The pre-reading book ‘Every Day the River Changes’ inspires the class of 2026 to pursue their passion while at Princeton

This summer, 1,500 first-year students at Princeton read Jordan Salameh’s famous alumni travel novel, Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena. Earlier this week, students of 2026 had the opportunity to listen live to Salama at the annual advance-reading gathering during orientation.

“In a place like Princeton, you are in a very unique and special position to be able to pursue the threads of passion that interest you,” Salameh told students seated at the Gadwin Gymnasium on Sunday, September 4th. Think about how you can create those little moments of beauty and emotion in your own communities that make an impact, and bring that into your experience here and also after you leave Princeton.”

Salama, a Class of 2019 graduate, spoke in conversation with President Christopher L. Isgrober, who started a tradition Choose a different book each year As a way of introducing international students to the intellectual life of the university. Advance reading book topics It included freedom of expression, support for first-generation college students, and how to live a meaningful life.

Students ask questions in a pre-reading session

First-year students lined up at the mics at the Jadwin Gymnasium to ask Salama about his famous “Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down Magdalena” ride.

Isgruber said he hopes students will be inspired by the physical safety journey across the Magdalena River in Colombia as well as from his intellectual journey from university scholar to published author in just a few years. “Every Day the River Changes” earned Kirkus the best non-fiction title of 2021. The book Originally written as a graduate thesis for safety He linked his studies to Spanish, creative writing, environmental studies, journalism, and Latin American studies.

Salameh described his academic path at Princeton University as non-linear — in a good way. Explore the many subjects and classes, and take advantage of the various international experiences and research opportunities offered through the university. He considered becoming a television writer until he took a “Creative Nonfiction” class with Pulitzer Prize-winning author John McPhee, a Journalism Senior Fellow.

“Through conversations with Professor McPhee – who was interested in many of the same things I was, which were stories about people, nature, history and culture – I realized that there was a career that could be made through this kind of encounter and writing this kind of story as a way of learning about the world.”

Salama first visited Columbia for a summer internship after his first year at Princeton and returned after his first year to spend four weeks traveling through the Great Magdalena. The river is considered Colombia’s most important culturally, socially, and economically, and the book focuses on the stories of the people Salama met during his voyage.

“A lot of this book is about having these conversations with empathy and respect… How have you dealt with people across so many different types of divides?” Esgruber asked Salameh.

“I wanted to learn and I wanted to have conversations, but I also wanted to live a life with people as they were,” Salama explained. “I did things like play music, play football with people, watch football with people, talk about the interests we had in common. By starting the conversation with these things… that opened the door to having these conversations later that were a little bit deeper and shed more Light on the way people live. They trusted me and I trust them.”

By learning the stories of strangers, Salama also learned about himself. “There is value in going out and having conversations with people as a way to understand yourself,” he said.

Ultimately, Salma said, his book is about what can emerge from conversations based on empathy and respect.

“A lot of this book is about the value of having these kinds of conversations with people,” he said. “How can we cross these divisions or different lived experiences by first starting with common experiences and then, perhaps, expanding on more difficult topics.”

Students in attendance also asked Salama a range of questions about the challenges of traveling alone in Columbia, his process as hub and writer, and his advice for undergraduates at Princeton University. Madeleine MacDonald, a freshman from California, wondered how Salama decided to expand his graduation thesis into a book.

“I wrote the thesis with that in mind,” Salama said. “One of the things I want everyone to take away from this conversation is that there are a lot of people who have come from Princeton who are turning their thesis into real-world stuff. It doesn’t have to be a book. There are people who are starting companies that have their thesis or use it as a springboard to pursue a Ph.D.” There are plenty of ways to use your thesis to get more meaning.”

The conversation between Salama, Esgruber and the class of 2026 will continue through the fall during smaller roundtable discussions at residential colleges. a Advance reading compilation recording Available on the Princeton University Facebook page.

Students in the audience wear T-shirts with words written on it

Early Years attend the Advance Reading Association while wearing Class 2026 T-shirts that read “Go Ahead. Change the World.” Encourage students to explore the world and pursue their passions.

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