Currently viewing the tag: "Boston"

I’ve fallen behind on my favorite topic — reporting on my weekend activities.  There were two weekends spent with the students we hosted (quite a bit of shopping, a trip to the beach, a boat trip to George’s Island), and more beach on a beautiful morning this past Sunday, but recently the weekends haven’t seemed blog-worthy.

This coming weekend, though — definitely worth a mention.  For the second year, Boston will host a visit by world class cliff divers.  Yes, Boston — a city that barely rises above sea level at its highest point — is the host of the world series of cliff diving.  How? you wonder.  The divers leap off a platform on the cantilever roof of the Institute of Contemporary Art.

I would really like to go — partly because I like to watch diving, but mostly because cliff diving in Boston is a crazy idea.  Alas, I won’t be able to be there, so I need a blog reader to go and tell me about it.  Or don’t tell me about it, but go anyway, because it’s got to be something special.  That’s why I’m writing about it on Tuesday — to give you the best chance to organize your weekend around the diving Saturday afternoon.  (Send pix, please!)

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Summer blogging is easy when I convince myself that writing about my weekend gives incoming or prospective students a glimpse of what’s happening around town.  Although Paul and I have our roots in larger cities (London and New York), we have lived in the Boston area for a long time, and I love the range of activities that are so easily accessible.  With that, I will now proceed to tell you about my busy weekend.

I was off from work on Thursday and Friday, and I’ll start my weekend rundown with Thursday.  After dropping my bicycle off to be tuned and running a few more errands, I headed over to Yoshi’s (Japanese food at moderate prices, right near campus) for lunch.  There, I met Helen Anderson from the Office of Career Services and another old Fletcher friend for a reunion.  The three of us hadn’t managed to get together in a long time, and we only barely managed to eat while maintaining a lively conversation covering all relevant topics.

After lunch, I went over to Hanscom Air Force Base to attend a ceremony honoring a friend and her work.  She has been a civilian with the Air Force for many years, but now she’s off to new adventures.  I have been near and around the base before, but never on it — a new adventure for me.

Thursday evening found us at the Somerville Theater in Davis Square for a concert (music and a dose of politics) by Billy Bragg.  Davis was hopping on a warm summer night!

Friday was taken over by domestic chores, but after dinner Paul and I met up with Kristen and her family (husband Sam and daughter Lucia) at the annual Cambridge Dance Party.  Little Lucia has some really special moves! But she also has an early bedtime, so off they went and Paul and I circled around, meeting up with a few friends.  We stayed long enough to see City Hall covered in lights.

On Saturday afternoon, we hopped on the T and walked along the Boston waterfront, viewing the tall ships that were in town for the Harborfest.

It’s a particularly big event this year, including both Navy Week and the tall ships with OpSail Boston, and coinciding with the bicentennial of the War of 1812.  I particularly liked this little boat.  If he eats well, he can grow up into a full-sized tugboat:

Along the way, we were distracted by the Institute of Contemporary Art and dashed in to see an exhibit of glassworks by Josiah McElheny.  The ICA is cantilevered over the harbor.

You see those people through the front window of the building?  Here’s their view:

Dinner was in Brighton (a neighborhood of Boston) with my cousin and my cousin’s cousins, including a two-week old baby whose mother is a double Jumbo (undergrad and Friedman).

Sunday morning, bright and early, Paul and I dashed up to our favorite beach in Revere.  I am Revere’s biggest fan — I love the ethnic mix on the beach whenever we’re there (primarily Russian spoken in the morning, Portuguese in the afternoon).  We grabbed breakfast at a local restaurant where I can always count on seeing a big group of long-time customers in the midst of lively conversation.

After lunch, Paul took Josh out to shop for appropriate clothing for his new workplace, and I took Kayla out to find the extra-long twin sheets and other things she’ll need for her college dormitory.  Back home in time to see Spain top Italy in the Euro 2012 Football Championship.  A busy weekend-plus, which supplied me with a blog post, and which I hope gives you a sense of how much can be done within a short distance of Fletcher.

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As someone who can fall victim to distractions, I’ve always valued the slightly-out-of-the-center-of-things location of Tufts.  Students can focus on student life while on campus.  Or they can wander a short distance from campus to surrounding neighborhoods with food, services, and fun.  A short distance further off, they’re in the broader academic community of Cambridge.  Or, with little fuss, they can take advantage of all that Boston has to offer.  For starters, from Fletcher, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the subway (which we all call “the T”).  Bus lines broaden the territory covered by mass transit (and make it easy for students to find housing with easy access to campus).  Here’s what our options look like:

Buses 80, 94, and 96 actually come onto the campus, and the 87, 88 have stops five minutes from Fletcher.   (Curtis Street and Packard Avenue bracket Fletcher on the Tufts campus.  You can find the full map here.)  So transportation links are pretty easy.

