Princeton for the Summer: High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) Internship


This summer, I'm working on a sustainable energy project creating OLEDs to power photocatalysis through a High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) internship. This means I'm living in Princeton, and I was initially worried that it would feel a little lonely to be on campus when classes aren't in session. When I was speaking with friends about their summer plans, though, I was pleasantly surprised by how many would also be in Princeton this summer. A few of my friends have other HMEI internships that take place in labs, while others have research internships through the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment (ACEE). Contrary to my worries, campus is still humming with activity in over the summer.

There's a community of about 50 HMEI interns on campus, and we recently had a group dinner where I caught up with friends and was introduced to several new ones. We had Nomad Pizza (restaurant that serves brick oven pizza) in Guyot Hall, and I got to hear about one friend's fieldwork at the nearby Watershed Institute and about another's work at the Plasma Physics Lab.

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Students serving themselves pizza and soft drinks at a table inside Guyot Hall
HMEI interns meeting for dinner

There are also around 20 ACEE interns on campus, one of whom, John, works in the same lab as I do with a different graduate student mentor. It's nice that I'm not the only undergrad in the lab, because I'm reminded that it's normal to face a steep learning curve when adapting to operating the specialized instruments! While the graduate students make operating a thermal evaporator with three pairs of gloves on seem effortless, John and I still have practice to do to achieve that level of dexterity.

Being on campus in the summer is nice because it gives me a chance to explore the Princeton area at a time when I'm not overwhelmed with coursework. On weekends I like to visit the shops on Nassau Street, like Nearly New thrift shop or Labyrinth Books, or explore the area by running on the towpath or biking around town. Another perk of Princeton in the summer is the farmers' market, which is held every Thursday. New Jersey summer fruit absolutely cannot be beat!

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A checkered tablecloth with teal berry pint containers holding cherries on top
Cherries at the Princeton Farmers Market

When I was applying for HMEI internships for the summer, I initially considered several of the offerings with international travel. There were opportunities to study grasslands in Madagascar of Mozambique, for example, which would certainly have made for a unique and memorable summer of travel. I decided against it, though, when I realized that I'd really prefer to gain more wet lab experience and spend time with my Princeton community. I'm truly enjoying spending summer on campus, and I would recommend it to any student as a way to appreciate the lovely area during a calmer time of year.


Breaking Out of Princeton: Spring Break in NYC


Going to college thousands of miles from home is always both exciting and stressful. However, I found this statement to be especially true during breaks. Often, shorter breaks (like Thanksgiving, fall break and spring break) can seem too short for a trip home to be worthwhile, or even possible. My first year, going home just was not an option for me. Fortunately, Princeton allows many of its students to stay on campus during short breaks. So I never had to worry about access to housing or food during those times. For those who decide to, staying on campus during breaks can be rejuvenating. It is a chance to experience Princeton without the hectic life of being a student, dining hall crowds and (sometimes boring) early morning lectures. It can be a chance to make new connections and catch up on overdue assignments and dining hall dates. That said, for those seeking thrills and excitement, Princeton also offers a number of alternative break plans run by various departments and clubs on campus. These opportunities range from trips to see live Broadway shows or go restaurant hopping in New York City, to free boxing workshops, to class-sponsored trips within the United States or abroad and much more. For my spring break, I spent a week in NYC and it was genuinely one of my best experiences so far as a Princeton student.

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5 students posing for a photo in front of a restaurant
Last day in NYC with the group! 

I was part of a cohort of students who spent the week in NYC learning about immigration to the city through the lens of food. The trip was organized by the PACE Center, which is the department that manages most of the service-related initiatives for the University. During this week, along with a group of five Princeton students and a staff member, I engaged in conversations with community leaders in Brooklyn and the Bronx about the journeys of refugees in NYC and the role that food and the restaurant industry play in their experiences. I was also able to socialize with and befriend other Princeton students, many of whom I had never met before. Moreover, I was able to live in NYC for five days and eat quality New York food… For free!

