When she entered high school, Jennifer Frye was determined to become a nuclear physicist. Now, almost four years later, she’s preparing to spend a year in Ecuador conserving indigenous arts and culture through the Bridge Year program at Tufts University.

Frye’s visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York inspired her to pursue international relations. Photo credit: Peter Frye.

As a freshman at Sehome High School, Frye’s focus on nuclear physics was unparalleled. In addition to filling her schedule with rigorous math and science classes, Frye participated in a program in Seattle called Northwest Nuclear Consortium (NWNC), where she learned about nuclear technologies in energy and medicine. Frye’s passion for science led her along this clear-cut path until the beginning of her junior year, when a scholarship essay caused her to rethink her trajectory toward science.

The scholarship’s essay prompt was simple: explain the subject area you plan to study and how you think your chosen field of study will influence your future and that of the community. Anybody that knew Frye at the time would have expected an essay about science or math. Her response surprised everyone, including herself. “I thought about it for a long time,” says Frye, “and I finally realized that I wanted to be working on something that would solve problems more immediately and globally.” When Frye wrote her essay about foreign language and international relations, her educational journey began in an entirely new direction.

Although Frye maintained a passion and curiosity for science, her junior year carried her to more language-oriented pursuits as well. “I have a wide range of academic interests,” says Frye. “I didn’t want to drop everything to pursue a single subject.” In addition to completing both AP Spanish and French, Frye became a member of the National Hispanic Honors Society and took part in debate club. Later on, in her high school career, Frye even became a Spanish tutor for Western students. She did all of this while earning high marks in advanced math and science courses, and continuing activities like orchestra, science olympiad and math club.

Frye will attend Tufts University after a volunteer-focused gap year in Cuenca, Ecuador. Photo credit: Abigail Johnson.

When the time came for college tours, Frye traveled to the east coast with her family. After visiting a handful of liberal arts colleges, she stopped by the United Nations headquarters in New York. It was there that her goals solidified. “Just being there got me excited about international relations,” says Frye. “I realized that a far-reaching goal of mine is to become a United Nations ambassador of arts and culture.”

With that inspiration in the back of her mind, Frye traveled to Boston to tour Tufts University. The university’s global focus caught her attention but it wasn’t until the Bridge Year presentation that she truly fell in love. “After hearing about the gap year program at Tufts, I knew I was going to apply,” says Frye. So she did.

Almost a year later, Frye was admitted to Tufts University. As soon as she heard the news, she began work on her Bridge Year application, which included additional essays and an interview.

Frye was ecstatic when she heard back. She had been chosen for the program. Instead of starting school in the fall, she was signed up for a year of arts and culture conservation in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Frye’s gap year abroad will assist her on her educational path. Photo credit: Peter Frye.

Frye’s year in Ecuador will be a combination of an internship and community service. After a period of intensive language immersion and Spanish classes, she will spend most of her time volunteering in museums and promoting indigenous Ecuadorian art. Frye eagerly awaits what she hopes will be an ideal combination of travel, academic intensity, and cultural study.

“At first, I was worried about getting a year behind,” says Frye, “but I’m really getting a year of language immersion and job experience before I even begin my undergrad.” The Bridge Year program is laid out so that participating students can begin classes at Tufts as soon as they return from their time abroad, and be on track to earn an undergraduate degree.

When she begins at Tufts in 2018, Frye will continue her study of two languages by taking Spanish classes and living in the French dorm. However, she doesn’t have to throw her scientific interests aside. “I really think my background in science will help me in international relations,” says Frye. “When world leaders and politicians aren’t educated in science, it can cause major problems.” The distribution requirements at Tufts will allow Frye to continue exploring all of her interests. “I can keep my options open,” she says. “That’s why I chose a liberal arts school.”

According to Frye, keeping your options open is the key to success. “You have to set goals for yourself but be comfortable with the idea that those goals might change.” Of course, Frye can speak from experience. “If you’re feeling like you don’t know what to do with your life, just relax and wait, and eventually it will come to you.”

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