Boston and Beyond: The first 6 months
Arriving in Boston at the end of July, I did not start working on my project directly and had one free month on my hands to visit the city; walking by Faneuil hall and Quincy market is a pleasure.
Despite the jetlag, I started visiting apartment on the morning of the second day after my arrival. I did not want to waste too much time for the search and rapidly decided to take one of the available rooms. Now I have one of the most entertaining roommates around - or as she would call herself “a funky aunt”… and two cats.
Upon my arrival, it took me a few days to adapt to little things, as for example the weird noises the metro (or “T” as they call it here) makes when taking a curve… The presence of a Starbucks or a Dunkin’ Donuts nearly every 200m (or 656 feet…) also struck me, but if you’re not counting calories I figured that it can be experienced as a perk. Oh, and the abundance of squirrels…
More seriously, the presence of major universities attracts people from around the world and creates a dynamic environment for personal development. People coming here are in general looking for a challenge and new experiences, they are open and accessible – this makes Boston a great place to make new friends and to network. As I found, the many organizations which you can be part of (as an international or student) guarantee that you can find plenty of things to do besides working hard on your project (if you want to).
After finding a place to stay, I spent two weeks of August walking around New York and Washington, two very interesting and very different cities. Both cities are easy to reach by bus and fun to visit, even (or even more) if you’re on your own. Washington impressed me by the quality of its museums and the friendliness of the so-called rangers who will be glad to show you around the memorials.
Besides the usual attractions, the Kennedy Center for the performing Arts was a nice surprise; it offers free performances of different nature every evening and has very nice student discounts for its regular shows.
The many memorials allow visitors to build themselves an image of the US. The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are all in white and inspired by Roman and respectively Greek architecture, whereas the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial is much more integrated in its surrounding and made of grey-brown blocks of stone, featuring a lot of flowing water and waterfalls. Besides it being the only memorial depicting a First Lady, its quotes intrigued me quite a bit.
New York, on the other hand, appealed to me most by the possibility of visiting so many different districts, walking up from the harbor on the south end of Manhattan where the free ferry leaves for Staten Island (great to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty) up to the east through the financial district and then, somewhat to the west to the 9/11 memorial (and Century 21 – for shopping purposes).
I also particularly enjoyed walking through SoHo which is less of a sky-scraper place. Actually I found a nice Tapas bar there… with some fine red wine. For the more recreational part, there is Central Park and the Met – which is a must when visiting the Big Apple.
I believe travelling and spending some time abroad, in a city like Boston, is an enriching experience. I did not only learn a lot about science or people in general but also about myself. I think it allows you to push your limits as well as to discover what or whom you miss the most.