While visiting a festival of contemporary performance last week in Serbia I was surprised to notice a group of young people, about college age, with one of the women wearing a Princeton sweatshirt. As a graduate of Princeton, I had to ask if she had an affiliation with the University. To my delight, she not only was enrolled at Princeton, but she and her friends will enter as freshmen once they complete their volunteer projects in Serbia as part of the bridge-year program (On the Campus, Sept. 23).
At a time when many people are forced to cut back on expenses and projects, given our economic climate, it was truly inspiring to see that Princeton has not relinquished its commitment to service. The volunteer work that the students are pursuing in Serbia ranges from youth projects to HIV/AIDS education programs. They spoke with passion about the experience of traveling abroad and working within different communities.
I was attending a festival that presented new works by young artists from the Balkan region. Their creations revealed the possibilities of art and theater to comment on and instigate social change. I was part of a group attending to observe artistic trends and to see if there are possibilities for cultural exchanges. In both groups of young people — the artists as well as the Princeton students — I noticed a similar vibrancy and commitment to thought and action that can inspire creativity and community development.
Although I loved my years as a student, I am even more proud of the University when I see its ongoing commitment not only to our next generation, but also to cultural endeavors. The more complicated and intertwined our world becomes, the greater the significance of each of our interactions with people and ideas from other places.