On the Campus...
great, but Princeton's better
By Emily D. Johnson '01
spent my junior spring at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland,
which kicks Princeton's butt for age (founded 1411), beauty (sunshine,
snow, and rainbows - all at once), and golf meccadom. I loved it,
especially the much-needed break from the stress of Princeton academic
Johnson '01 is bundled up against the Scottish weather for a weekend
field trip to Portsoy, Scotland.
But even better, somehow,
I realized that I missed Tigertown. The food is a given. As much
as I like haggis and fried Mars bars and corn-topped pizza and custard
for three meals a day, Campus Club dinners held a special place
in my heart last semester. I also missed 24-hour computer access,
not having to pay for every computer print out, and computer lab
staff who realize that e-mail does have academic uses. I missed
students who ask questions in class (unlike the stodgy Brits) and
Hoagie Haven and T-Sweets. I missed the Prince!
I missed Garden Theater
class movie nights, where everyone in the audience is an '01 and
they can relate to things like Chris Rock and the New Jersey Turnpike.
(Try watching Being John Malcovich with two Scottish girls
and a bloke from Manchester.) I missed being around people who realize
that Jerry Springer and Colonel Sanders are not typical Americans.
I even missed the library. I especially missed the library being
open on the weekends.
Don't get me wrong here
- branching out culturally was fantastic. I learned that the purpose
of a dart game is not, in fact, to get as close to the center as
possible. In Scotland, to be pissed is to be drunk, not angry, and
"double fisting it" refers to sexual acts, not drinking
habits, and when my geology professor told us to be alert on a field
trip he meant look out for a good pub. Socialized health care does
have advantages because it looks out for the poor; you can tell
an American from a Brit on the street by the perfect teeth, and
a 50-year animosity still smolders between the English and the Germans.
I learned that the British cannot make proper ketchup. I learned
that soccer is worth fighting over. I learned (by hearsay) that
a real Scot wears nothing under his kilt.
Any student who studies
abroad will tell you that she got "perspective." To me
this means a new way of looking at yourself, your political beliefs,
your culture, your gender, your eating habits, your education. For
example, British university students pick one academic subject and
stick to it for four years, learning colossal amounts of sophisticated
and detailed information about their subjects and very little about
anyone else's. This meant that in the geology department, I, the
liberal arts major, came off as a Superidiot who knew nothing about
rocks. "Ummm. . . . you're really a geology major?" I
got asked again and again. "Yeah, I am, I swear," I answered.
"Oh," they said, unconvinced. "But you don't know
anything about sandstone?. . .And you're taking. . . Women in Medieval
England?" For the first half of the semester, the geology students
called me "The American" and politely left me out of the
On my side I thought
they were all ignorant because they knew nothing about economics
or Spanish or anthropology. But after I went on two voluntary field
trips and attended as many Friday night pub runs as possible, we
reconciled our academic differences and realized that both systems
have a lot to offer.
For Princeton students,
I think time abroad is especially important, in part to practice
the broadminded and international ideas we are taught and in part
to widen the narrow social experience a lot of us have had growing
That may mean seeing
violence in Johannesburg, a different sense of time in Latin America,
or religious tension in Northern Ireland, where city curbs are sometimes
painted blue or red to designate Catholic or Protestant affiliations.
It may mean seeing something
as basic as what I saw in Scotland: a self-perpetuating and fundamentally
non-American system of small land area, public transportation, high
gas prices, nonexistent suburbs, and lots of walking.
If you get the chance
to visit St. Andrews, do it. It sits on the wide and windy Firth
of Forth. It has been the home of golf since the 15th century. It
has 500-year-old office buildings allowing my history professor,
an adamant feminist who wears blue eye shadow and graduated from
Oxford before they gave doctorates to women, to run her classes
from Mary, Queen of Scot's former bedroom. Still, a semester-long
visit there was enough for me. Hearing a Scottish accent makes me
homesick like the dickens, but I'm glad to be back here.
Emily apologizes to the
Scots for lumping them together with the English. Complain at email@example.com.
Emily especially misses
chips, cider and black, and sheep. E-mail her at edj@princeton.
Even with broadened horizons,
Emily still prefers the liberal arts system. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily now knows a great
deal about sandstone. For more information on this subject, e-mail
her at email@example.com