So, Leora, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 20 years old, a junior at Princeton University majoring in Slavic Languages and Literatures. I’m from the Twin Cities, Minnesota… what else is there to say?
Well, for starters, why did you choose Princeton?
I actually almost ended up going to Boston University! They gave me a full ride to their honors college… it was a tough decision to make. Obviously, I do receive generous aid from Princeton, but I was prepared to go to BU. In the end, my parents and I decided that Princeton was the better place for me — the “hype” is real. It’s a super intense place — which is part of the reason why I chose it — but it’s also a university that really cares about you. There’s an immense support system for undergraduates, which was its major selling point.
And you study Slavic Languages and Literatures?
People always ask that. I actually started college thinking that I would major in Near Eastern Studies. I took a few classes and realized I really didn’t like it, although I did take Persian (national language of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan) and totally fell in love with it (I took all the available Persian classes at Princeton). I accidentally took some classes on Soviet history — it was awesome. I knew I had to continue. So I guess I don’t really study literature. I’m more on the history side of things.
What have you done outside of class to further your interest/deepen your knowledge in Soviet history?
I read a lot about it, for starters. I’ve spent my past two summers in Central Asia — Tajikistan and Kazakhstan — on two different fellowships. That was great. I learned a lot. I learned Tajiki (not Kazakh, really), but I also learned a tremendous amount about the societies there. I really recommend that everyone travel while in college. I’ll actually be in Moscow next semester for study abroad.
Did you anything abroad while in high school?
Yes, the summer after sophomore year I did a summer program in Annecy, France offered by Tufts University. I went to international relations class and studied French. I lived with a host family. The summer after senior year I lived and interned with an NGO in Israel.
What else do you do, besides study Soviet history and travel, for fun, while in school?
I go to tango class on Monday nights! It’s the highlight of my week, and it’s free for students. I’m fairly involved with the Jewish community, so I go to classes at least once a week and go to Shabbat dinner without fail. It’s a big social event for me. I’m also pretty involved with the Persian-speaking community on campus. We have events sometimes, as well as our regular language table. I spend a lot of time with friends. I sing in an a cappella group.
Was Princeton the right choice for you?
Oh, for sure. I probably would have been happy in a lot of places, but Princeton is definitely the right place for me. The focus on academics has made me learn so much, but, perhaps more importantly, it’s surrounded me with like-minded people. It’s great.
What is your biggest advice about the college experience?
Wow, that’s hard. When it comes to choosing a college… it helps to visit, for one. It also helps to think about what you want out of your college: do you want an intense academic experience? Do you want experience in the “real world?” Do you want more of a social experience? Different colleges offer different things.
This is a photo from my summer in Tajikistan! I did something called the CLS (Critical Language Scholarship): the US government sent me to study Persian abroad for two months. It was fully-funded. I had the time of my life!