Tiny tales of Princeton students reveal big experiences around the world

By Jamie Saxon, Office of Communications

“I found that speaking a foreign language highlighted parts of me I didn’t previously know I had. It was as if French was empowering me, imbuing me with a sense of optimism.”

Anna Vinitsky ’21, language immersion program in France

“Whether talking to a University of Ghana student about politics, a taxi driver about religion, a tour guide about growing up as a farmer, or bread sellers about Ghana's informal markets, talking with Ghanaians was the highlight of the experience.”

Greg Umali ’20, PIIRS Global Seminar in Ghana

“In Udaipur, where our homestays are, I work with Jan-Daksha Trust, committed to empowering marginalized migrant workers, particularly women. …Your experiences outside the classroom will only serve to enhance your college experience.”

Logan Mundy ’23, Novogratz Bridge Year Program in India

These reflections from Princeton students who were abroad — volunteering, involved in internships or service work, conducting senior thesis research or participating in myriad undergraduate fellowships — are drawn from Princeton’s popular #TellUsTigers Instagram series.  Now in its fourth year, #TellUsTigers is founded on one very important principle: Everyone has a story to tell — they just need an invitation.  The series is designed to marry great visuals with engaging text.  Each post features an undergraduate student, a graduate student, professor, staff member or alumnus.

The first-person narratives in the series illuminate diverse aspects of Princeton — including stories that capture the unexpected outcomes, epiphanies of personal discovery and moments of pure joy and human connection that students experience through the University’s many international opportunities.

One student shared the life-changing personal journey of her  street photography project during an internship in Hong Kong as part  of Princeton’s Learning Across Borders initiative, which encourages students to reflect on and document their time abroad in creative ways. Another student wrote about how his study abroad experience in Germany helped him develop self-reliance, a global perspective and deep listening skills that tie into his interest in pursuing a career in diplomacy. These stories have featured students in countries from China to Greece, Peru to Italy, Kenya to Japan.

The #TellUsTigers posts are also shared on Twitter and Facebook, building a global community of Princetonians — one ❤ at a time.

Turning the pages of family history: With a Martin A. Dale ’53 Summer Award, Jordan Salama ’19 retraced his great-grandfather’s trade route through rural communities in the Andes as a traveling salesman in the 1920s. The stories he collected on his travels became the groundwork for his junior independent work and senior thesis.

A tale of three cities: Dana Iverson ’21 (center), a major in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and artistic director of diSiac, a student-run dance ensemble at Princeton, did a summer internship at the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in Stockholm, Sweden. She celebrated Bastille Day in Paris with two fellow diSiac dancers — Liam Lynch ’21 (left), who traveled from his internship outside Munich, and Fabiola Corral ’21, who was conducting neuroscience research in Paris through Princeton’s Streicker Fellowship. (camera icon) Cristina Hain ’21

#TellUsTigers: “When I announced to my family and friends that I would be doing Bridge Year China before my first year on campus everyone was floored. I was even surprised with myself! Taking a #gapyear hadn’t been on my radar until I read about the Bridge Year Program — a fully funded 9-month service-learning trip to a foreign country. It seemed like a great way for me to launch myself into the unfamiliar, something I had been itching to do after the haze of high school. While being of service & learning a new language! Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in China’s southwest corner, is known as “春天城市” or ‘Spring City.’ My first day in the city I would soon call home was indescribable. I felt a mix of giddiness at all the possibilities & vulnerability at not being able to orient myself in the streets or speak Mandarin. I’ve been taking language classes with my cosplay-enthusiast 老师 (teacher), playing Legos with my host sister & rock climbing with a renowned Yunnan climber. I’ve found fulfillment through my service work at Operation Smile, going on mission trips in rural China and seeing children with cleft lips & palates in need receive free surgery. Being the first black person many patients & families had ever seen, my appearance always yielded a range of reactions, so spending time with them could be difficult. While this was disarming to me at first, I let the other volunteers (from all over China) know that I could speak Mandarin & I built relationships with them. They were more eager to learn about me as a person than they were alarmed by my looks, and incredibly kind! As I look back, I realize how much of a home Kunming has become. Now, leaving is so bittersweet because I realize that for the first time, I’ve been able to build a community independent of my family. I take full ownership of my life here, I’m proud of what I’ve made it & I’m sad to leave it behind. This year has transformed my outlook on the world & what my place within it might be someday; @NovagratzBridgeYear has changed my trajectory at #PrincetonU & in life beyond. I am truly grateful for this experience.” — Reina Coulibaly ’23;  (camera icon)  Kate Gross-Whitaker ’23 (@kate_gw) #Princetagram