Crafting Creativity: Exploring Princeton University's Creative Spaces

As an engineering student with a passion for artcraft, I've always found joy in creating things with my own hands, exploring various methods and techniques to bring my ideas to life. So, when I arrived at Princeton and discovered the wealth of resources available for creative exploration, I was absolutely amazed. From the moment I stepped into the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Machine Shop to the countless hours spent in the Studio Lab and makerspace, my journey with Princeton's creative spaces has been nothing short of transformative.

My first experience in the MAE Machine Shop was the MAE 321 Engineering Design course. In the course’s labs, we delved into the art of design and manufacturing, utilizing advanced machinery like milling machines and CNC machines to craft intricate designs. From engineering a flywheel cart and bottle opener, to creating an airplane wing from scratch, the MAE Machine Shop is where imagination meets precision, providing students with hands-on experience and technical expertise.

bootle openerCart

Another vibrant hub of creativity is the Studio Lab, home of the Council of Science and Technology and a playground for artistic expression and experimentation. Here, students can explore a diverse array of mediums, from traditional embroidery to cutting-edge video game design. Equipped with incredible tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters, the Studio Lab empowers students to turn their ideas into reality. Workshops ranging from cryo painting tote bags to origami engineering foster a culture of collaboration and innovation, inspiring students to push the boundaries of their creativity.


Finally, Princeton's makerspace offers students the chance to delve into a multitude of crafts and technologies. From designing custom stickers to crafting intricate bead jewelry, the makerspace provides a hands-on learning environment where creativity knows no bounds. Students can also rent a variety of tech gadgets, from projectors to VR sets, allowing us to bring their visions to life with professional-grade equipment.

If you're someone who loves getting their hands dirty and bringing ideas to life from scratch, Princeton is the place for you. And for those who've yet to dip their toes into the waters of creation, who knows? Maybe Princeton will be the place where you uncover a newfound hobby.

A Day in The Life (Short Film)

“I wish Princeton felt like this.”

A comment from my fellow classmate after my short film (shown above) was screened for my digital animation class.

I think it’s fair to say my animation has quite a calming undertone. I wanted to capture the monotonous yet beautiful moments of my days here at Princeton - the simplicity of studying in Firestone Library during the early mornings, my bike rides across campus, and the much needed coffee breaks at Coffee Club. 

While I love to honor these small moments, I think many students, like my classmate, often experience a very different day in the life of Princeton. What I see at Princeton, which is often a love for these small moments, is not what everyone sees. But what I’ve learned during my time here is that Princeton can be so many things - too much to sum up in a day. 

Incoming freshmen often want a description of what a “day in the life” looks like at Princeton. Of course I could generalize my experience as stressful and overwhelming while simultaneously everything I could ask for in a college experience. It’s hard to describe the beautiful stressors, challenging moments, and new experiences that go on here. Ultimately, Princeton is a very unique college experience inside the “orange bubble” - an almost alternative universe on campus where you're swept up and time passes in odd ways.

But there are so many nuances in an experience. The description above, and further my own animation, fall short of describing so many aspects of Princeton: days where you’re in Firestone from sun up till sun down studying, memory making late night chats with roommates, or even how campus comes alive in spring as students flock to Cannon Green for picnics and frisbee games.

Princeton is too large to sum up in one day or one animation. Further, I think it’s important for incoming students to realize that Princeton is not a “day in the life”. No experience is. Despite being in the same academic and physical environment, everyone experiences college differently - hence the disparity between how I view Princeton through my animation and my classmate’s reaction.
But with this comes an important lesson; the reason we experience things differently is partly due to how we choose to perceive life around us. Our own experiences are ultimately what we make of them. At the end of the day, Princeton is what you make of it. So how do I answer the question: “what is a day in the life like at Princeton University?” It’s up to you to tell that story - my only advice, remember the sky's the limit.

My First VIS Class at Princeton (Visual Arts)

This past fall semester of my junior year, I was able to take my first ever class in the Visual Arts (VIS, for short) Department. Two of my best friends at Princeton are pursuing the VIS certificate and always raved about their classes. As someone interested in the arts, I knew I just had to take at least one VIS course before I graduated.

