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Plato in Paris


Warm weather, fresh croissants and my trusty copy of Plato’s Republic: Perfection. This summer, I had the privilege of taking Professor Morison’s famous philosophy course, Plato in Paris. Mid-June, I eagerly set out for Charles de Gaulle airport along with ten other classmates. After adjusting to the initial jetlag, we were enthusiastic to begin our deep dive into "The Republic". The daily voyage from our Cité Universitaire housing to the École Normale Supérieure, where class was held, consisted in a two-stop trip along Paris’s RER B line. We spent between three to six hours in class each day. In class, we would discuss the text in small fragments, ultimately achieving a thorough understanding of Plato’s complex argument. By the conclusion of the course, we had spent over 90 hours exploring "The Republic". In addition to these conversations, we were lucky to receive guest lectures from Parisian scholars of Plato. During the regular school year, it’s difficult to find time for philosophic reflection amid a busy schedule, other coursework, and additional commitments. The unique circumstances of the Plato in Paris, however, created an environment in which all participants were solely devoted to the communal project of understanding this text together. I think all students would benefit greatly to have an academic experience such as this.

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Class photo of students and professors sitting around a long table
Class Photo at the École Normale Supérieure

In addition to the many insights on Platonic philosophy I acquired inside the classroom, I also encountered equally enriching experiences outside the classroom. The course featured many excursions, including a Louvre trip, a river cruise and a visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower. During my six week stay in Paris, I grew familiar with the layout and geography of Paris’s 20 arrondissements. In addition to participating in Princeton sponsored excursions, my classmates and I took full advantage of our unique opportunity to explore the city on our own. We often held picnics along the brink of the Seine river or in front of the Eiffel Tower.

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Group of students having a picnic
Bastille Day Picnic at Esplanade des Invalides

Eager to see more of the country, a small group of classmates ventured to the South of France for a weekend excursion. Admittingly, I had to push down the overwhelming sense of nausea as we traveled on France’s 200mph TGV bullet trains. During our time navigating between Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, Marseille and Lyon, we were able to meet other Princeton students completing International Internship Programs (IIP) for the summer. We even visited the French beaches! I was able to build a wonderful sense of community with my peers over the time we spent together in France. After returning to Princeton in the fall, I happily encounter the smiling faces of my new friends. I loved every moment of this course, and it has inspired me to continue studying philosophy at Princeton!

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Two girls in a staircase in Lyon
Exploring Lyon 

My Independent Archival Research Experience: The Senior Thesis


If you’re a prospective student, you may have heard of the (in)famous senior thesis—a year-long independent project that incorporates original research, relating to your field of study. In my department, that often means a research paper on a form of literature, but there is a lot of freedom and seniors often choose creative and fun themes. 

I still have several months to go on my own thesis, but I’ve just returned from my research trip and would like to share my experience. I went to Czech Republic, visited the central depository for the National Literary Archives, and viewed original manuscripts and other writings.  

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A large building with letters of the Czech alphabet on the side -- the central depository of the Czech National Literary Archives.
The central depository.

The first step in the process was to find an adviser—and a topic. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to focus on an author from Eastern Europe. Back in high school, I had applied to Princeton specifically because the Slavic Languages & Literatures department here offered more than just Russian language. During my time here, I’ve taken three different Slavic languages (Russian, Czech and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian). With the help of my adviser, I decided on Czech author Ladislav Fuks.  

Next, I had to apply for funding for my research. Using the University’s funding engine, I described my topic and proposed research. The University granted me the money to pay for my plane tickets, lodging, local transportation and meals. 

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Several boxes of archival materials labeled "Fuks Ladislav" on tables.
The research room, with my boxes.

Then, of course, came the trip! I flew from Denver International Airport in my home state of Colorado to Prague. I then traveled to the city of Litoměřice in north Czechia, where the central depository was located. I stayed in a small apartment I rented over Airbnb that was close enough to walk to my work site. Each day, I walked to the depository and signed in. The amazing director of the Litoměřice archives spoke with me about my research and brought me boxes of material from the depository. In the research room, I sorted through hundreds of folios in the boxes to find papers and writings that would be useful to my research. I scanned and saved those that I could use, and repeated the process over the two weeks of my stay until I had gone through all of the material. 

