Why Bridge Year?
The Novogratz Bridge Year Program's "Reflections & Connections" series features unique stories from the Bridge Year Admission Ambassadors. Each week, a different group of ambassadors will share their thoughts on a topic related to the Bridge Year experience. In our final installment of the series, Anna Hiltner ’23, Cody Mui ’23, Aneekah Uddin '24, John Bullock ’23, and Leopoldo Solis '21 discuss their main takeaways from the Novogratz Bridge Year Program and provide their best advice for prospective students. Don't forget, the deadline to apply to Bridge Year is May 9, 2021.
What are some of your main takeaways from Bridge Year?
Leo Solis: Bridge Year was incredibly rewarding for many reasons. For one, it gave me the chance to better understand myself without the constant stressors of schoolwork and perfectionism. It also allowed me to immerse myself in a language and culture with which I was unfamiliar. This immersion later gave me a unique perspective as a student of Latin American history at Princeton. It also allowed me to challenge many assumptions about myself and the country I come from, making me more empathetic and curious about the world around me - both academically and personally. Finally, it allowed me to engage with people who provided meaningful conversations and wise words that I reflect on to this day.
Aneekah Uddin: Most of my takeaways from Bridge Year actually happened in the months following. The year itself moved so quickly, that I hadn't been able to reflect on it as deeply until after the trip and in a different context (being back home). As cliché as it may sound, Bridge Year gave me so much appreciation and love for the communities and connections I had. Whether that was with members in my group or with the Indonesian community, those connections were real and the conversations we had were meaningful. Bridge Year also made me realize how special the connections I had back home were. As I move forward in life, I make the effort to prioritize the people in my life.
Cody Mui: My main takeaway from Bridge Year is to be open to new experiences. Bridge Year is ultimately full of unexpected events, both good and bad. I am naturally a shy and quiet person, but embracing this and pushing myself out of my comfort zone has led me to build lifelong friendships with my homestay family, my worksite coworkers, and other Bridge Year participants. I have now made being open to new experiences the driving statement of my time at Princeton with my academics and my social and professional life. And it is something that I have not regretted.
John Bullock: One of my biggest takeaways from Bridge Year is a less certain mindset. After spending the year learning about many different perspectives on a myriad of topics, I learned to be much more receptive when considering the viewpoints of different people. Occasionally in American society and at Princeton, it can seem like there is one "correct" perspective on any given issue. However, spending time in a foreign country immersed in a different culture while making genuine connections with people of differing perspectives taught me to both reconsider the cultural assumptions that I had always regarded as fact, as well be more receptive to new ideas or ways of thinking.
Anna Hiltner: After spending nine months in the Bridge Year program, I found that I could look at things from a new perspective that would inform many of my values and the decisions that followed. In Bolivia, we learned first-hand about the influence of the United States and big business, the deep history of indigenous resistance, and the complexities of service. On top of this, I experienced a new way of thinking and living that I hadn’t known was possible in the United States. This made me feel free to explore my interests without the pressures of traditional schooling.
What is your biggest piece of advice for prospective students?
Leo: I propose to all students that if you are having doubts about whether you are a good fit for the program, you should still apply. Despite what you may think, Bridge Year is not a place for those who have everything ‘figured out,’ but instead for people who are eager to learn more about the world around them. If you have this curiosity, then please consider applying! Similarly, unlike the Princeton application, the Bridge Year program application is not looking for the students with the most ‘elite’ qualifications, but rather for those who are genuine and show a commitment to the program’s ideals.
Aneekah: I've got two pieces!
1. Remember how excited you are right now about applying and going on Bridge Year. Remember why you're there, what you're goals are, and achieve them. Make the most of the experiences and moments you have because they are rare.
2. Don't be afraid to reach out, to be vulnerable and to take advantage of the resources you are offered. Sometimes it feels like Bridge Year participants aren't "real Princeton students" but you are, and you have access to all the people here who genuinely care about you and want you to succeed. Open up to the people in your life there in order to make those long lasting connections and friendships.
Cody: My biggest piece of advice for prospective students is to live in the moment. You will be surrounded by some of the most amazing people and the most amazing sights to behold. Take in all you can, go for walks, reflect, do whatever you feel you need to do to be present. Of course, it can also be exhausting so take some breaks too. But it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the time goes by very quickly. When I was homesick in the beginning, days felt like weeks. But before I knew it, the weeks and months passed by and suddenly it was time to go home. Take pictures, document your time in a journal, do whatever you need to do to be present.
John: If you are considering Bridge Year and think it is something you might want to do, APPLY. At any point during the application process – even after you’ve submitted your application - please reach out to any of the Admission Ambassadors or the Bridge Year office with every question you might have. It is difficult to describe to you exactly what an entire nine months of your life will look like, but we definitely don't want lack of information or clarity about what the program offers to hinder any prospective applicants. If you are given an offer to the program and accept, then you are committed. However, up until that point of accepting the Bridge Year office's admissions offer, you can always change your mind and start your freshman year on campus in the fall. If the application deadline comes and goes, though, we will be happy to welcome you to campus in the fall - but the unique opportunity that Bridge Year offers will no longer be possible.
Another piece of advice for prospective students: Don't let any one thing such as language experience stop you from considering all of the program locations. I urge you to carefully consider every program location before you come to the conclusion that any one placement is the only Bridge Year experience that will be worthwhile. After all, the program locations are all chosen by the Bridge Year office and offered for a reason.
Anna: My biggest advice for prospective students is to take advantage of every opportunity. And filling out the Bridge Year application is the first step. When completing the application, I’d recommend imagining yourself in each program location and being honest about how you think the program will change your life.