend to fill quickly. I also keep in mind the following tips:

  1. Timing: Think realistically about when you will wake up in the morning. Don’t register for an 8 a.m. if you’re more likely to be up late. If you’re a morning person, then go for it! 
  2. Lunch: Make sure to give yourself breaks for meals. Dining halls are only open for lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., but you can always grab a late meal at Frist. 
  3. Reviews: Look at course reviews on Princeton Courses, these are all student reviews that really help put classes into perspective. 

With course selection coming next week, I am well prepared to pick quickly. Once I'm done, I'll be right back under my covers until the alarm for my 11 a.m. lecture!

A Thousand Paths to Princeton

It goes without saying that every student currently enrolled at Princeton has a unique journey that led them here, but when I was still a prospective student, this is something that was especially important for me to remember. So allow me to say it again: there is no “normal” path to Princeton, and there is no “normal” Princeton student.

Like many other nervous prospective applicants, I spent countless hours during my senior year of high school searching the Internet for answers–for anything that would tell me whether or not Princeton was even remotely attainable for me. Sure, I’d always gotten good grades, but what if that wasn’t enough? I’d been a public school student all my life, and although I greatly valued that education, I knew there would be other applicants that would have gone to different schools that had likely better prepared and exposed them to the rigor of ideas and extracurriculars that Princeton was looking for. In the weeks leading up to the January 1st deadline, my head swarmed with self-doubt.

I almost didn’t apply, but on December 31st, I submitted my application. To avoid getting my hopes up, I told myself that even if I got in, I probably wouldn’t go because it was more than a thousand miles away, and it’d be too hard, and I didn’t want to live in New Jersey anyway, and… 

I believe my first words were, “Oh my God I got in,” and I believe after that (as well as after refreshing the page dozens of times to make sure it hadn’t been a mistake) they were, “What am I going to do?”

Up until that point, I had been ready to submit my acceptance to one of the state schools near my hometown. Maybe the fact I hadn’t yet was a testament in itself that I was hoping for my admission at Princeton, but that didn’t change the fact that I was scared of leaving Florida: all of my friends would be staying close to home; I had never gone so far on my own; and my family–my sister and my parents–and I were all extremely close since my parents had immigrated from Mexico and raised us far from any true support system. Princeton, with its Gothic architecture and ivy-covered walls, did not feel like the place for me–I did not think it was a space made for people like me, even after being accepted.

I won’t lie to you that Princeton was immediately, or even now, all sunshine and rainbows. As I look forward to declaring Politics as my major, as well as applying to law school in the future, I still struggle with these sorts of thoughts. But this is home now, and I’ve learned to embrace the rigor and explore the endless opportunities at my disposal here. If I had given in to the fear and the uncertainty, there is so much that I would have missed out on:

  • Every beautiful seasonal transition on campus, including experiencing my first snowfall;
  • Amazing friends, including my roommate of two years that I genuinely could not live without;
  • Meeting Nobel Prize winners in the middle of class or watching movies get filmed on campus;
  • My upcoming internship with an amazing organization in Trenton through the Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) program;
  • Engaging in all of Princeton’s quirky traditions;
  • And above all, tremendous self-growth.

Maybe this is a letter to my past self, or maybe it’s a love letter to Princeton. But to you, future applicant, or to you, future student–if there is anything that you get out of this one of thousands of stories, it is this:

You belong here, and sometimes the scariest choice turns out to be the right choice after all.

Photo of Blair Arch with a pink and blue sky in the background.

For the Love of ReCal, One of Many Student-created Apps

It’s that time of year again! That’s right, course selection – when Princeton students pick out their classes and build their schedules for the upcoming semester. In the spring, this happens around mid-April (with the exception of incoming first-years), while in the fall it takes place at the beginning of December. 

Personally, I’m one of those people that eagerly awaits the day that they post the new course options because I absolutely LOVE course selection! Coming up with the perfect schedule satisfies my over-organizational tendencies, and it’s always fun to peruse the interesting classes and see what courses your favorite professors are teaching next semester. But with the hundreds and hundreds of classes to pick from, it can definitely be overwhelming to sort through your options. You’ll probably wish that there was a way to visualize your course schedules. Fortunately, there is a TigerApp just for that! 

TigerApps are a series of apps/websites created and run by our very own Princeton students, and they’re “designed to improve your campus experience.” If you can name it, they probably have an app for it! There’s TigerDraw for looking at dorm reviews in preparation for the infamous room draw, TigerStudy if you're trying to find a study group for a certain class, and my favorite one, by far: ReCal

On ReCal, students can plan that perfect course schedule based on the updated list of classes for each semester. It automatically color-codes everything for you, and it’s super easy to add and remove courses. You can also select multiple classes for a certain time slot to see all your options side-by-side, and hovering over each class also lets you see the number of people currently enrolled in the course. It’ll even sync with your Google calendar!

