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

Greetings from Christine Megariotis – Onsite Director

Welcome Bridge Year Indonesia Students!

I am so happy to finally be introducing myself to you all on our Yak board as this is one of the first steps of our 9-month journey together as a group. This is the beginning of us forming a community and becoming a family. This is the beginning of you having your brain cracked open and your heart exposed as you experience, not just living on the other side of the world, but also new ways of thinking, asking questions, engaging in communities, creating friendships, measuring your failures and successes, and perhaps even defining who you are and how you fit into this world.

This upcoming year is brimming with enormous potency. As part of the inaugural cohort of Princeton Bridge Year in Indonesia, the paths you make will be new and fresh, perhaps a little rocky at times, and maybe full of steep climbs that burn your lungs and downhills that cause you to stumble. You will also be the recipient of laughter resulting from awkward first encounters, the confidence of being a cultural ambassador, humility gained from finding your place in a new partnership organization, great love from being the first student welcomed into your new family’s home, and the happiness and inspiration that pours forth once embarking on something new and reflecting on all of your growth.

I’d like to briefly share my story as to how I arrived here, as we’ll be working closely together throughout our time in Indonesia. I am currently writing to you from Patan, Nepal; a city of about 2,600 years old and located in the Kathmandu valley. In a few days, I will be heading back to the US with my students and my departure is bittersweet. Nepal has been my home for the past  year, as I’ve led two semesters and one summer course here, and I will deeply miss being called chori (daughter) by my aama (mother) in our rural homestay, drinking endless cups of milk tea, getting lost in the maze of ancient city streets and finding my way in a language still new to my tongue, gazing at layers of stars during our trek in the Himalayas, listening to Tibetan monks chant and and bells being rung outside my window during morning puja, and the homestay families and ISP mentors who have been here to teach and support me and my students through our journeys.

However, I am so excited to be heading to Indonesia soon. This will be my first year working with Princeton Bridge Year, but Indonesia is a place I am deeply familiar with as it was my home for three years from 2011 to 2014. I’m originally an East Coast city girl, born and raised in New Jersey with a 7-year stint living in Washington, DC. While in DC, I studied International Affairs, Geography, and Geographic Information Systems focusing on issues of economic development and public health at The George Washington University. In 2011, I moved to Jambi, Sumatra on a fellowship to work with an environmental organization, KKI-Warsi, and spent two years diligently learning about community forestry, climate change, and low-carbon development. I worked on projects cooperating with indigenous groups, villagers, and all levels of government to develop participatory community conservation projects, impact natural resource management policy, and increase public awareness of sustainable development.

To be honest, my expectations were a bit out of line when I first went to Indonesia. I thought I would be engaged in non-stop excitement all of the time, I would never get tired of field visits, that adapting to a new culture and language would be easy and fast, and that I would never be homesick, but I was wrong. I had bad days, and at times bad weeks, and even times that I wondered what exactly I was doing in Indonesia. Regardless, or perhaps in spite of those days, the first two years I lived in Indonesia were the most humbling, challenging, rewarding, and truly “educational” years of my life. At the end of my fellowship, I wanted to stay in Indonesia and teach others all I knew and luckily I found Where There Be Dragons. Being a part of a community of driven educators and courageous students has inspired me to continue teaching about Indonesia, and especially to guide and mentor others through similar life-changing experiences as I was fortunate enough to have myself.

I hope that by the end of our 9 months together, Indonesia will play as an important role in your life as it did in mine. That it will be more than a place you visited, but a place that changed you, that you struggled in, that you succeeded in, that you learned something new about yourself and other people in, and that you found the courage and ability to let go, live freely as yourself, and enjoy the different beauties that humanity offers every day. One of my favorite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson is “We are always getting ready to live, but never living”, and I hope you embrace the ability to LIVE while in Indonesia.

Now that I’ve introduced myself, please take a moment to come forward and tell us about yourself! Please tell us about your interests, your projects, your families, or anything else you’d like to share. I am excited to experience this inaugural Bridge Year with such a fantastic group of individuals and I can’t wait to get to know you all.

This Yak Board is also a space for us to begin communicating as a group, share updates with our friends and families, and document our time together. If you have any questions, go ahead and post them here – most likely if you are wondering about something, one of your peers is wondering too! You can also feel free to contact me at [email protected].

Salam, Sampai Jumpa! (Peace, See you later!)

– Christine