It’s time to take a break from everything we’ve known and been expected to do. It’s time to open our minds to exploration. Over the next year I will be accompanying you on a journey that will broaden your perspective, nourish your curiosity, and deepen your understanding of the world around you. All I am asking of you is that you come into this year with an open mind and no expectations, because these nine months abroad will be nothing like you’ve imagined.
Let me start by introducing myself. I’m from a very rural town in upstate New York. I grew up in a large family and went to a small school. I excelled in high school, (or at least felt that it wasn’t offering enough) and decided to enter college early. It was after two years of intensively studying international politics at Simon’s Rock College in western Massachusetts that I realized I had no idea how these classes were helping me grow and I decided to take a break.
Fifteen years ago, I decided to take my own gap year to explore my interests and one of my trips landed me in China. I helped with an exhibition of photographs that were taken by my late grandfather in Kunming, China in 1944. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew no Mandarin and very little about China, but went into the experience with a clean slate and open mind, aware that it was going to be very different. I had no idea that this experience was going to change my life. The warm heartedness and generosity of the people, matched by the awe-inspiring nature of the Chinese civilization and culture, helped me decide that I wanted to begin a life bridging the cultures between China and the West.
I dedicated the next ten years to learning and exploring these passions, spending at least half the time living and traveling in China and Southeast Asia. I studied at Yunnan Normal University in Kunming and received my Bachelors in Asian Studies at the University of Colorado. After teaching English for one year in China, I embarked on a 3-month cycling trip from Kunming to Singapore with four native Chinese as delegates of Kunming to increase friendship and understanding between the city of Kunming and Southeast Asia. I have also worked as a cycle guide for teenagers in the US and Canada, and a camp counselor and a substitute teacher in high schools and middle schools in New York. I am an avid outdoorsman with passions in camping, mountain climbing, snowboarding and mountain biking. As a proud father of two, I now can enjoy many of my passions through the wonder of two toddlers.
Combining all of these passions with my interest in China and my love for teaching, I started working for Where There Be Dragons in 2011 and took high school and gap-year students into rural China on experiential learning trips. With Dragons, I have led more than ten different programs all over China, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. I am also very excited to be working my seventh year as the Bridge Year China Onsite Director. I am excited to share all of my passions with you, and to give you the opportunity to see them through your own lenses.
Our experiences, as well as your ambitions, are so vast and diverse, that I feel confident you will have an experience that you will remember for a lifetime, with impressions that will help mold your expanding worldview. Not only will you look back at the life you led in the US with a different perspective, but you’re going to meet some amazing people, see some astonishing places, and make life-changing exchanges that will give you the opportunity to pursue your own passions and change the course of your life (if you let it).
As we are getting closer to the start of the program, we are working hard to prepare a comprehensive and exciting itinerary that will leave a lasting impression. It’s our goal to accommodate and foster everyone’s interests and passions, while drawing from our own experience, knowledge, and professional contacts. We hope to expand your knowledge of local and global issues, as well as help develop personal leadership skills and build on a worldview that will make you more globally conscious.
I really look forward to getting to know each and every one of you over the next few weeks. I urge everyone to come forward and to introduce yourselves on this Where There Be Dragons Yak Board. This is a place to express your interests, questions, and concerns. Also feel free to contact me personally, anytime. I hope you are all enjoying the summer and can’t wait to meet you all in Princeton in just a few weeks!
China On-Site Director
Princeton Bridge Year Program