Study in USA: Boston
by Claudia G. Martinez
Choosing where to study |
San Francisco |
Los Angeles |
Texas : Austin |
Washington D.C. |
New York City
Our nation's capital may be in D.C. but the student capital of the U.S. lies a
short distance up the coast in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston offers some of the
nation's most prestigious universities. However, don't mail out that tuition check just
yet. Know what to expect so you don't regret your move for the next four
years or however long it takes to obtain that degree.
To begin with, you have a total of 69 colleges within the Boston area
to choose from. Two examples are
Harvard University and
Boston University. According to Morgan Lim, an international
Harvard Alum and
Cultural Consultant who has spoken to Boston students and students
across the U.S., the difference between Harvard and BU is prestige
and academic focus.
True, both are private institutions with lots of money. The variation
is that Harvard's undergrad courses are strictly liberal arts based.
60% of students major in government, economics, social studies, biology,
English and so on (although computer science is gaining ground). Except
for its Ivy League reputation and graduate offerings - like business school,
law school, Kennedy School and language schools-- most international students
might not gravitate towards Harvard. "Most international students want
to study something practical such as business admin, engineering etc.,"
Nevertheless, a liberal arts education allows students to immerse
themselves in intellectual interests. Lim added that he likes the interdisciplinary
aspect. Harvard emphasizes critical and analytical thinking about the world and
prepares students for graduate school. Plus, students are highly competitive,
the resources are enormous-- Harvard is the richest school in the nation with
an endowment of $18 Billion dollars-- and it has a need blind admission.
BU, on the other hand, is more vocation oriented. It offers undergrad degrees
in business administration, engineering, information systems and mass communications.
"Imagine a private school with a state school offerings," Lim said.
In addition, BU is a school well known for courting international students. Lim
calls it developing international friendship. "BU is a great school except
that it is overshadowed in Boston by Harvard and
MIT which is unfortunate because
they do have some great programs and the students are very diverse (internationally).
[It's a] great place to prepare for a global economy," he added.
You can find extra preparation through an internship with one of the many high
tech, bio tech and finance companies in the vicinity
As for actually living in the Boston area, let's start with how to get around.
First of all there's no need to have your vehicle shipped out with your belongings.
This way you won't have to deal with sky high car related expenses and scarcity of
parking. For 35 dollars a month you can ride the T — the
transportation system. The buses and trains are clean and safe. The only drawback
is that they don't run into the morning like they do in New York.
The best bet for those who "like the nightlife" is a roommate
with a car.
As far as roommates go, consult with the school and don't automatically expect
them to set you up. Every semester, more and more students find themselves
without arrangements due to mix-ups or shortages. The web is an excellent
resource if you find yourself in this type of situation or if you just plain
want to search on your own.
Try our apartment search,
it's free. If you prefer to live alone, be forewarned
that housing is tight, competitive and expensive. Rent runs over 800 dollars for
single occupancy, plus the cost of utilities-- which rises above a hundred dollars
with heating costs.
Popular areas with diverse student populations are Cambridge, Somerville/East
Somerville, and Brookline. These are smaller cities within 15 to 30 minutes from
the center of Boston. They have comparable amenities but cheaper rent. If price
isn't an issue and you're looking for gay friendly or generally open minded, the
recently-gentrified South End within Boston and the slightly more reasonably-priced
Jamaica Plain are good choices. But they don't draw huge student crowds.
interesting Boston neighborhood is Back Bay where you'll always see young musicians
walking around with their instruments toward the famous Berkeely College of Music.
There are also Charlestown, a picturesque accessible neighborhood with quiet
appeal, and Beacon Hill, Boston's blueblood neighborhood--home to the
touristy "Cheers" bar which inspired the famous
Once you find a place, you'll need to go shopping. You'll need to decorate
and furnish. In addition, Boston is cool even in the summer so you'll want to
upgrade your wardrobe with items made especially for Bostonians.
