The Humanities Sequence Trip in Sicily, Italy


This winter break, I had the opportunity to travel to Sicily, Italy with a group of students who all took the Humanities Sequence (HUM Sequence for short) in our freshman year. The HUM Sequence is a one year course that explores around 50 seminal texts from the Western literary canon from as Homer’s Iliad to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. The course typically starts off with 60 students, and rotates between 12 total professors from different departments. Upon completion of two semesters of HUM, students have the option to partake in a university-funded trip in two different locations — the choice this year being either Greece or Sicily. I chose Sicily because it was a part of Italy I had never visited before — and because I love Italian food!

After a grueling 24 hours of travel from my hometown of Sydney, Australia, I arrived in Sicily’s capital, Palermo. From there, the group embarked on a trip through time, moving from the ancient to modern. We first headed to the ancient city of Segesta, and saw a Doric temple (a Greek-style temple that has an unembellished and simple design, especially in relation to columns) that was immaculately preserved, likely as it was never actually finished due to war. We then went to the city of Agrigento, where we viewed The Valley of the Temples, home to sites like the monumental Temple of Zeus and a bronze Statue of Icarus.

We continued on our trip by visiting Villa Romana del Casale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site decorated with vibrant and mosaics; a medieval castle carved on the side of a windy rock face called Castello Sperlinga; Villa Palagonia, a beautiful Baroque mansion filled with grotesque and beastly statues. When we arrived back in Palermo, we toured ruinous Norman castles, gold and mosaic-covered Cathedrals with Byzantine, Arab and Classical inspiration, and dressed up for a rendition of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Palermo’s Teatro Massimo. Throughout these nine days, I loved learning about Sicily’s history and how it has become a “melted pot” of different cultures and traditions. 

Not only did we get to see and explore Sicily’s culture, we also got a chance to taste it too. Sicily is known for its cannoli (which consists of a crispy outer shell and a creamy ricotta filling), granita (a refreshing ice dessert), and its arancini (fried rice balls). Whilst we got to try all these dishes, and other sorts of pizzas, and mains, one restaurant experience sticks in my mind. For one of our lunches in Palermo, we were treated to a decadent charcuterie spread of sweet honey, crunchy bread, three types of meat, and five types of soft, sharp, and hard cheese — only as a starter. We then had a plate of pomodoro pasta, a massive rotisserie chicken thigh accompanied with a mound of fries, and tiramisu, to top it all off. This absurd meal experience lasted about two hours — and so did most of our meals on this trip!

Beyond planned activities, we also got some free time to explore by ourselves. I loved sketching Sicily’s unique flora–such as cacti, eucalyptus, orange trees, and more–with my friend, window shopping citrus perfumes and souvenirs, feeling the cool ocean breeze on my face when we went down to a pier in Palermo, and ordering a cappuccino at a crowded cafe.

When it was time to leave, I was genuinely shocked at how quickly time had passed by this trip. Coming back to Princeton, I reflected on how none of this would have happened if I had not mustered up the courage to sign up for a year-long humanities course even before the start of freshman year. None of this would have happened had I let my doubts about my unfamiliarity with the course content and fears of getting bad grades hold me back. For all those thinking of applying to Princeton and even the HUM Sequence, I say: take the risk! Who knows, one day you might end up strolling down the roads of Sicily, breathing in the aroma of street food, and listening to the hustle and bustle of street buskers.


A Look Into Princeton’s PIIRS Global Seminar: An Opportunity Abroad!


Every Summer, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) offers students the unique opportunity to learn from a Princeton professor abroad whilst earning course credit. The dubbed ‘Global Seminars’ include a range of topics in a range of locations – from Culture and Politics in Vienna to Capitalism in Kenya – all of which allow the student to immerse themselves in the culture of their host country.

