Currently viewing the category: "Our Neighborhood"

This is a midweek version of one of my “what I did on my weekend” posts.

I was at Fletcher through the early evening last night, attending a farewell event for 11 high school students and one accompanying mentor teacher from Iraq.  They were in the Boston area through the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), and the organization that arranged their Boston home stays also arranged for them to have the World Peace Foundation offices as their home base.  When it came time to celebrate, I helped them arrange space and a meal at Fletcher.

My family connected itself to IYLEP in 2010, when my daughter was one of the U.S. students who, that year, participated alongside the Iraqis.  We’ve continued as a host family, and Sara, Hiba, and Hadeel, the three students we hosted this month, join our four other Iraqi friends as members of the family.  Along the way, I’ve gathered a volume of knowledge on halal butchers and restaurants in the area (as well as the rules for halal) and Iraqi tastes in food (nothing spicy, please).  We’ve figured out where some potential host/IYLEPer challenges might exist, and we search for new ways to prevent misunderstandings.  The men in my family know to announce themselves before going in the part of the house where women might be relaxing without their hijabs.  The exchange of knowledge definitely goes both ways!  And we also have fun — the beach, the Boston Harbor, the Museum of Fine Arts, two barbeques, trips to Indian/Pakistani and Italian restaurants, Chinese take-out (and many fortune cookies), three rounds of pasta, quesadillas, and quiche — all shared with our new friends.

At the farewell event last night, we started off by hearing the reflections of each of the participants.  If I had to capture the overall theme, I’d say that that they were initially VERY nervous about their home stays, but they quickly found that their fears were misplaced, and now they see the Boston area as their U.S. home.  After the speech-making, we shifted to Fletcher’s Mugar Café for a meal.  When all had eaten, the group cleared a small space and started dancing.  First, traditional Iraqi dancing.  And then…a dozen teens dancing to “Gangnam Style” and doing the “Harlem Shake.”  One of the boys pogoed around on one arm in a dazzling bit of break dancing.  Such random bits of popular culture that have been embraced by Iraqi kids!

And then the event was over, and everyone went home to pack (and for some, repack, if bags were too heavy).  We dropped them off this morning for their flight to the final phase of their stay in the U.S., when they will be in Washington, D.C.

It was such a pleasure to welcome the group and their host families to Fletcher.  They searched out the Iraqi flag in the Hall of Flags, and I pointed out to some the profile of Farah Pandith F’95 — whose work I thought might interest them — in our new Hallway of Fame.  All in all, last night and the two weeks that preceded represent one of those nice times when my work life and my home life fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.

 

About a month ago, I wondered why I would ever have written about my own weekends during past summers.  A week ago, I was reminded of the answer: with students and faculty out and about, by mid-summer, I’m starting to run short of blog topics.  So why not highlight the fun things you can do in Our Neighborhood by writing about what I actually do.

The weekend’s July 4 Independence Day holiday in the Boston area started on the 3rd and continued through the 5th.  With Hurricane Arthur working its way up the East Coast, organizers of the traditional July 4 celebration in Boston decided that moving the event forward to July 3 gave them the best chance of delivering the Boston Pops performance and fireworks display that locals and tourists would expect.  They made a good call, and managed to complete nearly all of the program before the first of the rains arrived.  Other towns postponed their celebrations to July 5, with the result that the holiday seemed to last for three days instead of one.  (Boston, with its important role in the Revolutionary War, offers plenty of activities for the 4th.)

The hurricane passed well to the east of Massachusetts.  It rained and rained on Friday, but that was pretty much the story.  We woke up on Saturday to a fantastic day.  Paul (my husband) and I were glad that our plan to visit George’s Island was looking good, so off we went to grab the ferry.  About 45 minutes after the boat pulled away from the dock, we were in a place that feels both near the city and far away.  Here’s the view of Boston from the island, with the buildings of Boston peeking between the sailboats.

view from George's Island

Though we always enjoy the ride out to the Harbor Islands, this time we were motivated by a Pretty Things Beer Tasting (Pretty Things being based in Somerville), accompanied by local music.  We quite liked “The Sea The Sea.”

