Researching Abroad? Here’s some advice!

Most Princeton students have been done with school for a while, but I just wrapped things up in New Zealand.  Two weeks ago, I was packing up to leave my flat in Dunedin. I finished my last final on that Tuesday, submitted my JP on Thursday, and then flew out of Dunedin on Saturday.  This week, I’ve been spending time with family before I start my job at PRINCO, Princeton’s endowment fund. At PRINCO, I’ll shadow and help different teams that manage Princeton’s endowment investments in different areas, like fixed income/cash, private equity, real assets, etc.

My favorite hike in NZ-- French Ridge Hut in Mt. Aspiring National Park!
My favorite hike in NZ– French Ridge Hut in Mt. Aspiring National Park!

Since my summer job hasn’t yet started, I thought I’d write about my experience doing JP research abroad.  My advice here is relevant and easily applicable to any student researching abroad. Many of my thoughts in this earlier post have held true throughout the research process, but my topic and experiences changed significantly throughout the semester. As a bit of background, I focused most of my JP on the following asymmetry between aesthetic and moral admiration:

Aesthetic: Henry knows nothing about Velazquez’s Las Meninas. Jill tells him that Las Meninas is an aesthetically praiseworthy painting and lists its qualities, providing evidence for by citing its physical characteristics. Henry comes to admire Las Meninas.

Moral: Henry knows nothing about Mahatma Gandhi. Jill tells him that Gandhi was a morally praiseworthy man and lists his qualities, providing evidence by citing stories about his deeds. Henry comes to admire Gandhi.

My intuition dictated that, in the above example, Henry’s moral admiration seems warranted — but his aesthetic admiration based on testimony does not. The moral qualities relevant to admirability seem communicable by testimony, whereas the aesthetic qualities relevant to admirability do not. Why?

In tackling my research on this topic in New Zealand, I found the following tips useful: Continue reading Researching Abroad? Here’s some advice!

Life After Graduation: Expanding my Options

Most Princeton students are worried about similar things. We covet internships as gateways to jobs after graduation. We seldom forget that graduate and professional school applications loom. We see post-grad options as neatly divided among four categories: corporate careers, graduate/professional degrees, fellowships, and (for a few) nonprofit work.

After five semesters at Princeton, this mentality has rubbed off on me. But my time studying in New Zealand has changed the way I see my options after graduation.

Two weeks ago, during my Easter break, I embarked on the Milford Walk, arguably New Zealand’s most famous hike. My favorite part of the four-day, three-night walk was the people I met along the way — Their experiences expanded what I saw as possible post-Princeton pathways. I met recent graduates from the United States, Israel, France, and Australia who were working abroad. Two Vanderbilt graduates worked in the hotel industry in Queenstown. A young woman from Pennsylvania took time to pursue art while working in the North Island’s tourism industry. A group of men who had finished serving in the Israeli Defense Force took a break before resuming life at home. Many of them moved to New Zealand without a set plan and used this work-travel time as a respite from college and professional life, where they could start to realize what kinds of careers really excited them.

Here I am with two travel buddies (in green and red) with our new Australian friend on the hike!
Here I am with two travel buddies (in green and red) with our new Australian friend on the hike! 

Continue reading Life After Graduation: Expanding my Options

Finding a Home for my Independent Work Abroad

Abroad this semester at the University of Otago, my independent work has felt far from home.

Before leaving Princeton, I talked to my fall JP adviser about how to expand my fall paper, and had a few meetings with my spring adviser. Once I arrived in New Zealand, however, life became a whirlwind of flight transfers, international orientation, and a packed introduction to my new home.

In the midst of all this, I had underestimated how much harder it would be to coordinate with professors at Princeton from a timezone sixteen hours away. Communication suddenly slowed down to a snail’s pace–instead of walking into someone’s office, I found that it could take anywhere from days to weeks to go from one email to the next.

It was discouraging and unexpected. My fall JP had gone as well as I could have hoped. My topic was new and exciting, and my semester was full of stimulating conversations with professors and graduate students (during office hours and even over email from overseas). By the end of the writing process, I felt that I had made a non-trivial contribution to philosophical literature, even as a third-year university student. Abroad, however, I found myself torn between exploring a new place and having to piece together advice from various emails to create a plan for my JP.

The philosophy department at the University of Otago on a sunny morning!
The philosophy department at the University of Otago on a sunny morning!

Continue reading Finding a Home for my Independent Work Abroad

Being Uncomfortable in the Classroom

I’ve spent the past two weeks in New Zealand on a steady adventure rush.

Scarcely a day has passed without me sleeping under the stars, exploring a beach, or hiking up a mountain. Today, however, was my first time exploring the study part of my study abroad experience — the first day of class.

I attended a computer science course on artificial intelligence, philosophy of biology, and another course on Pacific geopolitics in the 21st century. Initially, these seemed very similar to classes I’ve taken at Princeton: They all follow a lecture/precept format, with a few papers or projects and exams at the end of the term. The language of instruction is English, and there are a few international students in each class. But, to my surprise, I had never felt so out of place in a classroom before.

The walkway along one of Otago's oldest buildings, on my way to class this morning! Image by Vidushi Sharma.
The walkway along one of Otago’s oldest buildings, on my way to class this morning!

