When I came to Tufts, I wasn’t totally sold on the liberal arts curriculum. The science, math, and language distribution requirements were intimidating, and I honestly didn’t think I would use all that much of what I learned in the real world. Tufts’ purpose in having these requirements is to broaden students’ horizons and make them truly citizens of the world, but when you hear that on a tour, it sounds pretty abstract. It was only this spring break that I fully realized what a great job Tufts does of preparing you for the world — a realization I came to through traveling.
Last week, I had the opportunity to fly to Europe for spring break. First, I went to Paris with my best friends from home growing up, and I noticed how much more enjoyable traveling is now that I know more about history, art, and language. I took French in high school and I placed out of the language part of the language requirement at Tufts, deciding to take French culture to fulfill the rest of the requirement. While my French skills allowed me to converse with museum docents and to order my food, I think the background I learned through my French culture classes allowed me to understand more of what I was seeing.
My first French culture class was “Europe Since 1815,” taught my Professor Proctor, a triple Jumbo, who completed his undergraduate, masters, and PhD programs at Tufts. The class started with the French Revolution, continued through Napoleon’s reign, analyzed the European revolutions of 1830 and 1848, and discussed France’s involvement in World War I and II. While I thought all of the politics and patterns were absolutely fascinating at the time, I thought I’d forgotten most of what I learned. Then, I visited Versailles, the old royal palace in France, where I was pleasantly surprised to be able to explain the history I learned in class to my friends.
My second French culture class was “French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism,” my first art history class. When my friends and I went to the Musée d’Orsay, the museum that contains works like Degas’ dancers, I was excited to recognize works that we learned about, and to actually know things about them. For example, in the last room we saw was Van Gogh’s “The Bedroom,” the subject of my final paper. Without my history and art background, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the sites in Paris nearly as much as I did!
My friends and I also received the advice of a local, whose number I received from an exchange student at Tufts. The exchange student and I found ourselves volunteering at a homeless shelter in Harvard Square a few weeks ago, and he passed along his friend's information. I texted her in French with tons of questions about Paris, and got to learn about the city and practice my French skills. Here, Tufts’ focus on study abroad helped me make a connection across the world, allowing me to better understand French people and culture.
After Paris, I took the Eurostar train to London to visit my friend Taylor, a Tufts student who is studying abroad there. Once again, my history course on Europe Since 1815 came in handy when we visited the Churchill Museum and Churchill War Rooms (the underground bunker from which Churchill conducted much of World War II). Pre-college, I wasn’t a big museum fan, but now that I know more background information, this was my favorite museum I’ve ever seen. We also got the chance to meet up with our sorority sister, Erika, who is abroad in London too! Not only did the knowledge I acquired through classes come in handy, but the very fact that Tufts values this worldwide appreciation is the reason that Taylor and Erika are abroad in the first place; thus, without Tufts’ emphasis on study abroad and gaining a deeper understanding of other cultures and people, I wouldn’t have been able to stay in London and I would’ve missed out on this awesome experience!
Before college, I never could have known how these classes would benefit me. I never could have foreseen having the confidence to travel alone to another country (a step I was only able to take after four years of mastering Boston public transit), and I never could have predicted how cool it would be to have connections around the world. My Emma’s advice for you, especially if you are an admitted student trying to decide if Tufts is right for you, is to ask yourself how important learning about the world and other people is to you. If you want to meet people from around the world, converse in different languages, understand the history behind of different countries and cultures, appreciate art, or just learn for the sake of learning and be pleasantly surprised by the application later, then Tufts may be the place for you!