Cultivating Connections and Creating Opportunities

After eight or nine months of a year that are spent doing social impact work, Tufts 1+4 fellows hope to be able to continue similar work throughout their college careers. The motivated and inspiring collection of students that are now or soon to be 1+4 alumni are doing just that. This bridge year experience allows students to make life-long connections to their host communities and the many people who work to make an experience like 1+4 possible. This summer many of our Tufts 1+4 alumni have exciting internships and jobs that have resulted from connections they have made through 1+4. From internships in New York City to a fellowship in Rwanda to research in Japan, the 1+4 alumni are embracing their ability to make a difference both domestically and around the world.

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My 1+4 Story: Erica DeBarge

I’m one of the most indecisive people I know, so my recent spontaneity is slightly surprising if viewed objectively. However, my indecision seems to have taken the back burner ever since I decided to do 1+4. It only resurfaces every once in a while when I’m editing a picture or deciding whether or not I should buy a pincho de tortilla every time I go out. Big decisions can be scary and multifaceted, so I’ve begun to avoid the anxiety-inducing weighing of pros and cons by simply skipping the overthinking (or thinking at all?). A few weeks ago, some of my fellow fellows and I decided to endure a night-bus and visit Barcelona for the weekend (because why not). One Sunday I was exploring El Rastro and was about to buy a scarf for five euros when I decided that I should get two instead. They were cheap, and I’d only bought like 11 so far this year, so obviously it was completely justifiable. Last weekend I chopped my hair when I didn’t really have any intention of doing so the night before or even the morning of. Who knew I could be so impulsive! Who knew I’d cut my hair shorter than my traumatizing seventh grade bob! Who knew I’d eat fish every day after actively hating it my entire life! Who knew I’d be capable of travel planning (and executing)! Who knew that I would go to Madrid for nine months after high school and change in some slightly ridiculous, but other quite profound ways? In high school, I had absolutely no intention of taking a year before university. I didn’t even consider it as an option when applying to college. But when I applied, was accepted to, and saw my financial aid package for the 1+4 program, there was no speculation. There was no weighing of advantages and disadvantages. I was going to Madrid in the fall! I was blinded by the sheer amazingness that is this opportunity. And of course there were advantages and disadvantages—there still are. But I knew there was no way this could have been the “wrong” decision.

Before you know it, you won’t recognize yourself. Maybe you’ll discover that you secretly want short hair and like fish. Everyone you’ll interact with every day is now a stranger, but they’ll become your new home, family, and community. You’ll look around at the people you talk to and care about and realize that you didn’t know any of them a year ago and never would have met them if you didn’t do this program. How cool is that? You’ll be a member of a new community, and might have to conduct your work in a foreign language. You’ll have a chance to learn outside of the normal education system. You’ll finally have the time to live. Without a ridiculously packed schedule where there isn’t enough time in the day to complete everything thoroughly and live a truly balanced life. You might discover an interest you never knew you had or start a new hobby. It just might be the best year of your life so far—it’s been mine. It seems like the only thing that scares me now is thinking about what my life would be like if I never did 1+4.

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

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!

My 1+4 Story: Steven Schwab

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.