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Being a Vegan at Princeton


If you are like me, you might be feeling a bit worried about what the dining experience is going to be like when you arrive at Princeton. As someone who is both vegan and can be just a “little” bit picky about the food I eat, I wondered if there was going to be anything at all I liked to eat in the dining hall and what I was going to do if there was nothing I could or wanted to eat.

Luckily, I quickly found that the dining experience at Princeton was very accommodating of all dietary restrictions and preferences. When it wasn’t, there were easy alternatives to make sure I still had yummy foods to keep myself nourished and happy during my time at Princeton. While nobody will claim that the dining halls are a Michelin three-star, gourmet experience, in a non-Covid year, the diversity of food offered in the dining halls was impressive. For first year students, there are five different dining halls to pick from, with each catering to different dietary restrictions and preferences in different ways. For example, while the Butler/First dining hall is known for its delicious vegan salad bar, the RoMa (Rocky/Mathey) dining hall consistently has vegan pizza. Moreover, the Center for Jewish Life dining hall, which serves all Kosher food, serves vegetarian-only food options three to four days a week.

Moreover, if you ever find yourself in a dining hall that is not quite able to accommodate your dietary requirements or tastes, the dining staff are open to suggestions and looking to help you find a meal that will meet your needs, even if it has to be specially prepared. In addition, if you are looking for a specific type of food that you want to be stocked in the dining hall long term, it is easy to request. Not every request can be met, but the fact that the staff is willing to listen matters. So, instead of being constantly worried about whether or not I would be able to eat in the dining hall or if this would get in the way of my making new friends, eating at Princeton has often been a place where I was able to have delicious, fun and social meals. 

Despite all of this, there were still times when I felt like the food in the dining hall didn’t quite work out or where I just preferred to grab a quick bite on my own. I recommend having some staples in your room — the fixings for peanut butter and jelly, some cereal and milk, maybe some protein bars. Especially if you are a picky eater, it is simple and easy to have some dietary “back-ups” to have on hand . . . just in case the Princeton food doesn’t taste quite right on a given day. Outside of this, there are also plenty of delicious restaurants in town if you are looking for a special treat. With this in mind, there is no reason at all to feel worried about the food at Princeton — it will be another great element of your four amazing years at the university.


7 Princeton Life Hacks


There’s a hack for literally anything these days, thanks to TikTok. But did you know that Princeton has its own set of life hacks? Here are my top 7 hacks to #thrive at Princeton and never miss out on free food or an elite study spot. 

  • The Creative Writing Department (CWR): It has its very own Keurig on the 6th floor of New South. Technically it’s supposed to be for CWR students and faculty, but POV: you’re about to go to your writing seminar on the A floor of New South and you’re running on 5 hours of sleep. A hot brew of Vermont Country Blend is just an elevator ride away…
  • Lewis Center for the Arts (LCA): Hot take, but also a life-changing hack, LCA is the most insta-worthy spot on campus for your 'gram. Nassau Hall and Blair Arch are mainstream, but LCA’s architecture is unparalleled for photo backdrops. Try the outdoor staircase that faces WaWa (a local convenience store) -- it won’t disappoint. 

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photo in front of the lewis center for the arts

  • Murray Dodge: free cookies, enough said. This semi-underground café is your go-to spot for a sweet treat, any time of day. When you get that 10-minute break during your 3-hour seminar in McCosh, head over to Murray Dodge where cookies are warm, fresh and delish.
  • B Floor of Firestone Library: walk straight off the elevator, past the rows of computers, past the desks on your left and then you’ll see a glass door on your right. Open the door and never look back. Okay, I’m being dramatic, but for real-- this two-table room on the B Floor is amazing, especially when you and your friends get it all to yourselves. The overlook deck in the Trustee Room is soooo overrated.  

