Nicaragua – A Gap Year in Photos

By Brenna Trollinger

Roof of the main Cathedral in León

During my time as a Tufts 1+4 Nicaragua Fellow, my worldview has significantly expanded through this rich cultural experience. I appreciate the chance to encounter people and places in different walks of life from rural mountain areas, to coastal towns to vibrant city life in Leon. Through my internship and through independent travel, I have documented my time here in a series of photos. From rural schools to active volcanoes, I continue to fall more in love with this amazing country and the diversity of life here.

Fireworks during La Gritería, a Holiday that celebrates the Virgin Mary

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My 1+4 Story: Elizabeth Kenneally

By Elizabeth Kenneally

Something I loved about playing violin was erratic and surprising improvement. I would seem to plateau for weeks, even months, working hard but without apparent payoff. My violin teacher would say “have you even touched the violin this week?” in a lesson for which I had practiced two or more hours a day. Then suddenly I would be playing one day and everything would seem easier. The shifts all landed, my tempo was even, my vibrato controlled. Those days made it all worth it. When my teacher would say “I can tell you’ve been practicing.” Because with hard work comes reward. It eventually pays off.

All of a sudden, Spanish stuck. Subjunctive rolled off my tongue without me conjugating or practicing beforehand. I would have real conversations without people slowing down or simplifying their words. I could understand jokes, make jokes of my own, and pick up on the passive aggressive tension in my office. People I talked to for the first time in a while all commented on how much I’d improved. I’m not fluent, I might never actually have a passable accent, and some conversations still leave me wondering if I have functioning ears or even a functioning brain, but I have improved so much. I can understand kids when they talk, understand nearly every word in office meetings, actually talk in those office meetings, understand my host mom on the phone, and talk to my brother’s friends about TV shows without once having to say “mande?” or “no entiendo.” Taxi drivers understand the address I tell them the first time, and sometimes people don’t immediately ask where I’m from in conversation. And it’s really cool. It’s really cool to see marked improvement in something I have struggled with for so long, something I sort of gave up hope on improving.

Too Good at Goodbyes

By Trevor Hall

Sometimes, I feel as if I have an extra subconscious in Brazil.

Tchau Tchau

Besides abacaxi, muito, and beleza, these words are the most common I speak in Portuguese. I like the feeling the farewell has as it rolls around in a rhythmic circle in my mouth. No, I do not enjoy saying goodbyes to everyone I meet here in this welcoming country. I am actually thrilled to practice my broken, gringo Portuguese whenever I have a moment. In fact, departing from conversations is quite challenging here because the majority of people love rambling on about how cold the weather is whenever it drops below 70 degrees. Through learning and being immersed in a new language, I am constantly inside my head. My new subconscious presses me to use different parts of my brain while tearing my confidence into shreds. And although my high confidence is torn apart, I have had time to realize I have a phenomenal opportunity right in front of me to start new again in another language. In this experience thus far, I have identified things that I never had recognized before. And during this reflection time that is filled with conflicted ideas I cannot grasp, I noticed that I am very good at goodbyes—hence why tchau tchau is a common phrase I use.

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Dear Ecuador Fellows

By Audrey Carver

Dear Ecuador fellows,

During last week’s trip to Manta, in the 15 hours crammed into a busetta, I had lots of time to think about you all. We slept, sang, and ate ridiculous amounts of animal crackers. We talked about the moral obligations of warfare and social hierarchy, and somehow devolved into deliriously playing the triangle game in a guayacil mall.
The day ended hugging at the top of a mountain, watching the most beautiful sunset that I have ever seen. Sad music gave soundtrack to the clouds lapping at the foothills, the orange-streaked sky, and the endless horizon. We stood there looking into a bigger moment, of feeling alone and connected and sad and happy, experiencing a simple moment of beauty and youth, far from home, together.
When I decided to come to Ecuador, I was most scared of being alone. I had known my friends at home longer than my own sister, lived at their houses, and called their parents ‘mom and dad’. The idea of meeting new people, being given a new set of people to spend time with, terrified me. Coming from such a small and isolated town, I had never had to be myself in front of someone new. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done.
Three months in, though, I have been met with only love and kindness, and I am writing this to repay with some love of my own.

I love that Kelsey will walk to my house with pan or manicho or matching tears when she hears that I am having a bad day
I love that Henry always has the right music, and will play it loudly.
I love that on Wednesdays, Maxwell and I meet in Amauta and discuss our non-existent love lives
I love that Chastity doesn’t complain that I ask her to translate literally everything, and that we bonded over the 27 bus the first week here
I love that Jen always has it together when nobody else does
I love that Stephanie always makes plans so that I do not have to, always picks up her ecuaphone when nobody else does, and always has a terrible chick-flick recommendation
I love that Elizabeth embodies “laugh so that you do not cry”, and will meet me at the river at lunch to do just that
I love that Maxine pretends to hate us, but that we catch him laughing along
I love that Maxito uses the sus kind of California slang, and is hella good at dancing.

I love our Sunday movies, our half-hearted Halloween celebrations, and how it takes an hour of wandering to figure out what we are going to do. I love that we always listen to early 2000s emo music together, and sing every word. I love that you will help keep men from shamelessly harassing me on the street, and that we can laugh instead of cry. I love that I can wear my glasses without feeling self-conscious.

I love having a community to count on, because my biggest fear in coming here turned out to be one of the best parts.

Thank you for taking such good care of me,

Strengthening My Independence

By Leonardo Ruiz

Before coming to Brazil, I never really walked anywhere. Being from rural Tennessee, I was always forced to drive to places. The only times I actually went out and walked was on my way to my car. For this reason, one of the biggest changes I have faced here is the amount of walking I do. Until recently, it never occurred to me that it would be smart to start using a bike to get around my neighborhood. I can’t remember the last time I rode a bicycle. Fortunately for me, my host father has a brand-new bike he never got around to use. It had definitely been a long time since I had mounted a bicycle but once I got on, it was as easy as riding a bike. I did not expect that something as simple as riding a bike could be as exciting and freeing as it was. I could not help but to smile ear to ear as I sped up and felt the wind on my face. As I biked, I saw parts of my community that I didn’t realize were so close to me—cafés, stores, and even the Florianopolis botanical garden. It was at this time that I also noticed that there was so many people on bicycles. I realized then that I was part of this community, except that unlike everyone else I was actually wearing a helmet—and a slightly over sized one at that. I gained a new sense of independence at that moment.

I am used to being independent. Growing up with parents who did not speak English, I was forced to grow up. I realized that I, in some way, had to be my own parent. I would fill out and sign parent forms, field trip forms, doctor forms. Senior year of high school, when college loomed, I dove headfirst into the college application process mostly alone. I scheduled and took standardized tests, filled out FAFSA, poured my heart out on essays, and everything else that is required in the pursuit of a higher education. Although this independence has certainly been beneficial here, living in foreign country requires another type of independence—another kind. The kind of independence that allows for one to go out into a foreign world with minimal language skills. An independence that permits one to realize that sometimes it is necessary to reach out for help—that facing something alone is not always the best way.

So, as I pedaled faster and faster, I made a decision. A decision that for the longest time, I knew I had to make. I had been avoiding the issue for weeks, but that bike ride finally convinced me to move forward. It involved my host family. I won’t get into specifics, but I realized that we were not a good fit. I realized that I was not improving the way I wanted to because of this mismatch. I realized I needed a change.