Boston College – The City

Things not to miss in the city of Boston

After nine months in the States, and having visited six other major cities in the country, I can confidently say that Boston is by far my favourite city of them all. Being the place where the American Revolution began, Boston has an extremely rich history and therefore a distinctive, Bostonian culture. Boston is one of the smallest major cities in the US, making it wonderfully easy to walk around and appreciate. Boston is also home to a vibrant, multicultural community, which manifests itself in various ways around different parts of the city; one of my favourite facts about Boston is that there is no Walmart in sight, because the Mayor of Boston wants to help independent businesses grow instead. During my year here, I not only tried to do all of the obvious sights, but also some of the alternative, underappreciated sights. I still probably missed a lot, but I suppose that will be my excuse to come back. Below are some of the more unconventional sights of Boston that are really worth a visit, after you’ve done everything in the tourist handbook:

Jamaica Plain – Jamaica Plain is one of the most eclectic, multicultural neighbourhoods in the city of Boston. Filled to the brim with independent shops and restaurants, JP is lovely on a summer afternoon. Make sure you keep an eye out for the murals in the main street, as well as visiting Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum. Insider’s Tip: Try the Portuguese French Toast at Vee Vee’s!

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MIT Media Lab – You probably don’t need to be told that Boston is where all the intellect of the US is seemingly concentrated. BC aside, there are several other universities: Tufts, Emerson, Boston University, the Berklee College of Music, and of course, Harvard and MIT. Harvard is the obvious tourist attraction, but I would highly recommend attending an event at MIT as well. The Media Lab is a particularly striking building.

Society of Grown-Ups – In a city of intellects, with a soaring population of young people, there always seem to be new and exciting ventures taking place. The Society of Grown-Ups is one such venture; located in Brookline (about 20 minutes from the Boston College Main Campus), this company aims to educate young people on being a grown-up, fresh out of college. That may sound incredibly boring but I assure you, the team are really welcoming, the space they have in Brookline is beautifully decorated, and this is yet another opportunity to meet new people outside the Boston College bubble!

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Chestnut Hill Reservoir – Commonly referred to as the ‘Res’, this body of water plays a huge role in every Boston College student’s life. It was one of the things I noticed immediately when I moved here. BC students will always be running around the Res, regardless of the time of year and the temperature, and the sunsets are just stunning as well. I am truly thankful to have been able to live thirty seconds away from this beauty.

Chapin Beach – I’m cheating a little bit with this one because it isn’t exactly in Boston. In fact, it isn’t in Boston at all, but only a two-hour drive away, in Cape Cod. Cape Cod is one of the signature areas of the state of Massachusetts, a vast expanse of endless seaside towns and views. The main towns are Hyannis and Provincetown, but on our road trip, we almost accidentally stumbled across a town called Dennis, and Chapin Beach. It’s probably the most tranquil place I’ve ever been to in my life. If you can drive there for the sunset, do it.

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Boston College – Student Life

Things you absolutely should not miss if you are studying abroad at Boston College

One of the best things about Boston College is that there is always something or other going on. If you do end up here, you’ll see it all over your Facebook; every day, there seems to be a new stream of Facebook events being posted and shared and liked, to the point where you’re actually having to make a decision between going to classes or going to one of these events (I would advise you to do the former…). The fact that there is always something happening makes for a very exciting university culture. Campus is almost always buzzing, and if you ever find yourself bored, there’s a very easy solution. Below are some of the highlights of my year, that I definitely don’t think you should miss:

The Sports – The BC Eagles are a nationally renowned brand more than they are a team. The name spans over the football, hockey, basketball and myriad of other sports teams that exist on campus. Football season usually takes place as soon as the school year begins. Every Saturday for the first few months of the year, students, alumni and locals will buy tickets to the Alumni Stadium (located on campus!) for these games, pretzels and hot dogs in hand. American Football takes a while to grasp, as does the concept of tailgating (I like to explain the latter as people eating elaborate barbeque lunches out of the trunks of their cars, but that doesn’t make for a particularly appealing explanation.) My insider’s hint would be to snag a ticket to one of the televised games; they are slightly more expensive, but also way more exciting. Who doesn’t love the opportunity to be on ESPN?

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Public Lectures – As I’ve probably mentioned in one of my previous posts, the wide array of public lectures that I’ve had the opportunity to attend has been magnificent. I listened to psychologist Amy Cuddy speaking about self-confidence, journalists from the Middle East discussing media-related issues, and Palestinian-American comedian Amer Zahr shedding light on the Israel-Palestine conflict. These examples alone demonstrate just how wide the variety of speakers is. Tickets to these events are usually free for Boston College students, and it’s a great networking opportunity as well. In this case, my insider’s tip would be to attend events held by Agape Latte, a campus organisation that puts faith and spirituality at the centre of their conversations.

