A Trip back to Spain

By Evan Robison

Six months can feel like a long time. Since I last saw my host family, I had made an entirely new group of friends at Tufts, joined the sailing team, and switched my major at least four times. But as soon as I saw my host sister and parents in the airport in Madrid, I knew that despite our time apart, we would have no trouble jumping right back into our relationship. For over a week, I played, laughed, and chatted with my host siblings, parents, and grandfather, sharing stories from our time apart and reminiscing on our year together. I visited the school where I had been placed last year, having only told a handful of people that I would be coming. Just like with my host family, I knew from my short conversations with the teachers and students that I would always have a home both at the school and in Madrid whenever I wanted to visit. When I had to return to the US at the end of my trip, it was hard to leave my family and friends again after having only been there for nine days, but I stand reassured that no matter how long we go until we see each other next, we’ll always be able to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company.

 

Bus rides: Reflection, Spurts of Wisdom, and Slight Nausea

By Erica DeBarge

It has been roughly eight months since we left our 1+4 host sites, and I’m currently on a bus from Hartford to Cambridge after a relaxing winter break. During my bridge year, I spent so many hours on buses, that if I didn’t look up every once in a while, I might forget that I’m actually in Connecticut.

Yes, time has passed. But I don’t find myself forgetting. Not the important stuff anyways. There is no way the terrazas and golden streets of Madrid at dusk, the constant buzzing of el Retiro, the shrieks and cackles of my host sisters, or the salty, wholesome taste of tortilla could ever slip from my memory. And if I do happen to do a little forgetting, I always have the “a year ago today” Google Photos notifications to remind me of the gorgeous cities I was galavanting exactly 365 days ago (as I sit in the library).

I’ve done my fair share of missing, but now I find comfort in my future. Madrid was an inexplicably beautiful experience, but college has begun! I can now study and live and laugh with my closest friends (who are also gifts from 1+4). Some people struggle freshman year to find their people, but I’m lucky to have already located mine.

My first semester back to school went rather swimmingly, but it wasn’t perfect. Something that bothered me and served as a source of stress was my low number of clubs and activities. In September, I was focused on my studies and getting back into the swing of academics, and I was afraid to stretch myself too thin my first semester. Therefore, I didn’t join as many clubs as everyone else had.

Over winter break, I decided to address my dissatisfaction. I scoured the 2020 and 2021 Facebook pages to join e-lists and apply for e-board positions in organizations that looked fascinating to me. I liked pages, researched websites, emailed professors and community service organizations, and became very close with Student Information Services. I can’t wait to get back to campus, get involved, and take charge of this semester.

The moral of the story is that everyone goes at their own pace. Stay present, stay golden, and don’t freak out!

Back Home

by Mikel Quintana

After a seemingly eternal journey back home, that provided almost too much time to reflect and get emotional about my 9 months in Spain, we arrived in Boston. Passing through security a TSA officer said welcome home Mr. ‘Quintana’, crudely mispronouncing my last name in a very Bostonian accent. It was a subtle yet strong reminder I was back in the US.

When we arrived on campus we were joyously received by the Brazil fellows, signalling the start of the retreat. Being on campus with the other fellows, Jessye, Mindy, and other familiar faces, all interested in talking about our time abroad, created a small bubble that removed us for a few days from our new reality; being back home, being back in the US. It was helpful and at times emotional to reflect on our 9 months with people who went through similar experiences, but was also a perfect time to share fun and crazy stories from our 9 months. We were able to reconnect with fellows from other countries and reinvigorate an important bond that will surely connect us in some way during our time at Tufts and beyond.

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Dear Seattle

by Jiyoon Chon

Dear Seattle,

How are you? It’s been so long. A little more than eight months, to be exact. I’ve thought about you a lot. Back in August, I was so excited to leave. I didn’t think you had much more to offer me. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t satisfied with myself and blamed you for my inability to break out of my shell. I wanted to leave and see the world, to find a different, exciting, and passionate self.

And so I did. I experienced a whole new world, and I changed.

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Me, a Teacher??

by Jiyoon Chon

Throughout the past eight months, I’ve been constantly reflecting and thinking about the usefulness of my presence in my volunteer placement. To be honest, a lot of the times I actually didn’t feel that useful at all. A lot of the times, especially towards the beginning, I just sat on a chair off to the side of the classroom watching as the teacher gives class. During English classes was definitely when I felt like I could contribute the most—I jumped up at every opportunity I got when it seemed appropriate for me to get up and help. Even then, it was difficult finding the right balance between giving useful help and creating a dependency on my help. This was more apparent when I was in the first grade classrooms: some kids were brilliant and only needed a small clue to continue on their own, whereas others were completely clueless and lost all of the time. This got better as I got to know the children better, but I also had to learn how to see past the mischievous manipulation of some of the kids (a lot of them fake not understanding something so that I would help them and are REALLY good at it).

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