An Empty Planner

Sophie von Muench - Brazil


August 31, 2017

I have now been away from home for two weeks. However, it feels like it’s been much longer. These weeks of orientation have been packed with seminars, discussions, and group bonding activities, without giving us fellows very much time to breathe. The working theory is that our leaders were trying to keep us busy enough that we wouldn’t have time to realize how insane we are for doing a bridge year in South America, without family, and with no clue what we are getting ourselves into. If that was the goal, they definitely succeeded. Even with only one day left in the United States and most of the other Tufts fellows already in South America, I have not fully registered the reality of the upcoming year. 

 I have spent the last four years looking forward to getting out of my small hometown and seeing the world, meeting new people, and expanding my horizons. Now that the time is finally here, though, I am realizing how much I will miss my life at home. I have wonderful friends it is hard to imagine life without, familiar traditions, and am comfortable with everyone I meet in town. I know my favorite places to go with friends, when I need to be alone, or if I need an adventure. I have fond memories, and I know about what to expect from every day. This is why I am excited to leave and embark on this crazy adventure, but it is more bittersweet that I originally thought. I will be getting on a plane in less than two days, and I am realizing that the jet isn’t only allowing me to escape my sleepy town, but also forcing me to embrace the absence of the familiar comforts of my home.

These past two weeks, we have talked A LOT about hopes, fears, and expectations. Talking to past fellows and people who have had similar experiences has been helpful in building an idea of what the upcoming year will be like. I now know that everything, especially every challenge, is a metaphor for a bridge year, that there are penguins on the beach in Brazil, and that you need to be careful with certain Portuguese pronunciations. I learned mindfulness tactics to use throughout the year and received advice about staying open, curious, and healthy. However, even with all the discussions and advice and information thrown at us by people who are excited for us and want to help us succeed during the year to come, I still can barely imagine my life for the next 8 months.

This does not take away from my excitement for the coming year. For graduation, I received a brand new agenda. Getting a planner always marks the beginning of a new school year for me. The first thing I do when I get one is go through and mark down our vacations, my sports games, and the special dates such as the day of musical auditions and our schoolʼs spirit week. I go through the entire year and can visualize almost exactly what I will be doing at that point in time. This year, I got as far as early September. I put in our orientations, then stopped. After we arrive in Brazil, I have nothing to put in my planner yet. I have no idea what I will be doing in three months. For the first time in my life, I have absolutely no idea what to expect from my coming year. And I love it. I am so excited to go to Brazil, learn Portuguese, and meet my host family and co-workers. I know that any way I imagine it will turn out to be completely wrong, but I am excited to explore a place that I can’t envision. 

So, post two weeks of orientation, I feel almost as clueless about my coming year as I did when I left Hamilton. But not knowing what to expect is possibly the most exciting part of this adventure.

Sophie von Muench