Senior spring to social security. On the hill to over the hill. Graduation to … grandchildren? Here’s what seniors have to say before all is said and done.
Not for the first time, Eric Sinton is prepared to move on. “I got to Tufts, took a lot of classes, learned some stuff, made a bunch of friends … I’m not really looking for anything more. I’m ready for something else,” he said.
Sinton seeks a new challenge. Just one week after graduation, Sinton will find himself in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico, a 3.3-million-acre expanse of rolling hills, shady trees and oftentimes tranquil wilderness. There, he will not relax. There, he will fight fires. Sinton explained, “The risks of firefighting are something that you need to compartmentalize and put in the back of your mind because if I’m thinking rationally, I’m not gonna do it.”
He spoke from experience. A math major, Sinton has spent two of the past three summers in Utah, hosing down wildfires and working 16-hour days for the U.S. Forest Service. His journey in recent years reveals a trailblazing wanderlust, a sense of adventure that explains his circuitous path across continents and careers.
Before his first year at Tufts , he worked at a convenience store in his hometown of Ithaca, N.Y., where the claustrophobic shifts compelled him to stretch his legs and navigate nature through the Tufts Wilderness Orientation program.
Once in the classroom, Sinton pursued his interest in numbers. He said that as a math student, “you learn a lot of patience. There’ll be hours at a time where you won’t get a problem, and you’ll think, ‘Oh, I can’t solve this,’ and then you’ll have a breakthrough.”
Ever the explorer, Sinton studied abroad last spring through a math-specific program in Budapest, Hungary. He actually described math and firefighting in similar terms; on the latter topic, he said, “you’re digging in the dirt a lot, but you still have your moments. Sometimes the crew really will prevent a fire from overtaking a neighborhood. It’s hours and days and sometimes weeks of what feels like very meaningless work punctuated by moments like that.”
Despite the tantalizing exhilaration of firefighting, Sinton believes that his days as a firefighter, much like his days as a math student, are numbered. During his first year, Sinton took an EMT training course at Tufts, and he served as the fire crew’s medic that summer. “It felt really, really good to be responsible for other people. At the end of the night, just to check in with your fellow firefighters and maybe wrap their ankle or take care of really minor cuts and burns, I got a lot out of that, sometimes more than the firefighting itself,” he said.
Sinton plans to enter the high-octane industry of emergency medicine, perhaps as a physician assistant or doctor. One way or another, he said, “[I want to] take the things in my life seriously but not take my life itself so seriously.”
Unlike the radio show that Sinton and his friends host every Wednesday at noon on WMFO, senior spring is not always a barrel of laughs, but Sinton does look forward to senior week. In particular, he awaits the cruise, a watery excursion for which his firefighting skills should not be necessary.