September 12, 2001: On the Campus

E-mails from the edge
A soon-to-be-sophomore takes a cut at Princeton life

By Kate Swearengen ’04

What follows are portions of e-mails that I sent to relatives, friends, and prospective employers during my first year at Princeton. The more shocking elements have been omitted in order to ensure that I continue to receive holiday money from relatives and payments from this magazine.

I recently came across a tantalizing description of the Princeton Alumni Weekly in the Student Guide, and thus am e-mailing you with an idea. I’d like to write a column about my experiences at Princeton. Basically, this would be a clever, first-person rendering of a freshman’s escapades. (to PAW editors, August 24, 2000)

I determined the radius of the Earth in my first geology lab. My second lab will involve proving that the world does, indeed, revolve around Kate Swearengen. (to parents, September 20, 2000)

I just switched contact lenses today. Do I have any other contacts here with me? Are they in one of those Tupperware bins? I’m too lazy to look for myself — just tell me; it will be easier. (to parents, September 28, 2000)

There was a cool exhibit today at Firestone Library. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original manuscript of The Great Gatsby was on display, as well as a 15th-century copy of Suetonius’s The Twelve Caesars. There were also some Quaranic texts on display. Fitzgerald had really girly handwriting, and he wrote very lightly, in pencil. It’s barely visible. (to grandparents, October 8, 2000)

I should have started a punk band instead of going to college. (to friend at Penn, November 1, 2000)

I also used my credit card for the Amtrak ticket, as well as for the NJ Transit ticket when I went to New York. . . . My goal this year is to do more clubbing. Artemis agrees. Her dad wants her to be a doctor so badly that he got her a credit card with a caduceus on it. (to parents, November 4, 2000)

Why are you always criticizing the way I dress, Mom? I dress great. Here’s my average Princeton outfit:
• sneakers or brown strappy shoes that make me 6'4".
• plaid skirt.
• black T-shirt, Superman T-shirt with brown wool cardigan, or Princeton T-shirt with the leering tiger.
• wool stocking cap or combed hair.
• clip-on metallic earrings or button that says, “Kiss me, I’m neurotic.”
• red North Face backpack, my only concession to the Princeton dress code.
• underwear, if I have done laundry recently.
(to mother, December 6, 2000)

I am heading out to throw myself off the grad school tower. If I’m lucky, I’ll hit a classics major on the way down. (to parents, March 12, Midterm Week)

I can’t wait for you all to come up and visit. Mom, my dinosaur comforter cover and khaki pants need mending. Dad, you can play with the refrigerator and find out why it’s not making ice. (to parents, March 14, 2001)

I’m working. Don’t send me any more chiding e-mails. (to parents, March 23, 2001)

No, my dorm didn’t burn down, but I wish it had. My residential college is virtually fireproof, which, depending on your perspective, can either be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage. Butler College is characterized by its waffle ceilings. Ever heard of those? They were popular during the architectural dark ages of the 1950s and 1960s. (to friend in New York, April 3, after the fire in Witherspoon Hall)

Things here are going ok — one more week of classes, and three more weeks of crew. I had been chasing after a guy in my politics class — the man of my dreams, or so I thought, until he told me that he wants to go to seminary. Aarrgh. (to friend in Missouri, April 25, 2001)

My trip home was uneventful. I fell asleep several times on the Airporter, then woke up when my head slammed into the small man next to me. On the plane, I was lucky enough to be the only person in my row. I went to sleep, then woke up to find a woman in the aisle seat arguing with one of the flight attendants. They had forgotten to pack sandwiches in the boxed lunches. The flight attendants placated her with four bags of pretzels and some cookies. (to friend in Washington, D.C., May 27, 2001)

The end-of-the season crew party made up for the eight dismal months that preceded it, so I’m going to row again next year. What else? I didn’t get accepted for any of the internships I applied for, so I’m back home. Being at home makes me remember why I went away to college in the first place. (e-mail to friend in New York, June 17, 2001)

Kate Swearengen (, a sophomore from Columbia, Missouri, writes the “Raising Kate” column for PAW Online


Return to beginning of On  the Campus

Current Issue    Online Archives    Printed Issue Archives
Advertising Info    Reader Services    Search    Contact PAW    Your Class Secretary