On the ferry ride back to Boston, we saw plenty of other sea travelers, and also noted the last effects of the hurricane — gusty wind and choppy seas.

Ride Home

On the subway ride home, I sat across from someone who looked familiar, and who was carrying a Tufts water bottle.  Maybe a Fletcher student, but not one I know.  I’m going to try to figure it out, having passed on the opportunity to ask while we were on the train.

Sunday morning found us at our favorite beach in Revere, where the special on the seagulls’ menu was crab.  They stood on rocks, waiting for the crabs to walk by, and then grabbed their breakfast.  It’s an urban beach, but with no shortage of wildlife.

Seagulls

And that’s the first of my summer weekend reports.  In a morning conversation with Dean Stavridis yesterday, I sang the praises of the Boston Harbor Islands, and I hope all current and future students have a chance to ferry on over, as well as to visit Revere Beach, plan for a July 4 on the Esplanade, and explore the local beer and music scene.  There’s a lot to do in the Boston area and, given the compact nature of the city, a weekend can include a range of different activities.

 

There was so much excitement coming out of Brazil this weekend, but I’m still surprised at how caught up I’ve been in World Cup results.  If nothing else, it’s a great way to connect with people.

On my way into work this morning, I chatted with Jean-Yves, a 2014 graduate who will be in town for a few more weeks, and we compared notes.  He’s been organizing his time around each day’s game schedule.  Needless to say, he’ll be watching this afternoon’s match between France and Nigeria.

On Saturday, we were at our favorite beach in Revere, a town that is home to many people who hail from somewhere else, and yellow jerseys were the attire of choice.  I didn’t realize initially that the sea of yellow was divided between supporters of Brazil and Colombia — plenty of celebrating going on.

BicyclesOn Sunday, a friend posted a photo from the downtown watering hole where she had joined other former residents of the Netherlands to watch the game against Mexico.  She pointed to the typically Dutch collection of bicycles parked outside.

Of course, the Netherlands won, but I was torn in my friendly loyalties, and I also felt the pain of friends (and Fletcher grads) from Mexico.

Around the office, Dan has strong connections to Latin America (where he just returned from a trip to Guatemala) and we chatted this morning about various moments of happiness and heartbreak as he cheered on his teams.  Christine is dressed in red, white, and blue to show her dedication to the U.S. squad.

At home, enthusiasm for England’s chances waned quickly, and naturally we’ll all plan to watch the U.S. play Belgium tomorrow.  But, between living in an area that draws people from around the world, and working at a graduate school that has a multinational population as an aspect of its core mission, it’s easy to find myself cheering for someone else’s preferred team.  It’s a soccer/fútbol tournament, but it’s also an opportunity for each nation’s fans and dual citizens in the local area to share their cheer and sadness following each game.

 

Last week, my cousin’s husband, Ian, became a U.S. citizen.  When I heard that he had finally (after 20+ years) gone through the citizenship test and other processes, and that the ceremony at which he would take the Naturalization Oath would be sometime in the spring, I immediately booked myself in.

My husband, Paul, became a citizen some years back, and I found the ceremony to be really meaningful.  Ian’s ceremony had the advantage of being in a special location — Boston’s Faneuil Hall, with a history dating to 1742, and currently a National Historic site that is still used for public events.

The day started off with a round of paperwork for each of the soon-to-be citizens.

IMG_0296

Once all of that was complete, a judge turned up and talked about the meaning of citizenship, before he administered the oath for the new citizens.

IMG_0300

Visitors were up in the gallery, with good views of the artwork around the Hall.

IMG_0290

The 296 new U.S. citizens came from about 80 nations, ranging alphabetically from Albania to Vietnam.  The judge had them stand up as he called the name of their home country.  From my vantage point, it appeared the largest cluster was from Brazil, but most of the countries were represented by one or two new citizens.  There’s a rich international mix in the Boston area.

There’s even a Fletcher angle to this story.  As we walked outside after the ceremony, I heard someone calling my name.  It was Byron, a Fletcher alum whom I had recently seen at a reunion event.  His wife, originally from the Netherlands, was also sworn in on Thursday.