I’m now back on campus, and am excited to start writing my thesis. I feel lucky to have a real, independent archival research experience as an undergrad. The senior thesis might seem scary, but when you hit upon a topic you’re passionate about, the process can actually be a lot of fun!


Princeton in Pisa: Taking a Summer Class in Italy


Home to me is Buenos Aires, capital of (world-champion in football) Argentina. So studying abroad is, technically, nothing new to me— I’ve been “studying abroad” since the first day of Princeton’s international orientation. Yet, the summer school I did through Princeton in Italy was one of the best experiences of my life. 

During the school year, my Italian class professor, Anna Cellinese, a woman who speaks with her hands and conceives wine as religion, along side our co-instructor Luca Zipoli, began promoting the idea of taking a summer course in Italy’s Tuscany. It didn’t take long to convenience me, and soon enough I was on an airplane on my way to Pisa. 

Known for its tilting tower and vibrant youth life, Pisa’s beauty captivated my eyes immediately. The city felt lively and awake, but breathed the same slow-burnt pace of life of most Italian towns. Our home was the Scuola Normale Superiore, one of Italy’s most renowned universities, famous for its academic rigor and residential life. Our dorms were great and had stunning views to Pisa’s Piazza dei Cavalieri. My roommate, Sara, and I would wake up to a sun-kissed room of fresh air, and we’d begin our days singing, dancing and jumping from bed to bed while listening to the Mamma Mia album. 

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Group of students getting ice cream
First day! We went out with everyone in the program for some gelato!

Residential life aside, the class was also fun and incredibly engaging. We had literary lessons about old books like Dante’s Inferno and more modern texts like Tondelli’s Altri Libertini. There were also classes about contemporary issues in Italy, where we learned about the immigration crisis, the concept of beauty and the idea of arts as an urban lung. 

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Student and professor posing in the mountains having fun
Anna, our professor, was an intelligent, sharp, and kind instructor and travel guide. We had a ton of fun. She's the best!

But what was the best thing about the program? The out-of-the-classroom learning experience. The course stepped beyond the university campus and onto the city's historical, cultural and gastronomical landmarks. We had a class sitting on a public park once, we went to a gallery that had a comic-centered exhibition about immigration, we interviewed figures like the city’s governor, and we even had a cooking class and a wine-tasting evening! Learning was happening through our five senses as we explored the 360-dregrees of Italy. 

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Two students posing with a woman
A classmate and I got to interview Pisa's vice mayor for a course project. Amazing opportunity!

On a personal note, a meaningful takeaway from the trip were the moments I had with my bike. I got it second-hand during the first week, and I’d use it to get to the beach every day after class. It was a countryside bike path that traversed sunflower fields, the parallel-running Arno river, old castles and distant mountains. I’d sit on the rocky Mediterranean beaches for hours, with ink and notebook to my side. I ended up finding my love for journaling, writing and poetry! 

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Hand writing over the sea
After writing so much, I now have an add-ink-tion!

My experience traveling abroad with the University through Princeton in Pisa couldn’t have been any more impactful. It left a trace in my hobbies, my identity, my notions about beauty, time, culture and love. 


Fall Break in Greece


During fall break, I had the opportunity to travel to Greece with the Humanities Sequence. After dedicating much time and energy during our first year at Princeton to the rigorous reading schedule and thought-provoking discussions of the HUM Sequence, my peers and I were ecstatic to pursue our individual research questions during our sequence sponsored fall break trip to Athens.

Upon arriving in Greece, I was struck by the extraordinary view of the Acropolis from my hotel room balcony. Our days were filled with guided tours, museum trips and excursions. While we spent most of the break in Athens, we were lucky enough to venture out to visit the Archeological Site of Delphi and to swim in the Aegean Sea at Nafplio.

