By Aitran Doan, Stanford University (Ecuador 2014)
A week after returning from my eight-month stay in Ecuador, I found myself on Stanford’s campus for the “Admitted Students Weekend.” There I was, wearing my alpaca sweater, my mismatched earrings, and what someone called “cultural necklace” amidst the crowd of over 1,000 newly admitted Stanford students.
We were all gathered to explore the campus and envision the next four years there. I was brimming with excitement: to talk to my future classmates, to map out my academic track as an Earth Systems major, to discuss poverty, foreign aid, environmentalism…I was so excited, until I found myself standing in the same conversation for the fifth time in an hour, listening to my peers list the five other prestigious colleges they got into.
That seemed to be the hot topic of the weekend: sharing the pros and cons of other universities and choosing which of the over two hundred events to attend. I was not annoyed at my peers–in fact, that was me exactly a year ago, standing on Stanford’s campus with a map and the overwhelming schedule in each hand, debating the pros and cons of Stanford as if that was the biggest decision I will ever make in my life.
One year later, with a Global Citizen Year under my belt, these life choices are no longer at the heart of what I care about.
This time, I come to college as a questioner. I question what kind of college campus we would create if, instead of gathering admits who have recently survived the college admissions process – crawling out of the hole to catch their first few breaths of fresh air – we gathered admits whose high school careers were not the extent of their life experience. Imagine if each student arrived ready to share their real-world insight with their future classmates.
If this vision were reality, would the Dean of Admissions choose to address the Bridge Year Movement in his Welcome Speech? If a Bridge Year had been the experience of my peers, would navigating Admit Weekend be infused with a deeper sense of purpose? Perhaps this renewed personal mission will put into perspective the extremes of the college social scene–alcohol abuse, sexual assault, and hazing. Perhaps saying “no” will be easier because intuition screams at the top of its lungs, “What is more important: the loss of the party animal image or the gain of personal integrity?”
My fellow Fellows and I come back from our Global Citizen Year with a vocation; we’re ready to take college by storm, guided by insights about where our heart’s desires intersect with the world’s greatest needs.
Our nation needs to call for an education reform that frees our young leaders from the race to nowhere. Can’t we all agree that our rising generation of global leaders would realize a greater potential if they entered college with first-hand experience of the world as it exists for most human beings?
From my own experience this year, I believe deeply that the Bridge Year Movement is the answer our country needs.