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

September 12, 2001:
From Columbia, Missouri:
Late-summer thoughts about Princeton

By Kate Swearengen '04
Illustration: Henry Martin '48


Friday, August 24

10:19 a.m. Went to the University of Missouri Bookstore to see if the students there are ripped off as much as their Princeton counterparts. Surprisingly, Princeton students pay less for textbooks. The lower costs are somewhat offset, though, by the fact that when Princeton students enter the U-Store stairwell, they are greeted by large posters of a wraithlike Joyce Carol Oates and a leering Paul Muldoon.

You can practically read their thoughts. Joyce Carol Oates: "Get a U-Store card, kids, so you can buy my books and charge them to your parents." Paul Muldoon: "Get a U-Store card and buy my books. Oh, and don't forget to pick up a dozen Olives' chocolate chip cookies on the way out."

While perusing the textbook selection, I ran into Jason, an elementary school classmate. In fifth grade, Jason defeated me in a bid for student council president, in spite of strategically arranged appearances by Swiftfoot, my pet rabbit.

"Jason! I can't believe it's you! What happened to your hair?"

"Kate! I didn't recognize you with that bicycle helmet on. Do you always wear it indoors?"

"What are you doing here? Last I heard, you were going to high school in Tennessee."

"I was. Now I'm at Amherst, but my parents have moved back to Columbia, so I'm working here for the summer. Uh oh, there's my manager. Quick! Pretend I'm helping you with books."

"Uh, okay. Umm, I'm looking for the books for Physics 219."

"We don't have a Physics 219. You must mean Physics 224."

"That's right. Physics 224. So, how's Amherst?"

"It's great. I think I'm going to major in English. How's Yale?"


"Oh, sorry."

"You said that on purpose."

"No, really, I though you were going to Yale. Anyway, I looked at

Princeton. It's a good school. How do you like it?"

"It's great. I love it. The best place on earth, if you subtract the country-club mentality."

"That's the impression that I got, too. Even the southern kids say that Princeton is southern."

1:00 p.m. Arabic lesson with Duaa, a friend from junior high school. Worked through lesson involving the past tense. John lost his passport at the beach, and enlisted the help of his Saudi friend, Kemal. John and Kemal went to the police station, where they reported the missing passport to an officer. The officer beat John and led him to prison.

"You got those words wrong, Kate. The officer helped John and led him to the embassy."

"Oh. I told you, I'm no good with vocabulary."

"That's okay. You'll know these words by the time classes start. By the way, when do your classes start?"

"Uh, September 13 or 14, I forget which."

"Wow. That's late. So when do you get out?"

"Sometime toward the end of May."

"Hey, that's when we get out, too. But I guess that means you have a short break in December."

"Not really. It's about five weeks."

"Really? What about Thanksgiving?" (in desperation)

"We only get one day off."

Yeah, I'm a liar. Princeton students get as much time off at Thanksgiving, as University of Missouri students do. But just try explaining that you pay almost $35,000 a year in order to attend a university that offers the fewest number of teaching days in the country. At Princeton, classes are taught only 120 days; the University of Chicago, in comparison, has 165 teaching days.

6:37 p.m. Dinner with Mrs. Moore, my high school Latin teacher, and Ryan, a high school classmate now attending Harvard. I was chewing a grilled cheese sandwich when the question came up.

"Are there any famous kids at Princeton?" Mrs. Moore asked me.

"Well," I said. "Not really. I mean, I think some quasi-famous kids may be there. You know, the kind you read about in Vanity Fair. The ones whose senior proms were held at the Waldorf."

"There are some famous kids at Harvard," Ryan interjected. "Natalie Portman, from the recent Star Wars movie. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, from Home Improvement. And Alan Keyes's son."

"Alan Keyes's son?" I said. "No one even remembers who Alan Keyes is, much less his son. That's minor celebrity."

Of course, I'm just jealous. The greatest disappointment of my freshman year came when I discovered that Prince Hamzah of Jordan, who I had thought was enrolled at Princeton, was actually attending Britain's Sandhurst Military Academy. This misapprehension was brought about largely by my mother, who, after having read an article in the New York Times Magazine about the Jordanian royal family, asked about Prince Hamzah every time I called home.

"I haven't seen him, Mom. I don't even know what he looks like. But classes are going well."

"It said in the article that Queen Noor is a Princeton graduate. I'm sure Prince Hamzah is there, too."

"I don't think so, Mom. I looked his name up on the Princeton website, and I didn't find anything."

"Well, obviously not. They would have changed his name for security reasons."

Sadly, Prince Hamzah is not a Princeton Tiger. He passed up access to a 24-hour convenience store, not to mention the best education that money can buy, in order to be awakened at 6:00 every morning by a bugle. I mean, come on. A man may look good in uniform, but he also looks good in a "Yale Sucks" T-shirt and synthetic tiger tail. But I'm convinced that if we play our cards right, we can still get Prince Harry.

You can reach Kate Swearengen at kswearen@princeton.edu