I am accustomed to proclaiming sameness to be boring. Until very recently, I have dubbed this year an uninteresting one. The parties are the same; there has not yet been enough time to integrate anyone new into friend groups; and classes, though new, maintain the same level of work and continue to be rife with overactive participants and theatrical lecturers.
But this acceptance of sameness results in passivity. We must counteract our own disengagement in order to take advantage of what little time we have left as undergraduates. I have found that the antidote for Princeton boredom is an active engagement in the enjoyable components of the familiar. In other words, we must reimmerse ourselves in the very parts of the University that we know best.
I had this epiphany after interacting with a friend of a friend visiting from out of town. He had never been to Princeton’s campus before and was particularly effusive about the beauty of it all. He was utterly taken by the bay windows in our dorms, the greenery of Prospect Gardens, and the castle-like façade of our student gymnasium. It looked nothing like his university in California where he said they invest little in the appearance of the space. The friend told me that I had been taking our campus for granted.
It is true that I do not typically find myself reveling in the artistry of Princeton’s architecture and landscape. I did not think that meant I was taking the sights of the University for granted — they were just on my list of the non-spectacular. I have grown accustomed to the visuals of a campus as small as our own, unchanged since my arrival aside from the new residential colleges and construction zones.
In the weeks since the friend left, however, I have started paying more attention to the physicality of campus as I walk to and from my classes. I often feel as though I am seeing parts of the University for the first time. The stained glass windows of East Pyne Hall are more colorful than I previously thought; the books in Firestone Library smell older; and even the courtyard outside of my dorm I found more lush, the grass fresher than before.
While it feels rather trivial to remind fellow Princetonians to look towards the prettiness of campus as a means of reconciling the monotony of school, my newfound appreciation for my surroundings has also served to make me more invested in the school itself. General disinterest in the familiar had turned the University into a space not worth noting. Now that I am taking the time to really look at where I am, I am both excited by what I see and pleased that I am able to claim some degree of ownership over the campus environment.
The fresh eyes with which I am approaching the University has enabled me to experientially rebrand my semester. Rather than feeling bored, I feel comfortable. I am taking advantage of the aspects of campus I know by seeking out the merit in the things to which I have grown accustomed. Social life is navigable since my closest friends remain as present in my life as ever; classes are still taught by acclaimed professors; eating club parties continue to be hosted in mansions more beautiful than I will likely ever dance in again.
At Princeton, it is necessary to experience actively and not — as that visiting friend said — take the positives of campus for granted simply because we know them well. In the two years that my classmates and I have left, we must reacquaint ourselves with our campus and appreciate the old in a new light.
Andi Grene is a junior in the English department from New York City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally written on Sept. 23, 2022.