Bridge Year

This, from my alma mater, is a good idea:

Group to explore creation of ‘bridge year’ program
Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman has appointed a working group to explore the creation of a “bridge year” program that would allow newly admitted undergraduates to spend a year of public service abroad before beginning their freshman year. The program would enable students to pursue a tuition-free, pre-collegiate enrichment year outside their home country with support from the University.

I finished my high school requirements early and spent a year abroad before college in Liège, Belgium. It was an excellent decision. There would have been practically no benefit to starting college early, and having living abroad without my parents for a year was as important to my university experience as most of what I learned in high school.

I propose that some sort of “bridge year” become something like a default option before higher education. This is much more common outside the United States. Indeed, depending on whom you believe, only seven to twenty-five percent of Americans own passports. My completely unscientific survey of Australians, by contrast, suggests that every last one of them travels abroad as young adults. (I have to admit that this survey is not only unscientific but fatally biased, inasmuch as I’ve only met Australians traveling abroad, not having been there myself).

While I’m praising Princeton, this, too, is good news:

Aggressive goals set for sustainability initiatives
Princeton has committed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 as part of a comprehensive Sustainability Plan that sets ambitious goals in the areas of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, resource conservation, and research, education and civic engagement.

I’ve a big fan of Shirley Tilghman, Princeton’s first non-male non-alum president. She has been working to fix a lot of what was wrong when I was student, despite some stiff resistance from the old guard.

[Tags]Princeton, Bridge Year, Sustainability, Shirley Tilghman[/Tags]

1 comment

  1. Nathan Mar 19

    Absolutely, a great idea. I am glad to see flagship institutions like Princeton spearheading these kinds of programs: other universities will follow. In some way, we need to create a different national sense about human development and education that incorporates travel abroad and service into the life cycle of school, career, family, etc.

    Also– I would make a distinction with Australia. You are right to point to a cultural norm of travel abroad in the early 20s (just before or after uni). However, the reasons for this differ from what is being proposed by Princeton, as I understand it. Aussies can travel easily, thanks to their Commonwealth passport, which guarantees them 2 yrs working visa in Commonwealth countries. Most Aussies I know also get creative and find odd jobs, paying under the table, in other countries in order to string together a worldwide travel. But, usually, this is sightseeing and pleasure, not service. I think the service component would be an important element to add.

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