My 1+4 Story: Aberdeen

Hello world it’s me, writing a personal blog for the first time in a long time.  What am I up to?  Currently I’m laying on the president’s lawn at Tufts enjoying the 80 degree weather (so long as I pretend our planet isn’t dying) with a new friend I made this semester.  First semester here I saw a lot of people around campus that I wanted to be friends with but never reached out to so my social goal this semester was to approach everyone I had a “friend crush” on and try to befriend them.  So far it’s worked out swimmingly.  I used to approach situations from the standpoint of “Oh no… they’re too cool for me…” but I realized that’s ridiculous and if someone thought they were “too cool” for new friends then I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with them anyway.  I’ve worked to surround myself with people I enjoy being around- people I want to make happy and people who want to make me happy, largely my 1+4 friends, because being emotionally content is just as important as doing well academically and I think I solidified that life outlook last year.

This year has been trying but I think about where I would be had I not taken a year between high school and college through 1+4 and I think I would have dropped out of Tufts.  I always receive shocked and disturbed looks when I say that but what is really so surprising about that?  Many students pass through college not having any direction or passions they’ve realized yet but they’re there to get a “good” job in the future.  Isn’t that a bit more scary than dropping out to pursue some other sense of fulfillment and meaning?  I don’t think a goal such as a good job could have sustained me for very long and I would have decided to pursue something else to find out how I could contribute to something bigger than me and find it meaningful.  I needed time before college to ask myself what mattered to me and I was privileged enough to have that opportunity so I’m still thankful for everyone who helped me do that and everyone in the 1+4 family.

Generic updates anyone?  I have them!! I intend on declaring a double major in Environmental Studies and English, with a minor in Portuguese.  I have become co-director of a club on campus called Students for Environmental Awareness and this has taken up a fairly large portion of my time but it’s very fulfilling and makes me happy.  I run this club with my roommate, who is also my best friend here at Tufts, and we have lots of fun and it’s something that really matters to me.  We do volunteer work in the community, advocate for current environmental issues, attempt to spread awareness on campus, and run events on campus to involve Tufts students in the environmental movement.  I am also in a cooking club which is a ton of fun.  I will be interning at an environmental justice organization this summer called Groundwork Somerville working with ‘at risk’ (I use quotes because I have some qualms about this wording) high schoolers from Somerville in Groundwork’s urban garden where the students will be running the farmer’s market as well as their summer job.  This project is working with problems of environmental racism, social injustices, healthy food access, and marginalized populations’ representation in the environmental movement.  These are all things I’m really passionate about and know that 1+4 was a really important part of preparing me to be qualified for this internship.  On the other end of things, I’ve been reading and writing more poetry this year which has been a source of great joy for me.  I finally decided that I would like to pursue an English major because it’s something I simply enjoy doing and I think that is really important.

And there you have it folks, 1+4 shows up in my life still in subtle and obvious ways that all impacts me positively and I don’t expect that to go away anytime soon.  When school becomes too much I know I have my 1+4 family to lean back on for support and that’s a really wonderful feeling.

León Scavenger Hunt

by Sawyer, Tufts 1+4 Participant

Today we were given some time to explore what León has to offer on a poppin’ Saturday afternoon. The objective was to get to know the city through a series of monumentally derived activities. Take a walk in my shoes, get lost with me, and witness the wonders of a vibrant city. León, Nicaragua, I am starting to fall in love with you.

Rubén Darío Statue
Rubén Darío Statue

As the leader of the Modernismo literacy movement, Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío made a generational influence on Spanish literature. Mr. Darío even has his own street, coined Calle Rubén Darío, littered with many dedications throughout. Below is a plaque in the Rubén Darío Museum, commemorating him by his original nickname “Poeta Niño,” or Boy Poet in English.



If you happen to ever get lost in León, look around until you find the nearest church. Trust me, they’re everywhere! I don’t mean lost as in finding Jesus, however, in such a Catholic based community that may be an option, but rather utilizing these feats of architecture to navigate around the city. Take a look at a few of these beauties below.

San Francisco Church
The Recollection Church
Marching band at The Cathedral


In León, it’s too hot to spend your time walking around a museum. That’s probably why they have so many historical monuments outside. No matter where you are, there’s history waiting to be heard. These dedications add to the ambiance of the local squares. Below are some examples.

sawyer6 sawyer7One word: Raspado. I learned from a local tonight that there are two seasons in León, the summer and the harsh summer. I am currently living in the summer and it’s already unbearable. Can it really get worse than this? Luckily I learned about Raspado, which is basically shaved ice. You can get it from a local vender in Central Park, which is right outside of the Cathedral. There are also different flavors you can choose from, I got dulce de leche, or caramel. This is the best snack to cool you down internally, I think it will become my best friend over these next 9 months.



