Are Princeton Students Competitive?

Prior to college I led my large public high school’s Model United Nations (MUN) team to various regional and national competitions. MUN, much like other intellectually-centered competition clubs, attracts striver-type students who enjoy the intellectual rigor, attention, and accolades associated with the activity. Many of the students on my team and on teams across the country aimed for and eventually attended rigorous colleges and universities across the country, in part because of the competitie drive that motivated their academic and co-curricular discipline. 

When I arrived at Princeton, I naively assumed that most of my classmates would resemble the students I encountered at these competitions. Those kids, who wanted to stand out in the sea of thousands of young adults, were fiercely competitive. 

What I discovered once I stepped on campus was that Princeton students however—even the ones who participated in MUN like myself—were a different story: 

The folks I sat next to in lecture, who I caught glances of while they messaged their friends under the guise of notetaking, giggled with when our Professors unknowingly said something humorous, or commiserated with at the end of a difficult discussion, became the basis of my first study groups. Our time together transformed from brief moments of connectivity in class to hours of tackling our work under the bright lights of the Butler College lounge.

What I found in my first few in-person classes was the spirit of collective action that is a defining trait of Princeton’s student life. This is in part enabled by the structure of Princeton’s academics which provides a framework for students to see one another as collaborators instead of competition. Princeton’s Honor Code is the backbone of academic life and it is the set of regulations that protect academic integrity in our classes. In the case of most of my classes, students were not just permitted but encouraged to collaborate with peers to complete assignments. In the case of my Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) classes, this took the form of informal Problem Set (PSet) groups. In the evenings, we would meet in a study room to cover course material and propose solutions to our PSET problems. In my non-STEM classes, my classmates and I would share course notes with one another and, at times, discuss our readings following class.

This is not to say that all of my classmates are my best friends. What stands out to me, even more than the close friendships that have formed through academic life, is the mutual respect my classmates hold for one another in supporting their academic journey. This mutual respect is definitely a privilege: I think students at Princeton can lessen their competitive selves because they perceive their status as a Princetonian as ensuring some level of security in the years beyond. Perhaps this sense of security empowers students to be gentler to one another in an environment that can, at times, keep us pretty busy.

The humming seats of Firestone Library have been the launchpad for some of my treasured relationships here and the subtler interactions between my peers provide me a feeling of comfort that I am truly appreciate of.

My RISE Summer Fellowship in NYC (Recognizing Inequities and Standing for Equality)

What do I want to do this summer? 

I kept asking myself this question over sophomore year. The past two summers I had studied abroad and worked a retail job in my hometown, but I knew, going into my junior year, that I wanted to do something explicitly related to my career. 

I want to go to law school. In a perfect world, I work as a Staff Attorney at the ACLU in their Immigrants’ Rights Unit. I am drawn to issues pertaining to detention centers and citizenship rights, and I wanted what I did over the summer to, in some capacity, address that.

This is why I chose to work for the RISE community partner CANY. CANY, or the Correctional Association of New York, is a non-profit promoting criminal justice reform. They conduct independent monitoring and oversight of all 44 New York State correctional facilities to improve transparency, identify harmful practices, and decrease incarceration across the state. With grounding values of respect, justice, and anti-racism, I was immediately drawn to CANY’s mission. 

I was on the Monitoring and Reporting Team, which organizes visits to correctional facilities, formulates standardized surveys to send out to incarcerated individuals, and is responsible for correspondence with incarcerated individuals and their loved ones. As an intern, I connected incarcerated individuals to social and legal services, conducted one-on-one interviews, and built CANY’s volunteer database to expand the facility visit program.

The environment was incredibly supportive, but the work was hard. While my supervisors were considerate of my time, communicated expectations clearly, and gave ample opportunities to ask questions, the material was heavy. Daily, I sifted through testimony about the abuses incarcerated individuals faced in facilities hundreds of miles away from their families. When working with organizations addressing issues of racial injustice and other inequalities, one can feel inundated with all the bad in the world. RISE gave me an opportunity to look at the nonprofit work I wanted to be involved in, and ask myself if I could handle it mentally and emotionally. 