Now, VIS classes are infamously known for being hard to get a spot in. They tend to be capped at only 10 to 12 students each in order to ensure an intimate learning environment. Luckily, I was able to snag a spot in VIS216: Graphic Design: Visual Form

Taught by Professor David Reinfurt, the course was absolutely everything I wanted and more. It was so refreshing to have a class that was hands-on and project-based, especially to balance out my very reading and writing-intensive curriculum for my concentration. 

One of my favorite assignments was when we were tasked with coming up with two new symbols that were meant to represent “stop” and “go.” We had to think outside of the box and figure out how we could communicate these definitions, without relying on the usual colors of red and green or the octagonal shape of a stop sign. I ultimately came up with the two symbols below:

two original graphic design symbols in black

Can you tell which is which? I hope so! I genuinely enjoyed creating these and seeing what else my peers came up with. Throughout the semester, we also got to learn the basics of using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, how to make animated GIFs, as well as how to present our ideas during class critiques. 

Our final project was to reimagine the recycling symbol and system. Over the course of four weeks or so, we each brainstormed solutions to the recycling crisis, graphically or otherwise. I especially appreciated how open the project prompt was because it didn’t tie us to any one medium. I ended up designing an incentivized app similar to Fetch, where you could scan a QR code on recyclables to earn points and redeem rewards! I was really excited about my idea, and during our final critique, Professor Reinfurt brought in several of his colleagues to listen to our presentations and offer us feedback. Their insight and advice were invaluable. 

Reflecting back now that the semester has ended, VIS216 was an incredible experience! Even though I wouldn’t consider myself to be the most artistically inclined person, I’m super grateful that I had the opportunity to take this class. I’d highly encourage anyone with even an inkling of interest in art to try a VIS course. The department is made up of renowned faculty, there are tons of facilities and resources available to students, and it’s ultimately fun to have a class that lets you think a little differently than classes for your concentration. Take advantage of all that VIS has to offer!

A Day In the Life of an East Asian Studies Concentrator

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

7:45 a.m.

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


8:30 a.m.

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


10:00 a.m.

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


11:00 a.m.

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


1:30 p.m.

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


4:30 p.m.

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


6:00 p.m.

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


9:00 p.m.

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


10:00 p.m.

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

The Art of Trying New Things

One of the first things I promised myself before going to college was that I was going to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. What better time than now to explore all the things I had never had the opportunity to in high school? 

Thus, first-year fall, despite my many reservations about doing so, I tried out for the Princeton Debate Panel. While it was one of the most terrifying things I had ever done, I am grateful to have found some of my closest friends and a tight-knit community that single handedly helped me through my first semester at Princeton. 

I kept (and am keeping) my promise to myself as I entered the second half of my sophomore year. I ended up auditioning for an a cappella group, a decision I made a day before auditions were to take place. My reservations for doing so stemmed from the fact that as much as I enjoyed singing in my free time, I never thought I was good enough to sing in a more structured setting. 

I was saved from making one of the worst mistakes of my Princeton career when one of my friends, after hearing my plight on whether or not I should audition, told me just what I needed to hear. “What’s the worst that could happen? You’re nervous for 15 minutes, maybe embarrass yourself in front of a few people. But the best case scenario? You get ten new friends, and get to do something you enjoy.” The answer then became pretty clear in my head. 

I went, sang in front of a group of people I didn’t know, and left shaking from nerves, but relieved I had gone through with it. That night, I found out that I had been asked back for callbacks, and went to callbacks the day after, where I (still extremely nervous) mingled with members and got to experience what it would be like to sing as part of a group. I left callbacks daydreaming about what it would be like to perform with these amazing collection of singers, and once again, thoroughly glad I had gone. 

Now, I’m a proud member of the Princeton Tigressions, one of the many a cappella groups Princeton has to offer. Each group is unique in their sound, their members and their personalities. The Tigressions are known for a bold sound, and our repertoire ranges from classics such as Moon River and more contemporary arrangements such as When We Were Young. We also go on an international tour during fall break, though a cappella groups on campus mainly sing in one of the many arches on campus. Also unexpectedly, my first performance happened to be at McCarter Theatre in front of a crowd of more than six hundred people. As terrifying as that was, it was one of the most fun (and memorable) moments at Princeton so far. 

