My name is Teagan, and I am a First-Year at Tufts participating in the Civic Semester. The Civic Semester is a unique study abroad program that combines civic leadership, experiential learning, and Spanish immersion during the freshman fall. Through a partnership with Where There Be Dragons, Tufts will be offering this opportunity in both Peru and Thailand in 2024.
If you are interested in the Civic Semester, check out the Tufts First Year Global Instagram for updates, our blogs from Peru, and the FAQ page on the Tisch College website. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Without further ado, ¡vamos!
7:30 am - I wake up and say good morning to my roommate, Sophia! The mornings are pretty chilly so I throw on a flannel and make my way to our outdoor/indoor kitchen and living area. We rotate making breakfast in groups of three, and today is my turn! I cut fruit while Nica fries eggs and Veena sets the table. We sing along to our morning Spanish playlist and brew a fresh pot of coffee for the day.
8:00 am - We text our group chat that breakfast is ready, and they slowly trickle in to eat. We talk about our goals for the day and laugh at our dreams while passing fruit salad and toast across the table in a comfortable rhythm. We have already hit the 1/3 mark of our trip, but none of us can remember what life was like before Peru.
9:00 am - After doing some dishes, we log in to Zoom for our first class of the day—Latin American Civilization. Today the topic is the Haitian Revolution and its effects on the liberation of Latin America in the 19th century. Through the Civic Semester, we take two courses over the Summer (Spanish and a civics studies course) and two in Peru (Latin American Civilization and Community Change in Action). The course load is relatively light so we have more time to focus on our organization visits and internships.
10:30 am - I make myself a cup of tea and head to the hammocks—the most peaceful spot for journaling and reading. We live on the outskirts of Urubamba, a small city in the Sacred Valley with a population of 14,000 and a vibrant atmosphere. In our free time, we visit the artisan market, watch soccer games at the stadium, and explore the nearby Incan ruins. On the weekends, we take group salsa lessons and go on hikes in the Andes! Today, I catch up with friends and family over WhatsApp before falling asleep for a nap.
12:30 pm - Elaine, Veena, and I pack our tote bags and walk to our favorite cafe—Antojitos—before Spanish class. We pass La Plaza de las Armas, the hub of Urubamba’s social scene and a great spot for restaurants and cafés. At the counter of Antojitos, I order a cheese empanada and an alfajor—a Peruvian cookie filled with dulce de leche and decorated in powdered sugar. The cashier passes me a paper bag, and I hand over 9 soles (less than $3 USD). With treats in hand, we sit down in the indoor garden and take notes on a few articles assigned as reading for our civic studies class. I also draw outlines and write a draft for a future Jumbo Talk blog post and the Civic Semester version—Yak.
2:30 pm - We gather our belongings and walk through the busy fruit market on our way to Spanish! We take classes twice a week at a local school with our teacher, Reynar. The cohort is split into three levels, but there is no language prerequisite to do Civic Semester.
3:00 pm - The conversation in our Spanish class flows from grammar to vocabulary through prompts and discussions. We talk about our weekend excursion to Paru Paru, a community high in the mountains, and go over the homework. For some of us, the curriculum is review, but Reynar focuses on real-life phrases and Peruvian slang that we would not have learned otherwise. Time flies by, and soon enough, it is time to leave.
4:45 pm - Back home, I kick off my Teva sandals and make a cup of Mate de Coca. In Peru, Coca leaves are used as a natural source of energy, and in our home, they are a staple. I have grown to love Latin American snacks and culture, and I already plan on buying a tea kettle for my dorm when I get back to Medford.
6:00 pm - After some downtime, I head to the dining table with my laptop for our weekly org visit debrief. On Mondays and Fridays, we visit nonprofit organizations whose missions range from sustainable farming to community health to education and more. Following the visits, we take time as a group to reflect, because halfway through the program, we will start our internships at one of these orgs! Today’s discussion is about Ayni Wasi—a community health initiative based in the neighboring city of Ollantaytambo. Ayni Wasi (a Quechua phrase that translates roughly to house of reciprocity) focuses on providing resources and training to high-altitude campesino communities that are 10+ hours away from the nearest health centers. The dedication of Tisch College to civic engagement and building "active citizens of the world" is the main reason I applied to Tufts in the first place, and our internships are just one way the Tufts community is creating social change 3,800 miles from campus.
7:00 pm - The doorbell rings after an active discussion about systems-thinking approaches and coalition building. Jacob heads to the door to pick up the tupperware that smells of delicious vegetables and soups, and we all help clear the table for dinner. Food is a major component of culture, and meals are catered by a local restaurant most nights a week. They are always authentic and filling (and also very friendly to food restrictions and allergies).
8:00 pm - After washing our individual plates and forks, we begin to unwind. Emma, Veena, and Jacob stay in the dining area to watch a movie, while Nica, Elaine, and Tziavi head to the gym. Iris, Ella, and Zhiyi are crocheting sweaters with brightly colored yarn, and Sophia and EJ settle on the couch for a card game. I myself head to the kitchen to make a chocolate banana mug cake in an effort to perfect the no-oven baking skills that I've picked up while being here.
10:00 pm - Sooner or later, the cold sets in, and we say good night to each other. Urubamba is 9,416 feet above sea level so the weather drops as soon as the sun is gone. After showering, I turn in my writing assignment for our civic studies class on Canvas and join Sophia and Emma for an episode of Narcos. One of the many ways we practice Spanish is through watching TV shows and listening to Spanish artists on repeat.
12:00 am - After saying goodbye to Emma, I take some time to journal on my experience in our cohort and in Peru for the past few days. By getting out of our comfort zones and supporting one another, we’ve grown from a cohort to a family in only a few short weeks. During the last part of my day, Sophia and I talk about everything and anything until I can no longer keep my eyes open. The minutes turn into hours until we tell each other good night and turn off the lights—ready to do it all again tomorrow.
Photo Credit: Ella Harris Perin, Civic Semester Fellow 2023