This was a critical challenge to face. Through support from my co-workers, I learned to establish boundaries between myself and my work. Through generous funding from RISE, I was able to afford living in New York City with two of my best friends (also RISE fellows and PICS interns!). I learned ways to recharge – taking weekend trips to meet friends, cooking dinner with my roommates, or calling family back home. It was a summer to experience a new kind of independence, a taste of what post-grad could be, and affirmation that the service-focused professional world was where I wanted to be. 

To anyone considering the RISE program – reflect on what matters to you. Identify community organizations that align with your values, and push yourself to face the challenges that accompany new professional and personal experiences. Being a member of the Princeton community comes with the responsibility of serving communities beyond just our own. RISE gives us a unique opportunity to do just that.

Student Veterans on 'Why Princeton?'

Luke Hixson '25

Prior to Princeton, I served five years in the Navy as a Fleet Marine Force Corpsman attached to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. I’m currently a Junior in the Department of Neuroscience, a researcher in the Peña Lab, and a member of the Glorious Tiger Inn. After graduating from Princeton, I plan to attend medical school.


Princeton University is more than just a “prestigious institution;" it's a place where diverse communities come together to foster growth, inclusion, and support – a place where veterans can find an understanding and appreciative environment to transition back into civilian life while pursuing their academic dreams. The warm embrace I received from the Emma Bloomberg Center, fellow student-veterans, and the extensive resources available here made my transition from the military to academia seamless. But it doesn't stop there. Princeton's broader community is equally exceptional, nurturing a culture of collaboration and intellectual curiosity. The friendships I've formed with students from all walks of life have enriched my educational experience beyond measure. So, Why Princeton? It's the unique combination of a strong student-veteran community and the vibrant, inclusive spirit of Princeton as a whole. It's a place where I can grow academically, personally, and socially.


Victor Reynoso '26

I am from the West City of Puerto, Mayaguez. I left Puerto Rico when I enlisted in the U.S. Marines at 17 years old. I received an early Honorable Discharge from the Marine Corps so I could pursue my education at Princeton. I started here last year as a 22-year-old freshman, and I am a dog-dad of the two cutest dogs you will ever meet, and excited about the opportunities that Princeton offers me to explore my areas of interest before deciding on which major to pursue.


If I had to articulate what it is like to be a Princeton student, I would say that Princeton has the same mentality my drill instructors had; we train how we fight. In this regard, to Princeton, it is paramount that students receive a rigorous education, emulative of great real-world challenges. To better explain this, I can say that as a low-income student, I had never taken a computer science class before Princeton. However, three weeks after I started my first class at Princeton, we were asked to program a simulation of the solar system that took into consideration mass and gravitational forces. To be candid, this programming assignment had the most massive learning curve I’ve ever tackled. Nevertheless, it had to get done. So, I went to office hours, and I did not leave until it was finished – I refused to believe there was an “impossible” assignment. Personally, I think, that’s what Princeton is all about, constantly doing novel things that seemed impossible just three weeks ago. So, yes, Princeton academics can be grueling at moments, but they're also inspiring and stimulating. What's more, at Princeton, you are never alone, and someone is always willing to help. That's why I would not have it any other way.   


Minh Truong '27

During high school, at 17 years old I enlisted in the Army National Guard and have been with the state of Pennsylvania for four years. I am still drilling monthly with my state and have two years left with the Army. I was accepted into Princeton's Class of 2025 but deferred for two years for Army training and a deployment last year. I just came back to join the Class of 2027 as a first-year. I plan to major in Economics and minor in Visual Arts, maybe also Finance, and am considering law school after graduation.


Students at Princeton can choose to participate in clubs and student organizations that allow for professional and personal development outside of the classroom, which I have found to be very rewarding and also practical.

The University is very generous in its support of student co-curricular organizations; this allows for very well-organized clubs run by students and community members who are genuinely committed to and passionate about their activities.

