Princeton to Launch an International Service Year for Pre-College Students

Princeton will send admitted first-year students out into the world for 9 months of international public service.

Princeton student Zach Ruchman teaching in a Vietnam Classroom

Princeton student Zach Ruchman teaching in a Vietnam classroom

This fall, Princeton’s new Bridge Year Program aims to offer 20 admitted students a chance to live in a different culture, develop maturity and an international perspective, and a commitment to public service before coming back to Princeton to start their freshman year in the fall of 2010.

The program will teach the participants about host country health and safety, offer them language instruction, and place them in “humble service” projects at grassroots organizations, clinics, hospitals, schools, and orphanages. The goal is for participants to take on roles appropriate to their age and experience, and in jobs “that could not be held by local workers.” — My read on that last goal is they want to prevent the high school grads from displacing local jobs, not to imply that local workers are incapable of work that Princeton-bound kids can handle.

The Bridge Year participants will live in home stays, in communities near a few other Bridge Year participants, and near in-country support staff from partner organizations experienced with coordinating international volunteers.

Best of all, Princeton picks up most of the program costs — though participants who can afford it are responsible for flight costs and incidentals like spending money. And the program is open to both U.S. and international students — U.S. and Canadian students will be placed outside North America, and students from other countries will be placed outside their home country.

In the Princeton University Bridge Year Program document (PDF) that outlines the recommendations of a working group established to study the possibilities of a Bridge Year, University President Shirley M. Tilghman makes it clear that serving abroad doesn’t imply that other countries are “more needy, or because service there is intrinsically more worthwhile (both clearly untrue), but because experience gained abroad would heighten our students’s international awareness.”

Learn more on the Bridge Year Program web pages. To apply for next year’s program, you’ve got to first be admitted to Princeton, accept admission there, and then separately apply for the Bridge Year.

If you are interested in volunteering abroad and you’re not participating in the Princeton program, also check out:

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