Self-Care in the Time of SFH (School From Home)

Over my two and half years at Princeton, I’ve learned how important self care is to my own mental health and well-being. Yes, Princeton academics can be challenging, but there’s also plenty of time to go to the Garden Theater with friends on the weekend, attend Fall Fest to paint pumpkins and eat desserts from food trucks, work out at the gym, and so much more. Since we’re not on campus right now, self care looks a little different. Here are five ways that I’m maintaining self care during SFH (School From Home)! 

1. Connecting with my Friends 

Many of my friends from Princeton have decided to live in off-campus apartments in New Jersey. Since I am from New Jersey, that worked out great, because I can visit them on the weekends. Sure, there are times when I feel like I should be writing my papers or finishing up my novel, but I make time to see my friends. It’s a lot easier to just be able to knock on my friends’ dorm rooms on campus, but there are still ways to connect, from driving to see them in person at a social distance or setting up Zoom lunches. 

2. Eating Bagels from Bagel Bazaar

My dad owns a small business in NJ called Bagel Bazaar, which means our house is constantly stocked with bagels! Food was always a central part of my self care on campus. From late meal at Frist Campus Center after cheer practice (quesadillas, sushi, waffles are among my favorites) to Forbes Sunday brunch (chocolate fountain, omelettes, fruit platters and more!), there is food everywhere you look at Princeton. While I certainly don’t have a chocolate fountain at home, I enjoy my rainbow bagels with Oreo cream cheese or my everything bagels with plain cream cheese from Bagel Bazaar. Bagels definitely correspond to self care, especially if you’re from Jersey! 

holding up bagels at Bagel Bazaar

rainbow bagel

3. Attending Talks & Virtual Visits

Princeton is known for bringing amazing people to campus. One of my forms of self care has always been to attend talks that I’m interested in. Recently, I went to a book club meeting hosted by the Princeton English Department to discuss Justin Torres’ “We The Animals before Torres does a virtual Q&A. 

4. USG Movies 

While I’m a big fan of Netflix and Hulu, the Princeton Undergraduate Student Government (USG) also hosts movies throughout the semester, which are free for Princeton students to watch! I love watching these movies because it’s a great way to engage in a conversation with my friends who also watched them, rather than just watching TV or movies on my own. Movies that USG has made available to students this semester include “Black Panther,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “La La Land,” “Dunkirk” and many more. 

5. Spending Time With My Family 

I never expected to have this much time with my family since going to college, but I’m really grateful that I do now. One of my brothers is also doing virtual college at TCNJ (The College of New Jersey), so we study together in the evenings. My youngest brother is doing a hybrid version of high school, so I’ve also been able to spend more time with him. My mom and I have gotten a lot closer — we even bake homemade breads together! My dad is working hard at Bagel Bazaar during these times, and we’re all so proud of him. I appreciate having my family around this semester. 

Self care comes in many forms, and it doesn’t always mean face masks and Netflix (though it definitely could!). While we are not on campus this semester, there are still many ways, both through virtual Princeton and on my own in my home life, to practice self care.  



What is the CJL?

It can take some time to learn the Princeton lingo and there is a lot! One of the phrases you will hear with some frequency is the CJL or Center for Jewish Life. The CJL is a hub for student life on campus for Jewish and non-Jewish students alike. Here are some important information to know about the CJL and its role on campus before starting your Princeton experience.

  1. The CJL is open to everyone! One of the most common misconceptions about the CJL is that it is only open to Jewish students. While the CJL is an important home for Princeton’s vibrant Jewish community, it is a space open to students of all faiths and backgrounds. Lunch at the CJL is always packed with students there to enjoy the food.
  2. The CJL has an amazing, fully kosher dining hall….and the food is delicious! The dining hall is slightly smaller than other dining halls on campus. As a result, it has more opportunities for meals prepared especially for you. Moreover, eating at the CJL feels more intimate and familial, making it a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life at Princeton.
  3. The CJL is easy to find! Located right next to the Frist Campus Center, it is centrally located and is especially convenient for students in science and engineering classes. This means, that no matter where you are on campus the CJL isn’t far way.
  4. The CJL hosts weekly, highly popular Shabbat dinners on Friday nights and they are incredible and open to everyone. Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath, and dinners on Friday night are an important part of the Shabbat festivities. The dining hall is decorated, the food is very festive and it is an excellent change to enjoy a nice meal with friends while also getting a taste of an important part of Jewish culture.
  5. The CJL is a nice space to study. It’s cozy and full of great, often underrated study spots.
  6. The CJL hosts weekly study breaks! These are a great chance to enjoy delicious Kosher foods and snacks (think acai bowls) while chatting with friends.
  7. The CJL is an important resource for Jewish life on campus. The center works hard to provide Jewish students from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives a meaningful connection to their Jewish identity. From daily religious services, holiday programing, leadership opportunities, travel, and various clubs and groups the CJL serves as an important resource for Princeton’s diverse Jewish community.


