The Junior Paper: Abroad Edition

3,853 miles away. Six hours ahead. A city I’ll never forget: Copenhagen, Denmark.


This past spring, I spent four months studying abroad in one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited. However, there was one challenge: I had to complete my spring junior paper (JP) while also trying to explore this amazing city.


Completing a junior paper is challenging enough when you're on Princeton’s campus. My fall JP was not the easiest paper to write, but at least I was surrounded by students also engaged in their research or independent projects. 


Abroad, people traveled every weekend, and I constantly struggled to balance this incredible opportunity with my commitments at Princeton. I had lab meetings every Wednesday, and due to the time difference, they were scheduled for 11 PM local time. This time difference made it really difficult to set up meetings or call people.


For my fall JP, I conducted a literature review on First Generation Low Income Students from Latinx and Asian backgrounds, exploring themes such as cultural mismatch, stereotype threat and family achievement guilt. I found a notable gap in the literature concerning the differences in experiences between two-year and four-year institutions, with most empirical studies focusing on selective four-year universities.


My spring JP was centered on creating a pre-registration for my upcoming thesis research. Pre-registration, a growing practice in psychology, aims to promote transparency, reduce p-hacking and address the replication crisis. My task was to submit a pre-registration form along with a codebook detailing the survey items I intended to measure. This process demanded significant time and effort. I had to clearly define my research goals and outline how I planned to analyze the data.


Fortunately, I had an amazing mentor, my lab manager, Danny. We met weekly to discuss my progress, clarify any questions about the pre-registration process and offer edits and suggestions. Being part of a lab while conducting independent work is one of the best aspects of the process. You not only have your primary advisor but also the support of knowledgeable lab members in various research areas. The support I received from my lab made submitting my JP abroad something manageable. 


Overall, despite the difficulties, submitting my spring JP was one of the most rewarding experiences. I grew significantly from the process, setting a strong foundation for my senior thesis, which I'll be working on over the summer. Although Danny is leaving soon to pursue a PhD in Utah, his mentorship is a testament to the incredible people at Princeton. The ARC lab team made 3,853 miles feel not so far away.

Access to Top Leaders

Access to the top can mean a variety of things; in this case, it means being able to speak with industry leaders. 


Princeton is home to a wide variety of opportunities, from study abroad and internships to performances and art shows. It is truly hard, if not impossible, to find a resource or opportunity that Princeton does not support. There are always super cool opportunities taking place each week. My favorite way to stay updated is via Princeton University’s instagram account where they make a story post at the start of the week informing everyone about campus events. Outside of these, I have found student organized events to be my favorite. 


This past semester I was granted the opportunity to become the Vice President of Professional Development for the club Scholars of Finance. The club focuses on promoting education and ethical practices within the finance industry. My role is to plan, promote, and execute events for the ‘Speaker Series.’ The focus of these events is to bring leaders in the finance industry to give talks available to the club and Princeton community. Just this year, we have hosted CEO’s and other C-suite executives from firms like Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, and Goldman Sachs, among others. These opportunities are hosted in a small to medium group setting and allow for direct access to these speakers. Being able to talk with successful individuals about your career aspirations and what advice they may have is truly invaluable. 


When I first came to Princeton, I could never have imagined the opportunity to connect with these types of leaders. Something I found out very quickly was that this is a regular thing here. The ability to network and connect with these individuals is truly unparalleled. Their overall willingness to help you out is also something that was unexpected. My original perspective was that a CEO would not respond to me or make the time to meet. Boy was I wrong. While certain people may be hard to reach out to/ get in touch with, generally speaking, people will make an effort to connect with you if you approach them. My advice is to not be afraid and be respectful. You never know how far a simple conversation can take you! 


In addition to clubs, the Center for Career Development hosts numerous networking/ information events with leading companies across many industries. I have personally gone to a lot of the finance/consulting ones, which have been super helpful in my career aspirations. While this happens at other schools, I wholeheartedly believe that Princeton does it best. Between club speaker events and the Center for Career Development, Princeton builds connections for students of all interests. 