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Bowl of stew in shallow bowl on table
Our meal from Emma’s Torch, a nonprofit that prepares immigrants to enter the workforce.

I enjoyed the opportunity this Breakout Trip gave me to branch out and learn more about nearby communities and the challenges their residents can face. Princeton is not huge, but it is certainly big and busy enough to make you forget about the outside world if the intentionality to get out of the "bubble" is lacking. Our supervisor, Geralyn Williams, also made sure we learned about the most effective ways to approach service beyond our spring trip. We learned about empowering and contributing to established initiatives put in place by the locals rather than one centered on saviorism. Additionally, this trip provided me with many opportunities to reflect on how I might pursue my dedication to service in a way that truly serves others while respecting their own resourcefulness and commitment. I gained new insights into the worlds of social work, immigration law and human rights, all of which are areas that interest me deeply. I also had the opportunity to engage with social workers and CEOs of nonprofits and social enterprises and learn about their daily responsibilities, their challenges and the impact they have or aspire to. Following these conversations, I always felt deeply inspired.

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Man holding chicken in farm building
Meet Poulette whom I met in an Urban Farm.

When I returned to Princeton, I felt that my sense of purpose had been redefined and sharpened. I felt more confident entering my classes and engaging in my extracurricular activities knowing that what I was learning was going to help prepare me for the life and career I desire. Even during my break time, Princeton accompanied me in my personal journey and it felt incredibly reassuring. In the days following this trip I had a heightened sense of awareness--I felt I was at the right place.


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


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

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

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11 volleyball players posing on the court

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

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

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11 volleyball players posing on the court

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

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


Did You Say Free Food?


The other day, I was writing my Spanish homework in my room when my roommate, Jose, who was taking a nap, woke up suddenly. He then looked at the screen of his phone and quickly got up from his bed, letting out a sigh that denoted his distress:

Late meal is almost over, he said nervously as he rushed out of the room.

Confused, I stared at him from over my computer. I never understood his obsession with late meal. Late meal is a term used to describe an option offered by Campus Dining to students enrolled in the meal plan. Essentially, each student has access to two $8 credits: one for late lunch and another for late dinner. Technically, it’s meant for students who miss regular dining hours in the cafeterias because of classes or meetings. Late meal prevents them from starving. However, the way my roommate religiously got late meal seemed unusual (or so I thought) and left me deeply puzzled. For some context, Frist (where late meal is served) is located around 12 minutes away from Forbes (our Res College). Yet, he would sometimes purposely skip dining hall meals to go to Frist, braving the cold winter night. Worse: sometimes he would first eat at Forbes, and later, go for doubles at late meal! Seriously, why so much dedication? That day, I decided to elucidate that mystery and ask him point-blank what was up with him after he had gotten his meal.

Jose came back one hour later. I didn't even let him unwrap his chicken quesadilla and fries: I instantly bombarded him with the question that had been tormenting me to the point that I had been unable to focus on my assignment.

Why do you go through so much trouble for late meal? I asked.

He stared back at me, deeply offended by my question. "How dare you?" his face flushed with indignation. He asked as though he was too obfuscated to even utter a word.  My question seemed to have troubled him to his core. It was 50 degrees inside yet he was sweating profusely. He stared at me a little longer, trying to figure out if I was serious and whether I deserved an answer. He took off his coat while I stood still, waiting impatiently for his answer. Finally, he enlightened me on the foundation of his obsession.

That night, he unraveled the mystery of his love for late meal. At that time, everything seemed to come together. It all made sense. 

