Two University seniors and one Oxford University student have been awarded the Sachs scholarship, one of the University’s highest awards.
The Sachs scholarship honors Daniel Sachs ’60, a University athlete who attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and died of cancer in 1967 at age 28. The award enables three students to pursue postgraduate education.
Jimin Kang ’21 will pursue two master’s degrees at University of Oxford’s Worcester College, in comparative literature and critical translation, in addition to environmental studies.
Aisha Tahir ’21 will spend her first year researching multigenerational feminist movements in India and Pakistan. In her second year, she will pursue a degree in development studies at the University of London.
Hannah Duffus, a graduate of Worcester College, will study English as a visiting graduate student at Princeton.
Kang will head to the United Kingdom for graduate school.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kang hardly considered graduate school an option. While constrained by the COVID-19 pandemic, she connected with old friends, many of whom were in graduate school. Soon, postgraduate studies seemed a more attractive option to balance her interests in Spanish and Portuguese languages and literature.
In particular, life writing as a style — covering the life of one’s own or someone else’s life — appeals to Kang, who said her favorite book is “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath.
“Looking into [life writing] really made me interested in how people’s lives engaged with the literature they produced,” Kang said. “It just so happens that women writers have historically done that a lot more than male writers have, in part because people haven’t taken women really seriously, and literature was the conduit through which women could be very honest about their experiences.”
Regarding environmental studies, Kang studied the field from a humanities perspective.
“I thought it would be interesting delving into the policy and the science aspect of it, too,” she said.
Oxford, Kang said, represents a converging point. Childhood friends from Hong Kong, where she grew up, attend the institution, and University peers have pursued graduate studies abroad.
In particular, Kang looks forward to playing netball, a sport played by two teams of seven players, and reconnecting with her childhood best friend.
“This will be the first time in 13 years that we’re in the same city,” Kang said.
One day, Kang sees herself living in Latin America. She previously spent nine months in Brazil through the University’s Novogratz Bridge Year Program. The exact nature of her future job remains unclear.
“I look to those vocational aspirations less as a specific like ‘This is what I want to do as a job’ but more like ‘What do I want to get out of the job I spend my life doing?’ and ‘What values do I live by?’” Kang said.
However, she hinted that a job as a foreign correspondent or a nonprofit worker sounds enticing.
“What foreign correspondents, translation, and journalism all have in common,” Kang said, “is in part a willingness to immerse yourself in a reality very different from your own and be able to understand it, synthesize it, and write about it without judgment and in a way that contributes to a global understanding of what it means to live in this world together.”
Tahir, an African American Studies concentrator, hails from Alexandria, Va.
In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Tahir wrote that she arrived at the University as a first-year believing she would quickly find her “passions” and “purpose,” but found herself lost instead. Her first year was “disorienting,” and she felt that neither her classes nor her extracurriculars helped her grow as a person.
“I found myself often frustrated with the apathetic environment that I felt Princeton had cultivated,” Tahir said.
She told the ‘Prince’ about two contrasting experiences she had early in her time at the University. She first criticized POL 380: Human Rights, then praised AAS 367: African American History Since Emancipation.
“Not only was the [POL 380] class disappointing, it lacked any critical analysis of the American Empire and the horrifying reality of the American political and legal system which rendered Black and brown communities in America rightless,” Tahir said. She added that the professor never mentioned race in the class.
In her sophomore year, Tahir had a positive experience taking African American History Since Emancipation.
“Within months it taught me more about myself, America, and the world than my entire education leading up to that point,” Tahir said. “A few weeks after that class ended, I knew that the education I needed, one that was connected to liberation and revolutionary politics, could only be in the African American Studies department.”
The Sachs scholarship provides a basis from which Tahir can contribute to political and social movements in the United States and beyond.
“As a Pakistani American, I have felt split between my two identities,” Tahir said. “I know that the world is connected, and we need people everywhere to be doing their part, so my Sachs project is for me to think about how I can bring my two identities and their unique struggles together.”
When she received the award, Tahir was shocked.
“Speechless, I was staring at Zoom faces of previous Sachs alums wondering how to best convey my happiness but also comprehend and take in that the next two years of my life were figured out,” Tahir said.
Another recipient, Duffus, was working on her thesis when she received the news.
“It didn’t feel real, I had to take a walk (in the Oxford rain!) to process it all before I could reply to the email,” Duffus wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’
Raised in Australia, Duffus is spending a year studying comparative literature at the University of Oxford through the Provost’s Scholarship. As she enters the Princeton University Graduate School, Duffus said she looks forward to meeting other Princeton students the most.
“Everyone I’ve encountered from the University so far has been absolutely delightful, so generous and intelligent,” she said.
During her undergraduate years, while majoring in history at Monash University in Melbourne, Duffus traveled frequently.
“I come from a small town in regional Victoria, so travel has really cracked open my world and made me feel a lot more connected to what’s going on outside the bubble of a country town in an isolated country,” Duffus said.
In the United Kingdom, Duffus learned to think about a topic personal to her — wildfire — from a more academic perspective.
“I moved to Oxford during Australia’s most destructive bushfire season in history, Black Summer, so it was on my mind throughout the year as the fires were finally extinguished and data about their impact slowly began to leak out,” Duffus said.
As she wrote her thesis, Duffus wanted to work with stories, not statistics, to better understand Australians’ relationship with bushfires and to think about the role of fiction in environmental activism.
“I’m really excited to continue this work in a U.S. context, as the two countries have so much to learn from one another on this subject,” Duffus said.