Both Forbes College and Whitman College will be participating in a pilot exchange program, Global Exchange, with schools in Hong Kong and Cambridge, United Kingdom this upcoming spring break.
Five students from Forbes will spend the break at St. John’s College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge, and four students from Whitman will spend the break at Morningside College, one of the colleges of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Whitman and Forbes will also host a small number of students from these universities during one of the foreign universities’ academic breaks next September, Master of Whitman College Sandra Bermann said.
“The idea of this is that we’re thinking if we provide an exchange early on, it will make students more aware from the very time they start living at Princeton that [international experiences] are an option,” Bermann said.
Bermann explained that during their stays in Hong Kong and Cambridge, Princeton students will have an “academic experience” in which they go to classes and are hosted by other students and faculty fellows. However, she added, their experience will primarily focus on residential college activities such as eating in communal dining halls and engaging in service activities.
Dean of Whitman College Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu noted that in the case of Whitman’s exchange program, students would also be participating in a service activity, community dinners, guided tours through Hong Kong and theater productions.
Master of Forbes College Michael Hecht explained that the idea for this exchange program started several years ago when, prior to becoming master of Forbes, he went to Cambridge to visit his friend and colleague Christopher Dobson, who had recently been appointed master of St. John’s College. After being named master of Forbes a year or so later and recalling his experience at Cambridge, Hecht said, it occurred to him that the two schools could form a partnership, allowing students at the University to see where the residential college system originated.
Hecht explained that although he posed his idea to the Council of Masters three years ago, it is has only become a pilot program this year at both Forbes and Whitman.
“I think in the long run this is something that any of the, perhaps all six of the colleges can do,” he said. “It started with this one because I had that connection.”
Bermann said that she organized Whitman’s exchange program with the help of the International Programs Office, which connected her with an alumnus who identified the Morningside College as a potential sister school.
Funding for the trip comes primarily from the Office of the Dean of the College, Graves-Bayazitoglu said, noting that students also contribute a piece as well based on their individual financial capabilities. However, she added that as Global Exchange is only a “pilot program,” funding may differ in future years if the program is a success and is continued.
Both Bermann and Graves noted that this experience of a residential college exchange trip is a good way for students to reflect on how residential colleges impact their time here at Princeton and see residential college life from a global perspective.
“As the world becomes culturally more global and there are more interactions between different cultures, it’s really important as part of one’s education to be able to see other cultures,” Hecht said.
Hecht added that in this particular case students will be able to see other cultures “through the lens of residential life and university life.”
“I’m eager for them to have the opportunity to broaden their own horizons and also to bring that back to college and to share that with other students,” Bermann said.