This past summer I was afforded the opportunity to attend one of these seminars, A Land of Light and Shadows: Modern Greek Literature and Photography, in Athens, Greece. As both an academic and personal desire, the seminar was a truly unique experience that I am grateful to have been a part of.

Coming to Princeton, one of my main to-dos was to study abroad – it is something that I had been dreaming of for a long time. This was compounded by the fact that I am half Greek, a part of my background that I identify heavily with. Having never had the opportunity to visit the home of my grandparents, I jumped at the opportunity offered by PIIRS. The Global Seminar, apart from appealing to my heritage, also piqued my interest in photography and by extension, how it relates to literature.

The seminar began in early June and spanned until the middle of July. The duration of the seminar allowed for so many opportunities to see and explore Greece, both alone and as a part of the seminar. I was joined by 14 other students as well as Professor Eduardo Cadava and graduate student Anthie Georgiadi. Living and learning together, we created bonds that will last our time at Princeton and even beyond!

One of the core aspects of the seminar was the daily language class taught by Anthie, a native Greek speaker, who introduced us to the Modern Greek language. Although difficult at first, it became progressively easier to pick up as being immersed in the country allowed me to see how the language was spoken. Along with the language class, the seminar taught by Prof. Cadava was held twice a week, where we met and discussed readings relating photography to Greece while exploring the more philosophical aspects of the texts. Some of my favorite discussions revolved around how philosopher Gerhard Richter (we actually met him!) relates photography to death. On a similar note, many of the readings mentioned different areas around Greece, many of which we visited, including Athens, Delphi, Galaxidi, Mycenae, Nafplio and Crete. We were able to explore archaeological ruins, usually privately guided by an actual archeologist!

The other main aspect of the seminar was the weekly photography workshops, where we met with renowned photographers who showcased their work and assigned us projects. This was a truly unique experience since these photographers are experts in their field. Additionally, there was also at least one guest speaker event every week. The speakers ranged from Greece’s former Minister of Culture and Education to artists who worked on activist issues – a truly diverse selection. In short, the guests that contributed to the seminar were nothing short of amazing.

Overall, this past summer was one that I will remember for the rest of my life, for many, many reasons. To any student, current or prospective, I strongly encourage participation in a PIIRS global seminar – it is an opportunity that you cannot miss. I am truly humbled to be a part of the Princeton community and have access to such unique and impactful opportunities.


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.


New Friends Across the Pacific


“Have you made any friends yet?”

That was the million-dollar question on everyone’s mind. Over the summer, I interned at the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan through Princeton's International Internship Program (IIP). While I had lived alone, I had usually stayed at a student residence where it was easy to make friends. This time I was truly on my own.

Unsurprisingly, every time I called my mom, she wanted to know how I was doing socially. My parents, my program coordinator, even my coworkers — it was the one question they ended a conversation with. It was also the one question I could not seem to answer. Outside of work, the most social interaction I had was probably with the food stand owner near my apartment — but it’s hard to call someone a friend if the only thing you’ve said to them is “Pork rice with egg, please.”

A couple weeks into my internship, the Princeton Alumni Association of Taiwan invited me to a brunch, and who was I to say no to free food? At the brunch, I sat next to Mai, a sophomore from Thailand who was learning Chinese over the summer. We bonded over wanting to visit Jiufen, a town in northeast Taiwan that looks like the setting of “Spirited Away.” And while I did enjoy a wonderful meal and have great conversations with the alumni, as Mai and I exchanged contacts, I also began to carve out my answer to the question everyone had been asking since I landed.

A week later, we made it to Jiufen, despite almost missing the train there. At the teahouse, we learned the ins and outs of Taiwanese tea ceremony. We learned that you should smell the tea before you drink it. We also learned that a little tea goes a long way — the server told us that one set of tea leaves could make at least 15 cups of tea. Although it seemed doable, we learned that even three hours of pouring, waiting, smelling, and drinking was not enough time to get through it all.

