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I remember that white tent. I remember those orange folders, those packets of potential classes, workshops, tours, performances. I remember clutching my complimentary drawstring bag like a shield, draping my lanyard around my neck as if to scream to the world, “I’m new here, and I have no idea which direction I’m walking in.” 

I remember Princeton Preview.

One year ago, visiting this campus — a place now so intimately familiar to me — was an excursion into a world of dreams. Truly. Princeton had been, for so long, The Dream, and arriving at Preview felt more incredible than becoming a princess, slaying a dragon, or learning to fly. It was the stuff of fairy tales. 

I Google Maps-ed my way through campus, wandering from panel discussions that made me jump in my seat to open houses where I awkwardly attempted conversation with real, live Princeton students. Night fell, and I experienced one of the most awe-inspiring performances of my life: This Side of Princeton. It was everything I believed Princeton to be: an endless supply of remarkably talented people, creating a dynamic and diverse campus culture. Between the glow-in-the-dark juggling and the heart-palpitation-inducing dancing, that single show confirmed to me that if something could be done well, then it was being done well at Princeton.

I left campus remembering the students I met as heroes. 

A year later, I sit on my bed, a pre-frosh lying in a sleeping bag on my dorm room floor. I’ve just returned from yet another performance of This Side of Princeton, and the show was still stellar. Still wild, still lovely, still immeasurably fun.  

And yet, I recognized faces. Some close friends, some classmates, some people I’ve met just once or seen from across campus. The boy in the second row of The Princeton Triangle Club's “I Got In" is no longer some anonymous, untouchable talent to me, but a boy I’ve joked with, hugged, relied on. The dancers are amazing, yes, but human. I understood, this year, the upperclassmen yelling out their friends’ names from the balcony as they take the stage. I understood their fierce pride, their camaraderie. 

These are our friends, not our heroes. Or, well, maybe they’re both.

One year ago, I took a tour of a building led by a sophomore who at the time seemed impossibly mature and capable. One year later, I see that boy nearly every day, and that building is my favorite place on campus. What once was filled with impossible mystique is now familiar, and all the more beautiful for that. 

So thank you Princeton Preview, for introducing me to the world that would become my home. And thanks to everyone I’ve met since then; you wowed me as a high school senior, and you haven’t stopped since. 

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