Caption: Jiamin Li’22, Coordinator for CAFE 2020
Welcome future Jumbos! My name is Jiamin. I am a rising Junior studying International Relations, and I’m the coordinator for the CAFE (Conversation, Action, Faith, and Education) Pre-Orientation program this year. When I was looking at Pre-Orientation options as a first-year, I looked past CAFE because I didn’t consider myself religious or spiritual. I thought CAFE was not for me.However, during my first year I became involved with the interfaith community on campus and learned more about CAFE. I learned that the program is about interfaith engagement, identity exploration, social justice, and activism. It is not just for those who consider themselves religious or spiritual. It is welcoming to anyone who is curious and open-minded. This led me to want to be a part of this community -in my case, as a peer leader in 2019. That week of CAFE pre-orientation was one of the most transformative experiences that I’ve had at Tufts, and I have strengthened my network of support on campus through this program. Coming back as a coordinator this year, I’m so excited to bring this program to you in August!
Caption: On the lawn next to Tufts’ iconic Goddard Chapel,
our CAFE community has the first of many moments to get to know each other.
To shape a broader image for CAFE, I have invited this year’s CAFE support staffer, Rowan, and Peer Leader, Hasan, to share their experience with CAFE, both as first-year participants and as student leaders of the program.
Jiamin: Hi, Rowan and Hasan! Can you both introduce yourself to the readers?
Caption: Rowan Gonda’23, Support Staffer for CAFE 2020
Rowan: Hello! My name is Rowan, and I’m a rising sophomore currently in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the School of Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts. I’m excited to be a part of the CAFE team as the support staffer and look forward to creating the same welcoming atmosphere that drew me to CAFE last year.
Caption: Hasan Khan’22 (Left), Peer Leader for CAFE 2019
and 2020, with Kayleigh Milano’20 (Right), Peer Leader for
Hasan: Hi! My name is Hasan Khan, I’m a rising Junior with a major in Child Study and Human Development on a pre-medical track, and I will be returning as a Peer Leader (PL) for CAFE 2020! I participated in CAFE 2018 as an incoming first-year and then returned tobe a PL for the first time last year with CAFE 2019. Two years ago, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when entering college. When I saw the option for extra time to adjust, meet a smaller portion of my class, and get just a little out of my comfort zone before really getting out of my comfort zone during orientation, I jumped at the opportunity to join CAFE.
Jiamin: What surprised you about the CAFE Pre-Orientation as a first-year?
Caption: Perfect Stranger Workshop led by University Chaplain
ad-interim Jenny Peace. Participants explore what it means for
them to enter sacred spaces in communities that are not their
own. How can we be “perfect strangers” during services and in
conversation with our gracious hosts during our site visits?
Rowan: The biggest surprise was definitely how open-minded and respectful everyone in the group was. I think we all became comfortable with each other pretty quickly. I remember at the end of the week-long program it felt like I'd known these people for months rather than days. I found that my transition into college was a lot easier because I had that support network formed from CAFE.
Hasan: First, how much Pad Thai I ate over 6 days! CAFE really does spoil you with a lot of great food from the Boston area. The program doesn’t force too many icebreakers, while offering chances to chill and hang out with upperclassmen so you can ask all your questions about Tufts. And sure, I knew there would be learning involved, and maybe that deters people who want to do anything but that before starting classes, but daily site visits to local religious congregations and hearing about upperclassmen’s spiritual experiences gave me much more than just learning. I asked myself questions I hadn’t considered in years and some I hadn’t even thought to ask—CAFE was more an exploration of myself than just a space to learn about others.
Jiamin: What were you worried about coming into college and how has CAFE helped with that?
Rowan: I was mostly worried about moving so far from home, and being lonely. I think that exploring new religious sites every day, eating good food, bonding with others and having deep conversations all helped me feel like I was not alone, and had a community I could count on during and after the Pre-Orientation program.
Hasan: I wanted what I think everyone else wants coming into an entirely new space where you don’t know anyone: friends. That, and to know it would be okay, that I made the right choice, invested all of my time and energy my senior year for the kind of place I could one day call my new home. I remember nothing but nerves on my mind and a suitcase full of dreams on the one hour drive from my house to Tufts. On the first day of CAFE, we were asked, “What’s your story? What brought you to this moment?” Starting off with reflection and appreciating everything it took to get here was just one of the many moments during the program, when I knew my time here would be meaningful and the people around me were not just willing to welcome me but eager to do so. CAFE gave me my first (but not only) family here at Tufts.
Caption: Our CAFE community visits Medford’s Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist
Studies, one of many communities we visit during our program. With respect and an
open mind, we meet with leaders from religious sites and justice-oriented community
organizations across Boston.
Jiamin: Lastly, why did you come back to CAFE after being a participant?
Rowan: I came back to CAFE because I love the community in this program and learning more about different faiths, spiritualities, and social activism. I definitely grew over the course of the program, discovering more about myself and making meaningful friendships in the process. I’d like to create a similar experience for incoming first years this year to help make the overwhelming (although very exciting!) transition a bit easier.
Hasan: The decision to do so felt so natural for me. I looked up to the CAFE PLs who made my experience so warm and felt this instinct to give back, facilitating the same experience for new members of our community. Also, it began as a personal desire to see how the program worked behind the scenes. CAFE didn’t complete any spiritual or philosophical journey for me, but it did plant a seed of openness and a need to continue exploring myself that has colored my days on the Tufts hill in shades I would not have gotten to appreciate without this program.
Caption: Our CAFE community gathers for a group picture at the Boston Harbor.
We hope to see you on campus this August.