Barbara Zhan: I was surprised by how much less important school is to me now than it was in high school. I thought by attending a top-tier school, it would be the opposite. But the immersive experience of college showed me that certain behaviors were not sustainable in the long-term. Living amongst such talented people forced me to realize that comparing myself to others on a daily basis was exhausting. Having the independence to determine my own work-life balance made me realize that caring too much about grades, or basing self-worth upon achievements, academic or extracurricular, was not maintainable over the next four years. In college, you have the freedom to use every free moment not spent in class studying. You could spend the next four years not talking to people, not building connections, not forming relationships, sacrificing personal happiness for the sake of a grade point average. College made me realize that the attitude I held in high school towards academics was unhealthy. I did lose some of my work ethic during my freshman year of college, but I also gained knowledge about how to live a fulfilling life.
Spencer Shen: When I first came to Princeton, I was not expecting for the campus culture to support groupthink and shun opposition so readily. Perhaps my hopes of having intellectually stimulating conversations with my peers were far too high, but surely the students at one of the best universities in the world would be able to engage in honest debate, I thought. Yet holding unpopular beliefs and voicing dissent often leads only to becoming the butt of jokes, being on the receiving end of ad hominem attacks, and having others dismiss your opinion as trivial, unenlightened or trash. Many Princeton students are convinced that they know the answers to our school’s problems, our nation’s problems, and our planet’s problems, but they seem unwilling to take on the responsibility of directly addressing opinions that differ significantly from their own. In short, the students at Princeton might possess exceptional intelligence and work ethic, but they make up for it by lacking patience, tolerance and humility. I came to Princeton expecting the students here to be mature and open-minded, but in reality, we are only a few years removed from being immature, impatient teenagers that know everything and decades away from being as wise as our parents and professors are.
Lea Trusty: Upon entering college, I had extremely low expectations concerning the relationship I would have with my roommate. I’d heard of idealistic stories of roommates becoming lifelong friends, and I was also told of roommates that were the stuff of nightmares. I hoped for a decent medium — someone who I could pleasantly live with for nine months, with whom I could share a joke or two and eat a few meals.
My roommateship is so much more than that; it’s a genuine friendship. We share more than a few jokes in a single day, talk about art and music and existential concepts like college students are wont to do and, most of all, we support each other. I know after I’ve had a crappy day, my roommate will be there, all ears, a cup of tea with agave in hand.
So here’s to another year of our roommateship while here at Princeton, and another year of a friendship that I hope will continue on long after walking through the FitzRandolph Gates again.
Part III forthcoming…