Continue reading Being Uncomfortable in the Classroom

Taking Thematic Classes Abroad

Greetings from Dunedin, New Zealand, my home till June this semester as I study at the University of Otago!

I flew in yesterday morning after a quick orientation in Auckland, where I met the other students in my study abroad program, run by the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University. During the orientation, our friends and mentors from New Zealand (called “kiwis”!) stressed the importance of taking at least one class related to the culture, languages, or history of New Zealand. In retrospect, this seems obvious– but I hadn’t thought about this throughout my Princeton course approval process.

A peek inside a Maori meeting house in the Auckland War Memorial Museum!
A peek inside a Maori meeting house in the Auckland War Memorial Museum! Image by Vidushi Sharma. 

Continue reading Taking Thematic Classes Abroad

LAST CHANCE to be in Princeton Research Day!

By now, you might have seen posters, social media advertisements, and even blog posts by Stacey and Melissa about Princeton Research Day this May. Princeton Research Day is a university-wide “research fair”: a day for students to present their research and learn about others’ work. PRD is for student research at all levels– whether a freshman seminar paper or a senior thesis project. The application deadline is THIS FRIDAY at 5 pm, so I wanted to write a post about the value of PRD and the ease of the application!

This could be you if you apply NOW to present at Princeton Research Day!

Continue reading LAST CHANCE to be in Princeton Research Day!

Getting Ready to Research Abroad!

Last semester, Jalisha studied abroad in London and wrote about her experiences on the PCUR blog. Aside from finishing up papers and exams, I’m getting ready to head abroad myself — to the University of Otago in New Zealand! I wanted to share some tips on how to choose your study abroad location, and how to prepare for a semester of research away from Princeton (both of which add to Jalisha’s great advice).

Lake Marian in Fiordland National Park, NZ! My friend Hema Lochan '16 took this photo during her semester abroad.
Lake Marian in Fiordland National Park, NZ! My friend Hema Lochan ’16 took this photo during her semester abroad.

Continue reading Getting Ready to Research Abroad!

Human Resources for your Independent Work!

It’s JP crunch time! Many students like myself are working feverishly on campus on their junior papers as winter break approaches. This week, I’m going to share advice about the single most useful resource I’ve found on campus as I work through my own junior paper: Princeton professors. Scheduling a meeting or two with faculty relevant to your work, whether you know them or not, will help you greatly in your path to a great research paper.

First, some background: many departments have different guidelines and setups for junior independent work. Most departments require two junior papers; some require one. In the philosophy department, all juniors take a small (4-5 person) topical junior seminar in the fall to guide them into the process of writing independently. This fall’s topics were Consequentialism & Common Sense Morality, Newcomb’s Problem, and Skepticism, Reason, & Faith. In seminar sessions, students discuss issues central to these topics.

I spent my semester in Consequentialism & Common Sense Morality reading Shelly Kagan’s Normative Ethics and debating features of the text with my classmates. The literature was vast, spanning metaethics (what are the fundamental bases of ethical theories? are they valid?), normative ethics (what are relevant factors that make actions good or bad?), and applied ethics (what are answers to moral questions people face in their lives?). Any one of these categories holds thousands of unanswered, often-debated questions. So by the second half of the semester, when it was time to choose a junior paper topic, I felt predictably lost.

I’d be lying if I said I’ve never gotten lost on campus…but feeling lost on a research paper is much scarier!

Continue reading Human Resources for your Independent Work!

Choosing Classes: Things to Think about & University Resources

Spring courses were recently released on the university registrar, which means it’s time for many of us to start considering some difficult decisions. Choosing the course arrangement that best fits your priorities/schedule is crucial to ensure that you have a fulfilling spring semester. 

Over the past four semesters, I’ve used many tips passed on by wise upperclassmen to help choose my own courses. Here are some of the best ones, followed by some resources that are helpful for choosing classes!

What books will be on your shelf next semester?

Continue reading Choosing Classes: Things to Think about & University Resources

The Project That Made Me a Researcher: Beatniks, Buddhists, and Me

Over the course of the semester, PCURs will explain how they found their place in research. We present these to you as a series called The Project That Made Me a Researcher. As any undergraduate knows, the transition from ‘doing a research project’ to thinking of yourself as a researcher is an exciting and highly individualized phenomenon. Here, Vidushi shares her story.


“Walk around the classroom,” he said, without glancing up from the class roster, “and select a photo. Choose carefully.”

A slight murmur arose in my high school US history classroom as we slung our backpacks in a corner and surveyed the U-shaped desks papered with old ink photographs. My teacher, a stout volunteer firefighter with a white-flecked beard, gave away only a slight smile. As he called time, I hastily grabbed a picture of a judgmental-looking man in tortoise-shell glasses.

“The picture in your hands will be the subject of your semester-end term paper,” my teacher announced. “Choices are final.”

Thus began the first project that made me feel like a researcher, and one of the most valuable intellectual experiences I had in high school.

A high school project started my journey — but the journey continues on campus!

Continue reading The Project That Made Me a Researcher: Beatniks, Buddhists, and Me