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.
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.
February was crazy! It started of finished “Training Seminar 2”, the second of three program retreats. This time I was hanging out with all of my friends in the state of São Paolo. On the second weekend of February I went to Blumenau, the city with the largest Oktoberfest in the world after Munich. The next weekend saw me in Rio de Janeiro. Then I was barely able to return home before heading out again to Iguacu Falls (worth the google image search if you don’t know what it is). I finally returned to Florianopolis, for probably the last time, the day before Carnaval. If I thought the rest of the month was crazy, I had another thing coming to me.