Students eating outside on a terrace.

This is just a quick overview of the CJL and some of the ways that you can interact with the center. On a more personal note, the CJL has been an incredibly valuable resource for me and my Jewish identity. I am beyond grateful for the amazing community that I have been able to build through it. If you have questions about the CJL and its role on campus, please feel free to reach out to me.

The Beauty of the Residential College System

Have you ever wanted to know where you'd be sorted at Hogwarts? Princeton has its own form of houses; each first-year student is assigned to one of six residential colleges: Butler, Forbes, Mathey, Rockefeller (Rocky), Whitman and Wilson. I’m grateful for these small communities within the larger campus.

When you find out your rooming assignment over the summer, you also find out your residential college or "res college" for short. Each res college encompasses several dorm buildings, a dining hall and has unique characteristics. Want to live in a castle? Hope for Rocky or Mathey. Do you prioritize a central location? Wilson might be for you. Prefer more modern amenities? Cross your fingers for Butler or Whitman. Students joke that Forbes is far from campus, but as a non-Forbesian, I often envy Forbes’ delicious food (especially Sunday brunch) and its great sense of community. So really, you can’t go wrong.

The residential college system is designed to support and advise students in a more individualistic manner through dedicated staff, such as the director of studies and director of student life whose jobs are to support their students in academic and non-academic areas. All first years and sophomores have to live in a res college, but even juniors and seniors are associated with one. I plan to stay in mine, Butler College, all four years.

There are also social benefits to the res college system. It provides awesome gear several times a year. They also run amazing trips and special events. I’ve gone to four Broadway shows through Butler, and the trip included an extremely discounted ticket and transportation to and from the show! Every week, Butler also holds study breaks with delicious free food. While you can eat in any dining hall on campus, there’s always something nice about going to the dining hall associated with your res college. The people start to look familiar, from the friendly students to the helpful employees. I’ve made friends just by sitting down with people in the dining hall, only to find out that they live right around the corner from me.

The residential college system fosters friendships and community for all undergraduate students. I definitely don’t know all 5,000+ students on campus, but I do know many of the students in Butler. I have a lot of pride for my res college, and soon you will too! It truly makes a big campus feel much smaller.

Falling in Love With Mathey College

In the summer before you’re set to begin your Princeton journey, you’ll get an email that will determine much of the social trajectory of your four years on campus. Mine came on July 19, 2017. I knew it was coming — I’d been awaiting this day for weeks. Finally, it pinged my inbox at 11:42 a.m., as I was standing in line at Costco with my sister and mom. I anxiously opened it to find my residential college assignment, dorm room number and the names of my three roommates enclosed.

I didn’t even finish reading through my new roommates’ names before I Google-searched pictures of “Mathey College at Princeton.” Mathey is one of Princeton’s six residential colleges. In my totally objective and not at all biased opinion, it’s the best. Other than its sister Rockefeller College, it’s the furthest north on campus. (That means easy access to Firestone Library and all the delicious snacks on Nassau Street). It’s also designed entirely in the classic Collegiate Gothic style, meaning you’re guaranteed to spend your first two years living in an actual castle. Our color is maroon, and our mascot is Mathey the Moose.

Though I don’t live there anymore — I chose to move into upperclassman housing when I joined my eating club — I cherish the memories of my time in Mathey. More than its location, architecture or adorable mascot, Mathey is a community of interesting, kind people. The professional staff in the residential college is always available to support Mathey students and stays in touch even after you’ve left the walls of your college. Mathey-wide events bring the community together each week, and the communal dining hall means the college quickly becomes a collection of familiar faces. (The gear each college gives out at the beginning of each semester also means you’ve automatically got clothes to match with your best friends). Princeton’s residential colleges are touted as a way to make the over 5,200 member student body feel small, and Mathey certainly did that for me. Even now, when I choose to eat in a residential college dining hall, I almost always pick Mathey’s!

Your residential college is first presented to you as a, well, residential assignment. Even before you arrive on campus, though, you’ll discover it’s more than that. In Mathey, I found a community that I still draw upon today for companionship and inspiration. And, while Mathey is obviously the best, that same sense of home is present in each of the six colleges.

Your Complete Guide to the Residential College Dining Halls

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

Forbes (my residential college–go Forbesians!)

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

Chocolate fountain at Forbes

Potato bar at Forbes

Valentine's Day desserts at Forbes

Roma (Rockefeller (Rocky)/Mathey)

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

WuCox (Wilson/Butler)

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

Pasta from WuCox Dining Hall


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


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


Forbes College: Worth the Walk

When it’s warm and sunny, my friends and I love to go the backyard behind Forbes College and toss around a frisbee. On weekends, we bring our brunch onto the patio, sit on the red lawn chairs and look out onto the golf course and the gothic spires of the Graduate College beyond, where at noon the chimes of its clock tower can be heard across campus. From our window, my roommate and I wake up to this wonderful view and a still sleepy sun.