Looking for artistic inspiration? That muse will not fall short in León. Adding to the atmosphere of the city, there are random murals to gaze at. Part of the scavenger hunt was to pose in front of them. Check ’em out.

sawyer9 sawyer10 sawyer11All in all, my experience scoping out León was very successful. The people here are so welcoming, though I think they overcharge me at the market, most likely because I’m chele. As I continuously get more eager to move into my host family, I have to complete my training with Amigos de las Americas over the next few days. I hope to check back in as soon as possible. Adio. (Nicaraguans don’t usually pronounce the s)

A Visit to León

As the Tufts 1+4 Program Administrator, I have the amazing privilege of working with our fabulous Fellows throughout their Bridge-Year, as well as over their four years at Tufts. I skype and email frequently with all of our Fellows who are in the field to hear stories and see photos of their lives overseas. Last month, it was a real treat to get to see some of this in person when I visited our Tufts 1+4 Fellows in León, Nicaragua.

At the risk of embarrassing our wonderful students, I have to say that from the moment we met up on my first evening in town, I noticed that our Fellows seemed different from when I last saw them in August. Throughout my visit I was honestly in awe of their confidence, maturity, and adaptability as they showed me around León, introduced me to their placements and host families in Spanish, and gave me a glimpse into their lives. They all seemed so well-integrated into their community, and each of them has approached this year with such patience, thoughtfulness, and care.


After hearing for months about their service, it was great to see our Fellows’ placements first-hand! They are all contributing to some incredible community agencies.

2Elaine is working at the beautiful Casa de Cultura. Among other projects, she is teaching voice and music theory, assisting with translation and publications for the Spanish school, and helping organize an educational program that celebrates the most celebrated Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío.

3Abigail works at Las Tías with older children and teens. She spends her days helping with homework and teaching English, and led a huge project to both paint and create a mural from recycled materials at the community center where she works.4

Isabel is also at Las Tías but working with younger children, so her service is more focused on playing games and assisting children with activities, including creating a juegoteca at her placement to give children a quiet, clean, and colorful place to play games.

David is doing energy controls at La Salle University, carefully tracking the campus’ energy consumption and working towards making the University self-sustainable. He is preparing to implement similar energy consumption reporting and management at a school in León, and is also assisting with other renewable energy research projects at CIDTEA.

Emerson supports English classes for high school students at La Salle, as where he also teaches English to a group of university faculty. He is also working with La Salle staff and students to create a community garden on the university grounds.

Life in León


5I loved getting to know the city of León during my brief stay. It’s a beautiful city with a fascinating history. Though navigating the city can be challenging for first-time visitors (your host family’s actual address might be “200 meters from where the gas station used to be”), the city is small enough that it didn’t take me long to get my bearings. It was wonderful walking around the busy streets with brightly colored houses, seeing the Plaza Mayor and far off volcanos from the brilliant white rooftop of the León Cathedral, and sampling delicious rice and beans and other Nicaraguan and international food in meals with Fellows and my colleagues.

6Coming from a big city, León feels more like a large town – the central area is quite compact, and Fellows said it is not uncommon to run into people they know when walking around the main area of town. At the same time, León is large enough that there is a wealth of things for Fellows to do in their free time. I got to check out some of their favorite open air cafes, the gorgeous art museum where they sometimes head for a respite from the busy city, and the markets where they get their wonderful fresh fruit smoothies. In their free time, Fellows are taking guitar lessons, teaching English classes, enrolling in online MOOCs, taking exercise classes or going to the gym, riding bikes around the city, volunteering with a local Boy Scout troop, relaxing in rocking chairs with their host families, and, occasionally, hiking up, or boarding down, a volcano. There are so many wonderful opportunities to take advantage of in this city, and I am immensely impressed with the many ways that our Fellows are learning about, and engaging with, their host community.

I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting each of our Fellows’ host families, who were incredibly welcoming. Fellows live across the city, and families range in size (both in number of people and pets!), but all were so kind, and talked about what a positive experience it has been to host our Fellows.

Brazil Animal Release Video

1+4 Brazil fellow Gabriel is spending his Bridge-Year at R3 Animal caring for rescued and rehabilitated animals in Brazil. He recently helped release 20 toucans, over 100 small birds, a jungle cat, a cuchia, an anteater and more back into the wild! Check out this great video of the release (and the cameo of Gabriel carrying the cages)!