Haider Abbas ‘17 is a Princeton alumni who recently published his inspirational senior thesis which he created while in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. Many Princeton seniors are now beginning to dive deeper into their theses, therefore I think that hearing from Abbas would be very helpful. Thankfully, a few weeks ago, I was able to interview Abbas and he offered key insight into why he chose his thesis topic, how he was able to produce his thesis, and most significantly the impact that his thesis will have beyond his years at Princeton. I hope that you can learn from his experience and develop a thesis that you feel passionate about!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This spring semester, I am enrolled as a visiting student at Hertford College, University of Oxford. While now I am back home on Long Island taking my Oxford courses online (just as Princeton students are Zooming into their own lectures and precepts in these strange times of COVID-19), I was able to spend about two months in Oxford. It was a truly wonderful experience; the city is beautiful, the people kind, and the academics engaging and rigorous.
The course of study at Oxford is quite different from that at Princeton. There, students do attend lectures, and sometimes seminars, but most of their academic work is conducted in preparation for tutorials. Tutorials meet most weeks each term, and consist of an hour-long meeting with a professor, either one-on-one or with one or two other students. For each tutorial, students must write an essay of around 2,000-2,500 words to discuss with their professors. Professors give the prompt in advance, and students are expected to craft a response based upon weekly reading lists. These lists are usually quite long, and students are by no means meant to read each item (this would be almost impossible; my reading lists for history courses usually had around ten prescribed primary sources, and thirty or so books and articles suggested for further reading). Rather, students must explore the different sources, be selective, and find works which are relevant to the argument they wish to make. Even though this curriculum differs notably from Princeton’s, it still taught me valuable lessons about my writing process that will help me at Princeton and beyond. Working on tutorial papers, in sum, has made me approach my writing with better time management, more confidence, and more appreciation for the craft of the essay.
As a sophomore, I’ve finally started to get better at navigating Princeton, and there are many perks that come with that. But at the same time, this is when things can start to feel monotonous. During the winter, I started to look for ways to rid myself of this feeling, and one of the ways that I thought of was to study abroad. This week, I decided to interview Leslie Chan, a junior in the molecular biology department, about her experience going abroad to Oxford University in her junior fall.
The Oxford-Princeton Biochemistry Exchange is a program where selected juniors from the molecular biology department exchange places with an Oxford student for a semester and do research in a laboratory setting — it’s distinctive in that the students don’t take classes at Oxford, but rather become full-time lab members at a Biochemistry laboratory at Oxford. You still get transfer credit though, so you get to graduate on time!
Princeton is full of opportunities–it should be easy to plan a cool summer, right?
Sure it should. But in reality, just thinking of summer 2019 is overwhelming.
You just finished fall midterms and already everyone is talking about what they want to do next summer. Your inbox is swamped with emails that mention dozens of programs. Campus is littered with posters throwing deadlines around, but it’s nearly impossible to make any sense of it all, especially while managing a Princeton course load!
If you haven’ t thought about summer yet do not stress. This time last year, I was still undecided about my major, and trying to simply decide what extra-curriculars to be a part of. And yet, I had a great summer:
Summer after my first year at Princeton, through the International Internship Program, I interned in Kathmandu, Nepal at a contemporary art gallery. This was my first time abroad, and I had a phenomenal experience. During my internship, I designed a catalogue, shadowed the gallery’s director, and even designed/installed my own exhibition. Though the internship was unpaid, my summer was fully funded by Princeton.
The point is, I think its completely unnecessary to start stressing for May in October. So, to calm any nerves and make planning a rocking summer a bit easier, here’s a brief overview of some popular summer ideas for underclass students. Included are deadlines, brief descriptions and testimonials from past students.
Disclaimer: This is NOT a complete list. Just a list of popular options and those that my friends have explored. Also, these opportunities are not limited to first-year and sophomore students. Juniors and seniors may also take advantage of some of the programs mentioned below.
It’s a few weeks into the semester, yet your summer abroad feels like it was eons away. The good news is your international experiences will fit right in on campus.
I spent four weeks this summer taking French 207 in Aix-en-Provence, France. Since this was a Princeton course, it was rigorous, but also enlightening. I wanted to bring that same immersive and novel environment back to campus and build upon it. Here are the four ways that I’ve found to be most helpful.
Take a course through one of Princeton’s several language departments to maintain or further develop your language skills. I’m currently enrolled in two French courses this semester. Not quite France, but it keeps my skills in practice.
Language courses are opportunities for you to form relationships with peers interested in the same foreign subjects as you. Form a study group to practice, share your international experiences, and get some meaningful discussions out of the process.
Didn’t enroll in a language class? Take a seat at a language table at dinner—they’re welcoming of any level! And of course enroll in a class in the spring!
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.
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?