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Culture Shows – Over 70 different countries are represented at Boston College, and there is a culture society to complement each and every one. The culture societies become a tight-knit family, hosting events and cooking food together in a way that makes BC feel like a home away from home. Particularly for international students, these culture clubs can be a sense of security as well. Every year, the major culture clubs host culture shows, showcasing dance, drama, music and the arts of that particular culture. They’re not only really impressive, but also an opportunity to learn about the culture. Insider’s Tip: would highly recommend the culture show hosted by the Organisation of Latin American Affairs (OLAA).

The ALC Showdown – Kind of along the same lines as the culture shows, but also very different. The ALC Showdown is a big deal. Each year, all the dance teams on campus, including the dance teams of the culture societies, all compete to win the annual showdown competition. What I loved about this was the fact that you could literally see how much hard work and dedication each team had put into their performance. I knew people who had been working towards their Showdown piece for two months, staying up practising till the early hours of the morning. Go to honour their hard work, if anything. Insider’s Tip: Showdown tickets are limited. Whatever anyone tells you, buy one as soon as possible. The 2016 Showdown sold out in less than 48 hours.

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The ample volunteering opportunities –One of BC’s signature mottos, and what they hope for their graduates to be, is to be ‘men and women for others’. Service-learning and volunteering are an integral part of BC culture, and you’ll see this in the wide variety of volunteering organisations on campus, such as 4Boston, Arrupe, Appalachia and various others. The best part about volunteering at BC is that you reflect on your service afterwards, and by result almost become incredibly close to the people you serve with. So if you want to meet a new bunch of people, or even if you’re just looking for an alternative to the classic American spring break experience, go and volunteer. Insider’s Tip: Join the Dominican Republic Service and Immersion Program run by the Learning to Learn Department – the best choice I made.

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Retreat Opportunities ­– As BC is trying to build holistic, well-rounded ‘men and women for others’, they also recognise that students need time away from the relentless work schedule. Therefore, student-led retreats are also a common part of life at BC. These retreats are times when students can just take a break and reflect on what has happened in the year so far. They therefore provide ample opportunity for self-critique and improvement, as well as bonding. Best part? Most of them are free of charge! Insider’s Tip: Retreats are more fun if you know the people you’re ‘retreating’ with. Try to join a team or club at the beginning of the year that will become like a family to you.

Commencement – A synonym of graduation, commencement is a blast, and also bittersweet. As you watch your senior friends graduate, you not only realise how quickly university goes, but also how quickly your study abroad year has gone. You may not be in a cap and gown, but in a sense, you are graduating from your host university too. The 2016 commencement ceremony featured a speech by the U.S. Secretary of Energy, inspiring words from college deans and a few teary-eyed seniors. Insider’s Tip: give your senior friends a big hug after graduation, because they leave their dorms at 8pm that night.

Boston College – The University

Boston College is an enigma. Any visitor to the campus, located between Chestnut Hill and Newton (cities just outside Boston), would be stunned at how beautiful the campus is, at any time of year. In the autumn, the trees are beautiful shades of rust; in the spring, the fresh rows of flowers make for a lovely walk through the campus, and in the summer, students pitch up hammocks to bask in the (often blistering) heat. It’s roughly the same size as our campus in Lancaster, with roughly the same number of students, but Lancaster unfortunately is no architectural rival to the BC campus. I was certainly taken aback by this campus that looked more like Hogwarts than a real university, and over the course of the year got to know the university for much more  than just its pretty face.

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I must admit that when it was confirmed that I was going to be going to Boston College, I had no idea what the university represented or what it was like. However, this year alone, BC has risen to be part of the Top 30 best universities in the States. The Carroll School of Management (CSOM) alone has been rated the third best undergraduate business school in the country, ahead of the likes of Harvard and Wharton. As you can imagine, as a LUMS student myself, I was determined to make the best use of every opportunity that came my way at CSOM.

I must also admit that when I first got to BC and started to learn about the university, I was quite confused and ended up harbouring mixed feelings about the institution. First of all, a fundamental difference between the British university system and the American university system is the idea of having public and private universities. Theoretically, all universities in the UK are public institutions and are funded by the government; this is one of the reasons that the fees are the same, regardless of the university you choose to go to. This is definitely not the case in the States. Whilst public universities do exist, there are also private universities, such as BC, that charge a much more exorbitant amount of money because of the higher quality of education that is offered (I’ll let you Google just how much a full-time, four-year undergraduate degree from BC costs). Whilst, as exchange students, we pay a mere fraction of that fee, it still did not sit well with me that some people would have to pay that amount in full.

It took me a while to come to terms with the concept of a private university, the concept of an endowment, and the concept of alumni fundraising, all of which you will definitely learn about if you decide to study abroad in the USA. You eventually come to the realisation that whilst those fees may seem exorbitant to you, they are relative in comparison to the higher incomes that people in the States make, especially those on the East Coast and in the Boston area.

