Finding Community through Service

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Service is a critical aspect of my life. I was raised with the belief that community is vital, that being an active member of the community and giving back are values that I should always keep with me. As a student, I have always been heavily involved in service, volunteering at the local hospitals and the soup kitchen in my hometown of Hamilton, New Jersey and implementing service projects at my local high school.

At Princeton University, I continue to engage in service work, and service continues to play a major role in my life, allowing me to give back while also helping me find my own little community. With the Pace Center for Civic Engagement, I have learned about mobile medicine and the lack of access to healthcare on a Breakout Princeton trip to Trenton and Princeton and am currently serving as a Community Action Fellow, where I am helping to plan out and build the community-engaged experiences that some of you will have during Orientation to Princeton. Service here has introduced me to various peers who share the same values and passions at me. I have found my own little family, my own little niche.

Beyond helping me find my place within the hustle and bustle of the university, service also provides me with a lens through which I critically engage with my rigorous academics. I view the contemporary societal issues that we discuss in class through a service-focused lens, and often, I am able to form connections from my own experiences, making the topic all that more engaging. In addition, to supplement my classroom learning, service at Princeton provides me with the opportunity to actually go out into the community, meet people and organizations, listen to their stories, and create mutually beneficial partnerships, giving back while also undergoing individual growth.

It is true that service is not a mandatory component of Princeton education, but, in my opinion, it is a valuable one. It is my belief that classroom learning alone is not enough; it is by combining academics with civic engagement that one can truly experience a well-rounded education while living out Princeton’s informal motto: in the nation’s service and the service of humanity. My advice to you, as incoming first-year students, would be to let your passions guide you, both in and out of the classroom, and when you’re ready, get involved at the Pace Center, even if it’s not a full-time commitment or your just testing the waters. I guarantee that you will not regret your time with Pace for there is truly nothing more rewarding than translating your passions into a service project and seeing the impact you can have.

Learn more about the Pace Center for Civic Engagement at pace.princeton.edu or follow @pace_princeton on Instagram. Get started in service at Welcome to Service on Tuesday, September 10 or stop by the Civic Engagement Student Activities Fair on Friday, September 13.

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Hifsa Chaudry '21