What I love about ReCal is that it really encourages students to play around with their schedules and make sure they’re finding a balance for themselves. One semester, my first attempt at trying out a course combination on the website immediately made it obvious to me that my schedule was looking really “chunky” and blocked out. There wasn’t even a space for lunch! I knew that would be really overwhelming for myself, so I hit the remove button on ReCal, did some more searching, and found an alternative. Now, I always make sure that my ReCal schedule is looking spaced out with enough time to get to my classes without a rush, as few early mornings as possible, and, of course most importantly, some time carved out for lunch!

Check out ReCal now, and the many other wonderful TigerApps used by Princeton students!

Possible with Princeton: Finding Funding

Princeton professors are incredibly willing to take the seed of a research idea and help make it into a full project. Near the end of last summer, I proposed an independent study project to Professor Barry Rand, whose lab I'd been working in during the summer. I wanted to do some type of analysis about the potential for rooftop solar energy in the U.S., but I didn't have a fully formed idea. When I asked to speak with him, I wasn't sure if he would think my idea had any merit, and I wasn't confident he'd take me on as an independent study student for the fall. When I proposed my idea, though, he was enthusiastic and encouraged me to pursue it. He pointed me towards the Google Project Sunroof database, which became the main dataset upon which I based my analysis.

Throughout the summer and fall, I carried out my project as an Independent Study course, with input from Professor Rand and Professor Wagner to guide me. As my project took shape, I asked Professor Rand if he thought I could present my work at an academic conference. I was looking to share my work to others, and I wanted to see what other types of solar research were happening. He suggested the IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference. I checked out the website and saw that last year's conference was held in Philadelphia, and that the 2023 conference would be in... Puerto Rico. A bit farther away! This conference looked like the right fit for my research, but who would pay for me to go?

Fortunately, when students have a vision of an independent project they'd like to pursue, Princeton will truly make the funding for it available. I logged into the Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE) to see what I could find. After inputting some information about my project, several options popped up. One of them seemed ideal: the Undergraduate Fund for Academic Conferences. (Who knew there was a fund specifically for undergraduates going to academic conferences?) I filled out a short application form detailing my project and planned itinerary. Several days later, I heard back—I'd been awarded a grant! The grant would cover half of my travel expenses. I then returned to SAFE to search for funding for the other half. I decided to apply for independent project funding from the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. Again, after a short wait, I received notification that I would be awarded the funding that would cover the other half of my expenses. After I return from Puerto Rico, I'll submit a short report about my trip to each office telling them what I learned and gained from the experience.

Princeton ascribes a high value to undergraduate original research, so they really make funds available to students to pursue their research and the experiences that will enrich it, like conferences. I was surprised and pleased at how straightforward the process was to secure funding for the opportunity to present my work, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm incredibly grateful that Princeton sees the value in making it possible for students to travel and gain greater context and insight about their research fields. Look out for a blog post this summer about the solar conference!

Insights from a Gap Year: Lessons for Incoming Transfer Students

I transferred to Princeton in 2020. Most of us can surely recall how odd and challenging of a time it was, and my transition to the University was no different. I expected Princeton to be challenging in a few ways: academically, socially, and logistically. All those things were true. What I did not expect was the degree of mental challenge I encountered, which was likely exacerbated by the isolation of remote learning and my difficulty balancing academics with my personal life. So, after driving from Southern California to Princeton in the summer of 2020, my partner and I packed up and moved back home when I began a leave of absence in the fall of 2021.

I spent my leave trying to be as introspective as possible, recalibrating my mental and physical health after the peak of the pandemic. I spontaneously signed up for a marathon despite having never run a half. I returned to one of my favorite past times: road trips and camping in California. I broke the cliché veteran habit of waking up early every day and allowed myself to sleep in. In sum, I tried to slow down, focus on happiness and health, and interrogate myself on what I really wanted in life.

In this blog, I share four lessons from my gap year. I also share each lesson’s relevance to being a transfer student at Princeton. In doing so, I hope to make future transfer students’ transitions to Princeton easier and to remind current transfers that success at Princeton is not measured purely by GPA.


Five people stand in a parking lot, one holds a metal from completing a marathon
Here I am with my partner and in-laws after completing the Orange County Marathon in Costa Mesa, California.

In no particular order, her are four insights from my leave of absence:


I. Life is not a race.

A race has a set course and boundaries. There are winners, and there are those who aspired to win. Life is different. What constitutes a “win” in life is highly subjective. Your only competition is against yourself, and the only finish lines are the goals you hope to achieve.
I emphasize this because coming to Princeton as an older student may be at the front of some transfers’ minds. The age gap can be quite salient here—I have been older than many of my preceptors. Yet there is no reward for graduating from Princeton one year earlier. Complete your degree in the time that is best for you and judge your grades not in comparison to other students but against the standards you have set for yourself.

