Student - Princeton University

I did not realize truly how many opportunities would be at my fingertips as a student at Princeton University until I began attending school there. Yet, I cannot help but feel like I haven’t lived the first half of my undergraduate experience to its full potential – I entered college convinced I was meant to be a Biological Engineering major, but it wasn’t until halfway through my sophomore year that I ultimately recognized I could not fulfill my curiosities in biology, pharmacoepidemiology, and pharmacogenetics in that department. So, at the end of my sophomore year, I transitioned into the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department because I realized what I was looking for was not merely a focus on the natural sciences, but one that supports my understanding of the biological world on a microscopic and a macroscopic level.

Because I lost so much valuable time finding my academic niche, I applied to a semester study abroad program in Panama where I would be performing intense field work surrounded by mind-blowing ecological diversity. Being accepted was the best milestone in my career yet – I packed my suitcase, hugged my parents for what I thought would be the last time until May, and set out for Panama with a group of peers. I already had high expectations for the program, but I could have never predicted the extent to which they were surpassed: I was out in tropical rainforests every day, observing and interacting with species I would have otherwise never seen outside of a textbook.

So, you can imagine my devastation when in the middle of our program, our group was told we would have to return home and continue our studies online due to the escalating global COVID-19 pandemic.

Coming back has been bittersweet – though I am reunited with my family and have a roof over my head in these uncertain times, I am back in cold New Jersey when I could have been hiking through national parks in warm Panama. More so, I am another mouth my parents have to feed at home, an added stress to my mother whose job was mandated to shut down because of the disease. My summertime research plans are also jeopardized – with the global uncertainty, any chances of travel for my mandatory departmental senior research are under the risk of being cancelled. In this time of uncertainty, I can do no more than taking every day as it comes in hopes that soon everything will be okay again.