 

As a native New Yorker and an occasional visitor to Washington, DC, I can appreciate the charms of both places.  That said, I’ve lived in the Boston area for a long time now, and I really love it here.  But at this time of year, newly admitted students still ask us about Fletcher’s location.

As far as I’m concerned, the blog has put to rest all questions about whether students find the internships or post-graduation jobs that they want.  And I do my best during slow news stretches to talk about our lovely neighborhood.  But I can hardly expect prospective students to depend on my opinion.  They will want to hear the opinions of their peers.  So I turned to the Social List with a simple question:  What do you like about attending graduate school in Medford/Somerville/the Boston area?  The answers fell into two broad categories: related to students’ academic work; and related to other aspects of their lives.  Here are their answers:

Related to their academic work:

Boston is the hub of American academia!  Living within such close proximity to so many students studying anything you can imagine makes for a unique social experience.  Not only are there a multitude of schools within Tufts with which we regularly interact, but we are able to make friends with everybody from chemistry PhD candidates at MIT, to Harvard Law students, and everything in between.  Furthermore, Fletcher students have the opportunity to cross-register for courses at Harvard and vice versa.

Boston is a student town.  You are not going to find any other place that is as intellectually stimulating.  On top of the amazing atmosphere at Fletcher, unique opportunities to get involved in events and conferences at Harvard, MIT, and BU, and working with professors and research groups at those universities, come up as a positive consequence of being based so close by.

I love the collaboration between different universities in the area.  It increases the opportunities to find events, classes, and people interested in your field of study.

An unmatched intellectual community in the greater area, and the ability to use other schools’ resources, such as libraries.  Lots of networking opportunities between classmates and contacts at other schools, and ability to get involved in other groups/institutes connected to those institutions.

When speakers come to campus, the distance from Washington, DC/New York encourages candid thoughtful commentary in a way I didn’t anticipate.

And the other aspects:

With easy access to the Red Line, the entire city of Boston is at your feet.  That means plenty of great studying locations around the city (the Boston Public Library is a personal favorite), and an endless list of fun things to do with new Fletcher friends on the weekends.  A group of us got together at the Frog Pond for an experiment in skating, something quite new for international students (and a few American students as well).  We have museums, fascinating historical neighborhoods, restaurants, and shopping areas nearby if we want to take advantage of them — as a local Bostonian I certainly do — but Medford is quiet enough that you do not get lost in the hustle and bustle of a big city.  That is a huge advantage when midterms and finals come around.  In short, I love it here.  Many of us will most likely live in larger cities later on in life, so I am happy to stay in Boston as long as I can.

I’ve found that most employers have been flexible about agreeing to do interviews (both informational and for specific jobs/internships) over the phone or Skype.  I’ve done interviews with people in Canada, Mexico, New York, DC, and other locations without having to leave Boston.  You just have to be flexible and creative about scheduling them.  Also, after taking DC Metro pretty much every single day for the past seven years, not having to take Metro anymore is BLISS!  I very much needed a break from the DC bubble, and living in Boston has been a wonderful experience.

Boston has all the benefits of a big city in a small city.  The food in the area is fantastic.  Lots of industries have sites in Boston, and people are friendly (don’t be scared away by rumors of gruffness!).  Shorter flight times to Europe.  Road trips to Canada, skiing in Maine, visiting the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont, fresh lobster in Maine.  You can easily drive to see the fall leaves.  Who wouldn’t want to go to Salem around Halloween?  Public transportation is good.  Can get to the airport on public transport in 45 minutes.

The calm environment in which to focus on studies, with the knowledge that a big city is just minutes away on the T, allowing for great nighttime and weekend fun.

There are so many events, organizations, activities, etc. if leaving campus in the direction of Somerville/Cambridge/Boston, yet it’s easy to go trail running, biking, hiking, and so forth within minutes in the Medford direction.

Access to Boston, while also being in the Davis Square area (similar to the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn).  There are many unique neighborhoods in this area including Inman Square, Porter Square, Harvard Square, and all of Boston!

A real campus where you can focus and study but with a real city close by.