Jose first confided in me that he was often not hungry during the usual opening hours of the cafeterias so he preferred to wait until late meal, when he was sure he would be starving. Additionally, the consistency of Frist's menu assured him he would like what he ordered. He also had more choices. Whether he got a quesadilla, a burger, sushi, chicken tenders, fries or onion rings… he knew he would never be disappointed. He would sometimes be pleasantly surprised with a new addition to the menu: spring rolls, dumplings or pizza. Some days, when he just wanted to snack or grab something to take home for the night to help him push through his intense two o'clock reading sessions, he would only grab a bag of chips, chocolate chip cookies and a muffin. If that day he felt like eating healthily, he would grab a box of green grapes and one fresh banana. As long as the total was under 8 dollars: he could have them all. For free! Finally, and perhaps the main reason for his obsession, was that late meal was a unique opportunity to socialize.  Frist is already the center of student life at Princeton.  On a normal day, you find student groups promoting their dance shows, aspiring engineers working on P-sets together, Philosophy majors conversing about the meaning of life or Econ majors playing table tennis or billiards... etc. Add food to the combo and you have the exciting, vibrant and engaging environment of late meal. For Jose, late meal is one of the best things about Princeton!

 

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Students hanging out in Frist South Lawn after lunch late meal.


After that conversation, I never again saw late meal the same way. My life truly changed. Forever. And my eating schedule as well!


Declaration Day


On a recent Friday, as I was walking back from Cannon Green with my friend Kelvin, I was approached by a curious graduate student. "Do you know what's going on over there?" he asked, referencing the festivities on Cannon Green.

"It's Declaration Day," I replied. "The Class of '24 announced their majors, so they're taking photos in their class sweaters in front of the banners for their majors."

"Wow," he said. "That's so extra."

I laughed and chatted a bit more with him before walking away. It occurred to me that the Princeton Declaration Day tradition is peculiar and maybe a little "extra," but it was enjoyable nonetheless. In the spring of their sophomore year, students receive a black knit sweater with their class year in knitted orange block letters. On "Declaration Day," after all students have declared their concentrations, students gather on Cannon Green behind Nassau Hall to pose for photographs in front of the banner of their department. Engineering (B.S.E) students declare their concentrations midway through their second semester, but Declaration Day occurs after arts and sciences (A.B) students declare, which is midway through their third semester. 

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Department banners on Cannon Green for Dec Day

I applied to Princeton as a Civil and Environmental Engineering major, and CEE indeed ended up being the department I'm concentrating in. After taking several classes and conducting research in the department, I knew that tackling environmental engineering problems is what I'm most passionate and excited about. My experience is by no means common, though, as many students decide to concentrate in an area other than what they anticipated when they applied. The first semester and a half (for B.S.E students) or three and a half semesters (for A.B students) gives you a chance to try out classes in several departments and see what piques your interest. A friend of mine who anticipated majoring in CEE discovered she really enjoyed coding and decided to be a Computer Science major, for instance, while another friend took classes in both the Physics and CEE departments during his first several semesters to get a feel for both.

Even after you declare, though, it's somewhat surprising how many choices you have in your schedule to select classes outside of your department. I generally have about two to three required classes for my major per semester, and then I can choose two to three others to fill my humanities and social sciences requirements or work towards certificates (minors). Next semester, for instance, I'm planning to take a French conversation course (which will fulfill a social sciences requirement) and take an environmental chemistry course (which will count towards my Sustainable Energy certificate). So while I really like being a part of the CEE department and taking CEE classes (which are generally my favorite courses), it's nice that I still get to experience other departments during my time at Princeton.

"Dec Day" might have been a little extra, but it was a lovely moment where we could imagine what we'll do in the future with our CEE knowledge and training.

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author and friend in front of CEE banner


A Day In the Life of an East Asian Studies Concentrator


I thought I would share what a day in my life looks like when I have a packed schedule of extracurriculars, socializing and schoolwork! 

7:45 a.m.

I don’t normally wake up this early, but I have a lot of morning classes this semester so I take the time to get breakfast and study for my Japanese quiz!

 

8:30 a.m.

My first class of the day is “Introduction  to Digital Humanities,” which is the class I am taking for my Quantitative and Computational Reasoning distribution requirement, even though it’s an English class! We’re learning about the intersection of digital media and the humanities, and I love how I am able to take a wide range of non-conventional classes to fulfill my distribution requirements.

 

10:00 a.m.

