Dear Friends and Family of Bridge Year Participants,
As this year’s Bridge Year Cohort sets foot in foreign lands and begins their journey for the next nine months, we wanted to update all the parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, teachers, alumni, administrators, and fans who are eagerly awaiting news and updates from their favorite Bridge Year participants.
During the travel-intensive first weeks of the Bridge Year program, participants travel to remote areas where internet access is often unreliable. Many of our students choose to accept an invitation from on-site staff to “detox” from the omnipresent influence of social media and smart phones in our lives as they get oriented to a new language, culture, and pace of life. Most participants decide not to travel with their personal devices during this time, and so may not respond to texts with the lightning-fast speeds that many of us have become accustomed to. You may have noticed on-site staff posts with compelling messages about the benefits of being more present and engaged, especially during the critical adjustment period in the first few weeks of Bridge Year.
A frequently asked question: Does this mean that I’m not going to hear from my favorite Bridge Year participant for the first month? On the contrary! Participants are highly encouraged to share their experience by posting photos, reflections, poems, and other updates right hear on the Yak Board, which serves both as a group blog, a way of staying connected, and a collective archive of the Bridge Year experience. During the first busy travel months, we aim for a new post roughly every four days (sometimes this means an instructor hiking to the top of a mountain to get reception and texting Dragons admin a photo or voice message for us to post, other times it might be a flurry of deep, wordy, reflections from students).
We hope that reframing technology use will help you feel more connected to our Bridge Year experience, and that the ways in which we stay connected feel thoughtful, intentional, wise, and richer in content. If you are an avid social media user, you are also highly encouraged to take a look at the Bridge Year (bridgeyearprogram) and Where There Be Dragons (wheretherebedragons) Instagram pages, where each group’s “designated Instragrammer” will post snapshots of their Bridge Year Journey. During September travel, students will also have the option to access the internet via local cybercafes for things like personal email catch-up roughly once every 7-10 days (this varies depending on itineraries and is usually not possible during most treks).
Another common question: Is it safe to be in these remote areas without access to communication? Important question! The answer is that while student access to communication is often limited, Dragons HQ has daily contact with on-site staff and have clear communication plans for emergencies (or sharing urgent communications from home) even during the remote parts of group travel (such as treks and homestays in rural areas).
Throughout the year, we will support students to ask critical questions and develop wisdom (and their own opinions!) around the use of the many wonderful communication and information technologies available to us. We invite you to join us in these conversations as the year goes on— what feel like the most meaningful ways to connect? What is the balance between technology pulling us out of the present moment and technology helping us share, learn about, or connect more deeply with the themes we explore on Bridge Year? How do we make sure we are fulfilling our important responsibility to honor relationships back home and share this educational experience with others? How can my tech use potentially facilitate my integration in a new culture?
A message for BY participants: Believe it or not, your Yak board has a following! Past BY participants, parents, friends, Princeton administrators and alumni, other BY groups, on-site staff, etc. all love to see what’s going on. To all you brilliant writers, thinkers, poets, and photographers: please know that your posts don’t have to be perfect— we love to see anything and everything you have to share, even if it feels like a work in progress!
A final invitation: To friends and family, we invite you to help us out so that participants don’t feel like their reflections and updates are ending up in a vacuum, we invite you, if you wish, to post something here on the Yak Board if you have appreciated the updates from the other side. Please see some guidance below for “best practices” re: Yak Board posting.
A Guide to Using the Yak Board for Friends & Family
GOOD (Examples of excellent friend/family Yak participation):
NOT SO USEFUL (Examples of Yak posts that are probably better as personal messages or direct questions to the Bridge Year Office):
We hope this gives you a good idea of how to get involved. Don’t worry— if you post something that we think is probably best sent as a personal message, we will email you directly to follow up!
Lastly, thank you so much family & friends for everything you continue to do to make the Bridge Year possible for these amazing young people. And… thanks in advance to the BY cohort of this year for generously and thoughtfully sharing your experience with the rest of us!
Jenny & Elizabeth (Dragons Admin & loyal daily readers of all Bridge Year Yak Boards)