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Taiwanese teahouse lined with red lanterns

Under the scorching July sun, we did it all. We watched “Oppenheimer,” putting our Chinese reading skills to the test as the subtitles flashed on the screen. We tried Taiwan’s famous pineapple beer, which was more beer than pineapple.

One night, we went to Dadaocheng to watch the fireworks. We navigated the bus system together (and then the little alleyways after it dropped us off a fair distance away from where we expected). We stood amongst the hoards of people, unsure whether to find a good spot or get a drink first. Although the fireworks show was only a few minutes, we hung out by the pier for hours — by the time I got back to my apartment, the streets were full of people getting their midnight snack.

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Fireworks at night at Dadaocheng

For our last adventure, we found ourselves drinking tea on yet another mountain. This time, we were sitting with two old men, who were confused about what a Thai and an Australian were doing together in Taiwan. That seemed to be the second big question of the summer: “How do you two know each other?” The answer to this one was much more convoluted. But, having already explained it a few times to other people, we were much better rehearsed in front of these two men. I’m not sure how much my Chinese reading skills improved, but I definitely became fluent in reciting our origin story.

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View of Taipei 101 from a mountain at sunset

This summer, I was faced with two pretty big questions. But after weeks of thinking, here are my final answers — yes, I did make a new friend and as for how we know each other… let's just say 这有点复杂 (it’s a little complicated).


An Ode to Colombia


It was the best of times … it was the worst of times… it was Colombia. This summer I spent two months in Bogota, Colombia for my International Internship Program (IIP) with Sisma Mujer. Colombia caught me by surprise because I fell in love with the country instantly. The fast-paced motorcycles but the steady working environment, the cold air but the beaming sun. There were numerous reasons for me to fall in love but I can’t seem to settle on one. Every day felt like a new adventure, whether it be navigating the wobbly sidewalks or taking day trips to cities like Guatavita, Villa de Leyva and Fosca. The days seemed to fly by until I noticed I only had a few days left before I would have to say goodbye. For that reason, I’d like to do a bit of a highlight reel, sharing some of my favorite moments in Colombia. 

Guatavita 

Joining me in Bogota were six other Princeton students with different IIP’s. From Politics majors to Architecture and MAE (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), we were all there for different reasons. During our time in Colombia, we were connected with a provider service called Intern Colombia and we were able to take several trips to surrounding cities. Guatavita was our first trip as a group and it had a six a.m. call time. All of us were sleeping on the ride over but the hike up made everyone’s energy pick up. We ended the day with a quick boat ride, one of us even got to steer the wheel! 

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Collage of the city of Guatavita, five pictures with a sky background.

Villa de Levya

Jugo de mango is arguably one of the best drinks I’ve had. If a restaurant or coffee shop had it, I would order it instantly. Villa de Levya was memorable for many reasons but it was also my first time going horseback riding. I think I was the most intimidated out of the group, mainly because my horse decided to go rogue but I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

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Collage of the city of Villa de Levya, five pictures with a city background.

Fosca

The waterfalls at Fosca truly humbled me. They were breathtaking but also the path to get to them was filled with countless slips. By the time I got to the first waterfall, my leggings were stained with mud, my shoes completely destroyed and I was tired of slipping on nothing. My clumsiness decided to star front and center that day but I didn’t allow it to affect my hike up. I was notably exhausted but the views made everything worth it and the people I walked with also made it that much better. 

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Collage of the Fosca Waterfalls, five pictures with a rocky background.

Cali

Our first solo trip without Intern Colombia consisted of an hour-long plane ride to the beautiful city of Cali, Colombia. We visited the Cali Zoo alongside a rocky river and tasted some of the most interesting flavors of ice cream like yogurt with oregano and chicharron. Cali was such a unique city, it was a totally different vibe from Bogota and not just because of the heat but also its calm charm. 

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Collage of the city of Cali, five pictures with a sky background.