So go for it. Try something new. 

Hola, me llamo Gil...

I have always been fascinated by languages. I grew up bilingual, speaking Haitian Creole and French. Then, at the age of twelve, I realized that it would be cool to actually understand the songs of Akon which I was a big fan of: that's how I decided to start learning English. Later, in high school (coincidentally around the time Akon had hit pause on his musical career), I decided to move on to new horizons and started studying Spanish, followed by German. I think languages are cool, especially at Princeton.

At Princeton, every A.B. student has to pass the language requirement (i.e. demonstrating proficiency in a language other than English) before they graduate. There are many ways to fulfill this requirement. I, for example, took a French Placement Test the summer before I came to Princeton, which allowed me to place out of the language requirement. That meant I did not have to take any language classes at Princeton. But I still did! Why? Because languages are cool! Rather than starting with a completely new language at Princeton (which I might still do later on), I decided to keep learning Spanish for a while. I took the Placement Test for Spanish a couple of days after the French one and got placed into Spanish 108 (for Advanced Learners). 

I took the class last semester and it was amazing! My instructor was extremely kind, supportive and knowledgeable. My experience in that class was nothing like what I had seen in language classes before. Not only did the course focus on the development of the students' oral and written expression, but it also did so by engaging with interesting and thought-provoking material that explored the cultures, histories and politics of Spanish-speaking communities in the United States as well as the larger Hispanic world. The regular writing and speaking exercises encouraged me to frequently engage with the language beyond a superficial level in order to become comfortable expressing complex ideas in Spanish. All this in an encouraging and low-stress environment. I ended up doing very well in the class thanks to the incredible support I received from my instructor and my peers.

This experience reassured me in my decision to pursue a Certificate in Spanish, so much so that I am taking another Spanish class this semester: Spanish 209. In this course, we learn to analyze films in Spanish, which is a great way to improve my writing and speaking skills. It's also a great excuse to watch TV on the weekend without feeling guilty! I am only a few weeks in and I already love it! In addition to the language courses, Princeton offers other opportunities to get better in languages such as speaker events, internships abroad, summer language courses abroad, etc…

I truly feel that Princeton is one of the best places to brush up your skills in many languages or acquire new ones. Plus, you will want to take a class in East Pyne (the building that hosts most of the language departments): it is absolutely stunning! If you don’t believe me, come see for yourself!

East Pyne Hall

P.S.: If you have questions about any of the things mentioned above, do not hesitate to send me an email!

My Creative Writing Journey

I remember my first grade class’ Halloween party like it was yesterday: the mummy wrapping station on the rug, the spooky cupcakes on the desks and a Halloween storytime in the book corner. Though I briefly stopped by the dessert desks to grab a cupcake, I found myself all consumed in the fourth activity: Halloween story starters. Shifting through printed handout starters about witches and ghosts and goblins, I spent the entire party writing story after story. I somehow drowned out the “Monster Mash” track that played on repeat and the laughter of my classmates as they wrapped each other up in toilet paper. All I could hear was the sound of my pencil gliding across the thick-lined paper. 

It’s no surprise then that when applying for colleges ten years later, I was drawn to Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing. With faculty such as A.M. Homes and Idra Novey, and graduates like Jodi Picoult (I am obsessed with her novels!), I knew I wanted to take courses in the department. And ever since I was admitted, that’s exactly what I did. I took everything from “Introductory Fiction” to “Advanced Fiction,” from “Introductory Poetry” to “Advanced Poetry,” and even Special Topics courses like “Political Fiction.” 

But my writing journey came to an abrupt stop at the end of last year. It was Spring 2021 and I applied for the Creative Writing thesis. At Princeton, everyone writes a thesis in their concentration (mine being English), but some certificates also require you to write a thesis. In the case of the English department, you can actually replace your English thesis with a Creative Writing thesis if you are accepted into the program. So anyone can apply for and take creative writing courses, but that does not necessarily guarantee that you can write a thesis in the department. 

