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Before Abigail Barton, A20, could flourish during her gap year in León, Nicaragua, she had to grasp the basics.On her walk to work, she learned to maneuver between patches of shade in the 95-degree heat, even if it led her out of her way.The fellows thought about that question a lot, both privately and as part of their coursework for the Tufts program. Was it the people of León, or was it really just themselves?At Las Tías, where international charitable groups often come in for a day to visit, Barton had seen that the urge to do good sometimes misfires.Over time, Barton and the other Tufts fellows became very protective toward their new home.They commiserated with their host families about how the resort area of Granada is geared toward foreigners now, and lamented that a Subway restaurant had opened in León.
“More than making change, I feel like I’ve just learned how you make change—what works, what doesn’t, how different people approach it.” Barton’s fellowship may have begun with frustrations and doubt, but that melted away as the weeks passed.
She took advantage of the cold drinks that were sold on most every corner, often packaged in plastic bags rather than expensive bottles.
She learned the sing-song calls of the different vendors: “ among Nicaraguan teens.
Her Spanish improved to the point where she could haggle with cab drivers like a local.
She found that her age was a boon to working with the Las Tías teens, as she could be a friend to them. She would often meet up at a café with Isabel Schneider, another Tufts bridge year fellow, to rehash the day’s ups and downs: talking about pop music and French braiding with the Las Tías girls, being told by her host mom that she’d caught a cold because she’d taken a shower before bed, or facing the Nicaraguan belief that a steaming bowl of soup will cool you off on a hot day.
The goal of it all: a transformational year of learning about themselves, their passions and their place in the world.