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.
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:
- MAT202 – Introduction to Linear Algebra
I actually took linear algebra in high school but a common theme I have noticed here is that a course in high school is not even comparable to a course with the same name at Princeton. Because of the aforementioned and the fact that linear algebra is crucial to COS (Princeton’s inexplicable acronym for COmputer Science), I chose to take this course
- PHY103: General Physics I
PHY103 makes sense for me because it fills requirements for any of the paths I might take. It is also turning out to be a really interesting course with great advice on how to think about problem solving.
- COS126 – An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Computer Science
I actually placed out of this course thanks to some previous computer science knowledge but COS126 is regarded as a very good course here setting a firm foundation for a career in COS which is why I decided to take it.
- FRS127 – Big Brothers are Watching You: Internet Privacy and Security
This course is the the jewel of my freshman fall semester. When I applied to Princeton I actually wrote about how amazing it would be to be thought by Brian Kernighan, a real COS legend at Princeton. As you might have already guessed reading this, he is in fact the professor for this course. It is absolutely baffling sitting in the same room as him and circa twenty other freshmen who are equally excited about the course as I am. Since I may well end up working with security in computer science on day, this course is right up my alley.
Aside from the learning in my courses our dorm room discussions have been amazing so far. We have had (somewhat heated) arguments about politics, political theory, economics and agnosticism. All in all I must say that the my time here so far is certainly living up to the ideal college experience. Like I mentioned before however, this feeling of endless learning means more to me than great instructors, courses and high pace – it also includes the feeling of missing out.
For every course I’m taking and every hour I spend doing something here it feels like there is something equally fun and interesting I could be doing. That could be something as trivial as going to “the street” (i.e Prospect Avenue, home of Princeton’s many Eating Clubs where upperclassmen host parties and sometimes eat) to meet friends instead of writing a blog post on a Friday night. It could also be noticed in the fact that my MAT202 course is a replacement for MAT201, a course which in turn was a replacement for the philosophy course “Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology” that I initially signed up for. Although the learning here is very fun and rewarding I need to come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to get everything out of Princeton, so I guess I will just have to keep cherry-picking.