The Princeton-in-Asia Program recently announced that Stephen Wolff ’12 has been named one of its 2012 recipients. As such, Wolff will travel to a rural area of the Mekong Delta region in Vietnam, where he will teach English to high school students.
While abroad, Wolff will help to fulfill the program’s mission statement: “To promote good will and understanding and to facilitate in every way the free interchange of the best ideals in the civilizations of both the East and West.”
In all of these fellowships, Princeton-in-Asia has provided transformative, service-oriented experiences for talented graduates and serves the needs of Asia as determined by the program’s Asian partners since it was established in the 1890s.
After studying abroad in Vietnam during the fall of his junior year, Wolff knew that he wanted to return to the region and, at the suggestion of Professor of Sociology Jack Harris, applied to the program.
“When I was first in Vietnam, I had the opportunity to intern with a local hospital as part of my classes,” says Wolff, a chemistry major with a double minor in environmental studies and Asian studies. “Although I had a rewarding volunteer experience, it was the combination of the culture, the friendly people and the awesome food that made me want to go back. Four months just wasn’t enough time to really explore and learn about the country and its culture.”
Uncertain of his future career plans, Wolff knows that Vietnam is just one piece of a larger puzzle that he is still discovering. However, thanks to Hobart and William Smith, he knew that he wanted to return to Vietnam.
“If you’d asked me a couple years ago, I never would have said that I would be returning to Asia after graduation, but the Colleges changed that,” says Wolff. “The study abroad program and the professors have really opened my eyes to that part of the world. The Colleges instilled in me the importance of continued learning and living a life of consequence. Thanks to my years at Hobart and William Smith, I knew that I wanted to give back in some way after graduation.”
In addition to giving back, Wolff hopes to grow from the experience by taking himself out of his comfort zone.
“I am looking forward to the element of exchange inherent in this experience,” says Wolff. ” I will get to interact with students and learn more about their culture while, at the same time, improving my Vietnamese. While studying abroad, I was always surrounded by English speakers, so that we could fall back onto that language if we had problems communicating. However, during this trip, I will be in a rural area where that safety net of English is not as readily available.”
Outside of the classroom, Wolff served as the three-year captain of the co-ed Ultimate Frisbee team, played intramural sports, served on the Hillel Board and participated in the Outdoor Recreation Adventure Program.