Web Exclusives: Raising Kate
a PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (kswearen@princeton.edu)

April 24, 2002:

Je ne regrette rien
Or why I didn't get that Foreign Relations internship

By Kate Swearengen '04

Illustration by Henry Martin ’48

This column is about mistakes, specifically, the mistakes I've made in the course of my Princeton career. What follows is a summary, not necessarily of the most outrageous blunders, but of the most memorable ones. My friends tell me that someday I'll look back on all this and laugh. I'm not so sure.

Mistake: International Relations term paper

Looking back on it, maybe it wasn't such a good idea to discuss realism and idealism in the context of Sex Pistols lyrics. Particularly for a term paper. Then again, my professor was a self-declared Bolshevik with a hammer-and-sickle earring and a subscription to The Nation. I figured that, on the off chance that he wasn't a fan of late-70s punk, he would at least appreciate an innovative approach to the essay prompt. Boy, was I wrong. So much for épater les bourgeois. There are lots of ways to make a crummy grade in a politics class. Here's one of them:

When it comes to theories of international relations, the Sex Pistols had it right: Their classic song "Anarchy in the U.K." is not only a punk paean to excess and self-destruction, but is also a concise summary of the main tenets of the realist theory. The lyrics, "How many ways to get what you want/I use the best/I use the rest/I use the enemy/I use anarchy," fit perfectly with realism, a theory which defines the current international system of competing nation-states as anarchical. According to the realist theory, states will manipulate the system, or "use anarchy," in order to "get what [they] want."

Mistake: Audition material for Triangle Club

The summer before my freshman year of college, I read This Side of Paradise. I was riveted by F. Scott Fitzgerald '17's description of Triangle Club as "a great seething anthill," and immediately wanted to become a member. Since I couldn't sing, dance, act, or do technical work, I figured I could join the club as a writer. For the application process, I submitted several writing samples, one of which was a musical piece entitled "Lobster is a Crustacean." The song wasn't up to Triangle Club standards, and I got hosed. Admittedly, it's not hard to see why. Here are selected lyrics:

(to be sung by a lobster)

I am a lobster.

I have antennae and a shell.

Eat me steamed, eat me broiled.

With butter I taste swell.


Lobster is a ...

Lobster is a ...

Lobster is a ...

... Crustacean.

Mistake: Résumé

I'd like to blame Career Services for this one, but it isn't really their fault. Career Services, after all, dissuaded me from writing a résumé in the first place. They said that it was gauche to apply for an internship. Apparently, the tactic nowadays is to "inquire," preferably with an organization or company with which you or your family has a "relationship."

Since I don't have a ticket to the old boys' club, I ended up writing a résumé anyway. Not that it did any good: I got turned down by the Council on Foreign Relations, the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, and a couple of other places. Looking back, I can see why. My objective statement is a tad bit overwrought. And maybe I lost credibility with the whole William Safire bit:

I am a driven, self-motivated college student whose interest in the field of international relations is rivaled only by a keen desire to find summer employment that doesn't involve the donut industry. A writer presently employed as a columnist for the Princeton Alumni Weekly, I am a staunch supporter of the well-turned phrase and an enemy of the dangling participle and misplaced modifier. My editorial abilities and utter grasp of the subtleties of the English language put William Safire to shame.

Yeah, well, nobody's perfect.

You can reach Kate at kswearen@princeton.edu