Easy weekend getaways to New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Cape Cod, Berkshires, etc.  –Convenient and relatively inexpensive airport for travel (i.e. frequent flights to DC).  –Easy area to bike around.  –Close to outdoors/outdoor activities.

Great neighborhood with much happening nearby!  It’s a suburb: living costs are comparatively very reasonable and being away from the din of the city is perfect for research/study!  Boston has consistently been rated amongst the top cities in the world for students, based on quality of living, employer activity, and affordability.

Proximity to Somerville gems like Highland Kitchen, 3 Little Figs, Backbar, Sarma, and more; the Boston area’s student-friendly nature (especially when it comes to café options and museum/movie/symphony discount pricing); the opportunity to live in a part of the U.S. your career may not otherwise let you experience; proximity and access to courses, speakers, and other opportunities at other Boston area schools.

I love DC, but I know it’s only a matter of time before my career will take me there.  Boston, on the other hand, is a wonderful, complex, historic, and culturally rich city where I’ve never before lived and might never get the chance to live again.  Location was one of the many reasons I chose Fletcher, and I’ve never regretted it.

Tagged with:
 

soxI truly had planned to write about admissions related topics today but, like so many local folks, I’m bleary eyed from staying up late watching the Boston Red Sox, our local baseball team, win the World Series, professional baseball’s championship.  How could I ignore such an important event in our home town?

Boston (and we often say “Boston” when we mean the city and the surrounding area) is a sports town.  People are passionate about their teams and, for the past 15 years or so, there has been a lot (Patriots! Celtics! Bruins!) to be passionate about.  In 2004, the Red Sox ended decades of futility and won the World Series for the first time since 1918, and the team repeated as champs in 2007.

In 2012, though, the team was dismal (DISMAL!), crumbling into last place.  Big surprise for everyone when the 2013 line-up, composed primarily of good, but not superstar, players, finishes first in the league and then prevails in the playoffs.  We love this stuff!  And what could be better than having the team led by the inspirational pep-talks and smoking-hot bat of fan favorite David Ortiz.  Topping it all off, the Red Sox have a recent tradition of charming the fans (and annoying the rest of the country) with some team-bonding exercise or other, which this year took the form of beardsCrazy beards.

Best of all, the Sox won the championship at home — Boston’s beloved Fenway Park.  Tucked into the heart of the city and smaller than most modern ball parks, Fenway is a museum of baseball history where the Sox hadn’t won the World Series since 1918, the 2004 and 2007 victories having taken place at the opponent’s home field.

Grasping for a Fletcher-friendly international theme to today’s post (beyond the obvious meaninglessness of the “world” in World Series), I’ll add that the Red Sox, like most teams, have an international roster (including the amazing closing pitcher Koji Uehara).  It’s a team that’s easy to like, even for a native New Yorker like me.

So, hooray for the Red Sox!  Admissions topics will wait one more day.

 

My first visit to Cape Cod was not auspicious.  Paul and I were new to the area (and newly married) and we decided to take a long weekend to visit Martha’s Vineyard and the Cape.  Off we went to Hyannis, where we hopped on the ferry.  A beautiful day on the Vineyard awaited us, so we rented bicycles, checked into our B&B, and headed out for a ride.  Half an our later, the skies opened.  Two days later, we gave up and ferried back to Hyannis, toting our bags of rain-soaked clothing.  It took us nearly ten years to commit ourselves again to more than a day on the Cape or the islands.

Bad weather still exists, of course, but I have come to love Cape Cod.  And earlier this month, I had a week of beautiful days in Eastham, gateway to the Cape Cod National Seashore  We were accompanied by a flotilla of relatives from the UK, all here in search of warmth and sun, which we managed to provide in abundance.

Fletcher students are busy people, but I still encourage a little Cape Cod exploration while you’re here.  Reaching the Cape is easy enough by car or public transportation (ferry to Provincetown or train to Hyannis, with an on-Cape network of buses to take you from town to town).  As for what to do when you’re there, you can plan a spring/summer/fall weekend and enjoy a beach and a sunset.

2013-08-07 19.43.41Or you can visit in October, and check out the cranberry harvest.

