This summer, 1,500 Princeton first-year students read alumnus Jordan Salama’s celebrated travelogue, “Every Day the River Changes: Four Weeks Down the Magdalena.” On Sunday, Sept. 4, the Class of 2026 heard directly from Salama at the annual Pre-read Assembly during Orientation.
“At a place like Princeton you are in a very unique and privileged position to be able to follow these threads of passion that are exciting to you,” Salama told students during the conversation with President Christopher L. Eisgruber.
Eisgruber said he hoped students were inspired by Salama’s physical journey down Colombia’s Magdalena River as well as by his intellectual journey from undergraduate researcher to published author in just a few years.
Salama’s book was originally written as his senior thesis at Princeton. A member of the Class of 2019, Salama majored in Spanish and Portuguese, and earned certificates in creative writing, environmental studies, journalism, and Latin American studies. In May 2019, he presented an excerpt from his thesis at the first Journalism Senior Colloquium, which led to a serendipitous connection with a book agent.
At Princeton, Salama explored various subjects and classes, and took advantage of different international experiences and research opportunities offered through the University. He considered becoming a television writer until taking the class “Creative Nonfiction” with Pulitzer Prize-winning author John McPhee, senior fellow in the Humanities Council’s Program in Journalism.
“Through the conversations with Professor McPhee — who was interested in a lot of the same things I was, which were stories about people, nature, history and culture — I realized there is a career that can be made out of having these kinds of encounters and writing these kinds of stories down as a way of learning about the world,” Salama said.