When I started at Tufts, I felt lost. I was the first person in my family to ever attend college, and I did not know how to find a community or succeed academically there. Growing up in a low-income family back in Brazil, I only thought of college as a place to acquire technical skills and as an easier pathway to employment. Tufts proved me wrong and I’ll explain why.
One of my favorite things about Tufts is the endless amount of opportunities to explore my passions and interests. During my first two years here, I have found various research opportunities, both collaborative and independent. Through this research, I have also been able to attend conferences and pursue internships abroad. On top of that, I have also visited several countries, including Brazil, Canada, and Australia, through opportunities I saw in newsletters from multiple departments at Tufts. I’m a huge fan of the newsletters from the Tisch College and the Tufts Institute of the Environment. I’m passionate about civic engagement and food security, so I must confess that I have a bias toward reading content from those departments.
During my first year, I applied to the Tisch Scholars Program, a highly selective leadership development program in the fields of civic life, community engagement, and social justice designed for students at Tufts who seek to create social change. The program is a three-year commitment that requires students to take courses together, participate in intensive retreats focused on collaboration and learning about social identity, and work for 8 hours a week with a community partner.
For my Tisch Scholar project this year, I’m working with Enroot, the only agency in Massachusetts offering a multi-faceted program exclusively focused on addressing the specific needs of immigrant students. I support the program by helping with volunteer and student recruitment, translating advertising materials from English to Portuguese and Spanish, and updating Enroot’s institutional database. Moreover, I contribute to Enroot’s student programming activities, including tutoring, mentoring, leadership development, post-secondary access workshops, professional internships, and college success coaching. I love the work I do at Enroot because it connects to my identity as an international student trying to fit in a new country that is very different from where I call home - Brazil.
Undoubtedly, Tufts has provided me with many resources to make my college experience as meaningful as possible. I have come to appreciate the social relevance of academic practices at Tufts. Even homework assignments can represent an opportunity to put into practice your skills and develop relevant projects. For example, last year during my Tisch Scholar Seminar class, I had to come up with a project for social change. I remember I thought about many topics, but I chose food insecurity in Brazilian public schools. As a tech nerd, I felt compelled to use technology to help fix that problem. I designed a mobile application to connect schools in need of food supplies, with farmers willing to donate their overproduction. In November, I was selected to attend the Bayer Youth Ag Summit in Brazil, an event for agricultural advocates, and pitched the app to hundreds of scholars, civilians, and investors. As a result, I won the Ambassador Award and a fully-funded trip to Australia.
Through such high-impact learning experiences that I found at Tufts, I have realized that the true purpose of higher education lies beyond skills training and academic coursework. The extracurricular and academic opportunities at Tufts have been life-changing for me. They have taught me that understanding the dynamics of power, mapping privilege, and tackling society’s relevant issues represent the true values of a Tufts education.