Category: Princeton

Voltaire, Gardens and Making Ripples

“Cela est bien, repondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin”
– Monsieur de Voltaire

Above is the final line of Voltaire’s Candide, a book I read just before coming to Princeton at the start of this academic year. Responding to the book’s optimistic philosopher Pangloss as he raves about how “this world is indeed the best of all possible worlds,” Candide responds that “this is well put, but we must cultivate our garden.” Although its meaning may well be nothing more than its literal meaning per se, I believe that by the end of the book Candide comes to the insight that the world does not progress just the way it is meant, nor that it is the best of all possible worlds. In this realization I believe that Candide refers to the garden as an analogue for his own life and destiny, meaning we are the harbingers of our own destiny. We must tend to ourselves and our life in order to flourish like a well kept garden.

Since coming to college I have been trying very hard to cultivate my garden in order to flourish at Princeton. Indeed that seems like a natural thing to do when the motto of the University, Dei sub numine viget, literally means under God’s power she flourishes. In this attempt to make sure not to waste a moment here I have been studying fortuitously; before fall break I would spend long nights perfecting papers and finishing problem sets meticulously. Furthermore I wrote posts for this blog in quick succession. I wasted no time getting to know people, hear their story and tell them mine – building excellent quality friendships. It was great fun to be active and constructive, constantly producing something, be it a wholesome friendship, a quality paper or a simple blog post.

Surely, you see the but coming from a mile a way. Indeed, however much fun it is to be creative and make ripples, there has to be balance, quite like in all other parts of life. In my case balance restored itself by my watching six seasons of a TV show (that I had already watched once before) in the span of around three weeks. Hardly validating my earlier post on being afraid of missing out here on campus. By committing to production, creativity and a regime of production I forgot to allow things to slow down, the result of course being my binging of White Collar (an excellent show I do feel the need to point out).

As the semester slowly comes to an end I am starting to fall into a more stable balance. The trick to it, I have found, is to read (or in my case listen to audio books) rather than to watch a show, when I need a healthy dose of passivity and consumption. Although the two words certainly carry a negative connotation of laziness and boredom, far from all consumption is bad. In finding material that is not tailor-made to reel the consumer in with an unexpected cliffhanger at the end of each forty minute episode, I have found it easier to stop when it is time to work and as such I have found better balance.

Let this be a warning to those of you like me. No matter how much one wants to create, produce and form ripples – one must also allow oneself to sit back and consume, rejuvenating in doing so. Hopefully this lesson, now learned for me, will make the coming years just a bit easier. More importantly though, I am fortunate already to have learned the lesson of realizing my mistakes, admitting to them, and learning from them – which is what this is all really about.

Sten Sjöberg for Class Officer

Having finally settled down at Princeton it is time for me to start making things happen. In the spirit of this sentiment I am delighted to announce my candidacy for Class Officer of the Class of 2021. I want to be one of the five students representing, caring for, and enabling the great Class of 2021. Not only this year but for many years to come.

In my class representation philosophy there are two dominating topics: community and fun. The two concepts might seem trivial but I have always believed that God is in the details. Indeed, we do not always need magnificent innovation to make something better than it already is; sometimes all we need is a stickler for detail, and that stickler could be yours truly.

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#4 – Endless Learning

One of the biggest differences between high school and Princeton is the feeling of endless learning I have found here at the University. It might sound cliché to talk about endless learning at a liberal arts college but to me that means a few more things than just liberal course selection.

My newly bought blackboards by my desk feat. PHY103 and MAT202.

The newly bought blackboards by my desk feat. PHY103 and MAT202.

First of all the pace here is absolutely insane. Take my Linear Algebra course as an example. Every week we have three lectures of fifty minutes each. In each lecture my professor will go through about two chapters of our course book. That is about three or four times the pace of high school. Upon that we have around 20 (usually very challenging) questions for homework each week. Of course, this crazy pace does pay of. Never in my life have I learned this much this quickly as I have been doing in the last two weeks. It is as amazing as it is demanding. That brings me to the four courses that I finally decided I will be taking this semester:

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#3: Getting Oriented

These first few days have been really intense so I just got up a few hours earlier today in order to write a short post to you all about what has happened so far.

Before arriving on campus I meet a pair of very generous relatives in NYC, with whom I stayed overnight at their house in Stamford.

Right by Princeton Club where I went to meet a very kind relative with whom I stayed overnight before Check-In started.

I arrived together with all the other internationals for International Orientation on the 30th of August. It felt amazing to finally arrive on the campus that I had wondered and dreamed about for so long. The first three days were filled with activities to makes us internationals feel at home. Davis International Center did a great job with it and I feel much more prepared in regards to topics such as culture shock. Among other things we had great fun navigating the campus on a scavenger hunt which we almost won. Unfortunately I missed the backside of the scavenger hunt paper we were given, which had us missing out on quite a few points. After IO ended the Americans of the class of 2021 arrived on campus. Continue reading