Highlights from my sophomore year at Princeton

As much as I’ve enjoyed Princeton’s campus over the summer (which you can read more about in my Day in the Life of Princeton Student: Summer Edition post), I’ve also spent a lot of time reminiscing about the past year. As you can imagine, campus is much more lively during the semester. Here are some of my favorite memories from my sophomore year at Princeton in (somewhat) chronological order, with pictures I took throughout the year: 

1. First in-person classes in two years

View from my seat in Robertson Hall on the first day of school as I waited for class to start

Interestingly, my second year at Princeton was full of firsts due to COVID. Although we were invited to campus in the spring of my freshman year, COVID restrictions eliminated events that are typically hallmarks of the college experience–like walking into your first college classroom. These things didn’t resume until the fall of my sophomore year, when the University relaxed most COVID regulations. My first in-person college class was a lecture on environmental science and policy, hosted through the School of Public and International Affairs. It was at 10am, but I was so excited that I arrived there at 9:15am. As I sat and marveled at the elegant architecture of the lecture hall, watching people slowly trickle in, I remember never having felt so happy before, hopeful for all the things that I would learn and the people that I would meet. 

2. First Lawnparties 

A$AP Ferg performing during fall Lawnparties ‘21

Another first was going to Lawnparties, a semesterly Princeton tradition where the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) invites a headliner and student act to perform on campus (obviously, with COVID, in-person Lawnparties didn’t happen, but we did have a virtual one with Jason Derulo, which was…interesting to say the least). The festivities usually begin at 10am on Prospect Street, home to the eating clubs (more details later, but basically they are where most upperclassmen socialize and dine), with food trucks and plenty of photo-ops. Some of the clubs invite their own musical acts from 1-2pm, before the headliner performs at around 4pm. In the fall, A$AP Ferg was our headliner. I left a bit before the show ended because it was too crowded and hot, but overall I enjoyed the experience.

3. Princeton vs. Harvard football game 

Princeton v.s. Harvard football game at Powers Field, Princeton Stadium
Free pizza from the food trucks at the game

Yet another first–my first football game ever (I never went to any in high school), which was Princeton v. Harvard. Naturally, I was there to root for Princeton. Aside from that, I was there for the tons of free food and merch. I didn’t stay for the whole game because I had some work meetings later in the afternoon, but I later heard from friends that Princeton won. 

4. Princeton’s victory bonfire 

View of the bonfire, which took place on Cannon Green 

A few weeks after the Princeton v. Harvard game, Princeton won against Yale. It’s a Princeton tradition to have a bonfire whenever we win against Harvard and Yale in football, so that’s exactly what happened right after the Princeton v. Yale game. Again, there was lots of free stuff and good music, so it was pretty fun (although pretty cold outside, even despite the fire). 

5. Endless amounts of ice cream 

Ice cream with my friend at Bent Spoon, an ice cream shop in Palmer Square. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I love ice cream. Living on campus has only further fueled my ice cream obsession, as there are numerous ice cream shops on Nassau Street a quick walk from my dorm. My friends and I often visit them after dinner or for a quick study break. Many of my fondest memories are of getting ice cream with people, especially at Halo Pub, a rustic ice cream shop that has (in my opinion) the best ice cream on Nassau. 

6. Exploring the eating clubs…and eventually joining one! 

The exterior of Colonial Club
Inside of the member’s lounge in Colonial

As my entry on Lawnparties may have implied, the eating clubs are a big part of the social scene at Princeton. They hold events for all class years, but only upperclassmen are official “members” of the club who have regular access to meals and social events. There are 11 total eating clubs, each with different admissions processes. Some clubs are more selective, extending invitations to prospective members based on their performance in “bicker,” a back-to-back, 3-day process where applicants socialize with current members. Others don’t require bicker, so anyone interested in the club can join through simply signing up. 

I decided to sign onto Colonial Club (nicknamed “Colo”), a non-bicker club, because I met some people I really liked there during Street Week (which is when sophomores explore the eating clubs through various events), and most of my friends were joining Colonial. Also, I knew from trying the food at nearly all the eating clubs (since my upperclassmen friends often let me eat with them there) that Colonial has the best food on the Street. 

I’m not going to lie–initially, I was a bit skeptical about all the eating clubs at first, but I’ve come to really enjoy my time at Colonial. I’ve made a lot of new friends, especially upperclassmen, that I don’t think I would’ve met without Colonial, and overall, I find the club to be very accepting and laid-back. 