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B Floor study room

  • Shopping for lawnparties and formals do’s and don’ts: DO buy that cute top for your spring fashion, DON’T buy that outfit for lawnparties (a bi-annual concert for students), formals or semis. Because there are only a few trendy clothing stores nearby, odds are if you buy an outfit at one of these places for an upcoming campus event, you’ll see that same outfit on five other students. Instead, trade clothes with your roomies and friends, or head over to Quakerbridge Mall (

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semi formals

  • Dance tryouts: They are a must, whether you’re the next Maddie Ziegler or you’re still trying to figure out the Renegade TikTok dance. Each semester, dance groups on campus hold tryouts and anyone can come. My friend and I tried out just for fun, and we got to learn a combo, perform it (embarrassingly, but points for effort), and have a dance sesh afterwards with everyone there. It is probably one of my best memories at Princeton, so 10/10 would recommend. And in case you’re wondering: no, we did not make the team.
  • Forbes dining hall: It may only bask in glory on Sunday brunch (chocolate fountain, yes please!), but it also comes alive at night. Whether or not you’ll actually get work done here is debatable, but it’s definitely a fun late-night study spot to meet up with friends. And WaWa is across the street, so you can treat yourself to mac & cheese whenever you want.

With these insider tips, you’ll be a pro the minute you step foot on campus. Good luck!


Center of Community


One of the biggest changes for me when I came to college was adjusting to eating on the Campus Dining plan. In high school, I ate breakfast at the same time each day in my kitchen before going to school, lunch when the bell rang at school, and dinner at 6:00 each evening with my parents; once I arrived at Princeton, I realized that not only would my diet change, but I’d have to introduce new flexibility into the timing of my meals.

Princeton made the transition about as easy as possible. The dining halls keep good hours: pre-COVID, breakfast was open from 7:30-11 a.m., lunch was open from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and dinner from 5-8 p.m. On the weekends, instead of breakfast and lunch hours, brunch was from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (although one dining hall offered early morning breakfast). And with the unlimited meal plan, you could swipe in as many times as you wanted: I remember going to breakfast many mornings to get oatmeal before my 9:00 a.m. class (one of the few offered — most start at 10 a.m. or later!) and then again to make my own waffle after the class concluded.

If your schedule demanded that you couldn’t make any particular mealtime, Campus Dining offers a (extremely popular) back-up plan called Late Meal. Available to all students on unlimited meal plans, Late Meal happened twice a day, from 2:30-3:45 p.m. and again from 8:30-10 p.m. Students got one ‘swipe’ for each Late Meal, which you could spend on prepackaged snacks like Snapple drinks or Doritos or on hot grill items like quesadillas, specialty hamburgers, or tenders and fries. Even when I didn’t miss lunch or dinner, I very frequently attended Late Meal, even if only to pick up some snacks to stash away for later.

Campus Dining is perhaps at the center of community on campus for students. Eating meals in the dining hall with friends new and old is often a welcome escape from homework, and meals you’d intend to last for 20 minutes often stretched into hours as new friends squeezed at your table. Late Meal was perhaps the most popular spot to congregate for underclass students; gathering to catch up with friends over a hot slice of pizza and a soda was often a way for me to relax after class.

You’ll notice a lot of this is in the past tense — COVID-19 protocols on campus have dramatically changed the way dining operates at Princeton. To protect the health and safety of students and staff at the University, options in the dining hall have been reduced, hours shortened and Late Meal temporarily eliminated. Still, Campus Dining and its wonderful staff are working tirelessly to create opportunities for students to enjoy meals on campus, and have worked to make seating in the dining halls available for students at each meal. As with many things during this time, Princeton’s not the same, but the University is striving to preserve the meaning in our most important experiences.

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Five members of Campus Dining standing behind countertops with food on top


Eating Clubs: The Bicker Process


Whenever friends from other universities ask me if I’m part of Greek life, I muster the quizzical response, “Kinda?” This is the inevitable dilemma that every Princeton student must face as they try to describe our campus’s beloved Eating Clubs. Princeton’s 11 co-ed eating clubs are in houses that are all situated along Prospect Avenue, known as “The Street,” and each house boasts their own architectural flair and style. However, what most distinguishes each club is the quality of food offered to their members and the kinds of social events they host.

