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Pain au Princeton: To be someone's chocolate croissant

A colorful display of approximately thirty pastries behind a glass display case. The pastries are assembled in two rows and labeled with black labels.
“Typical French bakery pastries” by Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

On day four of COVID-19 isolation, I was so starved for social interaction that my ears immediately perked up to the sound of my RCA Chioma Ugwonali ’24 (a literal angel on earth) placing a small paper package just outside my dorm room at 10:30 a.m. From the unmistakable rustling sound of paper, I already knew she had left a baked good for me. 

After the mystery do-gooder’s footsteps receded as quickly as they came (I did not know this was Chioma at the time), I tiptoed to the front door and tore open the brown paper bag. Nestled inside was the world’s most perfect chocolate croissant, which I later learned was from Bread Boutique. As I wolfed down the pastry in furious, chomping bites, I almost cried because I felt so seen. The gift was enough to erase the loneliness and frustration pent up over the past three days from being cooped up in my room like a leashed dog — I was unable to venture out and be a normal frosh during orientation, watching others stay outside until midnight and beyond, having the time of their lives. The depressing confinement reinforced the insecure illusion that the friends I had made would soon forget me and weave a tight social network that I would have a hard time re-integrating myself into. 


For me, the surprise chocolate croissant — both the experience of receiving it and the dessert’s nature — reflects the surprising kindness of people at Princeton. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I expected Princeton people to be mean or snooty. But before I set foot on campus, I could only rely on my abstract knowledge of the Princeton community. I knew the elevator pitch — of course, every Princeton student would be high achieving and willing to help others. But I had no way of actually knowing that until I experienced that kindness myself through the people, which was as unexpectedly pleasant as the experience of consuming that chocolate croissant. 

Why is a chocolate croissant surprising by nature, you may ask? At first sight, it could seem like a plain butter croissant. It’s impossible to know the richness of the bars of dark chocolate lying within, nor how their soft sweetness coats the buttery layers with each bite, at least not before diving in with hands and teeth. And a normal croissant is good on its own, but with chocolate inside? The added depth makes it even better. Bread Boutique’s chocolate croissant surprised me further with its quality. Even with my COVID-ravaged taste buds, I could taste the firm consistency of the croissant layers on my tongue and feel the not too greasy, but instead perfectly buttery texture. 

Coming to Princeton, I knew that I would be entering a great college. The academics would be rigorous, well-balanced, and fun. The professors would be of world-class caliber, and the students would be talented and nice. But I never imagined just how wonderful the students here would be until I experienced their kindness myself. 

It was so pleasantly surprising to find messages from friends I had made during International Orientation checking in on me and offering to get me necessities from the U-Store, or treats from Nassau Street (shout-out to my friends for bringing my oatmilk and blueberry crumble). In such a short time, the Princeton community has already rallied around me in many ways. Texts and FaceTime calls from friends kept the boredom away. Fellow zees introduced themselves to me after intuiting that the masked stranger standing in front of them in the hallway must be the mysterious Heidi. My PAA hopped on two Zoom calls just to check in on me. A senior on the orientation welcome team dropped off a dark chocolate bar for me after learning of my love for dark chocolate, despite being a total stranger. And of course, Chioma, with her delectable gift, turned my day around on its head toward positivity. I am so grateful to each of these people, and so many others who were looking out for me. 

Princetonians are chocolate croissants: even before you meet them, you know they’ll be great, but they will go above and beyond your expectations in their sweetness and the rich depth of their consideration for a fellow community member. And Princeton itself is a chocolate croissant, composed of layers and layers of such wonderful people. When I get out of isolation, I am excited to be another Princetonian’s “chocolate croissant” by reaching out to them with kindness in a low moment with small paper packages from Bread Boutique. 

Heidi Nam is a member of the Class of 2027. She can be reached at


Self essays at The Prospect give our writers and guest contributors the opportunity to share their views and lived experiences. If you would like to submit a Self essay, contact us at

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