“A tía isn’t just someone that’s related to you. They’re someone who watches out for you and takes care of you.” I remember walking towards the city center with my host brother when he told me this. We had just passed his aunt’s house, and I wanted to know how exactly it was that she was related to him. He quickly laughed and revealed that she wasn’t actually a member of the family, but rather a friend of his parents. Nevertheless, being that he’d grown up with her love and support his entire life, in many ways she really was like an aunt.
At my work, La Asociación de Las Tías, the students refer to staff members as either tía or tío (the latter meaning uncle). When I first arrived, I was super excited about the fact that I’d get to come in and be a tío to so many kids. There was just one problem, however — I wasn’t. Unlike staff members, volunteers at Las Tías are referred to be their first name.
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.
I think one of the most prominent principles I have learned and am still learning everyday is how to define success. Success can be looked at as a friendship, as it is constantly up for reevaluation. A friend can be someone who you wave to every morning, exchanging a small set of words and going on your way, or it can be someone with whom you share every waking moment of your life with. Like experiences, success can be remembered, but eventually if you greet someone every time you walk in their office you will also make a long lasting impression on them. Thus, what may initially go unnoticed can be one of the most successful things that you accomplish.
“Every morning I wake up and think to myself, wow, I am really doing this. A year ago I never would have thought that I would be in Nicaragua, as a matter of fact I wouldn’t have even be able to tell you exactly where it is on a map. I had a one track mind and that track was college. Attending a preparatory school prior, I surrounded myself with people of the exact same mindset. Taking a gap year was an idea that didn’t exist in my reality, but that all changed upon hearing about the Tufts 1+4 program. Now, after half way through the program, I can say with confidence that taking a gap year was one of the best choices I have ever made in my life. I am learning new things about myself everyday and having experiences with substance. These experiences are making me realize I am living a full life, full of a new language, friends, family, culture, and work that makes me feel like I am making a difference, no matter how big or small.”