7. Growing as a writer 

Front cover of my final project for Joyce Carol Oates’ Advanced Creative Writing class
Back cover

I know I’ve written about a lot of social things that I’ve really enjoyed so far, but there were also many academic highlights for me as well, especially in my writing. I strengthened my academic writing skills (through writing soooo many papers), experimented with different forms of writing through publications like the Princeton Legal Journal, and rejuvenated my passion for fictional writing with numerous Creative Writing classes. In the spring, I took an Advanced Creative Writing class with Joyce Carol Oates, where our final project was to edit and consolidate all of our short stories from the semester into a “book.” Mine is pictured above. After these learning experiences, I feel that I’ve become a clearer, more efficient writer, and I look forward to continue improving in the future. 

*Note: I found the drawing on the cover from Canva , but I don’t know who the artist is. Let me know if you guys know who drew it so I can give credit!

8. Taylor Swift Night at Colonial 

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures during this because I was having so much fun. In the meantime, enjoy this photo of a Red vinyl, which I played with some of my friends who are in Quadrangle Club

Taylor Swift Night was probably one of my favorite memories of sophomore year. Basically, it was a Taylor Swift themed party at Colonial (anyone from other eating clubs could also go, though, since it was PUID). As a massive Taylor Swift fan myself since I was in second grade, I was literally scrambling to go to this. They played everything from classics like “Love Story” and “Blank Space” to fan favorites like “august” and “Getaway Car,” and ended the night with the ten minute version of All Too Well(an excellent choice, in my opinion). Singing and dancing along to these songs that I love with my friends was just so fun, and I really hope the eating clubs hold another Taylor Swift party again next year. After all, she never goes out of style… 

9. Exploring podcasting

Recording a podcast in the Digital Learning Lab in the Lewis Library 

This year, I joined a podcast called “Ps in a Pod,which features Princeton students’ perspectives and opinions in hour long episodes on topics ranging from campus life to pop culture. I had always enjoyed listening to podcasts, but this was my first time hosting one—and I ended up really enjoying it. It was so nice to sit down with some of my peers and simply talk about things, which is actually a very rare but meaningful experience that often gets lost in the chaos of classes and work.  

10. Christopher Nolan and crew filming Oppenheimer on campus 

Students and townspeople outside Firestone Library watching a scene of Oppenheimer being filmed  

This was probably the most random but crazy thing that happened on campus this year. I remember walking to Firestone to study, and then suddenly realizing that the nearby sidewalks were closed because…Christopher Nolan, Matt Damon, Cillian Murphy, and Jack Quaid were filming Oppenheimer??? I stayed for a bit to watch them do some scenes, but even after I left to go to class, I still couldn’t really believe what had just happened. I had never seen so many celebrities before in my entire life, and I don’t remember the University ever giving us any heads up that they were going to be on campus. Also, this experience only made me even more excited to see Oppenheimer, which is releasing in 2023, where I will get to see my school (!) on the big screen. 

11. Declaring my major

View of McCosh Hall, home to Princeton’s English Department 

Princeton students declare their major in the spring of their sophomore year. I chose English, a major that I knew would serve me well in different careers I’m interested in the future, which all require intensive reading and writing. I also really love the professors and classes in the English department, so I knew that I would have a strong support system when doing my junior paper and senior thesis (required for Princeton students of all majors) if I chose English. Also, it just felt like a natural choice for me, as I grew up with reading and writing, and bonding with my English teachers over books in high school. 

12. Second Lawnparties

Flo Milli performing during Spring ‘22 Lawnparties 

Honestly, I think this one was more fun than my first Lawnparties just because I actually knew what was going on this time. The first time, I didn’t know about the food trucks on the Street until it was too late, but in the spring, I got there with my friends as soon as they opened. Also, I had joined an eating club at this time, so it was easier for me to get into certain events on the Street before the headliner, Flo Milli, performed. I stayed for her entire performance this time since there was less crowding and it wasn’t as hot. The only thing that was kind of weird about the spring Lawnparties was that the concert took place in front of Frist Student Campus Center rather than the backyard of Quadrangle Club, the eating club that usually hosts the main act, due to construction or something like that. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the spring Lawnparties. 

So there you have it–my sophomore year at Princeton! I know most of the stuff I talked about probably seems very fun and glamorous, but there were plenty of other very non-glamorous moments not pictured (like accidentally falling asleep in the library or spending grueling hours on assignments). As the title indicates, these were just my highlights from sophomore year. As for the rougher parts of the year, well, that’ll be a post for another time…stay tuned for more! 🙂 

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