Tufts freshman Lydia Collins lived in a family in Ecuador from August until April as part of a gap year program. “I did a program called Global citizen year. The program puts kids in Ecuador, Brazil and Senegal. I wanted to go to Ecuador because I wanted to improve my Spanish.”
Tufts’ 4+1 program to support post-high school gap years enabled Lydia Collins to defer her admission and do just that. Although the financial support aspect of the program has not been implemented yet, the university remained tied to her experience.
While she was there, Lydia worked in a micro-finance organization in a local market and as a kind of tutor. “In the mornings I walked to the market and helped out with going to the different stalls and having women turn in their money from the loans. In the afternoons, as part of the organization, I started an after-school homework and English center.”
Collins developed a strong relationship with her host family, especially her host-sister. “It’s weird to have a strange gringa living in your home so at first it was kind of hard to integrate my life into theirs and be like their true family member or their true friend instead of just being a weird guest that eats your food. I was able to really break down barriers and show them I was a real person. And that helped build my confidence up when I came here to Tufts.”
“People eat guinea pigs there…so I got to eat guinea pig.” Lydia talks about some of strange experiences she had. “I was like the tallest person in the entire country. I’d be in the bus and I could see over everyone else.”
Lydia Collins stayed in Ecuador for the entire eight months without going home and therefore experienced Christmas abroad. “I never really felt a connection to God but then suddenly when I was surrounded by all that Catholicism, […] I totally felt sparked by something and it was so cool to have a spiritual interaction that I hadn’t ever felt.”
“You have to just be patient with yourself and let yourself adjust as your body wants to.” Overall, this gap year helped Lydia learn a lot about herself. “I can really rely on myself and if everything else fails then I know at least I’m with myself and I can trust myself. And that’s something that took a long time to develop.”