2012-10-13 11.29.49

There’s something to do on a nice day in any season.  Put it on your mental to-do list for when you’re at Fletcher.

Meanwhile, today marks the end of summer, by at least one definition.  The Admissions staff is wrapping up the quiet days of completing projects in the absence of students, and we’re getting ready for the arrival of 250 (more or less) new Fletcherites on Monday!  Orientation activities will keep them plenty busy for the week while continuing students trickle back into town.  With other offices managing Orientation, we’re needed only for relatively few sessions — a break-in week before we really kick the semester into gear.

Depending on your perspective and your work, summer has several different end dates.  Though I’ll continue to fit summery activities in before autumn officially begins in September, the start of Orientation is when Fletcher abandons summer and gets back to the business of an international affairs professional school.  Time to wrap up my final projects and get ready!

 

Is Thursday too late to talk about last weekend?  I think not.  All deadlines are extended in the summer.

Last weekend was a festival of festivals in the area, and Paul and I, with an out-of-town friend in tow, managed to hit three of them.

Our first festival on Saturday, Outside the Box, was downtown — spread across the downtown area for nine days, in fact.  We started with a walk through the Boston Common to see the events there, and then worked our way to Boston City Hall Plaza to hear a set by Darlingside, a local band we like.

2013-07-20 15.13.43

We meandered back to Park Street station, and then decided to Red Line it over to Davis Square for a walk through Artbeat, an annual Somerville music/craft/food/art extravaganza.  It was crazy hot, though, and I wasn’t able to do Artbeat justice.  Next year….  For our final round of hot weather festivaling, we got an early start on Sunday to Revere Beach for the annual Sand Sculpting Contest.

Sand Sculpture

Food options at these outdoor festivals are better every year, with more and more interesting food trucks participating!  We also took time to face toward the water and relax, with contest hoopla behind our backs.

2013-07-21 11.41.43

Outside the Box was new this year, but I hear it will be back.  The other two festivals are annual events.  Put a note in your calendar in case you’re in the area next summer.

The last activity of our busy weekend was a professional sports event only about a half-mile from Fletcher.  The newest incarnation of the women’s professional soccer Boston Breakers plays at a small stadium just down the street from the campus.  I love going to these games, with their implicit girl-power message and the crowd full of soccer-jersey wearing teens.  My daughter, Kayla, played soccer in high school, and I admit that I miss seeing her play.  Watching the Breakers together is a nice substitute.  This particular game started off in hot sun and then traveled through a spectrum of weather — cloudy but dry, clouds and rain, sun and rain — before releasing the crowd from the stadium for cool air, bright sun, and a beautiful rainbow.

2013-07-21 17.47.43

The season for the Breakers starts in April.  Walk over and catch a game at the end of the spring 2014 semester!

Finally, and perhaps most useful for people moving to the area, I have two restaurant suggestions for you.  On Saturday, in search of an air conditioned food spot near the Davis Square Theater (where we saw The Way Way Back — cute, and filmed not far from here in Marshfield, MA), we popped into Saloon.  With no sign, Saloon isn’t easy to stumble into by accident, but its reputation is growing.  I was amused by our server, who told me that the 10-color pen collection she had in her apron pocket was for students who want to split their bill 10 ways.  ;)

And because I forgot to mention it in a past weekend report, I’ll also point hungry tummies toward Belle Isle Seafood, which has one of the best lobster rolls around.  We were there two weeks ago, but I would happily go back any summer weekend.  It’s in Winthrop, a few towns from campus, but easy enough to reach by car or T (subway).

That’s my belated weekend rundown, and also the tips for your future restaurant and sports-viewing pleasure.  This coming weekend’s events might include yet another festival.  Maybe I’ll be back with a report next week.

Tagged with:
 

Partly because it’s easy on a Monday morning, and partly because I do believe there’s benefit to giving real life examples of all the fun things our neighborhood offers, I often indulge myself in the summer by writing about my own weekends.  July seems like the right time to kick off the seasonal round-up.