When I received the email that my application was not accepted, I was crushed. I felt as if all that I worked for and all that I hoped for since coming to Princeton, since sitting at that table at my first grade Halloween party writing about witches and pumpkins, had meant nothing. Was my writing not good enough? Was I not good enough? I decided to take a semester off from creative writing for the fall. I was hurt, and perhaps a little too prideful to keep taking courses in the department.

But as these thoughts slipped into my head, I remembered something that one of the creative writing faculty members said. She told our class that she herself was rejected from writing a creative writing thesis, and now she’s a bestselling author with several novels that she is proud of. During the fall semester, I missed creative writing so much. Yes, I might have been hurt, but being at one of the top schools in the country not only means that you’re surrounded by other brilliant, talented people, but that you have to learn how to be surrounded by other brilliant, talented people. It means accepting rejection, learning from setbacks and moving forward. 

This semester, my final semester at Princeton, I am taking a course called “Spark! Sparking Creativity in Writing” with Professor Quade, who I had as a professor for “Advanced Fiction” during my sophomore year. The course focuses on daily writing practice as opposed to long-form, workshop writing. I hope to leave this course with the tools I need to continue writing in my day-to-day life, even as I start my career after graduation. Receiving rejection is always difficult, but it made me realize that creative writing is something I never want to let go of. Thesis or no thesis, I will continue the dream that little first grader had as she scribbled word after word onto her paper. 

Poets Should Come Ready to Move/Yell/Play/Discover

"...Writing and performing our way towards a deeper understanding of ourselves as spoken word poets, we will collaboratively work our way towards a final public performance and, hopefully, the tools to better move the crowds we face, which are the tools to change the world one poem at a time."

When I saw the description for this course, Spoken Word Poetics taught by award-winning poet Danez Smith, I just had to apply!

In December 2021, the last month of fall semester, I participated in course selection, a process where students of each grade level take turns signing up for the classes they want to take the following semester. There are lots of classes to choose from, everything from an Introduction to Entrepreneurship to Songwriting; some classes require an application or permission to register, but many (if not most) classes don’t. 

Course selection naturally tends to be more of an emotionally turbulent time for everyone, as people scramble to explore all of Princeton’s courses, narrow down their course lists, and resolve any scheduling conflicts. I try to make the process as fun as possible, though, by exploring my academic curiosities and looking for classes that sounded exciting and engaging. 

One of the topics I wanted to explore academically was creative writing. Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing provides a wide range of classes taught by well-respected writers. Many of these classes require applications. While the Program currently seeks to become more inclusive and supportive of writers of all skill levels, I’d encourage you not to begin hyperventilating because of the word “application,” because the application for most of the intro classes does not ask for any writing samples. 

For some background on my interest in creative writing, I’ve been writing poetry since middle school. I began writing, hilariously enough, because my best friend started playing club volleyball and I could no longer hang out with her as much afterschool. Fun fact: I wrote one of my college essays about the first open mic I performed at! How meta, writing about writing!

That being said, I believe any student can submit a compelling application, especially with the help of resources like the Writing Center. If I didn’t at least try to apply, I wouldn’t be here today telling you about how excited I am to take this course! 

At the end of the day, if you’re interested in creative writing classes at Princeton, don’t let applications scare you! I applied to Spoken Word Poetics because, ironically, I am terrified of performing my poetry in front of other people and actually have them *listen* and *hear* me. 

Regardless, I hope that this class can provide me with the space to begin facing some of that fear, and become more confident in my words. Are there any academic curiosities you’ve always wanted to explore, or fears you’re ready to face? I’d love to know!

How to Research a University

While preparing for university applications and alumni interviews, I wanted to find out more about what the schools I applied to were really like. Now that I have attended Princeton for a semester, I hope I can share with you some of the things you may want to look out for in your research as well as some resources you can use to learn about student life.

Obviously, your first stop should be either the University website or the admission website.


