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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

A new adventure for all of us!

Welcome to Bridge Year Indonesia, and congratulations on being part of this year’s inaugural cohort. As for you (most likely), and for Princeton Bridge Year, this will be my first time in Indonesia. I am incredibly excited to join you, Christine, and Umi as your fall support instructor.

The year to come will be filled with challenge, adventure, inspiration, discovery, reward and many beautiful surprises, and I can’t wait to join you on the first part of your journey. One of my favorite aspects of Bridge Year is how it stands apart from most other experiences abroad. It engages us in diverse points of view, challenges us to reframe our thinking, and asks us to go deep and to question further.

I first encountered Bridge Year while working at an NGO in Dakar, Senegal. One of the volunteers at our office was a Bridge Year student – he impressed me with his determination to learn French and Wolof, his eagerness to participate in every project, and his interest in sharing his experience with the other students and participating in their experience as well. The following year I joined the Bridge Year Senegal 2013-2014 team as a support instructor. Since then I served as the On-Site Director for Bridge Year Senegal for three years and led a summer and a custom course in Senegal.

One tenet that Bridge Year has taught me is that each person’s story is unique, and each person we meet is our teacher. My favorite days were those spent in conversation with students about the pitfalls of development or the meaning of service, or listening to a grandmother tell me about life in the village through the arrival of pumped water and electricity, or walking alongside our guide as he explained the traditional medicinal uses of the plants that we saw.

I truly believe that we can create a home for ourselves anywhere in the world through personal connections. More than the great food, or the language challenge, or the tourist sites, it’s the people that keep drawing me back to familiar places and that drive me to visit new ones – those that I’m looking forward to visiting for the second, third, or twentieth time, and also those that I’ll be meeting for the first time.

I look forward to getting know you better. And I’m always available to answer any questions that you may have as you prepare. You can reach me at [email protected]

Thank you and until soon,

Elke

Photo 1: Rockin’ a new shirt out of Senegalese wax fabric (and yes, those are fish!).
Photo 2: Dancing up a storm with Bridge Year students during a community stay in a village.
Photo 3: Pirogues along the beach in Yoff, my home for the past 5 years until I recently moved back to Minnesota (USA) this summer.

(Having trouble finding the photos? Check out the right-hand side of the post, and just click on the thumbnails to make them larger.)