Many seniors spend their time, especially during the glorious month of May that came too fast or not fast enough, reminiscing on what we did at Princeton. We put our favorite classes, late-night conversations and funny roommate stories in our pockets to take with us wherever we go next. There are a million ways to do Princeton. Here is how I did it.
When I arrived on campus four years ago, I didn’t own a bike, which meant that I walked around campus and enjoyed its beauty. I did, however, own a scooter my freshman year. I soon realized a scooter is less than effective at navigating cobblestones.
I didn’t consider myself religious, so I felt conflicted about going to the Center for Jewish Life. I am immensely glad I overcame that feeling; it now feels just like home.
I didn’t go to the Princeton Writing Center until my senior year because I was nervous about criticism, but that was a ridiculous reason not to go. The fellows there are so helpful and kind. I never took a math class because I was still scarred from high school calculus. I really regret this decision because I am still atrocious at any kind of calculation.
I didn’t get accepted to the Program in Visual Arts, and it devastated me as a hopeful filmmaker. But I had a mentor who told me her favorite filmmaker was a history major, and I have continued to make films that excite me — as a history major myself.
I didn’t get an A in any of my favorite classes, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t collect all the jewels I was offered. Once, my professor emailed me after sending out our final grades to say that although I was not an A student, my joy for learning did not go unnoticed. This meant more to me than any transcript ever has.
I didn’t have tissues when I cried in a professor’s office hours, but he did. And his kindness gave me a million reasons to love this place.
I didn’t do the footnotes for my thesis until the night before it was due. Yes, it was stressful, but my roommate sat next to me from midnight to 5:35 a.m. on April 5 and we finished together.
I didn’t think I was brave enough to talk about my body on a stage, but after an incredible experience acting in The Vagina Monologues my sophomore year, I ended up directing the same show as a senior. It’s amazing where your fears can take you. I didn’t audition for Black Arts Company, but I wish I had at least tried.
There were darker times, too. I was told by a wise former opinion columnist not to read the comments section at the end of my columns. I didn’t take his advice, and I regret reading the sexist, anti-Semitic, all-kinds-of-phobic vitriol every single time.
When I was homesick, I didn’t answer phone calls from my parents or siblings, but this isn’t the best way to cope. When I felt alone, I stopped writing in my journal. Princeton isn’t about pretending to be perfect but actually being brave enough to ask for a hand. I assure you, someone will extend theirs.
I didn’t tell my colleagues when a window fell on my head this August. When you get a concussion, you’re not exactly in the right mindset to diagnose yourself, but a very kind staff member of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement (where I was working) escorted me to University Health Services to make sure I was okay. I was not — I had suffered a concussion. My colleague helped me get my medicine, pack my things and go home.
I got a lot out of Princeton, and I will miss this place dearly. Princeton will knock you down, but Princeton will offer you two hands to pull you up. You’ll have more friends than you know and more advocates than you could ever imagine. I love Princeton because of how it caught me when I jumped. Every day at Princeton is a leap of faith, and you will fall many times — but I promise you will rise.
Azza Cohen is a history major from Highland Park, Ill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.