My second class is Japanese, of which I am in my second year. Starting a new language at Princeton is undoubtedly a challenge, as classes meet every day, but each class is structured around time for grammar, speaking, and writing practice, which makes all the hours you have to put in worth it. 

 

11:00 a.m.

I then head over to do work in the eating club I’m a member of, where I am supposed to meet a friend for lunch and study together after. As a sophomore, we get two meals per week at our eating club, which is a great way to integrate ourselves into a community we will soon be fully immersed in next semester. Each eating club at Princeton has its own library, so I just did readings for my seminar later today there. 

 

1:30 p.m.

I had my final class of the day, “Everyday Life in Mao’s China.” This is my favorite class this semester, where we are taking a ground-level view of how the lives of everyday people were impacted by the various changes during the Mao era. Seminars at Princeton are usually three hours long with around fifteen people, though mine is capped at nineteen because so many people were interested in taking it. 

 

4:30 p.m.

I went to Coffee Club, a student run cafe located in Campus Club to grab coffee with a friend and work on my Japanese homework. Coffee Club has new seasonal drinks every month or so, so I got to try their lavender latte (last month they had raspberry matcha as a specialty). 

 

6:00 p.m.

Dinner time! I went to dinner at my eating club, where every Thursday night is a member’s night. I got to sit with my friends and catch up on what they did over spring break while also meeting seniors in the club I had never met before. 

 

9:00 p.m.

My a cappella group was performing at a show for Princeton’s East Asian dance company, Triple 8, so we met near the dressing room at the theater to rehearse beforehand. 

 

10:00 p.m.

After my performance, I went back to Firestone Library, my favorite library, to do work. I normally leave the library around midnight and go straight to sleep. 


The Redemption Prom


College life is inherently social: you attend classes and precepts with your friends, meet with study groups to solve problem sets, and see others daily in the dining halls and dorms. It's easy, though, to become consumed with your studies and forget to make time to simply enjoy recreational time with your friends. This is one reason that the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) organizes social events designed to encourage students to gather and take breaks from their coursework. My favorite event so far has been one organized specifically for my class, the Class of 2024.

Most members of my class year graduated high school in 2020, when proms and graduation ceremonies were canceled due to the beginning of the pandemic. Given the hardships that frontline workers were experiencing during those early pandemic months, I didn't consider a canceled prom to be a major tragedy. I was still, though, fairly disappointed to miss the opportunity to dress up in order to gather and dance for an evening. So when the 2024 class officers announced that they'd be holding a "redemption prom" for our class, I became excited to think that I'd have the chance after all.

Not so fast, however. The event was originally scheduled for December, but an uptick in Covid cases meant that it had to be postponed. But when a new date in March was announced, I had my fingers crossed that the third time would be the charm. Fortunately the event was able to be held as scheduled on the March date! It was held in Prospect House, a beautiful 19th-century home overlooking Prospect Garden. The event started at 9 p.m., but I got ready in the early evening in order to take photographs with my friends before the sun set. We met in scenic Firestone plaza, and my date surprised me with roses and a corsage!

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Prom photo of me and my date formerly dressed for prom

The theme of the event was Secret Garden, and Prospect House was decorated accordingly with gnomes and mushrooms. People mingled about and munched on hors d'oeuvres for the first hour, and then they began to migrate to the dance floor. I was nervous that other people would be too self-conscious to dance, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that nearly everyone joined in.

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Exterior of Prospect House decorated for the 2024 Prom

The event occured during a busy time around mid-semester, so it provided a much-needed study break to let off some steam in between problem sets, exams and papers. It was a lovely evening of laughter and dancing with my friends, and I'm so grateful to have (finally) had the chance.


The Black Woman Wellness Retreat & The Necessity for Self Care


During the winter break of my first year (Winter 2021), I stayed on campus. Break gave me the time I needed to listen to my own needs and goals instead of getting caught up in the busy-ness of the semester. Most importantly, it gave me the space to be more intentional about self-care. I slept in more often, hung out with other on-campus friends regularly, started a new TV series and got back into crocheting.   

