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
by Erica DeBarge
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.
“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!
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.
Being back on the Tufts campus now, I can know that taking a bridge year through Tufts 1+4 was one of the best decisions I’ve made so far! I am certainly doing a better job at being authentically “me,” I’ve gained a better understanding of who I am, what this world is, and how I want to impact it! I feel more comfortable in knowing where some of my passions lie and how I can use them to fuel the rest of my life. I know that I want to let my curiosity take me around the world, letting my newfound experiences guide me! Besides that, my bridge year has given me the chance too to share my amazing stories with friends, gain a new fluency in Portuguese (one that I am furthering here at Tufts!), and take advantage of all the resources Tufts has to offer!
Steven is now a first-year student at Tufts, where he plans on studying biochemistry and community health.