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A love letter to Princeton

Nassau Hall glows in the sunset.
Louisa Gheorghita / The Daily Princetonian

Yes, this will be as straightforward as it sounds: no title could better encapsulate the nature of this piece and our motivations for writing it. Reading The Daily Princetonian and seeing the negative charge towards the University in many articles prompted us to write this letter to immortalize our staunch feeling of love and gratitude for Princeton. We realized that, both in our case and in the case of many other students, it so often happens that the desire to better one’s community renders you blind to all the great things the community already bestows you. In spite of the challenges it can pose, Princeton is an incredible place to learn, grow, and prepare for life. 

Throughout these four years, we have undergone tremendous personal and intellectual growth, seen things previously unimaginable to us, and collected magical memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives. We know that using words to describe the indescribable will not suffice to capture the full magnitude of the emotions experienced here and how grateful we feel, but we hope this brief piece stands as our most sincere declaration of love to Princeton. 


We have to admit that this affection and appreciation for this place took a fairly long time to flourish, as confusion, disorientation, and homesickness-induced anxiety pervaded our first days on this campus. Coming from the tranquil Mediterranean, landing on the other side of the Atlantic with little knowledge of life in American colleges and the workings of campus and academic life at Princeton didn’t help us calm our nerves. 

When the pandemic disrupted our lives, we saw it more as an opportunity to escape the perils of the unknown and return to our comfort zones in Dubrovnik and Barcelona and failed to realize our sophomore year had been taken away from us. During that period something changed – perhaps we matured, or perhaps it is true that something needs to be taken away from you before you can really appreciate it. In a weird way, being away from Princeton made the campus feel like home. 

It was during the fall semester of our junior year when we started to see beyond the negative, getting our heads around the uniqueness of our position and gradually internalizing how fortunate we were. We believe this realization was prompted by the emptiness we felt during the COVID-19 year, the generalized pent-up social energy students on campus were eager to release, and a genuine acknowledgment of the fact that we were living the once-in-a-lifetime dream of being part of the Princeton community. We hope that all current and future students come to see Princeton in a similar light.

To Princeton: we want to thank you, first and foremost, for believing in us. For having the confidence that we were going to measure up to your academic expectations while adding value to the community. We thank you for giving us the orientation tools and resources to smooth out our early days here. We thank you for making available to us opportunities and experiences we didn’t know existed or had not grasped their full value before coming here. Being able to grab meals with our friends three times a day, for example, which is something we had never experienced before, has allowed us to engage in valuable conversations and meet hundreds of other fellow students. Discovering and being part of social life on a U.S. college campus has been one of the most remarkable and hard-to-describe things to those in our hometowns. 

We also thank you for crafting an intellectually stimulating environment that has helped us take deep dives into many academic disciplines (and allow us to switch majors multiple times!) while nudging us to reflect on the purpose of our Princeton journey, the meaning of the things we left behind at home, and the future. Never have we been more aware of the things that are currently most distant to us, such as family or long-term life plans, than we are today. As proof of this, both of us always quip about the difficulty of discussing certain topics in our native languages as a result of not having ventured into those conversations before coming here.

Princeton has also excelled in preparing us for whatever comes next. The hectic academic pace here has helped us become more diligent, disciplined, and rigorous in our day-to-day work — skills that can apply to our professional lives. On the personal front, Princeton has turned us into more mature and reliable human beings. It has helped us become more empathetic, more aware of people’s stresses and preoccupations, and more prepared to lend a helping hand to those around us who need it. It has made us more self-aware — more capable of maximizing our strengths, minimizing our weaknesses, and controlling our emotions — and has nurtured our ability to tackle problem-solving situations in a more holistic way.


This letter wouldn’t be complete without reflecting on one of the essential pillars of our Princeton experience: the Princeton Water Polo Team. Being an athlete and playing a team sport taught us equally valuable lessons as those we learned in our classes, including the development of integrity, comradery, collective commitment, and the necessity of sacrifice for growth. Counterintuitively, we felt more vitalized and energized when our weeks were packed with classes, practices, travel, and games than when our schedules were much emptier. Even our academic performance was better during the season months than in the off-season despite having significantly less free time. The student-athlete experience, while not without its challenges, has been invaluable.

These final days are filled with last experiences and we are doing ourselves a disservice by pointing each and all of them out as they occur. On top of the list are our last practices at DeNunzio with the team, our last time going to the cubicles on Firestone’s B floor, our last time walking back from the street after a night out, our last meal with some of our friends, or our last late-night conversation. 

By this article’s publication date, there will still be two “last times” we have feared all year left to happen: our last time leaving our room and the last time we take the Dinky to the airport, signaling the end to our Princeton undergraduate adventure. Although we hadn’t thought too much until now, saying goodbye to each other after being roommates for two years and going through all of this together is something we are not ready for either. 

In a poem engraved over the entrance to McCosh 50, Herbert Edward Mierow from the Class of 1914 alluded to the “love of unseen things that do not die” as a pillar of the Princeton experience. More than a century later, this love, those timeless things we have witnessed here and that are so hard to describe to non-Princetonians, have left an indelible mark we will carry for the rest of our journey. We will be eternally grateful to you, Princeton, for onboarding us as privileged passengers on this unforgettable trip and accompanying us in the most special and irreplaceable years of our lives. We hope our achievements in life live up to what you have given to us.

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Joan Coloma 23 is a senior from Barcelona majoring in Public and International Affairs with an emphasis on trade and financial policy, with a certificate in Entrepreneurship. 

Antun “Antonio” Knez ’23 is a computer science major from Croatia focusing on blockchain development and DAO governance.