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The American students would all also joke about how all their tuition money was going to making the campus as beautiful as it was, which, whilst not entirely wrong, is definitely not the whole truth. Boston College has a great educational outlook, and you can tell just by analysing the curriculum just how much investment goes into each student. One of the ways they do this is by hiring professors who have had real experience out in their respective fields and who are thus able to share their stories with students; for anyone in the Management School, I probably don’t need to reiterate the value of case studies to back up theoretical knowledge. Well, at BC, your professors are your case studies. Furthermore, regardless of the department you are in, a BC education always has a strong focus on social justice and making a positive change. Service-learning and self-reflection are woven into the curriculum, and therefore serve to make the student a better human being rather than just a better student. Lastly. BC places value on extra-curricular nourishment by inviting a wide variety of speakers onto their campus; this year alone, I was able to attend talks by a former Australian Prime Minister, Obama’s former Secretary of State and renowned philosopher Noam Chomsky. A huge time and financial commitment is required to set up these events and BC definitely deserves credit for that.

As time progressed and I learnt more about where BC funds were going, my feelings about the institution started to soften and I started to see why they ran the university the way they chose to run it. Boston College really wants their graduates to shine, and they invest in their students. It’s not only obvious in their many signature mottos (‘Ever to Excel’, ‘Men and Women for Others’, and ‘Go Set The World Aflame’ are just a few to name), but it was also obvious in the graduation ceremony that I attended in my final week at BC.

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As exchange students, we are only at our host universities for a semester or a year, and technically don’t even have time to completely come to terms about how we feel about the place until we leave and reflect on our experiences. What this experience and my new-found appreciation for BC have taught me, however, is that positivity and optimism are very important when approaching such situations, whether that is whilst studying abroad or in life. Try not to make quick judgements about your host institution, even if it is very different to Lancaster, nor about the people there. At the end of the day, being in a place that is different to your home university is the entire point of studying abroad, right?

Boston College

Hi all! My name is Sharlene Gandhi, and I am a second-year Marketing Management student, also pursuing a minor in French. I am in Cartmel College (although we admittedly spent more time in Grizedale Bar), and am currently spending my second year at Boston College in Massachusetts, in the States.

A lot of people have misconceptions about studying abroad; on one hand, some shun it, believing it to be nothing more than an extended holiday, whilst on the other hand, some find the prospect too daunting to even consider. In this introductory post, I hope to convince you that studying abroad is neither of the above. What most people forge, is that studying abroad also means living abroad, and effectively moving away from everything you find familiar for a semester or for a whole year. Parts of it will be exciting, and parts of it will be overwhelming, but the whole thing will be an experience that you’ll be glad to have engaged in.

My situation at Boston College is slightly different from other outgoing Lancaster students; I live off-campus in Boston, whilst most other outgoing Lancaster students live in on-campus accommodation at their host universities. At American universities, most, if not all, students living on campus will have a direct roommate, something which is considered very much to be part of the ‘college experience’ as well. However, as an off-campus student, I also miss out on this opportunity to interact and socialise with other Boston College students.

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… Or so I thought when I first got to BC. I was so busy comparing myself and my experience to other people studying abroad that I forgot to actually enjoy what was put in front of me. Rather than trying to make my own experience as unique and memorable as possible, I was busy trying to turn my experience into something that resembled a ‘stereotypical’ study abroad experience. Even living off-campus, there are plenty of opportunities to meet people if you seek them out. For me, meeting new people meant that I missed home and Lancaster less as well.

I am aware of how clichéd this sounds, but getting involved with clubs and societies on campus can be life-changing. I met some of my best friends through societies at Lancaster, and so I jumped at the opportunity to get involved again at Boston College. What is great about studying abroad is that the societies at your home university will be so drastically different to the ones at your host university, and there will be so many new opportunities to grab. For example, at Boston College, and the U.S. in general, community service / volunteering plays a major role in university life, and there are therefore a myriad of opportunities on offer to volunteer on a local, national or international scale. I found a service trip to the Dominican Republic that sounded absolutely amazing, and ended up going on this wonderful journey with twenty-one other American students. Over the year, we not only bonded over countless lunches and dinners, but also over fundraising events and discussions about our lives, our families, our backgrounds and our hopes and dreams. Whilst it may seem somewhat extreme to share all that with people who are effectively strangers at the beginning, it definitely speeds up the process of bonding and pushes you outside your comfort zone in a way that makes you more confident and self-assured.

Boston College- Part 1.2It’s okay to be lonely in your first few days abroad. You’re still getting accustomed to the mannerisms of a new country and culture, and may even be experiencing culture shock. You are outside your comfort zone already, so why not push yourself even further? Talk to the people sitting around you in your classes, talk to other international students, talk to students of your host university, and most importantly, keep talking to people back home and tell them how you are. Continuous reflection on your experiences will help you identify the highs and the lows, and hopefully will also highlight how to overcome potential pitfalls. A lot of my international friends keep blogs and journals, documenting their experience as exchange students. These really aid the process of reflection, as well as producing great memories to fondly look back on in a few years’ time.