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Eight images our of the eleven eating clubs in a grid

These two criteria are on everyone’s mind during “Street Week,” in which sophomores interested in joining an eating club attend various events and meet current members to get a better idea of where they would fit in. While six of the eating clubs require that sophomores undergo “bicker,” a mutual selection process where prospective members meet with students already in the club, five of them are sign-in and extend membership invitations on a first-come, first-serve basis.

This year, I chose to bicker two eating clubs virtually. Here’s my experience with this process:

Pre-Bicker

Each student has the opportunity to request to bicker at only two of the six selective eating clubs, which is a hefty decision to consider for many sophomores. Most bickerees choose where to bicker based on the personality associated with each club or chance encounters that they’ve had with club members. I also took into account where my friends were bickering so that I could be accompanied by familiar faces.

Street Week

Bicker can be a tiresome undertaking, consisting of at least three days of back-to-back socializing with current eating club members. Each bickeree’s main objective is to meet as many members as possible to make connections with current club members and to learn more about the eating club.

Although the process took place online this year, I enjoyed being able to meet and talk with juniors and seniors, especially after an isolated semester away from campus. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to connect with strangers. Overall, Bicker forces bickerees to produce creative, spontaneous answers, yet also demands a healthy dose of introspection, which I say isn’t a bad way to spend quarantine.

Post-Bicker

Afterwards, members of eating clubs regroup and deliberate on which bickerees to welcome into the club. Many clubs have policies in place to ensure that discussions remain positive, and results are released at the end of the week.

Bicker is not the only option!

While it seems like most of the student body participates in Bicker in the heat of the moment, there are many students who choose to go into co-ops, become independent or continue eating in the residential dining halls. If this process doesn’t appeal to you, these other dining options are also popular, and many students find going ‘independent’ can help them significantly cut down on costs. At the same time, however, many eating clubs offer financial aid programs that ensure they’re affordable for anyone who wishes to join. I suggest you read Rachel Newman’s blog on why she chose not to join an eating club for a second opinion. Either way, there are many diverse social communities on Princeton’s campus and it’s up to you to find them!

Terhune and the Surrounding Town


One of the coolest parts about going to Princeton is the surrounding area. Princeton (the town, not the school), Lawrence Township, and West Windsor—which comprise the campus’s immediate surroundings—are absolutely beautiful, and while not as bustling as a city still offer a lot for undergraduates to do. 

Perhaps my favorite place to visit in the surrounding town is Terhune Orchards, an apple orchard and farm located about ten minutes from the University. There are a ton of different ways to get there—see my blog post about navigating the campus and the surrounding area—but the last time I visited was on a weekend visit I received from my dad last November.

When we got there, we quickly realized that there’d be even more to do there than normal—it was pie tasting day! Once a year, Terhune organizes a pie sampling event before Thanksgiving, where for a small flat fee you’re entitled to unlimited samples of all their different pie flavors. We’d eaten lunch before we arrived, but we need not have bothered—I crammed so many different flavors of pie into my stomach that I was sick.

 

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Small white cups with pie samples for tasting at Terhune Orchards

Afterward, we went and visited the different animals roaming the farm. My favorite animal to visit there is a cat living in the farm store named Honeycrisp, who greets me warmly every time I go. But there are other animals too—I’ve seen goats, turkeys, donkeys, and dogs, and since I care deeply about animal welfare (see another of my previous posts about my Princeton-funded animal welfare internship!) it’s always heartening to see them being treated so well.

Terhune is also a fixture in campus life. ‘Study breaks,’ which in non-pandemic times are opportunities organized by residential colleges and student clubs to hang out with friends and enjoy free food, frequently feature fresh apple cider and cider donuts from Terhune. (Whenever I visit Terhune, I buy a gallon of that apple cider to cram in my dorm room fridge). This isn’t specific to Terhune, either—Princeton students frequently patronize local businesses and restaurants for study breaks and for fun nights out, creating a tight bond between students and the community.

 

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A bottle of Terhune Orchard's apple cider.