In the end, the worst of times wasn’t the few mishaps we had along the way but having to say goodbye to a place I called home for two months. I’m so grateful for having this opportunity thanks to the Office of International Programs (OIP) and I'm ready to add more memories like these to my time at Princeton (stay tuned for Denmark 2024!).


Lions and Tigers: My Study Abroad Experience


This semester, I had the incredible opportunity to spend seven weeks in Kenya with the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department’s Semester in the Field program. 

The program involves taking four courses, each for three weeks, in subjects ranging from Biology of African Animals and Ecosystems to Terrestrial Paleoecology (basically trying to understand what ancient ecosystems looked like). Since I went abroad as a senior (most EEB students go abroad during their junior spring), I was there for the first two classes and returned to campus after spring break to finish my thesis. 

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three students and a professor in a classroom
Bone taphonomy lecture with Professor Kevin Uno. This was one of only a handful of classroom lectures during the program –– the rest were outside, in the field! 

Nothing I could have imagined compared to the feeling of waking up to the sound of birds chirping and monkeys calling to one another right outside my tent every morning. To be so immersed in nature was indescribable. We saw endangered Grevy’s zebras and African wild dogs, of which there are only a few thousand remaining in the world, as well as lions, hyenas, rhinos, and elephants. In the first week alone, we saw 35 different species of mammals! 

The classes I took provided amazing opportunities for hands-on fieldwork. During the first course, we planned, executed, and analyzed data for four complete research projects — in just three weeks! It was definitely fast-paced, but I came out of it with a much greater understanding of the scientific process, and I’m so grateful for the experience. 

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group photo of 13 smiling people in a savannah landscape
The 11 of us, on a hike with the professor and TA of our first course. 

One of the best parts of going to Kenya was the people - the 10 fellow Princeton and Columbia students I traveled with, our professors and TAs, and the Kenyan researchers, staff, and community members we got to know during our stay there. We bonded over trips to overlooks to watch the sunset after a game drive, games of soccer and darts at the research center (which we often lost), and most of all, our climb of Mount Kenya during spring break (I credit the bond between us as the reason we somehow all made it to the summit!). 

Going to Kenya was the best experience of my life so far, and I can’t recommend studying abroad enough. As sad as I was to leave Princeton’s beautiful campus and all my friends there, it was so worth it to get the chance to experience new places, cultures, and ecosystems with such an amazing group of people. If I had one piece of advice for anyone considering studying abroad, it would be to just go! You never know where it can take you. 

 


Finding Community and Confidence on Bridge Year


When I graduated from high school, I was burnt out and needed a change in my life. The decision to take a gap year was never really a question in my mind––my parents were always strong proponents, and I needed a break from academics.  When I first read about the Novogratz Bridge Year Program, I knew that the opportunity to spend nine months abroad (for free) was too good to pass up.  

However, after I applied and received my acceptance letter to the Indonesia program, I felt less sure about my choice.  My anxiety and self-doubts began to emerge, making me second guess whether the Bridge Year Program would be a mistake or not. I would graduate later than my friends, go many months without my family, and live alone in a totally unfamiliar city.  Would it be a waste of time? Would I learn anything? Would I make friends? These questions and doubts filled my mind as the departure date neared. I still remember how scared and unsure I felt during the nights leading up to the trip, and the queasy feeling in my stomach as we drove to campus for the pre-departure orientation.  

I started Bridge Year with full-on imposter syndrome and anxiety. Like many incoming first-years, I felt inadequate compared to my incredibly accomplished peers and worried about insignificant things that I had no control over. I was insecure, and the other students in my cohort seemed much more mature, intelligent, and well-spoken. In those first few weeks, I kept quiet during group discussions, journaled a lot, and over-thought nearly every word that came out of my mouth.  

