I think the most daunting part of coming to Tufts was knowing that I would have to build a new life in an entirely different environment. I would need to make friends, join clubs and organizations, maintain good grades, and hopefully through all of that, find a community; it was all on me. Coupling that gigantic burden with the overall stress leading up to move-in day and the acclimation period after it, it’s no doubt that the first few moments of a college career can be overwhelming. Although there’s beauty in a blank slate, sometimes you need some help finding the materials with which to draw. I learned to appreciate my blank slate with the help of my FOCUS group. (FOCUS is one of the pre-orientation programs at Tufts; it centers around community service, each group tasked with a different theme. There are seven other equally amazing programs!)
FOCUS eased my transition into college by providing me with a community I could rely on right off the bat. It was comforting to appreciate that we were all in the same boat and that we would find our way together. The ice breakers didn’t seem redundant, they were necessary. Whenever I’m in a new social environment, I always wish I could skip the small talk and uncertainty and get right to being friends, and I think that’s true for most people. Spending time with my FOCUS group allowed me to do that.
One of my favorite games that we played together was Hot Seat. Basically, one person sits in the metaphoric “hot seat” while the rest of the group gets to ask them questions. At first, the questions were surface-level like “What’s your favorite color?” Eventually, though, we were able to ask each other about sincere topics and everyone was there to support each other through the responses. I remember that, when I was in the “hot seat,” I was asked whether or not I was homesick. Shocker, I was terribly homesick: I had been away from home for weeks on end before, but this, I knew, would be different. I missed my brother and my cousins. I missed my dog. I missed my parents. I missed my friends. I missed my old way of life─my high school life─because it was all that I knew. My FOCUS group gave me the opportunity to vent those feelings and the space to feel comfortable doing so.
This sense of community was also expanded into the greater Tufts community through my FOCUS group. How can you get a sense for what the people and opportunities are like at Tufts from just nine other people? Let me explain. My FOCUS group also often did this activity in which we would submit anonymous questions about Tufts as a community or school or what-have-you to our FOCUS leaders, and then they would give their perspective on it as an upperclassman and an individual. As a clueless first-year who didn’t know what he was doing for most things, having the opportunity to ask the most embarrassing of questions or express the most sincere of concerns was invaluable. It was a win-win: not only did I get to have my questions and concerns addressed anonymously, but I also got to hear those of others. This connects back to the idea of all being in the same boat together: it was comforting to know that people had some of the same questions as I did, or were worried about the same things that I was worried about. It gave everyone the opportunity to learn about the groups’ interests, and most importantly, showed all of us that we were never going to be alone at Tufts.
Looking back now, it’s so awesome to see how everyone in my FOCUS group has come out of their shell and blossomed into incredible individuals. We are all still adamant about keeping in touch with each other, as evident by weekly FOCUS group dinners at Carm or baking a cake for one of our FOCUS member’s birthday. Thanks to them and all of the experiences we went through together, I know that Tufts can really feel like my home, not in a couple of months, but right now.