Today, we took a little train ride to Princeton, PA to visit college #2, Princeton University. First, a brief description: I expected a traditional, old money, ancien regime institution surrounded by a dinky conservative town. While I was unsurprised to pay a visit to the Christian Science Reading Room (two words which, in my opinion do not go together) I also witnessed several women in Burqas passing in front of the Jewish Heritage house, which allegedly has the best food on campus.
Our tour guide drove this point home repeatedly as people predictably asked him about Prnceton's conservative leanings. He replied earnestly that while that is its reputation, college campuses almost everywhere are becoming more and more openly liberal, in Princeton's case this means that they now are roughly balanced in the student body's political views, and opposing sides often hold lively debates. While it's no Brown, where conservatives are an unhappy minority, Princeton has managed to transfer gracefully off its pedestal as the right wing bastion it once was, promoting a well rounded student body of politically active peers with myriad views. As it should be in my opinion.
Later today we attended dinner at the fabulous Le Bec-Fin with an alum who's sister Mr. Miranda, the Penn chaperone, met in happenstance. Compared to the Princeton info sessions, he was refreshingly honest, while genuine in his love for Princeton, he was quick to point out its flaws unabashedly. Which to me made Princeton more enticing. Bill Mondan was a fantastic guy, and to me, I want to apply to Ivy League schools because I will be surrounded by fantastic people. He was genuine, gregarious, honest, funny, and LOUD. Meeting him gave Princeton a real sense of character for me. However, while I he was great, I am not sure Princeton is right for me, and the reason is abstract and nigh inexplicable. I got the sense from the way he talked about Princeton of the environment: a positive place full of exceptional people, and in this way the Ivies all have one thing in common. Yet each undoubtedly has a shaping effect on students, and while the students seem wonderful, I got the impression that the university tends to orient students in a very pragmatic, goal driven mindset. While Bill explained that university has improved upon graduating a rounded class that does not ALL instantly move to lower Manhattan, I didn't feel as though the class came out with a more open, global thinking mindset of the students at say Brown who I've met. That is not to say that there aren't global thinking Princetonians or narrowminded Brownies, but in the end I might want to choose a school with a less directed and driven culture.
Also here is a picture of some food I ate: