Tag Archives: Boston

Making Friends and Building a Community when Moving to Boston

from an international student’s perspective

Written by Ebru Ece Gulsan, Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering

Congratulations! You made it!

You are moving to the Boston area and are possibly even coming from the other side of the world.

Your parents are proud, friends are jealous.

As time goes by, maybe they start to be more bittersweet. They think you are too busy living the dream life to FaceTime with them as often as you used to, but they have no idea how difficult it is to wake up at 5 am to make sure you call them at a reasonable time since there is a 10 hour time difference. You sound “annoying” or “displeased” when you complain about the tremendous amount of grad school work-load because your loved ones think you do not appreciate your opportunities enough. It looks so easy when you see the third-year international students, because they all seem settled down and have already built their communities. They are all incredibly fluent in English while you still take your time to construct your sentences in the most grammatically perfect way not to be judged by native speakers, and sometimes give up on speaking up because you are exhausted of overthinking.

I get it.

I moved to Boston from a country where America is only known for its fast food, huge cars, and “drive thrus.” Maybe also for TV ads of prescribed medications (like seriously?).

Even though I traveled abroad a bunch, lived in different countries and went to an English medium university, it took me a long time to feel comfortable with my new first language. I still remember the first time I landed at Boston Logan Airport and not understanding a word the security guy said to me. I was freaking out about writing a scientific article or a textbook chapter in English. The first research group meeting I attended was a nightmare – leaving aside the scientific content of the discussions, I could barely understand the language that they spoke. There is a difference between “native speakers who speak English” and “internationals who speak English.”

Language shock is not even the first challenge you face when you move in from another country. Yes, we live in a more global age and all of us are exposed to other cultures and understandings, but this does not necessarily mean that we will immediately adjust and things will go smoothly. There are so many small cultural differences and nuances, such as different gender roles, work ethics, and gestures that are not visible at first. You will learn how to write e-mails, how to flirt, or what to say someone who has lost a significant other in another language. Health insurance, contracts, financial agreements, leases; all these small things work differently, and now you have to read everything before pressing “I agree to the terms and conditions.” It is like learning how to walk again, although you thought you had expertise in it. On top of all these challenges, there is also the time you realize you came to this country all by yourself and you have to make friends and build your own community to survive.

The first big step to take is to accept the fact that you will need to put in effort. You probably will not find yourself in your perfect friend group spontaneously without making the first move. Luckily, Boston is such a diverse and international city. It is easy to blend in. It might feel strange or new to hang out with people with different backgrounds at the beginning, but Bostonians have been doing this for such a long time. Plus, you speak their language! This makes a huge difference because if you were to move in another country where the first language is not English, it would be much more difficult to befriend locals. Despite the fact that they can speak English if they want to, people will hardly give up on the comfort of speaking their first language to have you around. Are you not confident about your accent? Well, think about it as an ice breaker because you will notice that the question “where is your accent is coming from?” is a classic pickup line. So, own it!

There is a metaphor I really like: it is called “Peach People vs Coconut People.” You can look it up for more details, but briefly, it defines certain people as “peach people” and others  as “coconut people”. Peach people are easy to approach, love small talk, yet they still have the core that they will only share with their core group of friends or significant others (this does not mean that you will never be a part of it). Coconut people are the opposite, with an annoyed resting face; but once you get to know them, they are ready to tell you about their aunt’s new boyfriend or why they chose a particular medicine. Just remember that people will be different, and keep this in mind to understand different reactions when approaching others and getting to know them.

Obviously, it is easier to connect with other expats. You will receive plenty of e-mails from Tufts International Center about upcoming events – attend them. If you want to bond with people from your country, find their communities and show up at their gatherings. But please remember that balance is the key. Keep your conversations and friend groups diverse. Of course you will feel homesick and will need your own people, but try not to call home every time you find yourself in this situation. Actually, you know what? You will soon realize that you see home in a different light. It will take time, but once you get there home will not be “where your heart is,” but instead might be where you can connect to the VPN.

Last but not least, know what you like to do and keep doing more of it. Pursue your hobbies and find others who share the similar interests. If you like scuba diving, become a member of New England Divers. If you enjoy photography, go take a course about it and meet others who enjoy it too. Do you need people to hike together? Just invite them and get to know each other during the hike while there is no distraction except the nature.

Do not forget that flux has no season in a diverse and international city like Boston. People come and go all the time. They all feel like a fish out of water at the beginning. Everybody needs friends and there is not a “more normal” thing than the desire of being a part of a community. Just be yourself, show up and bring your beautiful unique accent and slightly broken English with you wherever you go! 

Why Tufts?

Recently, we asked our graduate students why they chose Tufts. Check out this multi-part blog series, in which we explore the journeys of our #TuftsGrad students and the paths they took to Tufts University.

Why Ece Chose Tufts

‘If you want to strengthen your skills and improve your scientific knowledge, be challenged to become an independent researcher and work with awesome people, Tufts is the place.’

Why Amanda Chose Tufts

‘Tufts is the best place to improve myself, to find my path, and to make real changes in the future. If I could make the decision again, Tufts would still be my choice. ‘

Why Michael Chose Tufts

‘Ultimately, I made my decision to attend Tufts School of Engineering based on two important economic factors: proximity to the Boston biotechnology ecosystem and the earning potential in the Boston area.’

Why Alia Chose Boston (and Tufts!)

‘So it wasn’t until I was finally in my apartment, lying on a yoga mat and bemoaning the lack of central air, that I realized that I was finally there. Boston was my home for the next five years.’

Why Alexandra Chose Tufts

‘I always feel as if professors are interested in hearing from me, helping me, and maybe even learning from me. Doors are always open.’

Why Ellen Chose Tufts

‘As someone who entered school psychology from a completely different field (finance), I feel confident that one day I will be ready to step into my future profession as a school psychologist.’

Why Rachael Chose Tufts

‘There are two main reasons why I chose Tufts: collaboration and community.’

Why Vasanth Chose Tufts

‘There are so many more reasons I like Tufts, and I cannot do justice in a short blog post, but one takeaway is that being both a nurturing liberal arts school and competitive research institution, Tufts affords some great opportunities to do good work, grow in your career, and remain happy while doing so.’

Why Jiali Chose Tufts

‘People have plenty of chance to invest in friendships and intellectual connection and graduate students are treated as peers by the faculty and staff.’

Why Lennon Chose Tufts

‘I remember thinking how lucky I was to be in a place where people were so passionate about their subjects and eager to help others find their own.’

“Checking Out” What’s On Offer at the Tufts Libraries

Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History & Museum Studies M.A. 2020

As a graduate student at Tufts, it is a given that a lot of your time will be spent studying, writing papers, and preparing for classes throughout the semester. Although you will find that there are an ample number of resources to help you adequately prepare for everything you will be up against during your time as a graduate student, I have found that there’s no place quite like the Tufts Libraries. In all there are four libraries on the Medford/Somerville and SMFA campuses available for student use: W. Van Alan Clark, Jr. Library at SMFA, Ginn Library at the Fletcher School, the Lilly Music Library in the Granoff Music Center, and of course Tisch Library. That being said, these spaces offer a lot more than just a quiet place to study or find books for your next assignment. Below are a few of my favorite resources available to students through the Tufts Library system. There is so much to offer at all of these libraries, making them well worth a visit! 

Study Space

Of course, what would a library be without space for studying, reading, and generally getting some work done? All four libraries provide ample space to allow you to study in almost any way at almost any time. Need to get a project done with friends? No problem! Reserve a group study room so you’re not worried about distracting others. Looking for a relaxed work environment that also has snacks? Try the Tower Cafe in Tisch Library! Need to cram for a last-minute deadline? Late night study from 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM has you covered! Personally, I find the quiet study areas among the book stacks to be where I’m able to focus and work most productively. Regardless of how or when you like to get your work done, at least one of the libraries will be a good place to turn to when many other places on campus may be closed or just not the right fit for you.

Digital Collections and Archives

Located in the Tisch Library, the Digital Collections and Archives (DCA) are home to the university’s extensive holdings of archival materials. These collections contain objects related to the history of the university, as well as a wide variety of other topics including the history of medicine, broadcast journalism, and more! Among the more unique items held in the collections are Tufts student protest posters from the 1970s, ancient scarabs, and even the tail of the university’s mascot: Jumbo the elephant. DCA is open Monday to Friday for use by students and other researchers to uncover a little bit more about the history of Tufts and beyond! Visit the Digital Collections & Archives website for more information.

Digital Design Studio

Tucked away on the third floor of the Tisch Library, the Digital Design Studio (DDS) is your go to resource for all things digital media. Whether you need to produce a video, create a website, design and print a poster, record an audio narration, or even do some 3D printing, the DDS has you covered. The studio is equipped with multimedia workstations, a recording room, and even a green screen, making work on any sort of digital project a breeze. If all of this sounds great but you don’t quite know how you would ever go about utilizing this great resource, not to worry! The DDS offers online tutorials for everything from using equipment to creating credits for your work. They even have their own in-house “Digital Design Expert” to help you out. Check out the Tisch Library website for more information. 

Boston Library Consortium and Interlibrary Loan

Although the combined collections of the four libraries may seem to have every title and piece of information you could ever need or imagine, there are still plenty of books and documents that fall outside the scope of the university’s holdings. That’s where the Boston Library Consortium (BLC) and interlibrary loans come in handy. By submitting a request for a book or article using interlibrary loan, you can have almost any item you may need from other institutions around the world delivered directly to you at Tufts! Tufts is also part of the BLC with 18 other area institutions, which allows you to check out books at other school libraries with a BLC card. Between all of these resources, you won’t ever have to worry about not being able to get your hands on that specific source you need to make your research project perfect! Find out more about interlibrary loan.

Workshops and Support Services

If all of this information sounds exciting but also daunting, not to worry! The libraries also offer a variety of workshops and other support services to help students put these great library resources to use. Workshops cover everything from research methods, citations, and writing skills to database usage, media design, and more! A wonderful team of librarians and other support staff are also on hand to provide one-on-one assistance on any of these topics. In fact, each department is assigned its own librarian who can provide assistance tailored to the individual needs and challenges of research in that field. I can personally attest to the fact that the Tufts librarians are a fantastic help and a lot of fun to work with so don’t hesitate to reach out with questions

Now, all of this only begins to scratch the surface of the exciting stuff going on within the Tufts Libraries. For more information, visit the library website or visit a library and start “checking things out” for yourself. Happy exploring!

Why Alia Chose Boston (and Tufts!)

In this multi-part blog series, we will be exploring why current #TuftsGrad students chose to pursue their graduate education at Tufts University. Today, we hear from Alia Wulff, Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. student, in part 4 of our ‘Why Tufts?’ series.

Written by Alia Wulff, Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. student

When I was in high school my favorite show was Leverage. The characters in that show moved to Boston in the second season and stayed there for three years. For some reason, the location stuck with me. I fell in love with the brick buildings and the old-world charm. I enjoyed listening to the accents and seeing the strange combination of historic architecture and modern skyscrapers. I decided that I would enjoy living in Boston, and if I ever had the chance I would move there.

Fast forward about seven years and I was accepted to Tufts, a school only minutes away from the heart of Boston. I was so stressed by the challenge of moving that I barely thought about my high school dream. So it wasn’t until I was finally in my apartment, lying on a yoga mat and bemoaning the lack of central air, that I realized that I was finally there. Boston was my home for the next five years.

There is something special about Boston. My hometown back in Washington State was founded in the 1870’s. It’s actually older than Washington itself, as that was only made a state in 1889. But both of those places seem like they were founded yesterday when compared to the history of Boston. Boston was founded in 1630, a full 240 years before people even began settling in my hometown. Boston has a thread of history that runs through the streets. While I’ve lived here, I’ve walked on roads that were present during the American revolution. I’ve seen buildings older than my state. I’ve explored areas of the city that have been inhabited since before calculus was invented. The history of Boston isn’t only stored in museums and written on plaques. It is in every brick that was used to build this town.

Of course, Boston isn’t only about what happened in the past. This is a bustling city, after all. There is a thriving art scene, supported by the dozens of galleries and museums within the city. You can find food from anywhere in the world, made traditionally or with a modern flare. And every time I venture into the city I find a locally-owned bookstore tucked away amongst the tall buildings, waiting for me to come in and spend inordinate amounts of money on books I (probably) do not need. I’ve spent many afternoons wandering in the Boston Common, drawing all the dogs I see and enjoying the sunshine. I’ve seen weird art shows with my friends, wandering through Park Street to see the imagination of the people here. I’ve visited the year-round farmer’s market, then gone home and made pasta with fresh, locally-grown ingredients. No matter where I go I always find something to enjoy.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t miss Washington. I miss the trees and the rain that doesn’t soak you to the bone and the mild fall weather. And I don’t like some things about Boston, such as the humidity and heat of the late summer and the fact that I’ve never had a public bus arrive on time. But Boston does its best to make up for the flaws. My undergraduate advisor always told me to pick a graduate school for the advisor, not for the location. He was right, of course. However, even though I didn’t come to Tufts because it is in the Boston area, I am happy that I ended up here.

Why Ece Chose Tufts

Written by Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

In this multi-part blog series, we will be exploring why current #TuftsGrad students chose to pursue their graduate education at Tufts University. Today, we hear from Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student, in part 3 of our ‘Why Tufts?’ series.

Tufts. 

T-U-F-T-S. 

Great, but what does that stand for? 

Although many of you grew up with the dream of being a part of one of the best universities in the country, Tufts was a name that I had to explain over and over again to my parents back in Turkey. I knew how prestigious Tufts was, because I did my homework before I applied to grad schools. However, my parents needed to hear a lot more about Jumbo before being convinced to send me to the other side of the world. So here is what I told them about Tufts from an engineering perspective, and why I did not choose to go to any other place for my graduate studies.

Location, location, location…

Tufts is located on top of the hills of Medford, very close to beautiful reservations and lakes, and also only a 30-minute subway ride away from the city center. If you missed my previous blog post about why I chose Boston, check it out here!

Another one of the biggest reasons why I chose Tufts is the fact that Tufts values research and provides a wonderful environment for us to communicate our ideas with like-minded folks across departments. Science and engineering require multidisciplinary approaches, and the Tufts community is well aware of this. You can easily join informal group meetings with other graduate students or researchers having similar scientific interests, and share your ideas with them for feedback. Faculty members are very accessible and always happy to help students. Class sizes are relatively small, which allows for better communication with professors and other researchers. Tufts also has very strong connections with other excellent schools in Greater Boston Area; you get to know eminent researchers and are able to follow all the hot topics in your field. Moreover, you are not limited by your undergraduate background here. As long as you are willing to put effort and learn, you are always encouraged to perform research on a topic that you are passionate about. For example, during my time as an undergraduate, I used to work with applied catalysts, but I have now switched to metabolic engineering and started working on human microbiome studies thanks to the endless support of my advisor, colleagues, and department.

No matter how much you love what you are doing, your working environment is what actually shapes your overall experience. Tufts is known to be a “quirky” school – and nothing could describe the Tufts community any better. You will be sharing your lab space or office with extremely intelligent folks who have very interesting hobbies and passions. Those people have an excellent work-life balance and inspire others to learn new skills and start exciting hobbies. Also, Tufts welcomes a lot of international students, and it is really cool to have close friends from all around the world. 

If you want to strengthen your skills and improve your scientific knowledge, be challenged to become an independent researcher and work with awesome people, Tufts is the place. If you had asked me where I would want to be in the future, I would have described exactly where I am today. 

Why Amanda Chose Tufts

Written by Amanda Wang, Innovation & Management M.S. 2019

In this multi-part blog series, we will be exploring why current #TuftsGrad students chose to pursue their graduate education at Tufts University. Today, we hear from Amanda Wang, Innovation & Management M.S. 2019, in part 2 of our ‘Why Tufts?’ series.

Why did I choose Tufts to continue my studies after four years of college life in Hong Kong? Let me tell you!

I decided that I wanted to attend a prestigious university with great resources for students in a vibrant city in the United States. For international students like me, it is generally very hard or even impossible to go to a school for an Admitted Student’s Day or to do a campus tour, but making the decision to attend Tufts was easy and straightforward. I knew the professors from my admission interviews and studied their profiles on the school’s website, I searched for news on the school, read student comments, and talked to the students who were already in my program. I found Tufts to be that amazing university with an attractive location near downtown Boston, and it became my choice without any hesitation.

However, if I am asked the question of “Why Tufts” again, I now have a more adequate answer after having experienced my first two semesters on campus. 

The resources that Tufts provides for its students are great. Top-tier classes, a huge alumni network, digital and physical resources in the library – everything you need is right at hand. Tufts encourages students to innovate and become real problem solvers, not only for personal and business life, but for the world in a larger sense. Alumni are always ready to help, and if you do not know how to kick-start your networking process, the Career Center is there for you to seek advice. Plus, many alumni give great speeches at campus events, which further broaden my horizons and areas of interest. The Tufts community encourages me to always dream big no matter how difficult it may seem, and to be courageous and fearless to overcome obstacles while searching for my own meaning. 

Tufts always tries to make sure that every student is studying their favorite subject. I am in the M.S. in Innovation & Management (MSIM) program, a full-year program focusing on innovation, entrepreneurship, and business management. Within the program, we learn business through real-world scenarios such as interviews with our potential stakeholders or building a business model from scratch – with the goal of changing the world to a better one starting with the smallest innovations. I chose this program to explore marketing and social innovation. Now after having finished two semesters, I can say I have explored these fields and gained  significant personal growth thanks to my professors and the flexibility of the MSIM program. As a member of a cohort of 30 students, we helped each other through the program with non-stop encouragement, feedback, and inspiration to make the most out of our year together.

I believe the location of the university near Boston is essential for personal development. I can easily explore urban life in one of the most beautiful cities in the United States while enjoying a campus surrounded by trees, birds, and bunnies. Tufts students even have free access to the Museum of Fine Arts! I always enjoy the breathtaking art collections and avant-garde exhibitions in the museum. Great food places spread all over Boston, and the freshest lobster from Maine is always on the top of my list. With a long history, Boston is a city full of culture, arts, technology, and diversity.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “There are a thousand ways to interpret Hamlet.” Similarly, every Jumbo may have a unique answer for the question “Why Tufts?”. As for me, Tufts is the best place to improve myself, to find my path, and to make real changes in the future. If I could make the decision again, Tufts would still be my choice. 

Why Michael Chose Tufts

Written by Michael Ruiz, Bioengineering M.S. 2020

In this multi-part blog series, we will be exploring why current #TuftsGrad students chose to pursue their graduate education at Tufts University. Today, we hear from Michael Ruiz, Bioengineering M.S. 2020, in part 1 of our ‘Why Tufts?’ series.

Tufts University was the first school that accepted me twice. I was admitted into the Biology (MS) and the Bioengineering (MS) program. I was ecstatic because Tufts was also my first official graduate school acceptance. I can remember anxiously sitting at home when I got the email that a decision had been made on my application. During this round of graduate school applications, I had applied to about 20 programs including an international university in Tel Aviv. I had been working at Boston Children’s Hospital as a research technician in a regenerative biology lab for nearly 2 years to prepare myself for a graduate education in STEM. After countless hours of discussion with other engineers, friends, and my partner I decided to remain in Boston and pursue my engineering degree at Tufts.

Ultimately, I made my decision to attend Tufts School of Engineering based on two important economic factors: proximity to the Boston biotechnology ecosystem and the earning potential in the Boston area. In other words, I was concerned with how difficult it would be for me to enter the job market and maximize my earning potential once I gained experience. 

According to Glassdoor and LinkedIn, entry-level Biomedical Engineers in the Boston area have a much higher earning potential than in other big cities like New York City and San Francisco where salary might be higher, but so is the cost of living. I am originally from Los Angeles, California (the land of eternal summer), and knew that San Francisco would be a change, but I like living in the Northeast too much. Boston is a college town so there are a lot of college students here which means the quality of conversation is always engaging and challenging (no shade to my LA friends that work in the film industry … well, maybe a little). 

Despite the ‘frigid’ stereotype of Bostonians, I have really found a great community here of scholars, entrepreneurs and scientists. Bostonians, and New Englanders in general, have truly warmed up to me. 

Why I chose Boston (and you should too!)

Written by Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

If you are new to Boston and have no idea what to expect from this beautiful city, chances are high that you are already confused because there are many different views about Beantown. Some people will tell you about the wicked cold winters and some will claim there is nothing to do here, but a considerable amount of Bostonians will try to prove to you that Boston is the best city in the entire world. For me, it was love at first sight. The historic red brick buildings, Fenway Park, beautiful public gardens, wide variety of restaurants, and iconic identity stole my heart. I had a chance to live in many different countries, but Boston is by far the only place I feel home away from home.

First of all, it is not Beantown: it is Braintown. The greater Boston area hosts many world-class colleges, which means thousands of smart, well educated, and intellectual people live within a couple of miles. While hanging out at your favorite brewery, you can meet someone who might be curing cancer for a living. You will learn a lot from your upstairs neighbor who is getting her Ph.D. in a comparative study of Turkish and Japanese Occidentalism. Or you can see a stranger reading a book about Marxist Histography on your subway (locally called the T) ride back home. Everybody is passionate about something, and the variety of their interests is mind blowing. Boston is obviously the learning capital of the world; living in such city always challenges you intellectually and keeps you stimulated.

Speaking of people, you might have heard that Bostonians are not as friendly as people from other parts of the country – which I strongly disagree with. Most of them are nice, say “thank you” and “excuse me,” and are happy to help you whenever you need. They say “stay warm!” during the winter as a way of saying “goodbye”, and I think this is the cutest and the most Bostonian thing ever! They just do not always look friendly from the outside, because you cannot possibly smile and survive a New England winter at the same time. Everybody minds their own business, which is pretty fair, but once you get to know people, they’re kind and helpful.

Fun fact: GQ once ranked Boston as the “Worst Dressed Town in America”. In my defense, I love wearing my Red Sox cap and Tom Brady jersey together, knowing that people will not judge me by what I wear, but by who I am. Plus, in the winter, it is way too cold to care about what I wear anyways. The first thing my Bostonian friends taught me was that layers are your best friends.

You will always see people going for a run early in the morning, and a snow storm is never an excuse to skip leg day. My 6:00 a.m. Rise and Shine yoga classes are always almost full, and I think this is refreshing. Boston locals are very health-conscious and it is very inspiring to live in such a community.

If you enjoy trying out new restaurants and bars, the city has a lot to offer. From authentic Vietnamese to hearty Mediterranean cuisine, you will find anything that you are looking for. Still not satisfied? New York City, the gastronomic capital of the East Coast, is just a bus ride away. 

You will never run out of things to do in Boston. If you are interested in art, the museums have a lot to offer, not only because they have magnificent collections, but also because they organize a lot of great events regularly. Check out Third Thursdays at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where you can learn how to make a Venetian mask or craft a Caribbean cocktail. Go to movie nights on Fridays at the Museum of Fine Arts. Are you more into self-development? Attend public courses organized by local universities. Attend Harvard’s mini-med school program for the public and participate in discussions with brilliant professors. Become a member of MIT Waste Alliance and meet ecologically conscious people. 

If you need a change on weekends, Boston’s location is hard to beat. Do you want to see fall foliage? Head to Vermont for a romantic weekend getaway, and stop by an apple farm on your way back home to pick some tart Granny Smiths. Do you want to ski? The mountains you hiked in September in New Hampshire turn out to be a fantastic ski resort. Is it starting to get warmer up here? Hop on the commuter rail to visit Rockport and take long walks right by the ocean. Is it beach time already? Cape Cod is waiting for you with its beautiful coastlines and amazing seafood, only a two-hour drive from Boston. 

Before I conclude, let me describe my perfect Sunday in my favorite city. Have a long brunch in Cambridge with your loved ones, and head to the Harvard Book Store to wander around bookshelves. Go downstairs for the used books section, leaving your expectations behind. Once I ended up buying a book about the feelings of octopuses, and now I know way too much about them. Stop by Tatte Bakery to grab a cup of coffee, and find a spot to enjoy your new-old book. Visit Somerville Farmer’s Market on your way home to buy some fresh produce for the week. 

You never know what you will find in Boston, but I am confident that you will love it here as much as I do. If you’re very lucky, you might even meet philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky while waiting for your coffee (trust me, I’ve met him!). 

The National Parks of … Boston?

Written by Ruaidhri Crofton, History & Museum Studies M.A. 2020

What better way to learn and have fun exploring the outdoors than with a visit to a national park? The dizzying depths of the Grand Canyon, the majestic ocean vistas of Acadia, the stunning views of … Boston? That’s right! Even though an urban center like Boston may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a national park, the greater Boston area is home to over ten sites administered by the U.S. National Park Service. Though the majority of these sites are focused on preserving and interpreting sites of historic interest, the national parks of Boston also contain a number of opportunities for hiking, fishing, and even camping.

As both a history enthusiast and an avid national park visitor, I have been thrilled to have so many national park sites to explore in such close proximity to the Tufts campuses. However, with all these places to visit, deciding where to go and what to do first can be overwhelming. Having now visited each of these special sites, I have attempted to narrow down five of my favorite parks in the Boston area and provide some tips to make the most out of your visit. And the best part? Almost all national park sites in Massachusetts are free! Hopefully this will give you some inspiration and ideas for your next off-campus adventure.

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Boston, MA

Just beyond the hustle and bustle of downtown Boston is what feels like an entirely different world of peace and calm. Made up of 34 islands in Boston Harbor, the aptly named Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, boating, and more! Catch a ferry from Long Wharf in Boston and sail out to one of the islands in as little as 30 minutes (don’t forget to show your Tufts ID for the student rate). Spend the day exploring Historic Fort Warren on Georges Island, hiking around a city dump turned nature preserve on Spectacle Island, or seeing the oldest lighthouse in the United States on Little Brewster Island.

Boston National Historical Park, Boston, MA

Yes, even the famous Freedom Trail in downtown Boston is a national park site! Walk the 2.5 mile trail to see historic burying grounds, view the site of the Boston Massacre, see the meeting house where the Boston Tea Party began, tour Paul Revere’s House, and climb the 294 steps to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument. Though all sites run by the National Park Service are free, some of the affiliated museums charge entrance fees (though all offer student rates with a valid Tufts ID).

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic SiteBrookline, MA

Just down the road from JFK’s birthplace is the home and studio of another notable Bostonian: Frederick Law Olmsted. Though many people are likely unfamiliar with this American landscape architect, almost everyone is familiar with his work, including Central Park in New York City and the Emerald Necklace in Boston. Tour the studio where many of the firm’s designs were drawn up and explore the beautiful grounds of Olmstead’s suburban home.

John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Brookline, MA

Did you ever wonder what life was like for a president before they became the commander in chief? One of three presidential birthplaces preserved by the National Park Service in Boston, John F. Kennedy National Historic Site preserves the childhood home of the nation’s 35th president. Take a ranger guided tour to learn more about the family, see the bed where “Jack” was born, and learn about the Kennedy children’s dinnertime political debates.

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, Saugus, MA

Perhaps my all-time favorite Boston-area park, Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, is a faithful reconstruction of the wooden factory buildings used by European Iron Makers who came to Massachusetts in the 1600s. Explore the buildings to learn the origin of the term “pig iron,” view a blacksmithing demonstration, and hike the short nature trail along the Saugus River.

For more information on all of the national park sites in the Boston area and Massachusetts generally, please visit www.nps.gov/state/ma .

The Ultimate Healthy Eating Guide for #TuftsGrads

Written by Ece Gulsan, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

After I finished high school, my parents sent me to Canada for an international cultural exchange program where I got to spend the whole summer in a small town called Guelph (near Toronto). I stayed with a host family, and became very close friends with their daughter Meagan. The next summer, she visited me in Istanbul, and we took her to our summer house which is located in Tenedos, one of the Greek-Turkish islands on the west coast of Turkey. My mom prepared a typical famous Turkish breakfastwith all the fresh produce she picked up from our garden, while my dad was spearfishing to catch some bluefish for dinner. When Meagan saw the table, she couldn’t hide her astonishment by how much we eat at breakfast. Then she grabbed a bite of a plump tomato, and amazedly murmured: “I didn’t know that real tomatoes actually taste like this!”.

Growing up in Turkey, I was very spoiled in terms of my food. Seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, organic legumes, and assorted table wines were essentials of our pantry. Wild-caught fish was served at least three days a week with a drizzle of the highest quality extra-virgin olive oil. My family grew some of our own food, but we also had access to good quality fresh food at local markets.

Dealing with the differences in food culture was one of the biggest challenges I faced when moving to the U.S. for graduate school; not only the kind of food consumed, but also the way it is packaged and sold at supermarkets.

Graduate student life is very busy and demanding, and unhealthy habits can make our lives more difficult and stressful. Nourishing our bodies is as important as having a good night sleep and regular exercise. Understanding nutrition and healthy eating is more common these days, but for some people it can still be difficult to know where to start making changes to improve their health and feel better about what they eat.

Here is some basic information that will help you begin your journey towards a more balanced plate: avoid too much sugar and salt, read the list of ingredients on food packages, and try to learn more about the meanings behind terms like “gluten-free”—they don’t always mean “healthier.”

First of all, EAT YOUR VEGGIES! Here is an example of my weekly vegetable shopping from the farmer’s market.

 In addition to all the minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals necessary for your body to fully function, vegetables are also packed with fiber, which affect your overall health starting from your gut microbiome to all the way up to your cognitive abilities.

A great way to introduce more vegetables into your diet is to go seasonal—do some research online about what produce is in season for your location, or visit a local farmer’s market and see what’s available. Choosing fresh, local vegetables is also preferable to pre-cut, imported vegetables from the supermarket because pre-cut vegetables are more prone to bacteria and can lose their nutritional value when cut. Many packages also contain preservatives to keep them fresh; chlorine and ozone are sprayed on the vegetables to delay spoilage. Try to buy whole fruits and vegetables, and wash and cut them right before you will eat them; the difference in taste is impossible to ignore.

Another good way to get more healthy foods into your diet is to eat more high-quality proteins. Lean protein sources such as chicken breast have always been a “go-to” meal for me. However, considering how common the use of antibiotics in chicken farming is in the US, it could be a better idea to switch to turkey, which is a safer option in terms of additives. Turkey is also a great source of the amino acid called tryptophan, which is known to aid in quality sleep. Can you say no to a better night sleep as a graduate student? I thought so. If you don’t eat meat, you can add lentils and tofu to your diet for more protein.

When it comes to sleep quality, another thing you should be mindful about is the time at which you sip your coffee and how much you consume in a day. Coffee is the elixir of life for us graduate students, but it can take up to eight hours to be metabolized. So, if you go to sleep at 11:00 pm and want to wake up the day feeling well-rested, try to avoid drinking coffee after 3:00 pm, and aim to not exceed 400 mg of caffeine per day. It is also noteworthy that consuming coffee right after your meals significantly decreases the absorption of some minerals and vitamins in your food, such as iron.

Lastly, I would like to talk about meal-preps. I looooove meal-prepping! As a chemical engineer, I have this an obsession with knowing what exactly is in each of my meals. With a little preparation, you can bring your own food to campus and know that you have made something delicious and healthy (not to mention cost-efficient)!

Health doesn’t just start and end with food. The containers you use to carry your food to campus can also be unhealthy. Many common plastic containers are a main source of “obesogens” called “endocrine disruptors,” and they tend to release into your food when they are in contact with fatty acids. Glass containers are a much safer option to avoid those chemicals. If you would like to learn more about how those chemicals affect our bodies and how serious they are, I recommend the Swedish documentary Submission (2010) by Stefan Jarl.

With a few simple changes, it is possible to eat healthier! Keep things balanced and stick to real food. You can also visit Tufts Sustainability and learn more about healthy eating on campus. With these tips, I hope you can take your healthy eating goals and upgrade them to a new level.