Screenshot of homepage of Princeton University website

Here, you can browse the tabs that catch your attention and allow interesting links to lead you on a trail. For example, I noted the concentrations (majors) and certificates (minors) that interested me, perused the research interests of professors in the molecular biology department and checked out the social media pages of extracurricular activities and student groups such as Triple 8 Dance Company (where you can now find an introduction of me!) and Manna Christian Fellowship. At the time, I got so excited that I noted down 25 activities I would be interested in participating in. As a vegan, I also looked for more information on the dining halls and found this guide written by the Greening Dining Club to be a wealth of information. We also have a student blog on being a vegan at Princeton.


Photos of the residential dining halls: Butler College, Center for Jewish Life, First College, Forbes College, Graduate College, Mathey College, Rockefeller, Whitman College

To learn more about the astounding breadth of past, current, and new classes, head to the Office of the Registrar. It was here that I first found MOL460: Diseases in Children: Causes, Costs, and Choices in January 2020, and I still can’t wait for the opportunity to take this class in the future.


Screenshot of the course description of Diseases in Children: Causes, Costs, and Choices

Another useful resource is what you’ve already found: the admissions blog! The blogs provided me with stories that put color and faces to the information on the website. There are also 13 current students who are more than happy to answer any questions you may have, whether you are a prospective student, an anxious or curious applicant, or a deferred or admitted student. Please don’t be afraid to reach out by email! I wish I did when I was in your shoes, even if just to hear more about what college life is like.

Princeton also has an incredible student-run daily newspaper, the Daily Princetonian, also referred to as the ‘Prince’, where you can get an inside scoop on what is happening in the Princeton community. I turn to the ‘Prince’ for University news, opinions on current topics, and funny cartoons. In true New York Times-style, the ‘Prince’ also features a crossword, podcasts, photos, and videos.

For some more insider information, you can head to YouTube to see the beautiful buildings, numerous libraries, and various styles of dorms, as well as hear more about classes and what students do for fun. The University also makes a Year in Review - this year’s features the bonfire we had in celebration of the football team beating both Yale and Harvard - and provides more information on our Nobel Prize winners.

Don’t hesitate to chat with friends, family, and your high school counselor about your college plans - you might be surprised to find they have a friend who attended Princeton and would be more than happy to speak with you about their experience. I also learned a lot from asking my alumna interviewer about her time here.

Finally, you can take advantage of social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook to find people in your area affiliated with the University or message someone who studied in a field that interests you.

Happy researching!

All-Nighter at Frist Theater

It was 11pm, and Frist Theater was packed. I sat in the second row, squeezed up close to the stage, where an empty table, a couch and a banner emblazoned All-Nighter were arranged in anticipation for its season 10 premiere.

As the lights dimmed, a piano melody began to play. The announcer’s chipper, sly voice came over the speakers and made several quick notes and jokes, to the low, appreciative murmur of the crowd. Moments later, the host of Princeton’s student-run late-night talk show was striding down the middle aisle and leaping onto the stage.

In my four years at Princeton, this was the first time I’d made it to All-Nighter. I’d previously taken the show literally and assumed it was actually an all-night, dusk to dawn affair, which had put me off from attending. I quickly realized that 1) I deeply regretted my failure to attend every late-night show, and 2) I wouldn’t have minded if it did truly last all night.

All-Nighter is a truly wonderful expression of the talent and passion bubbling at Princeton. Every episode features both a student and faculty guest who talk about their projects, passions and expertise. During this season’s first episode, we heard from Professor Florent Masse’s work with French theater and Olympic athlete Sondre Guttormsen ‘23. 

All Nighter Flyer featuring faculty guest and student

When I attended the second episode a few weeks later, I heard from Professor Bill Gleason, one of my favorite professors and teacher of the popular Children’s Literature class; and Tanaka Ngwara ‘24, who designs fantasy period piece dresses and costumes and was recently featured in Vogue.

All-Nighter also features musical guests who are absolutely superb. I’ve heard student rappers, singers belt out soul-searching renditions of Adele and a cellist ensemble rocking out. And in between every guest, the show has wonderful skits and comedy sketches. There is so much work and passion on display both on the stage and behind it, because the entire operation ambitiously handles so many moving parts, guests and set pieces within a tight timeline.   

All I can say is - I’ll be staying up for as many late nights as I can until I graduate.