Princeton has an incredible wealth of resources dedicated especially to undergrads. But where are these resources, really? And how do we gain access to them? In my experience, the key to getting resources and advice is to simply ask.
Towards the end of my freshman year, I knew I was going to do the month-long Princeton in Brazil language program in Rio de Janeiro. I wanted to spend the rest of the summer there, too, but wasn’t sure how to do it. I couldn’t afford three months abroad by myself — and, even if I had the money, how would I fill the time?
My Portuguese professor knew I was interested in queer studies, and recommended I talk to Professor James Green, a visiting professor from Brown with the Program in Latin American Studies. She told me he was an expert in the field. I felt awkward reaching out to a professor I didn’t know, but I sent an email introducing myself, explaining my interests, and hoping to set up a time to talk.
He agreed to meet with me a week later, and — much to my surprise — I walked out of his office with an offer to be his research assistant for the summer in Rio. It was an exciting opportunity — and exactly what I needed to apply for summer funding.
Since then, “just write an email” has become a personal motto of sorts. Last spring, two key emails shaped the nature of my summer JP research.
First, knowing I was going to intern for the summer in Mexico, I emailed Professor Rachel Price, whom I’d never met before but whose work interested me, to talk about potential research topics. She happily agreed, and our meeting helped point me in the direction of my eventual subject.
Second, since I was interested in using sociological methodologies in my JP (and future papers), I emailed Professor Rachael Ferguson for advice. She ultimately let me take a course of hers normally reserved for SOC concentrators.
Reaching out to professors we don’t know can be intimidating. They seem like all-knowing demigods who only exist in the context of their courses and only talk with their own students. But Princeton professors are here for us. They love to engage with undergrads when we show we are motivated and genuinely interested in their work. They want to share their knowledge and connect us with resources. It might sound too good to be true, but these opportunities are often just an email away.
-Dylan Blau Edelstein, Humanities Correspondent