Clubs can vary widely based on interest, with everything from pre-professional, to sports, to affinity, to hobby-based. I am involved with a business club and a finance club, both of which provide me with valuable professional development opportunities, such as regular conversations with industry leaders, working on an endowed project, trips to national business conferences, networking, etc. I am also involved in a badminton club, and a literary publishing club for which I am a book cover artist. These spaces allow me to explore personal interests outside of academics that engage my hobbies in structured and funded environments.

All the co-curricular programming available on campus is diverse yet accommodating and void of superficiality. Commitment-intensive clubs require applications and interviews that single out those who really want to commit themselves to the organizations, while other groups are more low-key and open to all. Being a service member has been a great asset in these spaces; the experiences, knowledge, and work ethic obtained in the military sets veterans far apart from others in their potential contributions to these communities. So far it has been very rewarding to commit myself to activities that allow growth beyond the classroom, and I highly encourage those considering Princeton to look at all these offered opportunities.


Kenneth Simmons '27

I was the product of a military family and my parents decided to settle down in Fayetteville, North Carolina. When I enlisted in the Army, I knew that I needed to mature and grow as a person. I had the privilege to work as a laboratory technician and medic in Special Operations and in clinical settings. The lessons I learned were invaluable to me taking the next step in my career. 

After separating from the Army after 14 years of service, I began my pursuit of higher education and enrolled in community college. This past summer I graduated from Fayetteville Technical Community College with my associates degree in science. I plan to major in philosophy here at Princeton, with the hopes of attending law school where I will begin a career in ethics for emerging technology. 

Support Resources

I chose Princeton for many reasons; the sense that I would be welcomed into the Princeton Community and that accommodations were made for non-traditional/veteran students were among those deciding factors. As a parent, dog parent, and 14-year Army Veteran, I knew I would be very different from my classmates. At Princeton, there are many resources to make your transition out of the military and into higher education seamless, unlike any other institution I applied to. You have the option to live on campus in the undergraduate residential colleges, or if you have a family and pets, you can opt to live in graduate housing or off campus. This flexibility addresses a significant component of any student’s success–ensuring that things are okay at home. My two dogs Cali and Cloud, enjoy going on walks and admiring campus, and it is normal to bump into classmates and professors and strike up a conversation. Princeton also has world-class physical and mental health services, ensuring my physical and mental health needs are addressed. Thank you, Princeton, for knocking down barriers to education and allowing me to share my talents with this community.

Editor's note: A few other resources include the transfer and veteran programming though the Emma Bloomberg Center for Access and Opportunity, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, the Writing Center, professors' office hours, advising in the residential college offices, and the Center for Career Development.


Andres Solorzano '26

I am from Long Beach, California. Before attending Princeton, I enlisted into the United States Army in 2016 and served in various components of the Army until the beginning of this year. I was a M1 Armor Crewman in the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment out of Fort Stewart, Georgia. 

I am a first generation Guatemalan-American student. I am grateful to Princeton for giving me an opportunity unlike anything I could have ever dreamed of. I am looking forward to being challenged in the coming years, and I am ready to grow academically and personally alongside the amazing students here on campus. Upon graduating from Princeton, I plan on immediately pursuing an advanced degree. 

Financial Aid

Applying to Princeton can be very daunting. There is a lot of uncharted territory to navigate, particularly for student veterans. One of the biggest questions is always: “How will I be able to pay for this?” There’s no way I can afford it so why even bother applying, right? Wrong! Last year, Princeton enhanced its financial aid policy, guaranteeing independent students and families with incomes up to $100,000 a year will pay nothing.

Let’s not forget your earned educational benefits. Your GI Bill? Save that for graduate school! You do not have to utilize your benefits unless you decide that you want to use them. Many factors go into deciding where you will go to college, but don’t let money be a barrier--at Princeton, it isn’t anymore. Financial aid is one of the many ways we experience this university's recognition of the great value that veteran students bring to the campus population.