Semester in Switzerland (and Beyond)

Last semester (Fall 2023), I had the privilege of studying abroad at ETH Zürich in Switzerland. My experience exceeded my expectations in so many ways, and it’s hard to understate my gratitude for Princeton’s support in making this long-time dream a reality. Attending a United World College, an international boarding school, in Freiburg, Germany for Grade 11 and 12 gave me a taste of how enriching being abroad and making friends from across the globe can be, so I kept an eye out for opportunities to study abroad when applying to college. 


During my first year at Princeton, I researched the study abroad options available to students in Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, the concentrations I was most interested in. ETH Zürich drew my attention because I was interested in returning to the region to travel (which COVID had prevented during high school), experiencing the immersive laboratory courses, and practicing my German. I met with students who had studied abroad at ETH, exchange students from ETH at Princeton, and a study abroad adviser at the Office of International Programs, all of whom were eager to share their insight and answer my questions. The application process was straightforward and easy to navigate, and around this time last year, I found out I would be at ETH in the fall!


After a busy summer of cancer research followed by a lovely month at home, I seemed to suddenly find myself in Switzerland. I arrived on a Sunday, and I wasn’t quite prepared for how disoriented I felt. On my way from the airport to the apartment, I was quickly reminded of the fact that most stores, including grocery stores, are closed on Sundays. I received my key to the apartment and then sat on the bed and stared at the wall, wondering what I had gotten myself into. Had I made the right choice to leave the comforts and convenience of Princeton?


Colorful sunset behind a multi-storey building
The view from the balcony of our apartment


With some luck, I managed to get to campus and find my classroom for my first pre-semester German class the following morning, and slowly, with the help of other exchange students and ETH students, I learned how to navigate the public transit system, save money on groceries, and sort my recycling in a country where even paper and cardboard go into separate bins.


Afternoon view of Zürich from the terrace outside the main building of ETH which includes several church steeples and a hill in the background.
Famous view of Zürich from the Polyterrasse, a balcony outside the main building of ETH


Night-time view of Zürich from the terrace outside the main building of ETH which includes several church steeples and a hill in the background.
Same view a few hours later


Academically, ETH was quite different from Princeton. I took two German classes, one ethics lecture (which counted toward Princeton’s Ethical Thought and Moral Values distribution requirement and my minor in Global Health and Health Policy), three biology lectures, and two biology labs. The lectures met once a week for about 90 minutes, which was our only chance to interact with the professors. Grades for lectures were based entirely on the final exam, which took place between late January and early February. Not having homework or midterms freed up a lot of time in the evening and on the weekend. I enjoyed cooking and reading for pleasure, things which I was rarely able to do during previous semesters at Princeton. Each lab course took place during one of four 3.5-week blocks. The labs met Tuesday afternoon, and all day Wednesday to Friday. I took two labs, meaning that for half the semester, I only had my Monday and Tuesday morning lectures. This schedule, combined with not having assessments during the semester, gave me the opportunity to travel to over 20 different cities in 10 countries. I was able to visit my high school friends and teachers, meet a friend from Princeton in Paris, host friends from Princeton and my hometown, and explore new cities with one of the other Princeton students studying abroad at ETH. Looking back, these trips were definitely what I remember most from the semester. 


Myself and a friendstanding in front of the lit-up Eiffel tower smiling
Meeting a friend from Princeton during her fall break trip to Paris with her French class


Three multi-storey apartment buildings (pink, yellow, orange) with dark green shutter. A blue sky is in the background.
Charming apartments in Cinque Terre, Italy


View from the top of a staircase going down to the city of Marseille with water and a blue sky in the background.
On a run exploring Marseille, France


A C-shaped sculpture on a small rock island on Lake Geneva at sunset
Watching the sunset over Lake Geneva in Lausanne, Switzerland