The past two-plus days found us at a number of different in-town and slightly out-of-town locations.  On Friday, we kicked off the weekend with a few hours of middle-of-the-street dancing at the annual Cambridge dance party.  Easily reached from campus by T (subway), the party draws dance fans (thousands of them!) at every point in the age range — from the youngest children to the senior citizens for whom chairs have been set out by the senior center.  Will you be on campus on June 27, 2014?  Plan to join the dance.

strawberriesWith danceable tunes still in our heads, off we went on Saturday morning to pick strawberries at Verrill Farm.  The farm is only a half hour from Fletcher, though you’ll need to organize a few friends and a car to get there.  Verrill offers food and activities throughout the growing season.

The afternoon found us soaking up the air conditioning while watching “20 Feet from Stardom,” which I recommend to anyone with the vaguest interest in music.  We’re lucky around here to be able to choose from several movie theaters that present less than typical options.  Not that there’s any shortage of vampires and superheros on local screens.

Dinner was at a super quirky place in Watertown — accessible by bus from campus.  I had always wondered what Grappa would be like, sitting as it does across from a large shopping plaza, and it turns out to offer quite nice Italian food — well worth the exploratory visit.

After dinner, I relaxed and Paul (my on-the-go husband) went to a local club for a gig.

Sunday started at our favorite summer morning destination:  Revere Beach.  With coffee and guava-filled pastries from our good friends at Lupita Bakery, we enjoyed watching seagulls feasting on clams.  Revere is also easily reached by T from campus, and with a Cambodian restaurant that made the list of top Asian food restaurants in the greater Boston area, you don’t need to worry about what to have for lunch while you’re there.  Don’t want to stop at a restaurant?  Two nearby groceries carry ready-made banh mi sandwiches.  Need I say more?

Simple barbeque for dinner and, to use up some of the 15 pounds of strawberries we picked on Saturday, a strawberry shortcake.

The point of all this, aside from giving me an easy blog topic?  Tufts is in a great location, with transportation links into and around town.  From farm to beach, and everything in between, there’s always something to do around here.

Tagged with:
 

I hear a lot of chatter from admitted students that they will be kicking off an apartment hunt during their spring visit to campus.  Ariel is here to help you start your search.  If you have questions about local housing, please leave a comment below, and Ariel will respond!

Dear Ariel:  I just submitted my confirmation that I will be attending Fletcher in the Fall!  I would like to live off campus.  How did you find an apartment?

Most Fletcher students live off campus in the Medford/Somerville area during their two years at Fletcher.  My first step was to find my roommates, which I did through the Fletcher admitted students portal.  We were all first-years — two MIBs and two MALDs.  Then, because none of us were based in Boston, one of my future roommates took a trip up to Boston from DC to search for apartments.  After visiting several apartments she saw listed on Craigslist, she was eventually led to a realty company.  (In starting your search for an off-campus apartment, Craigslist will become your best friend.)  Through the realty company we located an apartment about a 10-minute walk from Fletcher between the campus and Teele Square.  Our four bedroom, one bathroom apartment is $550 per month per person, not including utilities. We signed the lease in mid-June for an August 1st start date and had to pay half of the broker’s fee.

Keep in mind: Living close to Fletcher is a great option for your studies.  It cuts down on your commute and can make life easier, especially when group meetings or study sessions run late into the night.  Some students do live in Boston proper, but not many.  Also, expect rent prices to run anywhere from $550 – $800 per month.  One-bedroom apartments are typically significantly more expensive.  If you have Fletcher friends who are second years, reach out to them to see if their apartments are available for the fall.

Some other things to keep in mind when looking for an apartment in this area:

  1. Is there a broker’s fee?  Some landlords will waive the fee or split the fee with you. It can save you a lot of money if your landlord agrees, because generally the broker’s fee is equivalent to one month’s rent.
  2. Is there a security deposit?  Generally, you will need to pay the first month’s rent and a security deposit at the time of signing.
  3. Does your apartment have oil or gas heat?  Oil heat is extremely expensive during Boston’s cold winters.  If you find an apartment that has gas heat, it might be worth paying a little extra in rent each month, compared to paying a cheaper monthly rent in an apartment with oil heating.
Tagged with:
 

Spam prevention powered by Akismet