Nine months in Africa convinced Cole Freeman to major in engineering.

He went to Ghana last year as one of 20 students who participated in the inaugural term of Princeton’s Bridge Year Program, which allows students to delay their freshman year to engage in University-sponsored international service.

Freeman worked mostly in Ghana’s capital city of Accra and surrounding areas. He taught science to middleschoolers, helped people develop work skills such as typing and catering and launched a program to reduce the ill health effects of workers who dig through land fills to recover metals from discarded electronic devices.

While teaching in a rural area, he fixed a village chief’s blender by filing down some of the gearing mechanisms that connected the pitcher to the base. “When I finished, it worked,” he said. “We made mango smoothies.”

It was a small triumph, but Freeman says it reminded him that he’s always been good at building and repairing things. He realized that he could apply those talents at a larger scale.

“When I was in Ghana, I noticed a lot of problems that I thought engineering could solve,” he said. “I’m very interested in sustainable development and international development. If I apply my strengths I can make the world a better place.”