Dean Dolan’s Downloads

Jill Dolan, Dean of the College, Princeton University

Bridge Year Students as Ambassadors and Learners

Bridge Year Dinner Remarks

September 1, 2015

I’m delighted to be here with you this evening, so that I can meet all of you before we send you off on your great adventures!

I just have a few things to say as you begin eating your dinner (I’ve always wanted to do dinner theatre . . .).

First off, I’ve read your bios, and I’m so impressed with all of you! I can sense your excitement as you prepare to go away. It strikes me how different you are from one another, in the best possible ways—geography, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. And yet how similar you are in terms of your passion for learning and for experiencing the world to the absolute fullest. You’re interested in public health, women’s rights, education, dance, poetry, literature, baking, theatre, musical theatre, music, soccer, jazz, reading, the environment and sustainability, food systems and social problems, visual art, marimba, political science, Chinese martial arts, feminism, human trafficking, philosophy, history, geography, airlines (!), film, and building things! You come from 18 different states; from China and Brazil; and from the U.S. Army. You already speak many different languages, come from many different cultures, play a host of different sports, and a bunch of different instruments.

In other words, you’re already a diverse, engaged, talented group of students and we’re proud to send you out into the world as Princeton’s global ambassadors. But what also strikes me about your statements is your curiosity, your humility, and your keen passion to engage with the world in the hands-on, immediate, intense way that your Bridge Year experiences will allow. I’m so proud of who you are and what you’ll do this year!

Second, I want to thank the faculty fellows who’ve, at John’s invitation, agreed to be your Skype partners while you’re off campus. This is a great idea; it allows you to maintain a connection to faculty on campus who can answer questions, hear what you’re up to, advise you about potential courses and opportunities when you’re back, and really just continue to emphasize how delighted we are that you’re part of the Princeton community, even when you’re traveling internationally. These faculty fellows (recognize them here? Here tonight?) are all lovely, warm, engaged people; I think you’ll find them and their work exciting, and I know they’ll be thrilled to hear what you’re up to.  Call them often!

Let me end with a few thoughts:

As I’ll say to all the freshmen at the Class of 2019 welcome in a couple of weeks, you’ll be shocked at how quickly a year goes by. You’ve been preparing for college for so long . . . all that hard work in high school, all that time with applications, all those difficult life decisions to make . . . before you know it, you’ll be seniors, confronting the next set of life decisions! But for now, you as Bridge Year students have a really unique opportunity. You get to change the lens on your lives and your studies, to lift your eyes from your books and your screens to connect deeply and intimately with other people’s lives and to share communities with strangers who I hope will quickly become friends.

I’ve never been to Brazil, or India, or Bolivia, or Senegal! I have been to a few different cities in China.  And in my own international travels, I’ve found that my curiosity has carried me far, and I know you share this with me. I urge you to keep an open-heart to those you meet and to one another. You’ll be one another’s family while you’re away, and I’m sure your sense of kinship and fellow-feeling will quickly attach to everyone you meet. Use your time well over these nine months:

  • Let your curiosity take you to ever new places and people;
  • Absorb everything and try to react with good will and compassion;
  • Let your feelings guide you, whether they be of fear or courage, anxiety or anticipation, sadness or delight. What a wonderful opportunity to be moved, as well as to learn!
  • Give back—this, after all, isn’t wilderness hiking where you pack out everything you take in. Decide which pieces of yourself you’ll leave behind in the world, so that you can begin to create a skein of relations across the globe.
  • And finally— Take time; soak it in; write it down; chart what you observe, what you think, and what you feel, so that when you return, you’ll have a record of your year to guide you into the ones to come.

And most of all, travel safely, reach out, be in touch, and as they say in Yiddish, “Zei gezunt”—go in good health and return in good health!


This entry was posted on September 1, 2015 in Uncategorized.