Exclusives: Comparative Life
a PAW web exclusive column by By Kristen Albertsen '02 (email:
new life in the old world
Becoming the new girl
on campus as a post grad
It was almost exactly a year ago today, I believe, that I composed
a column describing my younger brother's arrival on the Cornell
campus as a college freshman. In that column, I remarked how long
ago the freshman experience seemed to me, and how I was glad not
to be repeating that overwhelming time of insecurity and confusion.
I was, I see now, a typical senior queen of Nassau Hall,
confidently following my trail of twine out of the Princeton labyrinth.
I had taken all the Cool Courses, scored a smug 20 percent on the
Princeton purity test (indicating that I was 80 percent debauched
by Princeton standards, based on questions such as "Have you
ever climbed the fire escape to get into TI?"), and all that
stood between myself and graduation was a mere 100 pages of thesis.
How my supercilious pride has been punished. I just started my
postgraduate career at the University of Edinburgh, and am experiencing
Freshmania in the extreme.
This time, however, I jealously regard the undergraduates (and
there are many, outnumbering postgrads by nearly 5:1), as they have
the aid of Peugeot minivans and the pounds and pence of parents
and the luxury of Freshman Orientation to guide them through this
University life in the UK is uncannily like that in the States;
the same sophomoric posters are on sale, the same amorphous masses
of freshly made and discarded friends prowl the campus, the coffee
shops, the pubs. And, in true Princeton fashion, the postgrads are
left to fend largely for themselves; we have no easy orientation,
no caf-cooked meals. As a bona fide International Student, I had
the additional burden of two oversized suitcases to carry with me,
in which I had placed all that was essential and valuable to me
(yes, my Nassau Herald and beer jacket were contained within).
So, while that which occurs around me is all too familiar, my
current experience is frighteningly and thrillingly
new. I am meeting people who are, for the most part, older than
I; 50 percent originate from outside the UK, and in my flat alone
we have a Brazilian, a Canadian, a Chinese, a Libyan, and a Connecticutian
I am learning to distinguish between a Scottish accent, an Australian
accent, an English accent, and a Canadian accent; I am learning
that a stone is equivalent to 14 pounds, that 'pavement' really
means 'sidewalk', and to look right, and not left, when crossing
the street. Come Monday, when my master's in comparative literature
courses actually commence, I anticipate learning things new to both
a Princeton undergrad and to a lifelong student of American education.
One of the main reasons I came to the UK to study was to gain exposure
to the European perspective on cultural and contemporary studies;
with each passing day I am confident that I made the right choice.
But Princeton is never far away. Besides the photos, the memories,
and the constant emails, I've encountered Princeton in more ways
than I thought imaginable. At an international students gathering
yesterday, I spied a vaguely familiar face. Two Princeton graduates,
both Class of 2002, had inevitably found one another, even in Edinburgh.
Indeed, tiger stripes stand out in a crowd, loud and clear.
You can reach Kristen