The first month of Bridge Year Indonesia was reserved for orientation and short-term travel. We spent this initial month traveling through Sumatra. Everything was still new and exciting, but as this month began to wind down and our move-in day to Jogja grew nearer, I felt incredibly anxious about meeting my long-term homestay family.  I remember confiding in Umi, one of our on-site staff members, the morning before we were introduced to our families. As we sat on the porch of our hotel–sipping tea and listening to the adzan (call to prayer) in the background–I nervously listed off my fears and hesitations about meeting my homestay family.  I was worried about communicating with them with my limited Indonesian, making a good first impression, and whether I could live up to their relationship with the previous student. I was told that my homestay family was especially religious–the father was an Imam–and I worried about what they would think of my Jewish beliefs and identity. Umi reassured me that they were a perfect match for me, and not to worry. This didn’t do much to reassure me at the time, and I spent the rest of the morning pacing and stressing.  

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Group of students pose in front of a fence at a scenic overlook
Here I am (second from left) with the Bridge Year Indonesia group on the island of Flores in Indonesia.
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Oscar pictured outside his homestay with four members of his homestay family
Here I am pictured (second from right) with my homestay family on Eid al-Fitr.

I won't lie, that first week in the homestay was quite an adjustment. My family did not speak any English, so we struggled to communicate, and I was exhausted from feeling the need to constantly ‘perform’ around them. But after just a month or two, I felt infinitely more relaxed. As I continued to grapple with anxiety and imposter syndrome, my homestay family became a true source of comfort and relaxation. We found ways to communicate with my still-limited Indonesian skills, and I began to prioritize spending more time at home with them. 

Reflecting on it now, four years out of Bridge Year, my homestay family was the best part of my experience. They each taught me so much, and I am so grateful for the generosity and unconditional love that they showed me. There are so many moments that I wouldn’t trade for the world: watching movies on the porch with my homestay brothers, karaoke Bon Jovi with Ibu and Ayah (my homestay parents), visiting my homestay sister in the hospital after she gave birth, Ibu’s disapproving looks when I bleached my hair, and learning Arabic at the Mosque with Ayah. They had an incredibly influential impact on me during this transitional moment in my life when I was just beginning to define my values, relationships, and career trajectory.  

While re-reading my journals and reflecting upon Bridge Year, I realized that the community I found in my homestay enabled the growth I experienced that year. While I was feeling anxious, inadequate, and inexperienced compared to my Princeton peers, my homestay showed me acceptance, self-love, and compassion. I never thought that I would call Indonesia home, or consider non-relatives part of my family, but over the course of nine months, that is exactly what ended up happening.  

Today, more than four years after the program, I am endlessly grateful for Bridge Year. The personal growth that I underwent shaped who I am today in countless ways. Bridge Year taught me many skills and lessons, but above all, it helped me develop more self-confidence. I know it sounds cliche, but I gained so much confidence in myself and my abilities. Continuously getting pushed outside of my comfort zone forced me to grow in ways that I still struggle to verbalize. I am of course still in contact with my family today, and I am returning to Yogyakarta this summer as part of the Streicker International Fellows Program to intern at an architecture firm. Although I am still unsure about what my future post-grad will be, I am hoping to move to Indonesia again and start my career there. If I had the chance to speak to the pre-Bridge Year version of myself, or anyone considering the program, I would say: absolutely take the leap; the lessons you will learn about yourself, the world, and your place within it will be invaluable and unforgettable. 

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Oscar poses with host family, locals and Bridge Year friends
Here I am in the center with my host family and Bridge Year comrad Alex (left). This was my goodbye photo!
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Oscar turns to lookback at the camera, posed with three coworkers, his shirt reads "best volunteer 2018-2019"
Here I am on my last day at the NGO. 
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Selfie of a long crowded dinner table at a goodbye dinner
This photo was taken at the goodbye dinner hosted by the NGO I served at.

