Wintersession: A Fun Chance to Discover New Interests

The start of a new semester can be an adjustment, especially after a long and relaxing break. In the spring, I often end up feeling overwhelmed by internship applications, which Amaya recently wrote about. A few weeks ago, though, I found myself overwhelmed in a far more positive manner; I came back to campus early this year for Wintersession, and was amazed by the huge selection of opportunities both on and off campus. Wintersession is a recent Princeton initiative, giving students the chance to teach and participate in workshops, classes, and trips during the last two weeks of winter break. This past Wintersession, some of the offerings included a class on blacksmithing and a skiing trip. Free, short-term programs are the perfect chance to step out of your learning comfort zone. A particularly engaging class could spark your interest in an unfamiliar (or even underexplored!) topic, opening up new avenues for potential research. 

Entrance to Lewis Library
This Wintersession, I attended a class in the Maker Space located inside Lewis Library.

Last year, I chose not to participate in Wintersession so I could spend extra time with my family. This year, however, I planned to be on campus for the Princeton University Art Museum’s training for new student tour guides. During the week-long program, we learned about the huge variety of outdoor sculptures right on Princeton’s campus. While the purpose of the training was not to inspire independent research projects, I found it served as a great reminder of all of the potential research subjects we walk by on our way to class everyday. Especially for those of us looking to do research in the humanities, browsing the artifacts housed in Firestone Library’s special collections or taking a walk into town to one of the Art Museum’s off-campus galleries is such an easy way to spark research ideas that I myself am guilty of taking for granted. 

Wintersession as a concept is arguably an even better tool for experimenting with new potential research topics without having to commit too much time. It can be intimidating to reach out to experts in a field you may be interested in—luckily, we already have plenty on campus, and during Wintersession, many of them teach short introductory classes that make it extremely easy to connect with other researchers in a particular field. I’ve long been interested, for example, in Princeton’s extensive collection of life and death masks, but hadn’t yet managed to get myself over to Firestone to look at them in special collections. During Wintersession, I was able to attend a class dedicated to these masks, and even got to make one myself, something I probably never would have been able to do had I just decided to look into the topic on my own.

— Kate Weseley-Jones, Humanities Correspondent