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Two girls sitting on the shore of the Aegean Sea

During my research day in Greece, I visited the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum. I came to Greece hoping to study the Parthenon Marbles and to get a sense of Greek opinion on the marbles’ ownership debate. I cannot fully describe the sense of awe that flooded me when I finally arrived at the Parthenon. As a Classics student studying Greek, I found myself trying to translate every ruin I saw. This trip held extreme significance for me, and I was moved by the museums, ruins, sites and the homes of the authors whom I have dedicated myself to studying at Princeton.

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Girl in a selfie in front of The Parthenon

On the flight back to campus, I remember reflecting on the entire experience. I was overwhelmed by an extreme sense of gratitude––for the opportunity to travel to Greece, for the hospitality of the Greek people and mostly for the community fostered by the HUM sequence. The HUM sequence has been a defining element of my experience at Princeton, and I highly recommend that anyone who has an interest in the humanities or literature consider it. While abroad, I grew closer to my classmates and professors. Later this week we will all come together and present our projects from the trip.


Signing Up for Bridge Year


Bridge Year is often seen as a magical experience where students are able to take a year off to travel the world on Princeton’s dime. That’s how I saw it. I was convinced about the opportunity to learn and grow by being immersed in the culture. Plus, I wanted to take advantage of a free travel opportunity and get out of the confines of New Jersey, especially after feeling senior year burnout. And part of me desperately needed time to figure out more about who I was– Princeton was offering that opportunity. 

For some students, Bridge Year is the ultimate highlight of their Princeton experience. For others, not so much. Despite its glowing reviews, Bridge Year isn’t always sunshine and happy memories, yet those are the memories often communicated. The expansive and fast-paced nature of the program allows students to focus on the highlights. The program is broken into short-term travel (at the beginning, over Winter break, and the final month) which allows you to rapidly immerse yourself in different cultures and learn more about the history of the place you are in. Our group traveled to Indonesia on the shores of Banyuwangi, through the farms of Flores, up to the peak of Dieng, to the waterfalls of Sumba and more. Then for the majority of the program, my group and I lived in Jogja with our own individual homestay families, interned at an NGO, took language classes, attended speaker events or activities put on by the staff members, and took an extracurricular class that was rooted in some aspect of Indonesian culture (mine was silversmithing). At my NGO, I attended different events surrounding children's rights and assisted with research surrounding sex trafficking— a heavy yet important experience. Beyond all of those activities, I was free to explore the city and myself. 

 

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Sunset from atop boat off the coast of Labuan Bajo

Because of the freedom to explore, many students on the trip face identity conflicts. In all fairness, identity conflict is a part of life. Bridge Year’s program design allows students to have time to reflect deeply on themselves, accelerating identity conflict and growth. Without academic rigor and structure, our brains can run free to think critically and deeply about ourselves. With the right support, this can be healthy. 

For me, I struggled with being visibly brown: I am a first-generation Bangladeshi-American and a Muslim. Growing up, my hometown is known to be “accepting, diverse, and liberal,” but lacked a significant South Asian or Muslim population. As one of the few, I learned to compartmentalize the subtle racism and Islamophobia I faced to keep moving forward. 

 

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Poster board about skin color identity

Bridge Year forced me to unpack all of it.  Every day, I was forced to confront my identity because of other people. Instead of compartmentalizing, I had time to think about it. 

At the start of the trip, whenever someone mentioned Islam, my group turned to me. At first, I was happy to fill in the gaps in their knowledge, but it soon hurt to hear their misconceptions about our traditions and beliefs.

As we settled into our long-term homestays, I felt pressure from the rest of the community. Taxi drivers would always question where I came from, to the point where my group and I had a running joke: to answer with random places around the world. At events, locals would often question my identity– “Is she really American?” and only dropped the subject when my white peers spoke up for me. Sometimes, local Indonesians didn’t bother to include me among my peers. I learned to stand in the middle of the group to avoid being cut off at doors and in lines. Other times, people asked if I was the instructor’s daughter, despite us bearing no resemblance besides our skin tone. Further, I was constantly offered whitening soaps and products. Everyone I interacted with had some opinion on my skin, which took away from my agency in how I viewed my heritage and identity. 