In addition to participating in a few Wintersession workshops–one on knitting, one on embroidery and one session called "Founding Your Deep Tech Startup"–I also was fortunate enough to attend the first Black Women Wellness Retreat hosted by the Our Health Matters (OHM) Club. The OHM is a club focused on the health and wellbeing of Black women on campus. In a world that expects Black women to be endlessly “strong,” this all expenses paid retreat gave me the room to be honest about how I was honestly doing and what I needed:

After tasty breakfast pastries provided by The Gingered Peach, a local Black woman-owned business, we took a chartered bus to Skytop Lodge, located in the Poconos Mountains. The Lodge itself was stunning, it had rich, velvety carpets, tall windows with lots of natural sunlight and really unique furniture. The room I stayed in had ample space, as well as its own walk-in closet, full bathroom and outdoor patio. During the retreat, our time was spent doing everything from playing ping pong to making vision boards, to talking about our experiences with dating on campus.

 

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Magazine cutouts for vision board collage

I do not share any of this to brag. As a lower-income student, I’d never stepped foot near a ski lodge before, yet this retreat afforded me that experience as a means to promote my self care. I share this experience with you, because it is important that Black women are seen engaging in self-care, indulging in high-quality experiences and supporting each other.  

At the end of the day, I am reminded of this quote from Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” As a Black person, I must remind myself of this every day. As a woman of color, I must remind myself of this every day. As all of the the things I am–lower-income, first-generation and a Black Muslim woman trying to navigate an elite institution–it is imperative that I strive closer and closer to a future where my self care is no longer negotiable in my schedule but the norm. 

What about you? How has your self-care journey been going? I’d love to know!


The First Day of Classes


The first day of classes always brings a contradictory mix of emotions. Everyone feels a little nervous regarding the uncertainty of new courses and professors: Will I be able to handle the problem sets? Do I know anyone in my classes? Can I really make it from the Neuroscience Institute to the Friend Center in ten minutes? There's also, however, the excitement and promise of a fresh semester. You look forward to learning from some of the best minds in their fields, pushing yourself to improve your critical thinking and problem solving skills, and working with your friends to tackle challenging yet rewarding assignments. To capture some of this excitement and help calm any first-day nerves, our Undergraduate Student Government (USG) traditionally hosts a bagel and coffee stand on the first day. Princetonians will gather on McCosh Walk to eat breakfast, catch up on how they spent their break, and have first-day photos taken. Due to Covid restrictions this year regarding gatherings with food, Student Council decided to host a scarf distribution instead. In my opinion, this was far better than bagels! Not only does a scarf last, it proved very useful on the chilly January morning that marked the first day of the spring semester. Students lined up for their scarves and took photos together (with the Tiger mascot appearing at some point during the morning), and then they wore their new gear to their first classes of the new year. 

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orange and black Princeton scarf laying in the snow

After bundling up in my scarf, I continued to the Neuroscience Institute for the first lecture of Probability and Stochastic Systems. Professor Ramon started by giving us an intuitive definition of probability, and then he computed the probability of an event in two different ways. He asked us which computation was correct. The catch, though, is that with the intuitive definition of probability he gave, both are correct! This first lecture established why we need a rigorous mathematical definition of probability, and it made me excited and motivated for the course. 

Next I went to my lecture for Environmental Engineering Laboratory. This is my first lab course in person, and I'm really looking forward to the hands-on data collection we'll be doing. Professor Jaffé introduced the topic of our first lab and explained how we'll write our reports. I didn't know anyone in that class, but at the end I introduced myself to the people around me and formed my lab group.

While the first class doesn't usually cover the complicated derivations or deep discussions that take place in the heart of the course, it can nonetheless be a little overwhelming. Navigating campus to find unknown buildings and classrooms, introducing yourself to your new professors and classmates, and hearing about the upcoming expectations and assignments of your course load can be a lot to take in. Getting back into the flow of courses felt nice, though, as I'd begun to get a little bored towards the end of winter recess. By the second week, I was beginning to feel more confident in managing the workflow of each class, and I'd arranged study groups for most of my courses. The first day marked the beginning of a promising new semester, and I'm looking forward to what's to come.


