I spent my fall break last week in São Paulo, Brazil, visiting a variety of art museums and community spaces with a focus on the 32nd São Paulo Bienal, themed Incerteza Viva—live uncertainty. The trip was part of my art history seminar, Contemporary Art: The World Picture. University-sponsored travel, whether through classes, workshops, or independent work, has been the highlight of my Princeton experience, and my time in Brazil was no exception.
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!
It’s been one h*** of a ride.
I came to Princeton because I planned on being a research scientist, probably in academia. I knew what came next, and it was exciting: four years of undergrad, five years of PhD, and a two-year post-doc, so I could have a real job by the time I was 30. That meant I needed research experience, and boy oh boy did Princeton provide research experience.
Research is about exploring the unknown, and from the beginning I did just that. As a student in the Integrated Sciences Curriculum (ISC), I had to learn MATLAB, LaTeX, ImageJ, JAVA, and countless other acronyms and jargon. And I had to learn them fast, using them to solve problems and write about them, in an ordeal I described as “drinking the nectar of Olympus—from a fire hose.”
I am writing this blog while simultaneously unpacking my suitcase from one of the most eventful weekends of my Princeton career. Where did I go, you ask? Well, this weekend I flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, where I presented a research poster at the annual conference for the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics!
Traveling to attend academic conferences is one of the many perks of being a researcher, and student researchers are no exception. These conferences allow you to expand your understanding of your field or related fields and network with people from around the world. While many students conduct research during their time at Princeton, however, the opportunity to attend and present at an academic conference seems almost illusory. If hectic class schedules and large conference registration fees aren’t enough of a deterrent, the fear of being inadequate/unprepared can quell even the most hopeful Princetonians from submitting their research abstracts to conference committees.
This summer, in the unlikely sleepy town of Selianitika, Greece, I had an unforgettable immersive learning experience. I applied to the Paideia Institute’s Living Greek in Greece program, devoted to immersion in Ancient Greek, at the urging of a friend. It would be perspective-changing, she said. Instead of running between classes and juggling ten different assignments at once, I would have one task–to grow comfortable with Ancient Greek–and an incredible amount of free time.
It was a perspective-changing shift from my Princeton experience. I often feel limited by the lack of time available to fully experience the overwhelming material in my classes on campus. Beyond my Indo-European linguistics class, I want to browse through the Classics section of the library to see what I can find. In my computer science course, I want to do the optional exercises and play around with code. But independent exploration and extra-curricular learning can be hard to make time for, and I often end up working from one assignment to the next. Breadth and depth are challenging to achieve together.