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The privilege of knowing our peers

My little sister came to town this past weekend. It was her first time visiting me at Princeton in my four years here, though, as a second semester junior in high school, I suppose it only recently became appropriate for her to spend an extended period of time here. Our time together was wonderful, as it always is: we ate delicious food, met up with fascinating people and enjoyed the California-esque weather (we’re from the Bay Area). The element, though, that characterized the weekend beyond any other was the phenomenal showcase of student talent that we were privileged to witness.

Earth Day celebrations provided brief access into many of the varied artistic talents Princeton students possess. We saw ballet, singing, comedy, rap, hip hop and more. Each act was entertaining, well rehearsed and a tremendous showcase of ability. Saturday evening we went to see “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” an astounding performance with an angelic Ben Taub ’14 at its head. My sister and I are no strangers to Broadway, and that night had us more engaged than we had been in more established venues. That evening, when we went out to explore the Street, we danced to live music of different varieties, in multiple clubs. We also had tickets for other shows, “Margo in Margoland,” “Fashion Speaks,” and “The Drowsy Chaperone,” but time forced our over ambitious hands, and we had to make some decisions.

It dawned on me that these remarkable talents are entertaining their peers on a regular basis and that it was silly that I need the excuse of a visitor to go out of my way to enjoy what everyone around me is so kind to offer. My first column in The Daily Princetonian (I am now waxing a bit of nostalgia, not yet saying goodbye to you all) was about a speech I attended by former chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, and how lucky I was to attend that. Those feelings are the same, and I still feel privileged, but this weekend helped me realize something important about Princeton. Exposure to professors and celebrity speakers is important to getting the most out of Princeton, but it is not Princeton’s strongest asset. The students are.

Big speeches nicely punctuate our time here, and we are allowed exposure to those who change the world, transiently. What we ought to be thankful for, though, is that we are allowed constant exposure to our peers. It is both inside and outside the classroom that Princeton students shine. It is further remarkable that students still find the time to thrive in their schoolwork. The ability of the Princeton student to multitask and juggle varying types of engagement is one worth noting and worth learning. It took four years here and my little sister making the 3,000-mile trip for this thought to fully form, but it has, and I am thankful for it.

In some ways, this weekend was poetic. In about a month I will be done with many years of schooling (the last four the most important and intense), and in about a month my sister will be taking her SAT; out with the old in with the new.

I don’t want to let another weekend pass without taking advantage of the artistic offerings provided by my peers. Our time here is short, and while I have no major regrets, I have come to recognize the importance of stopping by the Frist Campus Center ticket counter and just asking “what is on for the weekend?” This advice is not Princeton-specific. I would recommend to my sister, wherever she goes, that she be no stranger to her Frist ticket counter equivalent. My sister is very studious, and, whether or not she comes to Princeton I hope that this weekend taught her, as it helped teach me, that in college there is so much learning to be done outside of the classrooms and libraries.

Aaron Applbaum is a Wilson School major from Oakland, Calif. He can be reached at

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