by Daniel, Tufts 1+4 Participant
Learning. Since the dawn of humanity, learning has been the cornerstone of life. But school, now that’s a different story. Schools have been around for over 1500 years, and while some classrooms have smart boards and others have iPads, the fundamental way we teach, and learn, has stayed the same.
I, along with almost every other teenager in the developed world, spent the last twelve years sitting. In science classrooms, in english classrooms, in history classrooms; always learning different things but always sitting in rows or circles, scribbling down the teachers’ every word. But if you take an evolutionary perspective, sitting is not really what a 15 year old should be doing. At a time when we have tons of pent up energy, we spend our days still; learning almost solely by listening.
After 12 years, I was ready for a change. I knew I would have at least 4 more years of this antiquated model and I needed a year of something different; I needed a year of learning by living. But not just living in the comfort of home, living in the world. A world that today is unfathomably large (think about it, you may know a couple thousand people but there are 7 billion people out there. 7 BILLION!) and unquestionably strange (take this for instance). But there’s a lot more to the world than any 18 year old could know, trust me. If you just take the time to explore it and explore yourself you will never, ever, regret it.
The one line that stuck with me throughout the whole college application process was; “No one regrets taking a bridge year.” I looked at university after university and ringing in the back of my head this same line; “no one regrets taking a gap year”. So, try to envision yourself four years down the road; do you want to have experienced the world or do you want to have stayed comfortable in your world. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t, so I took the leap, and now I am here. Now I am a baby again, a baby Brazilian, finding his way through an unknown language. Learning to walk, to speak, to sustain myself on what at times seems like an alien world.
You don’t need a rocket ship to find an alien culture. They all around you: your neighbors, your fellow bus-riders, even your friends and family. But some still say; “why do I need to explore other cultures? I’ve got my friends, my little bubble, I don’t need to change. My bubble won’t ever burst.” Well, if a hermit crab never left his shell, how would he know there wasn’t a better shell, a better world, waiting just around the corner (Imagine! A hermit crab paradise! A wardrobe of multicolored shells and an endless supply of scrumptious decaying wood, leaf litter, plants and grasses waiting just outside his calcium carbonate domain but the poor hermit crab never knew it was there because he just wanted to watched Spongebob on Netflix inside his claustrophobic cave (PSA: Spongebob was removed from Netflix in 2013 😨)).
After almost 100 days (HOLY COW! It’s already been 100 days?) living in Brazil with an amazing host family and evermore interesting culture the only thing I can say is; “I couldn’t have been more right.” Doing a bridge year, learning by living, is doing college the right way. I can only hope that one day, it will be the only way.