Yet these reactions came with perks. I could blend in more easily than my peers, avoiding scams and harassment– as long as I kept my mouth shut. As a Muslim, I felt another degree of connection to homestay families whenever they had a communal prayer. Despite these benefits, I fixated on the negative experiences, as is natural. Eventually, I grew to hate being brown. 

Seeking help never felt obvious. The advising resources provided by Princeton were in a completely different time zone and I didn’t feel like a real Princeton student or someone who could access those resources. In Indonesia, my instructors could not relate to my specific experience as a non-Indonesian woman of color. Instead, they asked me to bring it up to my group mates in order to find the support I needed, placing an undue burden on the other students, who were each struggling in their own ways to navigate our new environment. 

Near the end of my experience, I read a book entitled, “The Good Immigrant.” After hearing other POC narratives surrounding discrimination in a new environment, I finally felt seen and heard. During a group meeting, I used this book and critical race theory via presentation to explain my experience to my peers. Hours later, we received notice that we were being sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the rush to leave that followed, neither my peers nor I had time to process our thoughts on race. 

At home, I journaled a lot, especially since I had to quarantine. That summer held major events that helped me heal from the trauma of Bridge Year– America reckoned with race, and Never Have I Ever, one of the few TV shows that centers on a brown girl, debuted its first season on Netflix.

 

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Aneekah and two other students sitting atop a mountain after a hike in Java

After two years, I have come to terms with my experience. It was painful to grapple with my identity,  yet my struggles have prepared me for almost all environments. I have run the gamut of different ways in which I, as a brown girl, will be perceived. Further, I have now intentionally cultivated undying self-respect and love for my skin tone, and by extension, my heritage. I am grateful to have had the experience now, to have reckoned with my race and come to an understanding now, rather than have bottled up the insecurity for the future. My experiences on Bridge Year, even the ugly ones, have allowed me to be a much more mature and confident individual in the spaces  I occupy. I am lucky to have that resolve. 

Not everyone will have the same experiences I had, even if you fit the same description of a brown Muslim girl. But I wish I had heard this dialogue before going on the trip so that I knew I wasn’t the only one experiencing it. As a pre-frosh on Bridge Year, it’s daunting to navigate resources, send emails, or speak up about these issues. Thankfully, more avenues to access and promote these resources are being implemented, spearheaded by former students. During the year, there will be Peer Advisors who can connect participants with the correct resources. During the application process, feel free to reach out to a Bridge Year Ambassador with any questions you may have. 

This experience among other ones is what empowered me to become a Bridge Year Ambassador. In that position, I hope to continue to inform the next generation of students about the complex ways in which different students navigate the experience. I hope that I can make the experience more supportive for future students without discouraging them from considering attending.

In sum, Bridge Year isn’t just a magical experience where you travel to the most beautiful places on earth and end up with a glorious Instagram page. It is a complex, challenging, and meaningful life experience that will shape who you are. That’s what you’re signing up for. 


What You Have to Gain Is Wonderful


By the time I submitted my final college application, I was exhausted. I was excited about  college (and excited about Princeton, once I was admitted and later enrolled), but the thought of  another four years of physics equations and research papers made me apprehensive. I started spending a lot of time on the Novogratz Bridge Year website, looking at photos of smiling participants and reading about a year of trekking and service and living abroad.  

When deciding whether or not I wanted to apply to Princeton’s Novogratz Bridge Year program, one of my major hang-ups was about my high school friends. I adored them, and they were all about to go to college — to choose a major, attend dorm parties and bond with roommates— and I wasn’t sure if I could do something so different from them. It would mean that I graduated a year later from them and that I wouldn’t be able to come home for breaks. At some level, it meant that I wouldn’t be able to relate to them and they wouldn’t be able to relate to me.  

