by Gongga, Tufts 1+4 Participant
It’s May, the month when I’m supposed to go home, even though it feels like I don’t have a very vivid concept of where home is anymore. I don’t know if I should consider Tibet my home, where all my family’s from, or Chengdu, the place where I spent most of my childhood. Maybe it was New York, where I changed under massive cultural shock, or Somerville, where I spent three years of high school and am about to spend my college years. In some ways, every single one of those places were home to me, yet none of them really stands out as strongly anymore as Madrid does – the one place where I felt the happiest, the most comfortable and have experienced the most growth.
I don’t want to go back home. I hate saying goodbye, I don’t want to have to change lifestyles all over again. I’ve never been good at saying goodbye, and never have made strong attachments with loved ones, because I’ve always had to move so often in my life. That made me become a little closed off from others so I never would get hurt. But now I want to experience everything as much as I can, to live, not to regret having missed out.
This is why I chose 1+4: to once again change my current concept of life, to not just feel comfortable where I am, but to challenge myself to do something I’d only ever thought about, but never had the courage to do. Madrid is the place where for the first time I felt free, independent and alive. I did so many things that I never felt capable of doing. I experienced such a diversity of culture in my year abroad in Europe that I’d never encountered when I was in the U.S. It is true that the U.S. is the melting pot of cultural diversity, but the difference for me between the U.S. and Europe is that I was “stuck” with a similar group of people in the U.S. who resembled me, like Asian students or even just high school students. This was one of the reasons why I loved to volunteer in high school, so that I could have an opportunity to meet people outside of my comfort zone.
I loved my travels alone in Europe which at the beginning surprised many of my peers. I’m no longer that shy Asian girl who only cares about her grades; I’m no longer that quiet Asian girl who only speaks out loud in class, but not to her peers; I’m no longer that hesitant Asian girl who only had ideas in her mind yet never really tried to make them happen. Traveling in Europe gave me the opportunity to meet so many different kinds of people from a variety of backgrounds and ages. I learned so many things from them that I would never have learned in school. I gained so much more than I could ever have imagined in this gap year. I have a clearer mind set about the future that I want to have. I feel more motivated to work even harder to achieve what I want in life. I realized that life is for living now and not for worrying about things that might happen. I also gained a family, my Los Mesejo family and my 1+4 family. The three Spain Fellows and me are now just like family. I feel comfortable enough with them that I can just run into them casually and give them a big kiss on the cheek when I see them and share with them about my work and my travels. Though I only spent one short week with the other Fellows, even then, we grew so close as a group, and the bond that we had is even stronger now because we all went through this transformative period in our lives together in different countries.
Lastly, I just want to say thank you to all the teachers, the mentors, and counselor in Somerville High School. I don’t think I would be who I am today without their help. Their encouragement, understanding and passion for teaching helped me transition well from New York to Somerville. Two cities that are so different in terms of size and culture. I also want to say thank you to Jessye and Mindy for making this program possible. To thank them for always being there to support us in good and bad times, and for giving me this opportunity to do something that I believe is the best decision that I made so far in my life.
Al final es un nuevo comienzo, the end is a new beginning. My ending in Madrid is my beginning in Boston. I’m glad that I started this journey here, and now, forever in my heart, Madrid will always be waiting for me to come back home.