The semester also brought its share of challenges. The lack of office hours and precepts made it harder to access professors and made me feel more anonymous than I did in the large classes I have taken at Princeton. Without the motivation of problem sets and exams, I found myself pushing off reviewing for my finals until the few weeks before my exams, which also happened to overlap with the start of Princeton’s spring semester. I was able to take my abroad course finals on campus at Princeton, but this meant doubling up on studying while the new semester was underway. Socially, it could be difficult to make friends and feel integrated into the school as an exchange student, although I was lucky enough to become friends with a few of my classmates and a student I met on a social run. One thing I particularly struggled with was the short days and almost constantly gray skies in November. I was in my second lab course during this time, which meant I barely saw any daylight, then proceeded to spend my evenings alone in my room without much to do. All in all though, I enjoyed experiencing a very different educational system and observing which parts of it I appreciated. I’ve noticed upon coming back to Princeton that I’m prioritizing work-life balance more than before, making the time to exercise, cook in my co-op2D, and attend fun events with friends on the weekend like basketball games and movies sponsored by the Undergraduate Student GovernmentDavis International Center, and various clubs on campus.


Whether you’re a prospective student curious about studying abroad or a current student wondering whether it’s right for you, I highly encourage you to consider it! I have learned so much about life beyond my own experiences, become much more independent and adventurous (not to mention adept at planning trips), and returned to Princeton with excitement and a fresh set of eyes. What has surprised me most has been how many people I recognize walking from place to place and how easy it is to grab a meal with someone to catch up, both of which make me grateful for Princeton’s small student population and campus-centered student life. I would be more than happy to share more about my experience or answer any questions at the email listed in my bio

Next Steps: Planning for Life Post-Princeton

In the thick of my thesis and deep in finals preparation, graduation feels like a very distant prospect at the moment. But come May, I will be donning my cap and gown to process through Fitzrandolph Gate as a new alumna. Seniors are preparing now for life outside the Orange Bubble, and there are many different options to consider. What do Tigers do after graduation?

Some students enter the workforce directly after graduating. My friend Ben, for instance, was offered a position at the company where he interned over the summer. Other students meet potential employers through events like the HireTigers career fair or through the website Handshake. The Center for Career Development is always available to help search for jobs, refine your resume, and conduct mock interviews.

Other students, around 20% in recent years according to the Daily Princetonian, continue their studies in graduate school. This could be a master's program, doctoral program, medical school, or law school. A master's program is generally one to two years and consists mainly of specialized courses. My friend James, for instance, intends to do a one-year master's before becoming a practicing structural engineer. A doctoral program is a longer commitment, typically 5-6 years, that consists of courses and then several years of research.

Some students apply for special one to two year fellowships, like the Rhodes, Marshall, or Gates Cambridge, that provide funding for research experiences. These are often country or university-specific. The Gates Cambridge, for instance, is for several years of graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England. The Office of International Programs hosts information sessions on campus for each of these throughout the year for interested students.

Through my research experiences at Princeton, I've discovered that I really enjoy the problem-solving process of academic research, and I know I'd like to pursue a Ph.D. after graduation. Throughout the summer and fall, I researched different potential programs and advisors in order to prepare my applications for doctoral programs. Most are due mid-December, and I'll hear back in March (stay tuned).

While my preparations for life post-graduation are well underway, I fully intend to cherish my last semester and all its traditions. I'm truly looking forward to all that this coming semester will bring.

Beyond the Gates: Last Summer, Internships, and Preparing for the Future

The search for my final summer at Princeton is finally starting and I couldn’t be more conflicted. While my finance, consulting, and engineering friends already secured their internships, I find myself with a big question mark over my head. Princeton, because of its vast array of opportunities, makes it so hard to decide what’s the best way to spend my last summer. The biggest challenge is not finding something to do but deciding on one thing. Do I continue to research with the lab I’m currently doing my independent work with? Or do I apply for another international internship and spend my summer in a new country? Perhaps, I should stay within the US and intern at a non-profit organization through Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS). When people say there are endless opportunities at Princeton, they aren’t lying. As I navigate my choices, I realize I'm preparing for what comes after the orange bubble. It's about equipping myself with skills, experiences, and memories that will shape my career and how I will remember my time here. I decided to do a bit of a rundown on the people at Princeton I reached out to help guide my search. 