I was so worried about this that I almost didn’t apply to the program in Senegal. When I did, and I was accepted, my excitement was tempered slightly by these fears. I spent the summer before I left buying a bug hut, googling Senegalese music, and trying not to feel left out as my friends picked out their classes. I don’t know if my 18-year-old self would be surprised by this or not, but those fears pretty much all came true. I kept missing the group FaceTimes because I was in a different time zone; I cried when I saw photos of all my friends together at Thanksgiving; I had a hard time connecting with them when I came home the following summer.  

 

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A beach in Senegal

I don’t mean to say that I lost my high school friends — I am still incredibly close with many of  them, and I love now being able to trade stories about our professors and our college friends. In  some ways, my friendships with them are stronger than they ever were. Maybe if I hadn’t gone away, we wouldn’t be friends at all now. But choosing to take a gap year separated me from them  in ways that I still haven’t fully moved past. This separation very likely might have happened  anyway, as we all went to different schools and studied different things. But it felt unique to me,  as perhaps it does to everyone. At the very least, I was the first one to separate, and I didn’t get to  ease into it over the course of the semester or the year. Once I left, I was gone.  

Despite this loss — and it does still feel in many ways like a loss, as grateful as I am for my  continued friendships — I wouldn’t change my decision for the world. Before I left for Senegal I was so focused on what I stood to lose that I had a hard time picturing what I had to gain. That makes sense: what you might lose is real and tangible, while what you might gain is abstract and largely unknown. It wasn’t until I was there that I realized that the choice I had made was worth it.

Now, I wouldn’t trade any of it: picking up my little homestay brother from school, or making  pancakes on top of a mountain for my friend’s birthday, or running along the beach and through  the waves, or drinking cold bissap after finishing some hot ceebujen, or reading in the backseat of long and dusty bus rides, or carving watermelons for Halloween with my homestay family, or  eating beignets and oranges on the side of the road with my friends, or hiking past baobab trees, or returning to hold my godchildren for the first time. I wouldn’t trade a single one of those things.  

 

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Kate making faces with 4 children and adult

I spent that year living a life very different than the one I had grown used to. I worked at an  organization called Empire des Enfants, a shelter for boys who had been living and begging on  the streets, and learned how I could live a life of service even when I wasn’t “doing service.” I  spent my days taking the bus to work and then coming home for lunch before heading off to  language class. On the weekends, I swam to beautiful islands with my group and watched tv with  my little brothers. Slowly, I was able to make new friends and form new communities. They  looked different than the ones I had before, but I began to feel at home in a new place. I promise  you, what you have to gain is wonderful.

 

Hola, me llamo Gil...


I have always been fascinated by languages. I grew up bilingual, speaking Haitian Creole and French. Then, at the age of twelve, I realized that it would be cool to actually understand the songs of Akon which I was a big fan of: that's how I decided to start learning English. Later, in high school (coincidentally around the time Akon had hit pause on his musical career), I decided to move on to new horizons and started studying Spanish, followed by German. I think languages are cool, especially at Princeton.

At Princeton, every A.B. student has to pass the language requirement (i.e. demonstrating proficiency in a language other than English) before they graduate. There are many ways to fulfill this requirement. I, for example, took a French Placement Test the summer before I came to Princeton, which allowed me to place out of the language requirement. That meant I did not have to take any language classes at Princeton. But I still did! Why? Because languages are cool! Rather than starting with a completely new language at Princeton (which I might still do later on), I decided to keep learning Spanish for a while. I took the Placement Test for Spanish a couple of days after the French one and got placed into Spanish 108 (for Advanced Learners). 

I took the class last semester and it was amazing! My instructor was extremely kind, supportive and knowledgeable. My experience in that class was nothing like what I had seen in language classes before. Not only did the course focus on the development of the students' oral and written expression, but it also did so by engaging with interesting and thought-provoking material that explored the cultures, histories and politics of Spanish-speaking communities in the United States as well as the larger Hispanic world. The regular writing and speaking exercises encouraged me to frequently engage with the language beyond a superficial level in order to become comfortable expressing complex ideas in Spanish. All this in an encouraging and low-stress environment. I ended up doing very well in the class thanks to the incredible support I received from my instructor and my peers.