The locals and tourist brochures will recommend Filene's Basement at
Downtown crossing for a one of a kind experience. Unlike the Filene's
chain stores--to which it is not affiliated other than geographically--Filene's
Basement carries Armani jackets, Ralph Lauren sheets and other designer household
items at marked-down prices. If an item has been in the store over two weeks
it'll have an extra reduction. As you shop keep in mind that small retail
purchases are tax free anywhere in MA. These are great discoveries for
students on a budget.
At Downtown Crossing you can also walk over to Filene's Department Store,
Macy's, Sam and Libby, Marshall's, the Sprint Store, Staples and countless
others. While some'd rather opt for the Cambridge Side Galleria, the more
upscale Prudential Center or even trendy Newbury Street (home to shops like
Louis Boston and the Armani Café), downtown has the most colorful allure.
You'll hear several different languages being spoken by pedestrians on any given day.
You can even buy fresh raspberries from street vendors or flowers on a street
corner. And, yes the fruit is safe once you wash it.
For furniture avoid department stores. Your best bets are all the futon
and thrift stores along Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. You can even get some nice
common area furnishings from places that have repossessed from failing dotcoms.
For grocery shopping, there's a store on nearly every corner. Pricing
is almost the same as in any other U.S. city. However, if you have special
dietary need you can shop at Bread and Circus. It's pricey, but carries
Those who can't or don't like to cook, can settle for the dining hall or
eat out. Some options are Fanueil Hall or Quincy Market (at the Haymarket T
stop). Fanueil Hall is an outdoor shopping area with adjoining historical
landmarks and nice sit down seafood and Italian restaurants. However, its
sampling of stores is generic.
Quincy Market is a nearby a food court type place. It's inexpensive,
but don't expect a great meal. For example there's a place called
El Paso Enchiladas that's supposed to be Mexican food. They
disguise Indian food with store bought taco shells. Need I say more?
The truth is that no matter what the locals tell you, there is no such
thing as good Mexican food anywhere in Boston.
Now, if you're into Italian, the North End, near the waterfront, is home
to Boston's Italian community. There are dozens of restaurants, cafes and
bakeries run by actual Italians. For Chinese, visit Chinatown's surplus of
restaurants. And, for the best Thai food I've ever tasted anywhere in the U.S.,
there's the South End. You'll find a restaurant aptly named Best Thai. If you
don't care about the food so much as atmosphere, Back Bay along the Prudential
and Newbury street are always buzzing.
After eating, you can head to Boston Common in the center of town for a rest.
This foliaged haven provides a delightful contrast to the angry urban concrete
in other sections of downtown like the financial district. Also visit the
Charles River, where you can rent sailboats and canoes, or watch college crew
teams practice and race. You can even bike or inline skate along the side
paths. Or go to the Cambridge side of the river and enjoy the view of the
Boston skyline. If you want to get away from MA, there's always the easily
accessible NYC and Canada.
Then again, if you're just looking for people and a hangout, north of the
river in Cambridge, Harvard Square is a big draw for a young crowd seeking
unique clothes, rare albums, books and people. You'll also find students
swarming around Tower Records (which boasts to be the largest in the U.S.),
Urban Outfitters, J.P. Licks ice cream and other area shops on Newbury and
Mass. Ave.,. Boston University dorms and MIT frats also cluster around here,
so don't be surprised to feel the pumping of music as you stroll by.
For arts and culture, there's the South End's theatre district. For sports,
there's Fenway Park. During the day, you can opt for a
Red Sox game or souvenir collecting. At night you can go clubbing on the
infamous Landsdowne Street, a strip of dance clubs right outside the baseball
stadium. The covers are pricey and the music is watered down. And of course,
like most other public places in Boston, they're filled with smoke. Hey, but
it's better than dancing outside the MIT frats.
Yes, Boston is home to MIT, Harvard, Boston College, Boston University,
Emerson, Northeastern and many others. It is a city where one of four people
is in college during the academic year. And if you decide to join them,
hopefully you'll find it's a city well equipped to handle your educational
and everyday needs. Finally, a few parting words: the locals, like the
weather, tend to be cold. Just ignore them.