A New Opportunity for First-Year Students

With the Tufts Civic Semester, incoming undergraduates spend their first fall semester abroad
a student with her host family in Urubamba, Peru
A student with her host family in Urubamba, Peru. “We believe that this transformational experience will prepare students to thrive on campus and to do good in the world,” said Alan Solomont. Photo: Courtesy of Where There Be Dragons
March 5, 2019

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Almost five years ago, Tufts launched its 1+4 Bridge Year program, in which incoming undergraduates spend a transformational year of full-time community service abroad prior to starting their studies on campus. Now Tufts is adding another option for first-year students—the Tufts Civic Semester, in which students spend their fall semester abroad working at a nonprofit organization, doing academic coursework, and immersing themselves in language and cultural studies.

The program, now accepting applications from admitted students for the Fall 2019 semester, begins in August with two classes on campus, one in civic studies and another about the region the students will live in—Peru or China. Students earn full academic credit while abroad and are intended to remain on track to graduate in four years; financial aid applies to the program.

When abroad, the students live with host families and work twenty hours per week at local nonprofit organizations that focus on issues ranging from community health and environmental sustainability to women’s empowerment and community development. In addition, they take language classes and an online class where they reflect on their experiences.

“At Tufts we believe that meaningful experiential learning, supported by integrated coursework and critical reflection, provides a valuable foundation for a civically engaged college experience,” President Anthony Monaco said in a message to the community. “With the addition of the Tufts Civic Semester program, we hope that even more students will have the chance to start their Tufts education with a transformational learning experience, providing a touchstone for success in their academic, professional, personal, and civic lives.”

The Tufts Civic Semester program, which is currently limited to Arts and Sciences students, is being led by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, which also oversees the 1+4 Bridge Year program. The new program offers one more path for Tufts students to take to a robust civic life, said Alan Solomont, A70, A08P, the Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of Tisch College.

“Our hope at Tufts—and our mission at Tisch College—is to provide opportunities for students to find their own paths to impact and to develop the leadership skills of civic engagement so that they will be lifelong contributors to the greater good, whatever their course of study or eventual career,” Solomont said. “The Tufts Civic Semester is a major step forward in this regard, offering a new way for first-year students to embed experiential learning abroad into the foundation of their Tufts education. We believe that this transformational experience will prepare them to thrive on campus and to do good in the world.”

Tufts is teaming up with a well-established nonprofit that will run the local programs at the sites in Kunming, China and Urubamba, Peru. Kunming is a city of four million in southern China. Students will stay with local families near several universities and Green Lake, Kunming’s central park. They will also attend talks by local speakers, go on overnight excursions to places like the Tiger Leaping Gorge, and have the opportunity to learn from local community members about topics such as Chinese calligraphy and tea culture.

Urubamba is a town in the Sacred Valley, about thirty-five miles from Cusco, in southern Peru. The region has a number of indigenous communities that students will be able to work with on health, environmental, economic and social issues. Students will live with local families, immersing themselves in a new culture. There will also be guest lectures, overnight trips to sites like Machu Picchu, and cultural activities.

Students accepted to the Class of 2023 may apply for either of the Tufts First-Year Global Programs: Tufts 1+4 or the Tufts Civic Semester program. Those admitted through Early Decision are encouraged to apply by March 13, while students admitted through regular decision can apply by April 16 to receive admissions notification before May 1. All admitted students can also apply by the final application deadline of May 10, and will receive notification by early June.

Students must be enrolled at Tufts to be considered for acceptance to the Civic Semester program.

“We are delighted to offer this new opportunity to our undergraduates,” said James M. Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “The Civic Semester is a natural extension of the Tufts 1+4 program, and is an exciting way for students to have a gap service semester. We feel strongly that the educational and hands-on community service components of this program will greatly enrich our students’ academic experience when they return to campus.”

Visit the Tufts Civic Semester website for more information.

Taylor McNeil can be reached at taylor.mcneil@tufts.edu.