The Ocean

by Jordyn Voss

I spent a lot of the first semester of my senior year of high school trying to sound smart.

I mean, anyone applying to college is doing their best to play up every redeeming quality they have, especially when it comes to writing. Writing has always been one of my favorite subjects and I felt on top of the world when I was writing my college essays. I remember the day I started pretty well.

A close friend of mine and I decided to start together and to give each other honest creative advice. After about an hour of the occasional discussion thread and the clicking of laptop keys, we read each other our first drafts. A lot of that essay writing was a blur, but what she wrote would prove to have a lasting impact on me. Her prompt was something along the lines of “describe a relationship that is very important to you.” Though many people wrote about close friendships and family, she went off the beaten path. Her essay was about the the ocean.

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My 1+4 Story: Dee Wu

This bridge year has made me appreciate the value of self-reflection and spending time alone. My high school was called a “pressure cooker” and no one had the time to slow down and think about anything. I had no direction and felt lost when I graduated from high school. Going to college without taking some time off seems unimaginable to me now because I would have no idea of what I truly want to get out from a college experience. During my time in Brazil, I have read 17 books on my kindle. I am gradually getting into the habit of reading, which wouldn’t have happened without taking a bridge year. I am not only surviving, I am thriving here. I’ve learned to be comfortable by myself. Every book I’ve read, from Americanah to 1984, has taught me something I wouldn’t have gotten out of if I wasn’t alone. Even though I am still not sure what I want to study, I can say confidently that I have more direction in life than ever before. Having alone time has enabled me to think back to my high school life. If you asked me a year ago what my favorite book was, I wouldn’t have had an answer because I was ambivalent about everything. But now, having reflected so much on every detail of my life, I’ve realized how I’ve always enjoyed explaining calculus concepts to friends; whenever I start my homework, I would start with mathematics because I tend to leave my least favorite things last. Before embarking on this journey, I regarded this year as merely something different, but I was wrong about it.  It’s more than something different, it is life-changing.

– Dee, Tufts 1+4 Brazil fellow

Love Letter

by Erica DeBarge

Dear Spain,

Is it possible to miss you even though I have three months more? The inherent kindness of strangers—their naturally open, welcoming, and talkative nature. The terrazas—why would anyone eat inside when the weather in Madrid is almost always beautiful, sunny, and breezy? The winter sunsets (and sunsets in general). The abnormally long hours of sunlight. The late nature of everything from sleep, work, and school to meals—I feel like I get more out of my day. The free museums—El Prado and Reina Sofia. The social nature of food and meals—people take their sweet time and chat.

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My 1+4 Story: Evan Robison

“This experience has been incredible. I have learned so many things about Spanish culture, food, history etc. from talking to my fellow teachers at the school or the kids who are always eager to talk to a tall, blonde Americano. Everyone has been very welcoming to me and always helps me with my Spanish language skills. I’ve seen much greater improvement in the English level of the classes that I spend time in than those that I go to less often, which is a sign of the difference I have made so far. I’ve also noticed in myself a deep desire to keep learning. I see kids every day who do not take advantage of their opportunities in class, and I cannot help but think that I have done the same for much of my time in school.

Being in this service-learning program has been a very enlightening and beneficial experience to me and if you are curious, I strongly encourage you to take a closer look at the program to see if it interests you. With all of the stress that built up for me in high school, I would be so incredibly overwhelmed if I were at Tufts right now. And being away from school for a year has only increased my desire to go back to Tufts and continue with my education. The program staff and my 1+4 peers have been so supportive of  me.”

-Evan, #1plus4spain fellow, shares his #my1plus4story on his #tufts1plus4 bridge-year!

Family Life

by Sophia Carroll

I went last weekend to visit my host family in Curitiba, the city that I stayed in for two weeks when I first got to Brazil for In-Country Orientation. My family in Curitiba is a couple with no kids, and they are both doctors, (financially comfortable and extremely well-educated), and spoke English. I was very much in my comfort zone, living with the same language, socioeconomic status, and habits I was used to. I remember worrying when I was there that my experience wasn’t “Brazilian” enough or simply different enough from the life I had just come from in the US. Visiting them for the weekend was a nice little vacation back into my American life of speaking English and having a clothes dryer. Seeing my family and Curitiba again after four months also allowed me to compare the Sophia of September who had just arrived in Brazil, homesick and terrified, to the more confident, Portuguese-speaking Sophia of January.

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