Seminars are one of my favorite class formats at Princeton and I’m currently taking a seminar called “The Psychology of Adversity.” Prof. Rebecca Carey is teaching the course and she is also my advisor for my junior paper. One thing I love about being a part of her seminar and lab is moving from the seminar room to our lab room. I love talking with her about our discussion topics from class and also hearing her insight about doing research. Soon, I’ll be meeting with her to discuss general questions regarding her journey applying to graduate school and her experience throughout. I love to sit with anyone who has the time to talk to me about their experiences because it allows me to gather different perspectives and within that, figure out which route I’d like to take. 


The Princeton Psychology Society recently had a Career Expo where students were able to meet various professionals in the field of psychology. The goal of the event was to have an informal discussion surrounding various career paths and create connections with alumni who were invited to speak. I was excited to talk with an alumnus who was a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), self-employed in private practice. Her path to landing as an LCSW was very interesting and it taught me that there is no linear way to achieving my end goal. While I might be trying to find the best way to become a practicing psychologist, her experience shows that I don’t have to be too worried about making all the right decisions. 

Career Center 

The Career Center is such a useful resource for anything related to career planning. I’ve used the resources multiple times whether it be for finding a winter break internship (aka Princeternship, read about mine here), guidance regarding graduate school and this time around – to find a summer internship. I remember my first time stepping into the office, I was a sophomore already worried about graduate school. Now, I’m still worried about graduate school but I’m more focused on what this summer means for my applications. Taking my degree into consideration, the staff at the Career Center advised me to continue with research as that’s a typical route for those applying to graduate school. They also offered other suggestions such as working with children in a camp setting or finding open positions on Handshake (an internal Princeton platform for exploring internal resources and external opportunities). 

A Not-So-Foolproof Guide To Navigating Junior Independent Work

At the beginning of the year, in most seminars or precepts, professors will have students introduce themselves with their name, year, and major. It felt so weird to say “Hi, my name is Melissa, a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in Latino Studies”. Time at Princeton truly flies by and I couldn’t believe that I was already halfway through my time here. Junior year definitely comes with its own sets of challenges, it is the year all A.B. majors begin their junior independent work. For psychology majors, it is recommended that students find their own advisor that aligns with their research interests. So I began the search for an advisor and lab.

I instantly fell in love with the Adversity and Relationships in Context (ARC) Lab. The research topics were fascinating and thought-provoking and I immediately knew I wanted to be part of it. Even during my interview which is usually meant to be nerve-wracking, the lab manager and graduate student interviewing me opened up with a silly question: pancakes, waffles or french toast? (I obviously answered french toast.) This immediately told me everything I needed to know about the environment of this lab and made me very comfortable for the rest of the interview. When I received the email inviting me to be part of the ARC lab, I couldn’t have been happier. I was both excited and nervous about starting the work that so many upperclassmen talk about. 

We are now halfway through the semester and I’ve just completed my midpoint presentation for my junior paper. Psychology majors have two junior papers, one in the fall and one in the spring. The fall paper I’m working on is a literature review where I look through various articles on my research topic and it's meant to be around 10-20 pages in length. To check on the progress of our research, the psychology department conducts a presentation with a group of four to six psychology majors and a faculty member. While not intended to be a stressful check-in, I couldn’t help but be nervous leading up to the presentation. I had done an extensive review of the literature but I also remained undecided of what I really wanted to focus my research on. My friends who are also majoring in psychology were so helpful during this process. They were able to listen in and help me brainstorm ideas while also providing some insight into explaining my topic to an audience that may have never heard of it before. 

Alongside the support from my friends, being part of a lab is one of the best things about working on my junior paper. While I love the cozy and familiar nature of working with everyone in the ARC lab, I also value the experience and knowledge they’re able to use to help orient my research. Before my official presentation, my lab had all juniors present as a practice round to get some constructive feedback. I think this was one of the most useful aspects of my lab experience because they were able to provide me with specific advice about my research and gave me useful pointers that I can use as I continue to work on my first junior paper. After we had those practice presentations, my lab hosted a lab social! We made pizzas, decorated cookies and some people even painted mini pumpkins. 