Introducing My Professor, Dr. Rivera-Lopez and Her Reflections on Teaching, Impact and Latinx Representation

Without a doubt, every student at Princeton will tell you there was one class that completely changed their perspective on a topic, a field of study or even life. Courses like these are available at Princeton, they make you reevaluate what you think you know and even spark curiosity to learn something new. As Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month comes to an end, I’d like to share one of my professors from the Latino Studies program that has challenged me to think critically about the way I view Latinx representation not only in media and literature but also my past education and narratives I’ve consumed. In my sophomore fall semester, I took “Introduction to Latino/a/x Studies” with the amazing Dr. Keishla Rivera-Lopez, a lecturer in the Effron Center for the Study of America. The course explored themes such as identity, culture, belonging and Latinidad. She has taught me countless lessons through her courses and with each one, my intellectual curiosity has grown. I invited Professor Rivera-Lopez to share more about her experience as a Latina professor at Princeton, how she came up with such interesting/engaging courses and what her main goals are in teaching Latino/a/x Studies courses.

Read Dr. Rivera-Lopez's piece, 'A Brief Reflection on Teaching, Impact and Latinx Representation.'

A Snapshot into Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS)


Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) is a program that connects students with summer internship opportunities at nonprofit and government organizations in a wide variety of fields, ranging anywhere from healthcare to education. PICS is a funded opportunity, with students receiving a lump-sum stipend before the start of the summer. This stipend can be used towards any costs associated with your internship, including housing, food, and transportation. In addition to funding, PICS provides students with a network of resources and alumni to better support them during their internships and beyond. Through PICS, I spent this summer working as a Communications and Development intern at the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) in Trenton, New Jersey.

The way that PICS works is relatively straightforward. At the end of the fall semester, a list of PICS community partners is released. This means you have about a month to choose up to two organizations to apply to, as well as prepare your application materials, all before the January deadline to submit your application. Interviews are usually held throughout the month of January, and by early to mid-February, you are notified about whether you have been selected for an internship.

When I was first looking into PICS, LALDEF stood out to me as it aligned with my own interests and personal values. LALDEF works to empower immigrants living in Mercer County, helping them navigate the systems and resources necessary for their own self-sufficiency in the United States. This includes access to legal services, citizenship test preparation, ESL classes, and youth mentoring programs. I am very interested in immigration work, and am considering the possibility of at some point working in the nonprofit sphere, so LALDEF made complete sense for me. Additionally, I loved that it was located near campus, as integrating myself more into the community surrounding campus is something I value greatly.

During my nine-week internship, I stayed on campus and took the train every day to Trenton. I worked Monday through Friday, eight hours a day, which meant that every morning, I made the trek from the train station to the office and up the stairs to the third floor, where our office space was located.

Most days after work, I would spend my time staying active, putting together puzzles, reading, and unwinding from the day. The weekends were a great opportunity for me to get off campus, even going into NYC twice over the summer.

The internship itself entailed a wide range of tasks and projects. As an intern working in the Communications and Development department, I was able to interact with the whole LALDEF team. Some of my major projects were designing the 2023 Impact Report and putting together the Fall 2023 Newsletter. The creation of the newsletter involved designing the layout itself, as well as contacting the different program heads to fill the newsletter with content and updates from each program. I was also involved in a variety of different supporting tasks within my department, but within other departments as well. I learned the importance and process of grant-writing, and conducted interviews with past and present clients to assemble testimonials for promotional purposes. One of the most impactful moments of the summer was sitting in on a legal intake interview, where I helped translate a client’s migration story.

All in all, I feel that I gained valuable insight into nonprofit work thanks to my PICS internship. I also learned what I like about different work experiences and environments, and what I would like to do differently in a future internship or job. Princeton-funded opportunities for internships (and research, if that’s more your thing) feel limitless at times. There is truly something for everyone, and the process will feel so much less overwhelming when it's upon you.

A Brief Reflection on Teaching, Impact and Latinx Representation


An introduction from blogger Melissa Ruiz '25

Without a doubt, every student at Princeton will tell you there was one class that completely changed their perspective on a topic, a field of study or even life. Courses like these are available at Princeton, they make you reevaluate what you think you know and even spark curiosity to learn something new. As Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month comes to an end, I’d like to share one of my professors from the Latino Studies program that has challenged me to think critically about the way I view Latinx representation not only in media and literature but also my past education and narratives I’ve consumed. In my sophomore fall semester, I took “Introduction to Latino/a/x Studies” with the amazing Dr. Keishla Rivera-Lopez, a lecturer in the Effron Center for the Study of America. The course explored themes such as identity, culture, belonging and Latinidad. She has taught me countless lessons through her courses and with each one, my intellectual curiosity has grown. I invited Professor Rivera-Lopez to share more about her experience as a Latina professor at Princeton, how she came up with such interesting/engaging courses and what her main goals are in teaching Latino/a/x Studies courses.