This experience reassured me in my decision to pursue a Certificate in Spanish, so much so that I am taking another Spanish class this semester: Spanish 209. In this course, we learn to analyze films in Spanish, which is a great way to improve my writing and speaking skills. It's also a great excuse to watch TV on the weekend without feeling guilty! I am only a few weeks in and I already love it! In addition to the language courses, Princeton offers other opportunities to get better in languages such as speaker events, internships abroad, summer language courses abroad, etc…

I truly feel that Princeton is one of the best places to brush up your skills in many languages or acquire new ones. Plus, you will want to take a class in East Pyne (the building that hosts most of the language departments): it is absolutely stunning! If you don’t believe me, come see for yourself!

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East Pyne Hall

P.S.: If you have questions about any of the things mentioned above, do not hesitate to send me an email!


My Freshman Seminar


Princeton prides itself in offering a multitude of study abroad and travel options, and making those as accessible to everyone as possible.  While COVID-19 has suspended most travel, I find myself reminiscing about past trips, including one university-sponsored trip I took just last year.

My freshman seminar course, FRS 161, was a geosciences course taught by Frederik Simons and Adam Maloof.  Over the course of the semester, we were to work with climate data and MATLAB to explore how climate change affected Italian olive orchards, even spending our fall break in Italy gathering data in the field.  Of course, I jumped at the chance for free travel and worked hard on my application to the class.  To my surprise, I got in, even though I had no programming experience and admittedly struggled with science.  I later found out that Adam and Frederik had read all of our essays personally, and selected a group they thought would be enthusiastic and hard working.  I can attest to the hard-working part — a year later, and I still count that class as the hardest one I have ever taken.  

However, I was sure all the long nights spent at my computer would be worth it once the lab portion of the class came along.  While most Princeton students spent the last day of fall midterms preparing to visit home or sleeping off the late nights studying, I spent it frantically packing my duffel bag and racing to the bus our class would take to the airport.  A bus ride and a plane flight later, I was blinking in the late-morning sun in Naples, Italy, the warmth on my skin in stark contrast to the air-conditioned flight or the chilly October morning I had left behind in New Jersey.   

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A blue ocean and sky framed by cliffs on either side

Over the course of the eight days FRS 161 spent in Italy, we drove along the beautiful Amalfi coast, collected data from three different olive orchards (where we were welcomed with open arms and presented with gifts of olive oil), visited historic Pompeii and majestic Mt. Vesuvius and shared pasta with our hosts at an Italian monastery.  This was no vacation — we were in the orchards from nearly sun up to sundown, and spent nights doing data entry and modeling.  I recall hours spent calling out pH readings for my classmates to record as we worked by flashlight and headlamp late into the night.  But I also recall running into the cold ocean at the end of a long hike, gleefully grabbing all of the gas station snacks I didn’t recognize from home, and finding stray cats wandering among the ruins of Pompeii.

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A gray striped cat lying in a patch of sun.

Although the days of international travel and unmasked gatherings seem so far away, scrolling through the old photos reminds me that there was a time before this, and there will be a time after.  I eagerly await the day when I can once again apply for Princeton courses that promise international adventure!

 


My Study Abroad Adventure(s)


Even before I arrived at Princeton, I knew that I wanted to study abroad. I have always been curious about travel and experiencing new languages and cultures. My initial plan was to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. I had studied Spanish throughout high school and was keenly interested in the culture and history of Spanish-speaking countries around the world. That said, my academic interests shifted and I decided to concentrate in Near Eastern Studies (NES)

An essential part of the NES concentration involves studying the languages of the Middle East. As a result, after my first year, I used Princeton funding to travel to Israel to study Hebrew. I had an incredible experience and went back during winter break of sophomore year to continue my studies and then secured a summer job in Tel Aviv. After two language study abroad experiences and a summer spent working abroad, I thought that I would not want to go abroad for another semester. Studying abroad for a semester can seem intimidating. Not only do you have to manage the cultural differences that come with living and studying in another country, but you also must be prepared to leave behind your friends, activities, classes and everything else that feels familiar and safe about Princeton. 