Far From Home


The last time I was in Haiti was in August 2019, before I moved to Germany to attend boarding school. Since then, either the health situation in the world or the socio-political situation in Haiti has prevented me from visiting my native land. This winter break was no exception. Following the surge of the Omicron variant around the world, which came in addition to the worrying political instability plaguing my country, I had to make the difficult decision to indefinitely postpone my trip to Haiti. After moping for a few days and complaining to my family, I had to take on the arduous but necessary mission of figuring out how I was going to spend my winter vacation in the United States.

One thing was sure, I was going to find someone, somewhere, to host me for the duration of the vacation. For one, Haitians are everywhere! For two, I know people… I think? Anyway, I was going to be fine! Asking family and friends to host me remained the last option on my list. After all, no one wants to be a visitor who abuses their host's hospitality. Four weeks is a lot of hellos, good nights, have you eaten already, when are you going back to Princeton again? Four weeks is a long time under the care of barely known strangers or distant relatives. For the most part, no one will tell you it's time to leave, but there is always an underlying discomfort that intensifies over time. Even when the host's hospitality doesn't seem to waver, after some time, one always ends up feeling uncomfortable. Out of place. Like a burden.

Fortunately, I did not have to burn my brain cells overthinking or interpreting the over-enthusiastic hellos or the not-genuine-enough smiles from any host. Sometime after Thanksgiving, Professor Hakim of the SIFP Office (Scholars Institute Fellows Program) shared an email from Dean Dolan regarding a request for continuous accommodation over the winter break. Essentially, students who could not return home during the holidays had the option of applying for continuous housing in order to be allowed on campus over the break. That was a breakthrough in my mission!

A few days after submitting a request in which I explained my situation, I received a confirmation from Princeton: I had qualified for continuous housing. Yay! After the immediate relief wore off, I felt bittersweet. I was grateful that I had a place to stay where I would be looked after. The testing program would continue throughout the break and food would be provided to me. Yet, despite having everything I needed to make it through, I was also very aware of the needs of the heart. The end of the year is a time most people spend with family and friends; I was staying on my college campus. I did not know how I would feel on Christmas Eve. Alone in my room. Or on New Year's Eve. Part of me was incredibly anxious.

The truth is, I really enjoyed my time on campus over the break. Don't get me wrong, there were some difficult times when I thought about where I could have been and what I could have been doing. However, I was constantly reminded that I had what I needed. I used the time away from distractions to reflect on my semester and my year in general. I realized that caught in the frenetic rhythm of my first semester, I did not spend enough time thinking about how I was doing, my goals or about the ways in which I was reconnecting with friends and family from back home. This downtime was incredibly helpful and rejuvenating. 

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Procter Hall: Graduate College Hall at Princeton University

I also explored the campus and the surrounding areas on my bike. I spent time with the many other international students (and a few domestic students) who were also staying on campus. We had a lot to think about, a lot to share and a lot to laugh about. On January 7th, we had our first snow! The campus was magnificent, shining beneath this thick immaculate white sheet which, when it fell upon the old buildings and the remaining greenery created a magnificent contrast. I fell asleep that day with the windows open, lulled by the sight of the flakes that landed majestically on the grass in the Forbes backyard, on the other side of my room. The next day, the intensified sunlight reflected on the snow woke me up. I got ready right away for a full tour of campus, as I did on my first day at Princeton back in July 2021. Indeed, it was as if I was discovering the campus for the first time. 

After the first snowfall, the campus slowly came back to life. Student-athletes, staff and faculty eased back to work. I started feeling the excitement about the Wintersessions I had signed up for and the winter internship I had secured through Princeton. I will probably write a blog post about them: Designing a Photo Exhibit (documenting the experience of black students attending the first-ever residential summer program at Princeton in 1964) and a discussion on forced migration. I am also very excited for the Spring semester!

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Student taking a selfie in the snow

P.S.: The Spiderman reference in the title was involuntary!