Dr. Rivera-Lopez

My short time at Princeton has been the most impactful and memorable teaching experience for me. It is in these classrooms, through dialogues that I realized my students have a hunger for more, more discussions about the popular culture or media that is supposed to represent us though many times it falls short and disappoints us. Though, sometimes, there are glowing renditions of our culture that give us immense pride. My students want more book and film recommendations that can, hopefully, endeavor to fill the gaps of knowledge they were deprived of in our primary and secondary education systems. They ask if I’ll be teaching more classes to satisfy their intellectual questions, which, in turn, makes me feel very needed and valued at this institution. This idea of more is not a coincidence when it seems like we’re often excluded from the curriculum or in other facets of society, and these moments remind us we’re often offered less. So, it seems my role here has been to provide more to my students, and it reminds me a lot of my experiences as an undergraduate seeking more knowledge and information regarding my homeland and culture to not only be included, but done so in an authentic and positive light. I know what it felt like to not see my history or my communities represented in mandatory literature or history classes throughout my education or that I belonged in those conversations or spaces. I had an immense feeling that learning my history and culture was a personal project, a solo trip I had to take and fulfill for myself. So, I majored in Latino and Caribbean Studies and immersed myself into finding out more.

My students’ introspective natures remind me of myself - this is why I went to graduate school and pursued a career in academia in the first place. As an undergraduate in a “Latino Literature” course, I rediscovered a passion for reading when I was no longer required to reread the same books and narratives that were recycled year after year in my high school education. I was finally not bored in a literature class and felt like I had to make up for years of no exposure. It untapped a desire for more in me - this is why I see myself in my students. This class cultivated a new worldview and way of understanding how and why my family came here - my dad in Brooklyn and my mother in Chicago and later settling in New Jersey within a Puerto Rican and Dominican enclave. I learned these enclaves aren’t a coincidence - they erupt from waves of migrants, like my family, who had to leave their homelands. I reflect on the meaning of education and its accessibility because most of my family hasn’t received a college education. I think about how I represent my own family history in the classroom as a first generation scholar, a Puerto Rican woman from an urban working class city, a Latina in academia and how it has given me a unique approach to teaching. Being a Latina is deeply rooted in my pedagogical approach and scholarship. 

And, within the liminality of representation or course offerings, I hope my classroom is a space for interesting and thought-provoking dialogue, one that offers historical context about migration and labor that help my students better understand Latino communities and activism while also providing nuances about culture and identity that help them better define and construct Latinidad for themselves. I hope my classrooms are a safe space to discuss the current happenings within Latino music, aesthetics, literature, and media so my students feel represented in the classroom and can discuss how iterations of the past inform the present. Or, why, for example, we can, and we do, discuss big cultural icons like Bad Bunny, Karol G, Cardi B, JLo, etc. in productive and meaningful ways.

I believe representation weighs heavily in the way a college experience is shaped and felt, so my job here in front of the classroom isn’t miniscule. I want to underscore the reason I have the role to be in front of the classroom in the first place is because of a dedicated and passionate professor, Dr. Yomaira Figueroa-Vasquez, who became my mentor and invested in me while I was an undergrad. Mentorship is critical to the retention and success of working-class, underrepresented, and first-gen students. She also taught me an invaluable lesson outside of the classroom - my history and experiences matter and, I too, belong in institutions, like academia, even though they don’t necessarily always make space for our stories, contributions, or us. Furthermore, I’m proud to be here and be able to do this work. This rhetoric pushed me through many moments of doubt, imposter syndrome, and hardship in graduate school, and now, as I navigate academia.