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Grace in Jerusalem

However, as I entered my junior year, I was offered an incredible chance to study abroad again — this time not in the Middle East but at SOAS University of London, a specialty school for Middle East studies. While it was tough leaving Princeton, I decided to put myself outside my comfort zone and had an amazing experience. Ultimately, while my semester abroad was cut short due to COVID-19, I am still grateful for the opportunity to have the experience.

While being abroad meant that I missed out on certain aspects of Princeton, it also meant that I got to have experiences that I never would have had inside the "Orange Bubble." I was able to pick from a wide variety of classes related to the study of the Middle East and be surrounded by a large cohort of like-minded peers. I had the chance to hone my language skills, live in a city and experience all of the vibrancy of city life London has to offer. I was joined by exchange students from all over Europe and the world. Some of my favorite memories are of late nights spent singing songs with my new friends, switching between English, German, Norwegian, Italian and more.

Finally, one of the most meaningful elements of my study abroad was the learning I got to do outside of the classroom. I did some of my research for my junior independent work in Oxford and Cambridge, and enjoyed seeing the incredible architecture of Scotland on a weekend trip to Edinburgh. I took the train around Europe — visiting the Swiss Alps, walking the streets of Paris and hanging out on the beach in Barcelona. I even managed to make it to Australia on one of our longer breaks from school. For someone who loves traveling, these experiences were truly priceless. 

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Grace in Scotland

All in all, I am beyond grateful for the study abroad experiences that I have had during my time at Princeton. Each one has helped to show me the extent to which Princeton offers every student the opportunity to engage in learning in a variety of meaningful ways.


Why I Came, Why I Chose to Stay


Being low-income and first-generation heavily influenced my decision to attend Princeton, but there is so much more about Princeton that makes me stay. 

Finances were the most important to me because I come from a low-income single parent household. My mother works for everything that my family has. Asking her to provide money for me to experience things like an unpaid internship or study abroad would be a lot for my family to handle, even though such experiences could help my academic, personal and professional growth. Princeton, however, provides many financially friendly opportunities such as Princeternships, study abroad programs, Breakout Princeton trips during breaks and PICS internships. Financial aid at Princeton is need-based, meaning the University awards students financial aid based on their individual needs. I chose Princeton because it afforded me and my family the financial freedom to help me further my academic endeavors. I could not in a million years afford to go to college without heavy loans, but with a generous aid package for undergrad, I can now think about attending graduate school.

Moreover, I also liked Princeton’s commitment to undergraduate education, the medium size of the school along with the student-to-faculty ratio. The resources at Princeton are unmatched. From the faculty who are hands-on in helping students cultivate their ideas and offering additional guidance during office hours, to the McGraw Center or The Writing Center; there is so much assistance, community and guidance tailored to each student’s needs. As a first-generation student, there is so much I do not know in terms of access, opportunities, finances, networking and even basic knowledge about jobs and fellowships. Being in a place with guidance and access to resources is important to me because it makes all the difference when you just don’t know what you don’t know. 

Why I came is important, but why I chose to stay is also of value. I chose to stay at Princeton because of the community, academic rigor and growth I've experienced here were unprecedented. I am very big on community and Princeton has provided me with the spaces where I am able to be myself while exploring different facets of my identity, the ways I learn and my academic interests. I feel like the spirit in the Black community here is truly special. We are all supporting each other and want everyone to win. I’ve met some of the most inspirational and motivating professors and students. I’ve also been able to travel to France and Puerto Rico during my time here even as a low-income student. Being at Princeton with financial freedom allows me to enjoy my college experience without worrying about money. I feel like I am where I'm supposed to be.