My Identities and My Idol: Cheering for Messi and World-champion Argentina With Princeton’s Jewish-latino Community


Forget about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. Argentina’s only, true national hero is soccer player Lionel Messi. A legend admired by citizens of all generations, it’s every Argentinian’s dream to see him play live. That dream became a reality for me when Princeton’s Jewish-Latino community, J-Lats, invited me to an Argentina vs. Jamaica game in New Jersey last September. 

J-Lats had always been, and continues to be, an important community for me on campus. My experience as a Latino is fundamentally interwoven with my experience as a Jewish person, and my experience as a Jewish person is impossible to detach from the Latino context where it flourished. J-Lats gives me a group where that intersection of identities is celebrated— we host “Shabbat Picante!” at the Center for Jewish Life, we bring speakers, and we host world-cup-themed study breaks and food-filled meetings. 

When Argentina’s Fútbol Association announced a game in New Jersey, I thought to myself: "c’mon… New Jersey out of all places? This has to be a sign from the universe." I contacted J-Lats’s president, Alex Egol, and plans went into the works. Less than 2 weeks later, on September 27th, 2022, we were all on a train bound for the Red Bull Arena. We were welcomed by tens of thousands of fans wearing la albiceleste and passionately chanting on the team that just a few months later would crown itself FIFA World Cup champions.

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5 people smiling to a selfie in a stadium
Alex, Vanessa, Helena, Vicky and I hyping up the best team of all times.

Only 13 minutes into the game and suddenly GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!! We skyrocketed out of our seats and screamed like there was no tomorrow; we hugged and vámos-carajoed. We watched the rest of the game attentively, and then he was released onto the playing field: Lionel Messi! Seeing him in real life was difficult to define. It was strange to see that he’s not a fictional legend that landed from the heavens: he’s a human with two legs, and mamma mia can those legs do stuff! Messi authored the 2nd and 3rd goals, which made the arena shake in what can only be described as South American spirit.

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A girl and a boy smiling in front of a soccer field
Vicky and I are the only undergraduate students from Argentina. Hopefully we'll be more next time!

Coming back to campus, I felt grateful and lucky. Who would have guessed that the first time I’d see Argentina play live wouldn’t be in my homeland, but in New Jersey instead? The possibilities Princeton gives its students are endless, and they go from doing research with Nobel laureates, to designing computational universes, to fulfilling your dream of seeing your nation’s hero play fútbol.

I can say today, as I’m sure I’ll tell my grandchildren one day, that I saw Argentina’s World Cup champion team play live in the field, with 2 goals from the “GOAT” Messi. Vamos!


Plato in Paris


Warm weather, fresh croissants and my trusty copy of Plato’s Republic: Perfection. This summer, I had the privilege of taking Professor Morison’s famous philosophy course, Plato in Paris. Mid-June, I eagerly set out for Charles de Gaulle airport along with ten other classmates. After adjusting to the initial jetlag, we were enthusiastic to begin our deep dive into "The Republic". The daily voyage from our Cité Universitaire housing to the École Normale Supérieure, where class was held, consisted in a two-stop trip along Paris’s RER B line. We spent between three to six hours in class each day. In class, we would discuss the text in small fragments, ultimately achieving a thorough understanding of Plato’s complex argument. By the conclusion of the course, we had spent over 90 hours exploring "The Republic". In addition to these conversations, we were lucky to receive guest lectures from Parisian scholars of Plato. During the regular school year, it’s difficult to find time for philosophic reflection amid a busy schedule, other coursework, and additional commitments. The unique circumstances of the Plato in Paris, however, created an environment in which all participants were solely devoted to the communal project of understanding this text together. I think all students would benefit greatly to have an academic experience such as this.

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Class photo of students and professors sitting around a long table
Class Photo at the École Normale Supérieure

In addition to the many insights on Platonic philosophy I acquired inside the classroom, I also encountered equally enriching experiences outside the classroom. The course featured many excursions, including a Louvre trip, a river cruise and a visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower. During my six week stay in Paris, I grew familiar with the layout and geography of Paris’s 20 arrondissements. In addition to participating in Princeton sponsored excursions, my classmates and I took full advantage of our unique opportunity to explore the city on our own. We often held picnics along the brink of the Seine river or in front of the Eiffel Tower.

