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.

Want to Get a Meal?

“Want to grab a meal?” I can’t tell you how many times a week I hear this question. It is probably one of the most common questions thrown around here at Princeton. Since everyone needs to eat, grabbing a meal is one of the easiest ways to chat with people. Whether you recently met someone and want to get to know them better, or you want to catch up with an old friend, a meal is always a good option.

If you were to ask a Princeton student on average how long he or she spends in a dining hall in a given week, I bet the number would surprise you. This is largely because the conversations in a dining hall are special. Time tends to stop and one becomes immersed in the conversation.  Sure, there are those days that you have to grab a quick meal in between class, but on average, Princeton students tend to spend their mealtime enjoying the company of others and having intellectual conversations.

I think this is because students enjoy engaging with one another. You never know what interesting thing someone is going to mention that launches into a long discussion. It could be politics, something one just learned in class, an interesting tidbit about one’s past or even what food is being served that day. It doesn’t really matter what the conversation starts with. It just matters where it goes.

Additionally, there are many lectures and conversations with faculty that occur over meal times that further add to the opportunities for interesting discussion over food. For example, over the past two weeks, I have attended a lecture about zebras in Kenya, a pre-vet guidance session, a Spanish table (where students in Spanish classes get together to practice their Spanish), a Hebrew learning session, as well as meetings for various clubs and departments I am part of.

When I was looking at colleges, it was my dinner conversation with my host at Princeton that made me realize Princeton was the school for me. We must have sat in the dining hall for almost two hours going through everything from research opportunities to campus sport culture. My conversation with my host made me realize how incredible people are at Princeton, and how much I wanted to engage with them all. I wanted more meaningful discussions, and I can honestly say now after being on campus for three years, that is exactly what I have gotten. I am still friends with my host today (I actually just got a meal with her last week), and I am constantly making new friends over meals.

So next time you’re looking to make some new friends or catch up with old ones, you know you can always rely on the handy phrase “want to get a meal?”

Communiversity, TruckFest and Dodgeball

Every year in April the Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton undergraduates and the local Princeton community come together to host Communiversity ArtsFest. This event features more than 200 booths in which artists showcase their original artwork and crafts, local businesses sell fun and unique merchandise and chefs prepare delicious culinary treats. There are also six stages of continuous live entertainment highlighting local, as well as student, performers. Communiversity draws more than 40,000 people and is one of Central New Jersey’s largest and longest running cultural events.

This event is something Princeton students look forward to every year. It’s a great way for students to interact with and support the local community. It is also a way in which certain clubs on campus are able to highlight their work to a broader audience. For example, the Rocketry Club for the past few years has demonstrated rocket launches for visitors. Plus, there is always at least one club sponsoring a pie-in-your-face competition, which is always hilarious.

Another fun event that occurs in spring is TruckFest. The University brings in ten to twenty different food trucks for students to try. From gourmet hot dogs to cheesecake on a stick, TruckFest seems to have it all. Though the dining hall food here is delicious, there is nothing quite like trying fried mac and cheese or a nutella infused waffle. 

Lastly, the annual dodgeball tournament is a campus favorite. From 8 p.m. until whenever the last man standing is hit, student groups compete against one another in epic dodgeball games. There is pizza, music and lots of camaraderie as students try to win games for their team. Games are divided into large, medium and small groups, with a winner in each category. Residential colleges, eating clubs, sports teams and other student groups compete to assert their dominance in the grand game of dodgeball. Since most students are involved in many clubs and organizations, it is not uncommon to see someone running from one side of the gym to go play for another group he or she is a part of. It's a really fun event that most students look forward to each year.