PHS and Princeton University Reflection: Jackie Patterson ’18

Like most of my peers, I started off the first few days of the new school year compiling my ideal schedule. But for me, the cobbling was in order to make space for my French course at Princeton University. Thankfully, I was able to create the schedule I needed with two free periods to bike back and forth to the hour and 20 minute class.

Last year, I was also lucky enough to to have two other PHS students with me in both of my semester classes at the University, which eased my fear of being surrounded by Ivy-League college students. I soon found, however, that my anxiety was unwarranted, as our classmates readily accepted us high schoolers. My first semester, my friend and I talked to a graduate student auditing our class about his experience at Yale as an undergrad, then at Princeton. We ended up discussing our plans for the future. Second semester I exchanged phone numbers with a runner from the Princeton team, where I potentially wanted to be recruited.

The professors were also extremely welcoming, though they definitely didn’t take it easy on us. My first class met three times a week and the second, too, but even with the free periods on the other days I often struggled with the workload. In my French literature course second semester, we were expected to read large sections of primary texts in French and upwards of ten pages of dense theoretical texts as supplements for every class. This reinforced my growing awareness that procrastination would not work in college. Though our reading was rarely checked, we had to discuss the texts and their relation in depth in a class of about 15 students, so if you didn’t do the work, you were in bad shape. The participation highlighted one of the major differences between language classes, maybe classes in general, from high school to college: people actually wanted to be there. We didn’t have popsicle sticks or long awkward silences because everyone had chosen to be part of that class and we were given interesting, thought-provoking material to discuss.

This environment allowed me to grow more confident and to increasingly be able to trust myself and my ideas on what we read. We discussed and wrote about works from classical French authors in conjunction with literary theories by authors who ranged from Jacques Derrida to Judith Butler, an acclaimed philosopher and one of the most influential writers in third wave feminism and queer theory, all within 24 classes. Being as independent as that class forced me to be and studying something that I was truly interested in has made me eagerly await college next year.

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