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Group of students having a picnic
Bastille Day Picnic at Esplanade des Invalides

Eager to see more of the country, a small group of classmates ventured to the South of France for a weekend excursion. Admittingly, I had to push down the overwhelming sense of nausea as we traveled on France’s 200mph TGV bullet trains. During our time navigating between Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, Marseille and Lyon, we were able to meet other Princeton students completing International Internship Programs (IIP) for the summer. We even visited the French beaches! I was able to build a wonderful sense of community with my peers over the time we spent together in France. After returning to Princeton in the fall, I happily encounter the smiling faces of my new friends. I loved every moment of this course, and it has inspired me to continue studying philosophy at Princeton!

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Two girls in a staircase in Lyon
Exploring Lyon 

Princeton in Pisa: Taking a Summer Class in Italy


Home to me is Buenos Aires, capital of (world-champion in football) Argentina. So studying abroad is, technically, nothing new to me— I’ve been “studying abroad” since the first day of Princeton’s international orientation. Yet, the summer school I did through Princeton in Italy was one of the best experiences of my life. 

During the school year, my Italian class professor, Anna Cellinese, a woman who speaks with her hands and conceives wine as religion, along side our co-instructor Luca Zipoli, began promoting the idea of taking a summer course in Italy’s Tuscany. It didn’t take long to convenience me, and soon enough I was on an airplane on my way to Pisa. 

Known for its tilting tower and vibrant youth life, Pisa’s beauty captivated my eyes immediately. The city felt lively and awake, but breathed the same slow-burnt pace of life of most Italian towns. Our home was the Scuola Normale Superiore, one of Italy’s most renowned universities, famous for its academic rigor and residential life. Our dorms were great and had stunning views to Pisa’s Piazza dei Cavalieri. My roommate, Sara, and I would wake up to a sun-kissed room of fresh air, and we’d begin our days singing, dancing and jumping from bed to bed while listening to the Mamma Mia album. 

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Group of students getting ice cream
First day! We went out with everyone in the program for some gelato!

Residential life aside, the class was also fun and incredibly engaging. We had literary lessons about old books like Dante’s Inferno and more modern texts like Tondelli’s Altri Libertini. There were also classes about contemporary issues in Italy, where we learned about the immigration crisis, the concept of beauty and the idea of arts as an urban lung. 

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Student and professor posing in the mountains having fun
Anna, our professor, was an intelligent, sharp, and kind instructor and travel guide. We had a ton of fun. She's the best!

But what was the best thing about the program? The out-of-the-classroom learning experience. The course stepped beyond the university campus and onto the city's historical, cultural and gastronomical landmarks. We had a class sitting on a public park once, we went to a gallery that had a comic-centered exhibition about immigration, we interviewed figures like the city’s governor, and we even had a cooking class and a wine-tasting evening! Learning was happening through our five senses as we explored the 360-dregrees of Italy. 

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Two students posing with a woman
A classmate and I got to interview Pisa's vice mayor for a course project. Amazing opportunity!

On a personal note, a meaningful takeaway from the trip were the moments I had with my bike. I got it second-hand during the first week, and I’d use it to get to the beach every day after class. It was a countryside bike path that traversed sunflower fields, the parallel-running Arno river, old castles and distant mountains. I’d sit on the rocky Mediterranean beaches for hours, with ink and notebook to my side. I ended up finding my love for journaling, writing and poetry! 

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Hand writing over the sea
After writing so much, I now have an add-ink-tion!

My experience traveling abroad with the University through Princeton in Pisa couldn’t have been any more impactful. It left a trace in my hobbies, my identity, my notions about beauty, time, culture and love.