Even though balancing my coursework, extracurriculars, and independent research can be difficult, I'm grateful for my support systems. They remind me to take breaks and enjoy life in between. I would love to say that independent work is simple or easy but instead, I’d rather say it presents a challenge that forms my academic career at Princeton. Everyone here is working on such innovative research, we’re learning how to be independent and creative while also having guidance from some of the leading researchers in our fields. I just know that these experiences will be markers of my future success in the field of psychology and also form an integral part of who I am.

My Journey to Anthropology

I recently celebrated one of the most exciting days for a Princeton student this past April: Declaration Day! This day is when rising juniors “declare” their concentration (Princeton’s version of majors!). Everyone wears their traditional class year sweaters and gathers on Cannon Green to take pictures in front of their department banners. As you can tell from the featured photo, I declared… Anthropology! I’m super excited about my decision, but it certainly isn’t one I came to super easily. Let me tell you about my journey:

Going into my freshman year, I originally thought that I was going to concentrate in Sociology. Truth be told, I wasn’t even really sure what sociology really was, but after perusing the department’s website, it seemed to align with a lot of the fields I was interested in exploring: education, media, non-profit work, etc.

Long story short, I didn’t love it. Sociology just didn’t seem like the right fit for me, perhaps because it wasn’t as people-centric as I’d hoped for. The faculty were really helpful and the courses were interesting, though, so I could definitely see myself taking more classes in the department just for fun.

Following this, I was unsure of what to explore next until a friend of mine suggested that I take a psychology class with her. She was definitely going to be a PSY concentrator, and it was always a field that I was interested in learning more about. So I agreed! I started taking classes like PSY254: Developmental Psychology, PSY309: Psychology of Language, and PSY251: Quantitative Methods. It was the last of these three, a statistics class that was a prerequisite for declaring the concentration, that made me realize why psychology wasn’t a good fit for me either. The field required working with programming languages like R and lots of data visualization and analysis. I’m personally not a huge fan of math or statistics, so I found doing this quantitative work wasn’t as interesting or rewarding for me as qualitative work I experienced in other classes. Having explored two majors now with no luck, I didn’t know where my studies were going to take me.

Enter: Anthropology. As with sociology, I hadn’t really heard of what anthropology was before coming to Princeton. But I had taken two ANT courses during my freshman and sophomore years: ANT311: Food, Culture, and Society and ANT201: Introduction to Anthropology. The former, I absolutely loved! It was taught by Professor Hanna Garth and involved a lot of hands-on activities, such as the one day when we had class outside and did a series of taste testing! Unlike psychology, anthropology also afforded me the opportunity to do a lot more personal, people-centric work. For projects, I got to interview students on campus and family members, as well as conduct human observations for research. All of this felt much more fulfilling and made me excited to learn.

As Declaration Day approached, I was still weighing the pros and cons of each of these three concentrations. Something that I did to help me to make my ultimate decision (which I suggest every student do!) was attend the various open houses for each major. During the spring semester, this is something that every academic department does to help students (not just sophomores!) learn more about each concentration. After going to the ANT, PSY, and SOC open houses, I knew what I wanted to do. Call it a gut feeling or a good vibe, but I really felt like the ANT open house solidified for me that this was the concentration for me. So, on April 14, 2023, I declared Anthropology and haven’t looked back since!

All this to say, you by no means have to come into Princeton knowing exactly what you want to study. In fact, college is the perfect time for students to do the exact opposite: explore! Test out multiple different concentrations and certificates, take classes that genuinely interest you, and find what you’re truly passionate about. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up majoring in something you’d never even heard of!

Four females students with 2025 sweaters posing on the steps of Clio Hall
My three best friends and I repping our Class of 2025 sweatshirts on Declaration Day!

A Glimpse Inside a Res College Office

This past September, I started working at the front desk of the New College West Office — the one-stop shop where you can get answers to any of your “Westie” questions. It’s also home to many of the valuable people and resources that are available to help students throughout their Princeton journeys. Besides getting to earn a little extra money, this job has given me unique insight into the behind-the-scenes operations of my residential college and how one office helps keep the whole community running.