In the evenings after dinner, we pass by the game room and are often tempted to go inside for an hour or more. Over games of pool, we watched James Holzhauer’s record-breaking run on “Jeopardy” here. On midweek afternoons, I cheer on my soccer team in the Champions League, and I am often joined by a member of the staff, many of whom are always willing to have a conversation, whether over a game of soccer or when swiping in for a meal.

Forbes is a small residential college, and it feels even homier because of its unique setup. As a repurposed hotel, it is the only residential college where you can walk from one end to the other in your pajamas without ever stepping outside. There are also so many cozy nooks and crannies: a TV lounge in the annex basement with murals on the walls; the sci-fi library adjacent to the sunken lounge; and the Forbes Café, always open late and offering a place to study, relax and get ramen for 25 cents a package.

No matter how early or late, Forbes always seems to be bright and warmly lit, and its “Forbesians” are always around. I love the community here, with a shared bond over our campus-renowned weekend brunches and the distances we have to walk – Forbes is as close as you can get to the Wawa, a local convenience store, the Graduate College, or art installations by Maya Lin and Ai Weiwei, but as the joke goes, a bit far from anywhere else.

Nevertheless, I’ve loved every second of living in my residential college and being a part of this community: Forbes really is worth the walk. And maybe I’ll see you around next year: I’ll be sticking around as a residential college adviser! I’d be happy to grab some chocolate covered strawberries at Sunday Brunch and talk over a game of pool.   

Where Do You Eat?

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

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

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

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

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

A New Year, A New Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Independent at Princeton

An iconic part of the Princeton experience is the illustrious eating club, or rather, 11 eating clubs. Usually, if someone outside of the "Orange Bubble" is asking me about Princeton, they’ll mention an eating club. However, what many people tend to forget is that there are other systems in place so students can eat: staying on the dining hall plan, joining a co-op or being independent (currently the system I am using). Choosing the independent dining option at Princeton means that you have the ability to arrange your own dining. This means that you can cook on your own, eat at other campus dining places or eat at local resaturants.

Before starting my junior year, I was nervous about being independent. I never had to cook for myself, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for such a big step. My sister teased me and said I would starve, so it wasn’t looking great on the homefront in regards to support, either. Nevertheless, I packed the car with the bare minimum of kitchen supplies I thought I would need; I knew I would be using a hall kitchen, so I couldn’t bring everything I was using at home.

My parents brought me to the grocery store on move-in day, and I stocked up for the week. Very quickly, I realized I was going to have a hard time; I had never even been to the grocery store by myself, and now I had to become celebrity chef Rachael Ray overnight! I knew I had to learn, and fast. Here are a few things I have found useful during my short time dining as an independent student thus far:

  1. If you have a friend with a car on campus, bribe them with snacks and see if they will drive you to the store. If not...
  2. The Weekend Shopper, a campus shuttle, that runs every Saturday and Sunday takes you to a variety of places, including Whole Foods, Wegmans, Walmart and Trader Joe’s. It’s free and easy to figure out!
  3. Join the Free Food listserv. Princeton has free food everywhere, all the time. Sometimes you can even find full meals through it! Other times, you can find a nice snack. Either way, it’s definitely something to make use of!
  4. Independent students get two dining hall meal swipes per week, so make use of them!
  5. There are a few quick, relatively affordable options on Nassau Street if you’re looking to treat yourself (i.e., Tacoria, Jammin’ Crepes, Olives, Panera, Qdoba and more). Use this option sparingly; the costs add up!
  6. If you have friends in eating clubs, they get a few guest swipes per semester!

I am sure I will learn more as the days go by!

Time to Eat

As you may or may not already know, Princeton has a bit of a different system for dining once you become an upperclassman. The one that probably draws the most intrigue from prospective students is what is known as an "eating club." There are 11 of these clubs, and each one serves as a form of social and dining scenes for upperclassmen, should they choose to be in one. Certain clubs are "sign-in," where one simply has to write their name down in order to join. Others require students to go through a process called "bicker," where students are chosen by current club members to be a part of a club.

Sophomores go through the bicker and sign-in process for the various clubs in the spring semester. The bicker process usually involves playing games and doing mini interviews with various members of the club for a few hours in the evening. This allows you to get a feel for if the club is right for you and provides an opportunity to learn more about the club as a whole. It lasts two days and on "pickup day," students who bickered are notified of their status in the club; if accepted, they proceed to their new club and are warmly welcomed by other club members. Because sophomores aren't upperclassmen, they are allowed to have a couple of meals at the club per week and will then have full member privileges once their junior year starts.

Eating clubs are a great way not only to eat and socialize with your current friends but also provide a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. It's just one of the upperclassmen dining plan options, but worth giving it a shot if you're even the slightest bit curious.