II. You will not regret self-care.

There is a future version of you watching themselves—watching you—through their memories. The more you take care of yourself now, the better that prospective version of you will be. Exercise regularly. Eat well. Put effort into maintaining friendships. Do not strive for perfection. Strive for progress and consistency. But recognize that you will fail. Learn from those mistakes.
Self-care is, of course, important for everyone. I bring attention to it because some of our older transfers have a different relationship with mental health than the Gen-Z students that make up the near-entirety of the of non-transfer student population. (To be clear, I mean that as the utmost compliment to them.) Some transfers—particularly the transfers who served in the US Armed Forces—may think that forcing their way through every obstacle is the best method. Others may fear failure so much that they neglect exercise or socialization. Both, I know from experience, are poor choices. Invest in self-care and enjoy its returns.

Man stands with dog on the branches of downed tree on a beach
Here I am with my dog, Bishop, while on a camping trip in Pismo Beach, California during my leave of absence.

III. Forgive yourself.

There will be times when you pursue a goal and fail. That failure may come because you exhausted all efforts but still fell short (running a marathon under a certain time; finishing Princeton with a certain GPA), or it may be because you neglected to put your best foot forward (planning to exercise in the morning but snoozing the alarm; watching Netflix rather than doing your readings). But we all make mistakes. Forgive yourself for doing so and be introspective about your shortcomings.
Imposter syndrome can be a particularly pernicious and persistent issue for transfer students. This year, we have a population of 59 transfer students in an undergraduate enrollment of 5,548, meaning there is approximately one transfer student for every 94 non-transfer students. These figures can contribute to some transfers’ ideas that they do not belong at Princeton, that their acceptance was a mistake. Thus, I feel it is imperative that transfers forgive themselves. Performing poorly on a test or forgetting a reading is not evidence that you are a fraud who slipped through the cracks. You are human and therefore prone to mistakes. If you were flawless, you wouldn’t need Princeton.

IV. Remember that you can always leave.

If you feel like you no longer enjoy something—a relationship, a job, a path in life—consider leaving. Self-honesty can reveal that you really ought to leave, but it can also show you that your feelings were misplaced or misguided. The thought of leaving may actually make you realize just how much you do enjoy something.
I believe that every transfer should remember that leaving Princeton is a valid option. This may be startling to read—during the transfer pre-orientations that I’ve helped run, it has certainly surprised incoming cohorts. But transfers should know that it is an option, be it in the form of a gap year or dropping out altogether. I say this not to advocate for transfer student departures, but because all of us worked so incredibly hard to get to Princeton that we sometimes forget leaving is an option. Remembering that we are not proverbially handcuffed to the University can actually strengthen and our desires to be here. Feeling as if quitting is not an option can rob one of their agency, but knowing that it is a choice and choosing to continue forward is empowering and builds confidence.


When I reflect on spending my leave of absence recalibrating my mental and physical health, these are some of the most striking lessons that come to mind. My return to Princeton has been challenging, but it has also been manageable and quite successful because I am mindful of these principles.

Some current transfers or transfer applicants may agree wholeheartedly with these ideas. Some may only like a few, and others may object to all four entirely. That is okay. These are not heaven-descended axioms. They are merely my lessons and what have worked for me. So, experiment and find what works for you. Make the most of this time because you’ve earned it. And know that while you do that, you’ll always be supported.

A Glimpse Inside a Res College Office

This past September, I started working at the front desk of the New College West Office — the one-stop shop where you can get answers to any of your “Westie” questions. It’s also home to many of the valuable people and resources that are available to help students throughout their Princeton journeys. Besides getting to earn a little extra money, this job has given me unique insight into the behind-the-scenes operations of my residential college and how one office helps keep the whole community running.

If you’re not a Westie, don’t fear! Each residential college at Princeton has an office just like ours. This is where you can find your college’s specific leaders, such as your Director of Student Life (or DSL for short), Dean of Studies, Residential Life Coordinator, and the Head of College. They all serve different purposes, but ultimately are there to support your needs, both academically and otherwise.

To find out more about your college’s team of awesome staff, click one of the links below! :

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to see people come into the office for a variety of reasons. For example, at certain times during the week, the deans will have Drop-In Advising Hours, where any students can walk-in and meet with their respective dean to discuss academic concerns, like picking classes or managing workloads. I’ve also experienced students coming in to propose a community-building or club event that they want to see happen. And more often than not, we have students simply pop in the office just to grab some free chocolate or say hi!

My favorite part of working at the NCW office has to be our weekly res college tradition: Coffee in the Commons! Every Friday, as a study break, we help organize an event where students can gather and enjoy free coffee, tea, and some sort of treat or pastry. Most of the residential colleges do some variation of this event (like Yeh College’s “FriYEH” or the weekly “Teahive” for Butler College Bees), but Coffee in the Commons will always hold a special place in my heart. Most recently, we did a Mardi Gras-themed Coffee in the Commons, complete with king cake and donuts!

Three Mardi Gras king cakes on counter top
King Cakes at Coffee in the Commons, Mardi-Gras Themed!
Boxes of donuts on counter top
Donuts at Coffee in the Commons!

The colleges and their offices are truly another community within the Princeton community. I would highly recommend stopping by to meet the friendly staff members and mentors that will guide and support you throughout your four years here (and, while you’re at it, maybe consider applying for a job there, too!).