Connor Diemand-Yauman ’10
Working on an Original Television Series on Korean PBS
My interest in psychology began well before I entered Princeton. My mother, a clinical psychologist for the last two decades, raised me to question and observe human behaviors from an early age. I felt like I had been preparing for my major long before I officially declared in the spring of my sophomore year.
But I didn’t allow my affinity for psychology to hinder my academic exploration when I arrived at Princeton. On the contrary, I challenged myself to find something better. Consequently, my first two years at Princeton were some of the richest and most intellectually stimulating of my life. I had no obligation to choose a “practical” major or peg myself as a “humanities person.” I had the freedom to sample the buffet of my liberal arts education, and in those first two years I piled my plate high.
I ultimately decided to become a psychology major, not because of my mom or that it was the “smart” thing to do, but because the psychology classes I took at Princeton excited me. This excitement became very important when I began my independent research. I can’t imagine how dreadful it would’ve been to commit so much of myself and time to research that I hated.
Fusing education and psychology
My thesis allowed me to further hone my passions, fusing my longtime extracurricular interest in teaching and education with my academic interest in psychology. In my research I used disfluency, or the subjective experience of difficulty of a cognitive task, to improve student performance in a high school. By the end of my study, I had significantly improved students’ test scores by printing their reading material in a font that was slightly more difficult to read.
My thesis and undergraduate education opened my eyes to the limitless practical applications of psychology, particularly in the education arena. After a short stint on The Amazing Race, I left Princeton for my current job in South Korea to write and star in an original television series on Korean PBS to improve the English-speaking skills of Korean teens. In the early stages of the development of the program, I realized that I could use my training in psychology to insert psychological interventions into the show to improve student learning.
I don’t know where my path will lead, and I’ve yet to develop any serious long-term career goals. But Princeton has given me the confidence to be okay with not knowing what’s next. Those short, surprisingly fast four years on Princeton’s campus, and more specifically the academic exploration that came with them, taught me a powerful lesson that has affirmed the way I want to live my life. I didn’t ask how psychology fit into the big picture when I chose it as my major, nor do I know how working on a Korean children’s television show will help me reach future career goals. And yet, I know I'm on the right path. Princeton has taught me that the safest and simultaneously most adventurous course is one guided by what you love.