If you’re not a Westie, don’t fear! Each residential college at Princeton has an office just like ours. This is where you can find your college’s specific leaders, such as your Director of Student Life (or DSL for short), Dean of Studies, Residential Life Coordinator, and the Head of College. They all serve different purposes, but ultimately are there to support your needs, both academically and otherwise.

To find out more about your college’s team of awesome staff, click one of the links below! :

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to see people come into the office for a variety of reasons. For example, at certain times during the week, the deans will have Drop-In Advising Hours, where any students can walk-in and meet with their respective dean to discuss academic concerns, like picking classes or managing workloads. I’ve also experienced students coming in to propose a community-building or club event that they want to see happen. And more often than not, we have students simply pop in the office just to grab some free chocolate or say hi!

My favorite part of working at the NCW office has to be our weekly res college tradition: Coffee in the Commons! Every Friday, as a study break, we help organize an event where students can gather and enjoy free coffee, tea, and some sort of treat or pastry. Most of the residential colleges do some variation of this event (like Yeh College’s “FriYEH” or the weekly “Teahive” for Butler College Bees), but Coffee in the Commons will always hold a special place in my heart. Most recently, we did a Mardi Gras-themed Coffee in the Commons, complete with king cake and donuts!

Three Mardi Gras king cakes on counter top
King Cakes at Coffee in the Commons, Mardi-Gras Themed!
Boxes of donuts on counter top
Donuts at Coffee in the Commons!

The colleges and their offices are truly another community within the Princeton community. I would highly recommend stopping by to meet the friendly staff members and mentors that will guide and support you throughout your four years here (and, while you’re at it, maybe consider applying for a job there, too!).

Where to Begin: Starting Junior Independent Work

One of the facets of the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree at Princeton is that you are required to complete junior independent work (in addition to the famous senior thesis). Some departments require two, one for each semester, while others only require one for the academic year. As an East Asian Studies concentrator, I have to write two junior research papers, the first of which is written in conjunction with the mandatory junior seminar (EAS 300) and under the guidance of the designated faculty adviser –– the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the department –– while the second is written with any available adviser of the student’s choosing. 

For East Asian Studies, there are no set parameters for our projects for either semester, meaning that we are genuinely allowed to write about anything that interests us. The freedom is both liberating and daunting, especially since I now had to consider my certificate requirements in my independent work. Two of my certificates: Gender & Sexuality Studies and Translation & Intercultural Communication, require me to write about a topic related to my certificate for at least one of my two junior papers. I remember walking into my classroom on the first week of the semester and sitting in a semicircle with the rest of my classmates when one of the first questions our professor asked us was, “Why don’t we go around in a circle and talk about what your junior paper topic is?” My mind went completely blank. I had a vague subject matter I wanted to research, but one that was nowhere near the stage in which I could share it with other people. I blurted out that I wanted to write something about the feminist movement in Korea and then sat around nervously as my peers described (what seemed to be) well thought out ideas for their independent work. 

However, as the weeks passed, my favorite part of the seminar soon became seeing how other people’s junior paper topics changed and evolved –– and how mine did as well. Now, I am writing my junior paper about the historical legacy of the patriarchy in South Korea, comparing the government response to the Gangnam Murder Case of 2016 with that of the general public, namely women. 

Although my junior independent work is far from finished, here are a few tips I have gathered from the past semester:

  • Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm! 
    • The more you brainstorm and think about your project, the easier the writing itself will become. 
  • Work a little every day, whether it be 5 minutes or 5 hours. 
    • You will have accomplished more than you think by the end of a few weeks. 
  • Ask questions, and ask for feedback.
    • Find a few people to bounce ideas off of and tell them to ask you questions to test gaps in your logic. 
  • Don’t be scared!
    • I spent weeks putting off working on my Junior Paper (JP) because I was overwhelmed, but once I started that it really is an enriching experience once you take it one day at a time. 

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.

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!

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.

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.