Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS!

A sophomore’s journey from Teton Pass to Tallinn

Bikes are parked in front of a brick building with a white door.
Louisa Gheorghita / The Daily Princetonian

Will Aepli ’26 spent the summer after his freshman year working at Hungry Jack’s, a general store in Wilson, Wyo. that sits near the base of Teton Pass. Bounded on both sides by Fish Creek, the store is both a “supply hub and neighborhood checkpoint” for the surrounding community. A sign on its exterior from 1954 reads, “Pop: 35, Elev: 6146,” though now it serves more than a thousand people with food, alcohol, holiday cards, and fresh-roasted coffee. 

Will said that he loves the “wonderful characters” he met there. He remembers older women who came by on a weekly basis to do their shopping. Some of his colleagues lived on the nearby Wind River Indian Reservation, and others were veterans. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“You meet all of these different people that come from all different walks of life,” he said, “because they are bound by this one common thing: they need to get food.” 

I found Will completely by chance, having been assigned to type random letters into our student directory and then profile the first willing person for the ‘Prince’s “Big Block of Cheese Day” issue. The letters “PL” led to “Aepli,” and he agreed immediately. We met at Forbes for brunch on Saturday for about an hour. 

Googling him yields a staggering array of results: according to his LinkedIn profile, Will is the treasurer of the Chess Club, a member of the Running Club, an Outdoor Action leader (“I’m a huge fan of Jon Krakauer”), a volunteer at a local hospital, and a peer representative for students accused of violating University rules. 

But Will laughed when I mentioned all of this. “You looked at my LinkedIn, didn’t you?” he asked. It became clear to me that he is driven less by accolades than by a genuine desire to pursue his own interests — wherever they lead him. 

Will is perhaps most excited by Russian, which he began studying at Princeton last year with Professor Mark Pettus. He traces his interest to a YouTube channel called “Bald and Bankrupt” that he discovered in high school. 

“His whole premise was that he would go to obscure towns — you know, enclaves in Uzbekistan,” Will said of the channel’s star, Benjamin Rich. “And back when he was still allowed to go to Russia, he would take the Trans-Siberian Railway and film his interactions talking with people. There’s something special about that.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

Will lived with a Russian family in Tallinn, Estonia for two months this summer while taking intensive language courses. He had three hours of Russian and one hour of homework per day, though he also learned enough Estonian to say “hi,” “thank you,” and “bus station.” He was thrilled that he could travel quickly and cheaply to nearby towns using public transportation. 

One day, his host family visited a building with a life-sized chess display on the first floor — the kind where you have to wrap your arms around a pawn and move it from square to square. In a moment reminiscent of his summer at Hungry Jack’s, Will spent hours playing chess in the hopes of meeting new people.

“That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do: find a random person and hear what they have to say,” he said with a smile. “People are interesting.” 

As we stepped away from the table, he observed that he had been speaking a lot about himself. He asked me how long I had been writing for the ‘Prince.’

Subscribe
Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »

Anna Salvatore is a senior Features writer for the ‘Prince.’ 

Please send corrections to corrections[at]princeton.edu.

Comments