Hello readers! It’s Josh again, free from the pressures of academic work for another week or so. We are currently in a week long break between our fall and spring terms. Like winter break a couple weeks ago, I am stuck on campus again, this time to prepare for our last duel meet in Boston against harvard and yale. It is the last competition of the season for most of the team, so everyone is excited to drive up to harvard on Thursday to swim our best!
A few weeks into class, I was very much worried if I was able to handle the rigor that Princeton puts all its students through. As a recruited student-athlete, the concern that I was less academically capable than everyone else was very much there. Starting college is definitely a big transition, and the first semester at Princeton showed that to me all too well. While there were some not-so-happy moments for sure, today I’d like to focus on some of the fun, memorable parts of the past weeks.
Finals went by…as smoothly as it could’ve gone by. Not studying over the winter break was not the best idea, but I did end up getting the grades I wanted soooo no regrets! Writing my dean’s date assignments and studying for exams was a nightmare though, since my carefully planned out schedule to finish everything quickly crumbled down when I fell sick with a 38 degree fever for three days. Even still, the past few weeks had been a relatively relaxing one, much more laid back than the hell that was midterms week!
Class at Forbes College…
This semester (is it okay to say last semester now?), I took four classes: MAT 104 Calc I, CHM 201 General Chemistry I, a writing seminar and a freshman seminar. Out of the four classes, my freshman seminar with Professor Kernighan was hand down the most enjoyable class I had. I know someone has touched on Freshman seminars in a previous post already, but I’ll give an extremely brief description of what they are. These seminars are, as the name indicates, small classes that are exclusive to freshman. This means that right from the get-go, first-year students like me could work closely with a professor and classmates on a topic that interests them. My seminar was titled “Big Brothers are Watching You: Internet Privacy and Security”, since it was one of the only courses among many that seemed to fuel my interest in computers and technology. It also took place at Forbes College, meaning I actually had a reason to visit the secluded residential college for once! (just kidding Forbes, your chocolate fountains are lovely <3)
Now, one of the selling-points of Princeton that comes up often is the undergrad-focus the school has. I heard about students being taught by world-renowned professors, but I had concluded on my own that those were fringe cases for the few students who were lucky enough to work with such a respected professor. I was expecting a regular professor that was obviously super qualified but not famous outside Princeton or the academic community in any way. When I looked up the name of my professor, Brian Kernighan. I freaked out a little bit inside since Professor Kernighan once worked at Bell Labs to help develop UNIX and is even credited by some for coining that exact term.
The class consisted of the following
- one 3-hour seminar on Thursday afternoons
- a weekly reading assignment to which we write a brief response on a discussion board online
aaaaand that was it. In terms of workload it was undoubtedly the easiest class I took. However, the 3-hour seminars could feel pretty long at times, since for most seminars the class discussed a specific topic that was given to us in the syllabus at the beginning of the year. These topics included technical information that helped us understand how our data is being collected, the issues raised by such large amounts of data collection and the parties involved, and ways in which we can make our information less accessible to prying eyes.
My favorite thing about this class were the times when we weren’t discussing among ourselves, but we had other people to discuss with, or did not discuss at all. Over the course of the class we got to talk about, well, Internet privacy and security with FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bart Gellman. These two people brought their insight into our discussions, and made us consider and think about things that we otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. In the end, the discussions with the guest speakers seemed to be more engaging and interesting for me. I also remember participating in a “study” being conducted by several people from the computer science department. Our class was asked to unbox Internet of Things devices such as smart light bulbs and smart speakers, and assess how easy it is to set up, change security settings, etc. We got to play around with gadgets for three hours, and the computer science department was able to collect valuable data for their study on IoT devices’ security, so it was a win-win situation!
Now when it comes to my most memorable moment, it would be weird if I didn’t mention swimming. Swimming has been just as large of a commitment to academics here, so it is not surprising that a lot of my memories come from swim meets or quirky moments at practice.
That being said, the most memorable moment was the 400m free relay at the Big Al Invitational at DeNunzio Pool. It was the last race of a three-day meet, so the swimmers and the crowd were all very excited. I had somehow earned a spot to lead of the A-team. When I got on the block, I saw half my ‘zee group had showed up to support me and the rest of the team on. It warmed my heart to have my friends come all the way from the top left of campus to the bottom right (yes, I will complain about how far the pool is again!) to cheer a random foreign dude who lives on the same floor as them. We won that race (because my other three teammates covered for my slowness!) and the entire meet!
While this has been the most memorable moment so far, ask me in a week and I might be giving you a different answer. I’m pretty sure that harvard-yale-Princeton swim meet that I talked about earlier is going to be pretty exciting, and might take the cake over the Big Al Invitational.
Enough about the past, I want to look ahead into the rest of my year! Getting through my first semester of Princeton has definitely boosted my confidence for the next few months of school. I’m super excited for the chance to meet more people once the season is over. I played it really safe last semester balancing swimming and studying, so I did not get to meet many people outside my hall. (Thankfully my hallmates would introduce would introduce me to their friends, so all was not lost!) With the swimming season wrapping up, I can be more comfortable with going out with friends on Saturday nights and having lots of fun.
For me, the first semester was about adjusting and clinging on to the oncoming waves of work. Hopefully the spring semester can be about enjoying freshman year!
I like to follow Elon Musk because he’s always up to something, and this time he is selling flamethrowers for $500 a pop. I can’t think of any logical reason why, but it’s kinda cool.