Exploring the town of Princeton is one of the things I’ve missed most when studying away from home. And, given that all students are invited back to campus for the spring, I can’t wait to (safely) frequent some of my favorite local spots in my final semester.


The Idyllic Town of Princeton


When I first came to campus, I didn’t know that much about the town Princeton University was located in. As I started to venture out the FitzRandolph Gates, I got to interact with the local community and beautiful landscape. From the lively atmosphere on Nassau Street to apple-picking at Terhune Orchards, the idyllic town of Princeton is a boon often overlooked.

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Students walking through the town of Princeton

Coming from Tegucigalpa, the buzzing capital of Honduras, to the town of Princeton was definitely a transition. While in Tegucigalpa I would get by with a car, in Princeton I can walk or bike to most places, or simply hop on one of the Tiger Transit buses. The University provides transportation through Tiger Transit for students to explore the town. There are many types of activities that students can partake in. Personally, I enjoy going grocery shopping at the Princeton Shopping Center, walking to Nomad Pizza (the best pizza in town!) and going to watch a movie at the Garden Theater. In terms of connecting with nature, Lake Carnegie is on the south end of campus and is extremely beautiful! I often go on runs to the lake and have rented a kayak for a day.  

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Students rowing on Lake Carnegie

I would categorize Princeton as a college town, given how thoroughly students are incorporated into the local community. There is an annual event, Communiversity, in which local artists, merchants and nonprofits convene with student clubs, right in front of the University. My friends and I always look forward to this day because we enjoy eating from food trucks and watching live entertainment. I know that once I graduate, I will not only miss campus but also the town, which is why I have made the effort to take advantage of every opportunity I have to explore the surrounding areas. I must admit that when I was applying to Princeton I thought of its location as mundane and unexciting, but my experience here has disproved my initial assumptions.

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The town of Princeton community celebrating Communiversity

This town is filled with surprises and beautiful scenery that you won’t want to miss out on as a Princeton student.


Your Complete Guide to the Residential College Dining Halls


There is endless food on Princeton's campus: late meal, Nassau Street, study breaks and free food from events. However, you're likely to eat most of your meals in the residential college dining halls. Check out my guide to dining on campus.  

Forbes (my residential college–go Forbesians!)

  • Environment: Forbes’s dining hall is quiet for breakfast and lunch, great for studying or doing homework. Since Forbes is the furthest residential college from most classes and activities (a bit of an exaggeration – my longest walk is only 15 minutes), the dining hall is never that crowded during the day when students are out and about. On a nice day, you get plenty of sunshine in the dining hall, and when it’s warm out, you can eat outside with a view of the golf course in Forbes’ “backyard.”   
  • Best Known For: “Sunday Brunch” (with a huge chocolate fountain!), special dinners for Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving and other holidays). It's the only dining hall that offers omelets during lunch, and you can order a quesadilla anytime at the grill
  • Best Food: Paella, tortellini, potato bar (all kinds of potato), avocado bar (all types of avocado pairings), waffle cones with fresh fruit & whipped cream at Forbes Flexitarian Night
  • So Underrated: Saturday’s brunch (with breakfast quesadillas & açaí bowls)

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Chocolate fountain at Forbes

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Potato bar at Forbes

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Valentine's Day desserts at Forbes

Roma (Rockefeller (Rocky)/Mathey)

  • Environment: A common place to meet friends for lunch or dinner because of its close proximity to Firestone Library and several academic buildings. The dining hall is so big that even when a lot of people are there, it still doesn’t feel overwhelming. There are two connected seating areas in this dining hall, one on Rocky’s side and the other in Mathey. If your parents ever visit, take them to this dining hall and they’ll surely be impressed with the Harry Potter/castle-like structure.
  • Best Known For: Only dining hall with fried chicken sandwiches offered daily, grilled cheese trio, and two cheese options for omelets – cheddar & mozzarella (most just have cheddar)   
  • Best Food: Creative quesadillas (apple, brie & arugula is my fave!), chicken nugget bar, shell mac & cheese
  • So Underrated: RoMa’s house chicken soup