I am so lucky to be in conversation with and teach students because I learn so much from them. Their kind words and honest feedback make me feel truly valued and appreciated as a Latina at an ivy league institution. Though it is an enormous task, I endeavor to impact my students through in-class instruction, mentorship and dialogue that emulates the way my mentor helped and shaped me. Ultimately, my students inspire and motivate me to keep developing courses and different projects to maintain their engagement and interests. I am thankful for their contributions to class discussions, intentional reading, and their feedback that lets me know what my classes mean to them. I hope I can fulfill their need(s) for more in their quest to obtain and understand Latino Studies discourses of culture, literature, and histories.


Students sit around a round table with an orange table cloth, holding up books.
Caption from Melissa: This photo is from a book event with one of the authors on the syllabus for the Latinx Narratives: Literature, Music and Culture class. Dr. Rivera-Lopez moderated the conversation with the author and many of her students, past and present, attended! 


Princeton is Knowledge

In April of 2021, shortly after being admitted, I visited campus with my parents for the first time. After grabbing a quick breakfast on Nassau Street, we walked towards campus, warm coffee in hand as I tried to take it all in—I think my parents fell in love with campus before I had a chance to fully process where I was.

We spent the morning wandering around aimlessly, first passing through FitzRandolph Gate and walking by Nassau Hall, then towards Blair Arch and down to the rest of campus. Eventually, we made it to Prospect Gardens, where the beginning of spring had left behind the sweet smell of blossoming flowers and bright colors everywhere.

I remember my mom turning to me and saying, “Odette, I can just picture you reading a book on that bench over there.” (With the knowledge I have now, I can confirm it is a very comfortable bench. I read several excerpts of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America on that bench, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.)

Everywhere we walked, we passed by students talking about the relief of completing their senior theses. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were visiting shortly after many departments had already required submissions of the senior thesis for their students. It was intimidating to think about, but I was also fascinated by how excited they all sounded about their work. When we ate lunch later that day at Proof Pizza, we sat next to a group of students who very quickly transitioned from discussing their weekend plans to debating a topic from their math class.

Back on campus, we started to realize many of the trees were labeled with their scientific names.

“What a nerdy thing to do,” I joked with my parents.

For some reason, this particular anecdote stuck with me the most when I returned home. When my friends and family asked about how my visit had been, I could only reply with “they label their trees up there.” Entering my third year, the labeled trees scattered across campus are still one of my favorite things about Princeton, and although it was something that was merely kind of strange and amusing back then, I think it’s a testament to what Princeton stands for.

Maybe this goes without saying, but knowledge is everywhere, and I mean everywhere on campus.

If you asked me now what it’s like to go to Princeton, I think I’d start with the same response. No mundane fact is too insignificant, no question unworthy of being asked. It is inspiring to be surrounded by thousands of students who are as passionate about learning as I am. I could not count the number of thought-provoking conversations I’ve had over Wawa mac and cheese, or the number of times I’ve left a class absolutely in awe of my classmates.

Curiosity and the quest for knowledge are central to all that Princeton is, and if this sounds like the sort of environment you’d love, then I’d say you’re already halfway home.

A family of three poses in front of Nassau Hall wearing face masks.
The first picture I took with my parents on campus in April 2021—time flies!

6 Small Pleasures of Living in Princeton

The start of the fall semester means returning to campus after a summer away, and with this move comes a change in your daily and weekly routines. While this change can be a little disorienting as you adjust, there are certain to be joys unique to Princeton and campus life to which you'll be glad to return. Here are six of my own small pleasures of the Orange Bubble.

1. Seeing My Professors in Town

Princeton is a lovely town, and many professors live nearby. It's very common to see your professors out and going about their daily lives. Sometimes I'll see Professor Bourg out on a run or say hello to Professor Myneni while he gets a coffee at Small World after biking to work. Seeing my professors in a more informal context reminds me that they, too, are human. 

