I just love how those words roll off the tongue. Those two words carry everything you associate with the campus - grandeur, mysterious beauty and charm, and (of course) magic.
When you walk Princeton's campus for the first time, you're immediately overwhelmed by its grandiose atmosphere. The historical significance of Nassau Hall bears down on you, the immensity of Blair Arch captives your imagination, and the imperial University Chapel beckons you to take a peek inside its great nave. There is something about this campus that takes you beyond the physical and bestows in you a more metaphysical, transcendental, indescribable experience. I recognized that (most likely without understanding it or describing it in those terms) when I first toured the campus at age 10.
I'm from our beloved Garden State. At some point during a Jersey child's educational experience, he or she must learn the history of this great state. For me, that was in fourth grade. All I remember was opening up my textbook to a two-page spread of the magnificent Blair Arch. In a text-box were the words "Princeton University. Founded 1746" followed by a brief overview of its history. I was trying so hard not to scream, "This looks like Hogwarts!" I sure was thinking that, though. Naturally, as every fourth grader does, I conducted more "research" on this Hogwarts-like education institution, dragged my parents on an Orange Key tour, and told everyone I knew that that's where I wanted to go to college. That was the first time I fell in love with Princeton. Princeton University.
Right now, you're probably thinking that I was a weird child. Well, sir/ma'am, let me get this straight... I indeed was.
Fast forward about nine years later, and I just completed my first semester at Princeton. Amid all the course load and extra-curricular obligations, I tried my absolute best to try to stop and appreciate my being here. Of course, I'm appreciative! But when that English essay is nagging at the back of your mind, it's unlikely that you'd consider yourself in a state of unperturbed bliss. You can really try to convince yourself of that, but that depends on your ability at self-deception.
During intersession (the week-long period in-between semesters), I had plenty of time for self-reflection: What went well during my first semester? What didn't go so well? Which of my expectations of Princeton were satisfied or surpassed? Which were not? How will I go forward from here? These were the main questions I tried to answer during this stress-free work-free week.
February 6th, 2017 - The first day of the new semester. I stepped on campus feeling fresh, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle any newfound challenges before me. Out with the old, in with the new, as they always say, right? Right! So that was my mindset. What I was not prepared for, however, was that I would fall madly in love with Princeton all over again. I fell in love again, that's for sure, but this time was different.
As I walked across campus that first day, I was suddenly filled with immense school pride. I had never been prouder to call myself a Tiger. Having just bought an orange Princeton notebook from the U-Store that morning, this pride for the orange and the black was only amplified. As I passed Blair Arch, the subject of that two-page spread from oh so long ago, I couldn't help but smile at it in gratitude. Thank you for giving me a chance. As I walked past students on their way to class, as I saw the glistening Neuroscience Institute from across Poe Field, as I met up with my wonderful second-to-none friends, I was truly in a state of unperturbed bliss. The songs of Old Nassau resonated in my core seeking escape.
Everything made so much sense. Nassau. Firestone. East Pyne. Frist. Robertson. Whitman. Rocky. Mathey. Forbes. Wilson. Butler. It all fit together so perfectly. I not only rediscovered my fourth-grade love for this breathtaking one-of-a-kind institution, I also recognized the harmony of this campus - the individual songs of the 190 buildings and 500 acres coalesce to tell the single tale of Princeton University. The tale of Princeton is now my tale. It's the tale of my roommates. Of each person in my HIS 210 lecture hall. Of my writing seminar professor. It's the tale of Nassau and Blair Arch and Firestone and the Chapel. It is the tale of Mazzo Green, and Lake Carnegie, and the tree outside my door. It's the tale of President Eisgruber, Michelle Obama, Jodi Piccoult. Of John Witherspoon, Aaron Burr Jr. and Sr., and Harvey S. Firestone. It is the tale of the United States of America. It is the tale that gives meaning to my love for this incredible place.
So if I walk through the main lobby of Frist,
or happen to pass students building a snowman,
or if I stop to admire Nassau Hall from across Cannon Green,
I can be absolutely sure of one thing:
I will never stop loving Princeton, the best old place of all.