WuCox (Wilson/Butler)

  • Environment: The name “WuCox” comes from the seating areas in Wu Hall (Butler) and Wilcox Hall (Wilson), which are connected by one dining hall like RoMa. WuCox has the most booths out of all our dining halls. Many student groups meet here because there are booths available for even large groups. WuCox is in a prime location close to the biology and math departments, as well as Frist, our student center. 
  • Best Known For: “Beans, Greens & Grains” station offered for lunch and dinner (a pasta and ramen bar: choose your sauce, pasta – ramen or penne, and add chicken and veggies), breakfast 
  • Best Food: WuCox breakfast muffins, corn bread, perogies, southern fried chicken
  • So Underrated: pesto ravioli 

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Pasta from WuCox Dining Hall

Whitman 

  • Environment: Much like RoMa, this dining hall is quite a sight with its beautiful architecture. Whitman is made up of mostly long tables and a few booths in the back. The dining hall also has one of the best private dining rooms for teams, clubs or language tables. Lunch gets very popular on certain days (such as chicken pot pie day), and dinner always draws a crowd. You can never go wrong with Whitman because there’s so many options to choose from. 
  • Best Known For: Amazing salad bar, specialty bars (ramen, mac & cheese, burritos), Whitman lunch 
  • Best Food: Naan bread, orzo pasta salad, pizza & garlic knots, sautéed veggies
  • So Underrated: Spinach artichoke hummus

 

Students can go to any residential college dining hall – not just their own. They can also eat at the Center for Jewish Life (CJL), which houses our kosher dining hall on campus. I typically eat breakfast at Forbes, lunch at Whitman and dinner at RoMa or WuCox. If you’re considering Princeton as your new home, hopefully this guide gave you a sneak peek into what eating in the dining halls is like.





 


Beyond the Orange Bubble


It is often easy to stay on campus for long periods of time without stepping out of FitzRandolph gates. Students at Princeton are busy with classes, extracurriculars and a social life. However, there are many things to do in the town of Princeton that I encourage current and future Tigers to make time for and enjoy.

The most common reasons to venture through the gates and onto Nassau Street involve a craving for food and drinks. Princeton has four ice cream shops in a very small vicinity. My personal ranking is Halo Pub, Kilwin’s, Bent Spoon and Thomas Sweets. Everyone has their own personal preferences for where they go to satisfy their sweet tooth.

The town of Princeton also has a variety of coffee options. Regardless of if you’re a Starbucks person or a Dunkin’ Donuts fan, you can get your favorite coffee. If you want a coffee that doesn’t come from a chain, I would recommend Small World Coffee, a local brand with two locations, one on Nassau Street and one on Witherspoon Street.

The Princeton Public Library on Witherspoon Street has a great selection of books available to students for free. I got a library card pretty soon after coming to campus. With that card comes access to the library’s collections, as well as free tickets to museums in New York City and Philadelphia.

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FitzRandolph Gates leading to Nassau Street

Princeton Garden Theater offers multiple movies per week at a discounted price for students. Princeton Undergraduate Student Government (USG) screens movies at the Garden Theater every weekend for no cost at all if you’re willing to wait in line for the free tickets.

While all the activities I described above are in walking distance from campus, there are also some fun destinations within driving distance. TigerTransit has a Weekend Shopper shuttle that takes students to shopping locations, such as Wegmans grocery store, Walmart and Trader Joe’s. The shuttles often get crowded as students refill their rooms with snacks and cleaning supplies.

If you’re willing to take a car share service and go a little farther from the campus, there are multiple malls in the area. I’ve seen a couple movies at an AMC movie theater at the MarketFair Mall and Quakerbridge Mall is also quite popular with students.

We have our own train station on campus with a one-car train called the "Dinky" to take us to the Princeton Junction station. From there, it’s an easy ride to New York City and Philadelphia. My friends and I have taken several fun trips to New York City to explore the museums and see shows on Broadway. 