2. Getting the Newspaper in Palmer Square

Growing up, my family always received the daily and weekend New York Times. Some of my favorite memories of home include fetching the plastic-wrapped newspaper roll each morning from the driveway and lingering at the table after dinner on Sunday to read my favorite sections. Physical newspaper is still my favorite way to stay informed, and I love stopping by the newsstand in Palmer Square, a shopping center across from Nassau Hall, to pick up the daily paper several times a week.

green-roofed newsstand with lamp post in front

3. Classes in a Castle

Princeton's Gothic architecture still awes me every day, even as a senior. Most of my classes are in the E-Quad, a more modern building on campus, but my humanities courses are usually held in one of the older buildings towards central campus. Dillon Gym is also located in a Gothic building, so I not only learn, but sweat, in a castle.

large lecture hall with wooden seats and large chandeliers

4. Shopping at Whole Earth Center

I'm an "independent" who cooks for herself, and Whole Earth Center is my go-to grocery store. This hippie-populated health store has a wonderful selection of fresh fruit, vegetables, baked goods, and other surprising finds (cashew cheese crackers, anyone?) that make my day. Getting my weekly groceries here is always a real treat.

5. Runs and Walks on the Towpath

By the canal "down campus" runs D&R Canal State Park, a long gravel trail by the water perfect for running or weekend strolls. In fall, the leaves change colors and create a gorgeous tableau for my run. Zipping down the towpath is one of my favorite ways to unwind daily, and on weekends Kelvin and I will often go for walks to take in the scenery.

wooded gravel trail with group of pedestrians

6. The Daily Princetonian on Fridays

Recalling my aforementioned love of physical newspaper, I look forward to picking up my printed copy of the Daily Princetonian each Friday. The Prince publishes online daily, but the Friday print edition is really when I catch up with the latest campus happenings. 

While there are any number of elements of Princeton life I could have shared, these are some of the ones most special to me and my lifestyle here. Ask any Princeton student for six small pleasures of Princeton life, and you're certain to receive a unique answer each time. Discovering what makes your time here meaningful is one of the best parts of moving off to college and living on your own.

Princeton in Washington: Creating Community and Exploring Careers in Public Service in the Nation's Capitol

Every summer, a great number of Princeton students, both undergraduate and graduate, move to the nation’s capital for internship, job and research opportunities. They pursue a wide range of positions, from working for members of congress, getting hands-on policy experience to getting involved with nonprofits.

The Princeton in Washington (PIW) program, which is run by the Center for Career Development, supports students and young alumni in the D.C. area spending their summers living out Princeton's informal motto: "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of humanity." I had the unique opportunity to serve as the student coordinator for PIW this summer.

PIW runs throughout June and July, offering Princetonians in Washington, D.C. unique opportunities to connect with alumni in government and policy, technology, law, nonprofit, journalism and more. As a part of PIW, participants are able to meet high-profile alumni at the top of their fields, learn more about various career paths and make meaningful connections not only with alumni, but also other students. Attending alumni panel discussions, visiting some of the most renowned institutions for change and participating in casual social events — all of these things gave us, Princeton students and young alumni in D.C., a chance to build our own community in the city over the summer and create new friendships.

Round table classroom discussion
“Princeton was a transformative experience for me and to be able to talk to folks who had walked a certain path before I had when I was a student was incredibly helpful. To be able to do that on the other side now, twenty years later, is really exciting.” - James Cadogan '03, Executive Director, National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, NBA & PIW 2023 speaker

Some of the highlights of PIW 2023 include a visit to the Federal Reserve with Chair Jerome Powell '75, conversations with various members of Congress including Terri Sewell '86, Jeff Merkley *82, John Sarbanes '84, and Derek Kilmer '96, a roundtable discussion with General Mark Milley '80 at the Pentagon, and a tour of the ESPN studios with investigative reporter Tisha Thompson '99. Through these events, participants were able to ask questions, hear about the speakers’ career paths and any advice they may have, and connect with them to expand their network. 

large group of students poses with 'Princeton in Washington' banner
“It's a really special program because you get to meet tons of people, whether it's politicians, lawyers, journalists, ESPN reporters — and you get to meet them in the span of a single summer. What I love about it is that you can do it on top of internships, so you get the benefit of coming to D.C. and working on something you're passionate about, and then in the evenings getting to go to all these events and expand your horizons.” - Kathy Yang '24, PIW participant

