Novogratz Bridge Year Program, Bolivia
My name is Matthew and I am a senior from New York City and Washington D.C. At Princeton I study Computer Science with a certificate in Music, and in my free time I participate in multiple music ensembles on campus. I was a member of the Novogratz Bridge Year Bolivia cohort in 2017-18, where I volunteered at a small Montessori school outside of Cochabamba, tutoring and teaching classes in various subjects to students from 1st through 12th grade. While in Bolivia I also participated in activities like soccer, running, trekking, instrument building and woodworking, working in the local market, and more. Even now, over five years since I arrived on Princeton's campus for Bridge Year orientation, I am a passionate member of its on-campus community and I love exchanging experiences and ideas with people from different years, who went to different locations, and with prospective students.
What was the best part of Bridge Year for you?
My favorite aspect of Bridge Year was the relationships I made with my host family and siblings. I lived with 5 host siblings who I spent a lot of time playing sports, cooking, and hanging out with and I am grateful to have been accepted into their family.
In what ways did Bridge Year challenge you?
I remember being awestruck by all the new experiences I had in the first few months of Bridge Year. Everything was completely unknown to me from the language to the nature to the social customs, and I was ready to soak it up as fast as possible. About halfway through the program I had to make a difficult mental transition as the freshness wore off and once exceptional experiences became routine - Bridge Year, at the end of the day, is not a program where you just visit a place, but where you must live in a place. Getting past the initial phase that feels similar to being a tourist visiting and into the next phase where I began to accept things as part of my normal life and routine was a challenging mental transition.