The Princeton campus is often described as the “Orange Bubble,” but I do my best to get off campus every so often. Princeton is a great town with lots of fun activities. Pretty soon, you’ll have your own list of favorite spots off campus.


Where Do You Eat?


When you start your junior year at Princeton, a new question becomes a part of the classic small-talk lexicon — “Where do you eat?” This strange question is in reference to the abundant dining choices available to upperclass students. In addition to the dining hall, they are presented with a multitude of dining choices, from joining a co-op or an eating club to going independent. Everyone has to figure out their approach to meals. 

Many Princeton students turn to eating clubs. Eating clubs are a concept unique to Princeton and serve as social and culinary hubs on campus. During the second semester of sophomore year, students sign-up or participate in a selection process, called “bicker” to be in a club where they will eat most of their meals. The eating clubs are clustered on Prospect Avenue adjacent to the University. For generations, many Princeton students have had great experiences with eating clubs and relish this unique part of their time at Princeton. That said, eating clubs are not the only options. 

Students who don’t join eating clubs and choose not to eat in the dining halls have several options, one of which is dining co-ops. Co-ops are food-share programs where small groups of Princeton students (usually around 30) come together and cook fresh, tasty meals for one another. As a co-op member, you are expected to cook once a week and the costs are very affordable. There are various types of co-ops on campus that cook foods catering to different cuisine types and preferences. 

This year, I joined the Pink House food share. Pink House is a sustainability-minded community that cooks vegan and vegetarian meals for a community of about 25. As a part of Pink House, I have access to a real kitchen and fresh ingredients when I cook once a week. It is an excellent way to unwind, de-stress and learn some valuable cooking skills. So far this year, I have enjoyed experimenting with hearty stews, zesty salads and delicious baked goods. I have also enjoyed having fun and conversations with my fellow cooks. 

Because I am vegan, I knew it would take me a while to figure out what other options, outside of the dining halls, were available to me, but my experience at Pink House showed me that there really are options for everyone. 


A New Year, A New Season


Entering the second half of my Princeton career is a scary prospect. It seems like just yesterday I was jumping on the couch with my family, screaming at the top of our lungs just seconds after spotting the ‘Congratulations!’ at the top of my Princeton admission decision. 

Being an upperclassman at Princeton is different in a couple key ways from the first and second year experiences. Perhaps most obvious is the change in the dining scene. First-year and sophomores eat all of their meals in the residential college dining halls, while juniors and seniors can get their meals in a number of different ways. Students can opt to continue on a partial or full dining hall plan, join a co-op (a small group of students who rotate cooking often-themed meals), or become fully independent (cooking meals on your own).

However, the most common dining option (and the one I’ve chosen) is joining one of the 11 eating clubs. Joining the eating clubs can sometimes be a source of anxiety for students as they struggle to pick the right one and coordinate choices with their friends. However, students are welcome to eat at clubs other than their own through the Meal Exchange program, and maintain strong friendships outside of their own clubs (I know many of my best friends aren’t in my eating club!) 

Another key change in upperclass life is its residential aspect. Students live in their assigned residential college their first two years at Princeton. Before junior year, however, students have the choice to move out of their colleges and into upperclass housing, which is not affiliated with any of the residential colleges. While most of these buildings share the same Gothic architecture as the underclass dorms, it was definitely jarring for me to see people from colleges other than my home Mathey in the hallways of my new building. Moving off campus is also an option for juniors and seniors, however majority of the student remains on campus since housing is guaranteed all four years.

One final big change going into junior year is the new research focus in coursework. Most of Princeton’s 37 undergraduate concentrations (or majors) require students to begin independent research in their chosen field of study. This begins with the junior paper, a ‘mini-thesis’ which is often a 20-30 page exploration of an original topic within your major. Don’t worry if this sounds intimidating (I’d think you’re crazy if you weren’t a little bit scared) – students within many departments are automatically enrolled in research methods classes that are invaluable in guiding individual projects. 

The end of my college career is perhaps a little closer than I’d like. However, I’m excited for the challenges that lie ahead and am optimistic that the second half of college will be even more fulfilling than the first!