As the student coordinator, it was an honor to be able to design these programs and offer a series of events for the summer to help other Princeton students in their career paths. Behind the scenes, I reached out to alumni and coordinated events and logistics, created content to promote programs, and communicated with the PIW community — all of which helped improve my organizational and interpersonal skills. Also, invaluably, I had the privilege to attend every event as PIW coordinator, which deepened my interests in the fields of public and international policy.

group of students look upward inside the Capital Building rotunda
"My favorite PIW event by far was the night Capitol tour with Representative Derek Kilmer '96. He was super personable, he showed us multiple parts of the Capitol that we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. We got to sit on the House floor, watch him cast a test vote, and discuss reforming Congress. It was really amazing.” - Braiden Aaronson '25, PIW participant

My biggest takeaway from PIW is that there is not one set path, one set answer, or a correct major, internship, or fellowship to pursue. Many of the alumni who we looked up to during these events for inspiration, did not have a complete idea of their careers from the beginning. Instead, it was trying new things that allowed them to succeed. We, as college students, often face constant pressure to have everything figured out and have our career path mapped out to minute details to be successful, so it was relieving to hear this kind of advice from Princeton alumni, and this reassurance is one of the many takeaways from PIW, on top of the relationships built with not just the alumni but also with other Princeton students. 

Behind the scenes on television news set
“We have a multitude of speakers who come from different industries and backgrounds who are willing to devote an hour or two of their time to us, and it's extremely valuable. The informal setting is great. You just don't get this type of engagement anywhere else.” - Ben Crewe '24, PIW participant

Three Important Lessons I Learned Freshman Year (That Have Nothing to Do With Academics)

It’s hard to believe that I will officially be a “sophomore” in a few weeks. It feels like yesterday that I moved into Forbes College, and sat through day long orientation programming. Now that I’m somewhat settled into my new home – that is, the Second Floor of the Forbes Annex – I want to share with you the three most important lessons I learned freshman year. Who knows? Maybe they can help you become your authentic self at Princeton.

1. Don't forget to laugh!

While it’s very easy to make me laugh, I sometimes feel so stressed from school that I forget to. So rather than seek out instances that make me laugh, I let them come to me.

For instance, I went to Princetoween (our post Fall break Halloween celebration) with one of my friends. While at Colonial Eating Club, I ran into a Forbesian dressed like a teenage Michael Jackson. I asked him where his five brothers were. At first, he was confused. But once he understood what I was talking about, he agreed he looked like Michael Jackson with his afro and tall, slender appearance. Back at Forbes, I cried laughing while telling the story to my Zee Group. As the saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine.” Yes, even in an environment where students seem to be working nonstop.

Avery is standing in front of the Princeton Builds Pathways construction post, wearing yellow and green shirts and a navy blue Princeton University cap.
Me dressed as Quincy from "Little Einsteins."

2. Your special interests are valued.

I have several special interests including Sesame Street (among other children's cartoons), writing, and most recently my new major: Cultural Anthropology. I could go on for days! But from elementary to middle school, it wasn’t unusual for my interests to be dismissed as, well, unusual.

Now, I am incredibly grateful to have friends who share my special interests, if not have their own. Some powerlift. Others love Procreate. Some fight to divest Princeton. Others passionately believe Oppenheimer is better than Barbie. I firmly believe that by sharing my interests with my friends (and vice versa), I have learned so much more about their life experiences. 

3. The people here keep you going.

Coming into Princeton, I envisioned it would be a cutthroat environment where nobody wanted to help each other. This assumption couldn’t have been more wrong. My friends keep me going even on my toughest days. Examples include texting me to ask about my day and offering to read my papers. Mind you, these relationships are not one sided. I do the same for them because I care about them. 

These friendships have also made it easier for us to be vulnerable about our life experiences. Our conversations occasionally include crying and hugging. But no matter what we discuss, we always reaffirm to each other that we belong here. Princeton is a major life change academically, emotionally, and socially. So please make it a point to make friends who always push you to be your authentic self.