This fall, hundreds of freshmen (as well as four and a half sophomores, seven Siberian tigers, and two green peafowl legally licensed as emotional support animals) were unable to move into their designated dorm rooms at the start of orientation week due to construction setbacks with the new residential college buildings Yeh and New College West (NCW). After being assigned their room numbers in July, students were informed mid-August that some residents of Kwanza Jones and José E. Feliciano Halls in NCW, as well as Grousbeck and Mannion Halls in Yeh, would be assigned to “temporary alternative rooms on campus” before they would be permitted to move into their permanent residences for the school year.
According to Google, an alternative aesthetic is one that is “eclectic, challenging, and original.” After speaking with some displaced-students who spent their first week at First College, in which they found their “temporary alternative rooms” to be, it would certainly seem that the move-in experience this year lived up to these core aspects of challenge and originality. Indeed, Princeton was truly able to uphold its standards of providing students with a rigorous, holistic education in all facets of life by fostering a unique move-in experience this year that proves there are lessons to be learned beyond the classroom setting as well, reminding students that every part of being at Princeton is significant to critical self-growth.
“It was definitely a bit of a struggle to adjust to the cold showers, especially with all the snakes trying to get in on my, like, personal self-care time,” shares Arabella Merton, a freshman from New York City who spent her first few days living in Dodge-Osborne. “I had gotten really excited about the more environmentally-friendly water system that would be implemented at the new colleges and was looking forward to taking nice, hour-long showers without having to feel guilty about it because I’m generally very conscientious about things like climate change and such. If anything, the lack of a consistent source of hot water at First College only helped my enthusiasm for the new colleges to grow, and now I treasure every precious moment I get in the shower. And, of course, no global-warming associated shame involved.”
Joe Bob, an international student from the United Kingdom, offers further insight into the displaced experience by offering commentary, particularly on the dining and laundry side of things: “It was quite tedious to have to walk everywhere every time I wanted anything basically. I mean this is Princeton. I expected nothing short of immaculate facilities because this school essentially has an endowment the size of a small country’s GDP. It’s absolutely ridiculous that First College doesn’t have its own private dining hall, nor was there a place to do laundry in my building. I had to actually step outside and walk what felt like miles for all my meals and to wash my socks. It definitely did help me acclimate to the amount of walking I’d have to start doing when classes began though, and for that I am grateful. In that way, I feel like I kind of got an edge, ya know? Other freshmen were so integrated into their residential colleges that they didn’t have to leave them at all except for orientation events, but I was out and about all the time and that’s much more realistic as a college student.”
Other students claim that this year’s orientation programs were intentionally constructed in such a manner as to provide a top-notch humbling experience. In particular, students suspect OA trips were designed in such a way as to make them realize how fortunate they are to get to experience the fantabulous First College before moving into the new residential halls. “It was really quite clever of them,” remarks Colette DuPoint, who came to Princeton from Los Angeles. “The OA experience was grueling for me. No showers. Packaged, processed food. Absolutely no mattresses, and the AC was really unreliable. The night I got back to my First dorm after my OA trip—that was the best sleep I’ve had so far. I just walked in and collapsed on my bed, thankful for the sturdy roof over my head and that my feet weren’t wet. Honestly, I’m a little sad they’re taking down First now. That place provided comfort to me in a time of great fatigue—emotional and physical. I hope they’ll let students take a brick or two as a keepsake.”
Most interestingly, perhaps, is that some students found the whole temporary living space lifestyle quite amusing: “The anticipation kept me going?” notes Dimitri Smith, yet another freshman who was tragically disillusioned by the Princeton residential experience. “It was like…will they finish? Will they not? Nobody knew!” (As a matter of fact, Dimitri later confided that he was down $999 after losing in a particularly popular betting tournament this fall trying to predict when displaced students would be able to move in. He lost to a seasoned upperclassman who’s intimately familiar with the peculiar way in which time operates at Princeton, and Dimitri now knows to keep himself firmly grounded in reality.)
Of course, this realistic attitude doesn’t mean that one can’t have a good time, as Dimitri further accounts: “It was pretty fun to test out whether I could get into my room ahead of time or not because, I mean, the passcode was the same right? Turns out it did work—and I moved 15 minutes earlier than we were supposed to, which left me feeling on top of the world. And, obviously, my friends and I had a great time trying to find moving carts across campus since we wouldn’t get moving assistance on the day we were allowed to relocate. We found some in pretty wack places and were able to store them for a few days in a Very Confidential Location that I unfortunately cannot disclose at this time. I will say though, it’s an absolute blast to hop in one of the carts and have your friends push you down a hill (in a safe, secure manner) after you’re done moving-in as a sort of celebratory joyride. I can still recall the wind in my hair as I cruised down Elm Drive that glorious summer night. If I hadn’t been initially assigned to First College, I would never have gotten to form this memory.”
Clearly, the range of responses among the first-year students was varied, but there seems to be a consensus that it was an overall positive experience that helped to humble them, building character and resilience that would come in handy once the school year really kicked off. Although the experience subverted the expectations of hundreds of freshmen who thought they knew precisely what’s what going into Princeton, students remember and remain grateful for their time in First, a college that they were lucky enough to learn and to love before it’s gone with the wind forever.