But what if all these multicolored noodles of bus and subway lines make it seem that traveling to Boston is a major expedition?  Well, if you have a little time, you can always choose to walk or bike.  Here’s one suggested route, for a day when you want to ice skate at the Boston Common (or, in summer, join the crowd of children splashing in the spray pool):


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Sure, it’s five miles, but five miles seems like a nice balance — a quiet campus that’s only a long walk from everything.

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I know one thing I won’t be doing on Sunday afternoon or evening.  I will not be speaking to my son, Josh.  Why?  Because Josh is a HUGE fan of the New England Patriots, and our local football team is playing in its first Super Bowl since 2008.  (The less said about the 2008 game, the better.)  All Josh’s Sunday energy will be tied up with willing the Patriots to victory, and a phone call from his mother will not be welcome.

Boston is a sports town, but it hasn’t always been the host of winning teams.  Until, suddenly, it was.  Now there’s an annual expectation that some team in some league should be winning.  Not the Red Sox this year?  The Bruins will take their place in local sports fans’ hearts.  Hopes are riding high for the Patriots.

Fletcher, being an international community, includes many people with limited knowledge of American football.  Into that information gap step second-year students Chris and Charlie, who have kindly offered a one-time seminar on the game.  Inviting their fellow students to attend (via the Social List, of course), they said:

Every year in September, Americans go absolutely crazy.

We reconstruct our social lives so that we have nothing to do on the weekends and can spend hours in front of the TV.  Our mental sanity is based on the success and/or failure of 18 and 19-year-old amateurs or 35-year-old professionals with reconstructed knees, hips, and ankles, and potential brain injuries.  We spend billions of dollars to sit outside in the freezing cold or the blistering heat, only to get really, really angry.

Why do we do this?  Because we love our football.  Our American football.  Our gridiron.  This Sunday, the crazy will come to an insane peak.  Over 100 million Americans will watch three hours of Super Bowl action between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.

If you’re interested in learning about the game of football, then join us for an explanation of the sport, the industry, and the passion.  In addition to being useful this Sunday, it might serve you in the future — around the water cooler, on a date, or even at a conference.  We Americans love our sports (especially football) and often end up talking about it, probably more often than we should.

For those interested in the international relations side of American football, two players in the Super Bowl have noteworthy backgrounds.  Mathias Kiwanuka, a player for the New York Giants, is the grandson of the first Prime Minister of Uganda, Benedicto Kiwanuka.  And Sebastian Vollmer, a player for the New England Patriots, is the only German in the National Football League.

Trust Fletcher students to find the international angle!  With the community educated, and my fingers crossed for Josh and all Boston sports nuts, we’re counting down to the game.  Go Pats!

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This was my weekend for remembering that the Boston area can have a small-town feel. Everywhere I went, I ran into people:  on Saturday at the winter farmers’ market (one of two in Somerville and Cambridge) and, later, at the movies; on Sunday, when we went to see Red at the SpeakEasy Stage Company and then at dinner, when we met Anne, one of last year’s Januarians, and her family.  But funniest was bumping into both Laurie and Kristen at the mall yesterday, when we were all taking care of a few shopping errands.

Now we’re back to work and compiling applications is the theme of the day.  We’re fortunate to have had a crack team of student interns working through the break, with the satisfying result that we’re up to date on processing mail (until a big bag of envelopes arrives later today).  But just printing the applications that were ready on Sunday took two hours, and we know it will be days before all the materials in the office (the applications and their corresponding transcripts, etc.) will be united in a folder.

But being realistic, I know you’re primarily concerned with the progress your own materials are making.  So here’s a summary of how everything happens.  Note that many of these steps (some done by machine and others by humans) are taking place simultaneously:

1.  You hit the online “submit” button.  Your application was “stamped” with the date and time, and will wait within the Embark system for your registered online recommenders to submit their letters.  If all your recommenders have already submitted their letters, or if you haven’t registered any online recommenders, the application will be ready for us immediately, and we’ll upload it into our internal program.  (If your recommenders haven’t done their part, it’s your responsibility to remind them that the deadline has passed.)

2.  When your application (with online recommendations) is uploaded, you’ll receive an automatically generated email stating that we have received your application, and that you should wait ten business days before contacting the Admissions Office about any missing materials.  (Note that this means that you don’t receive the email if the application is still waiting for recommendations.)  The email also provides you with a username and password to access the Tufts Graduate Application Management System (GAMS).  GAMS is the best way to track your application throughout the process.  We’ll also be posting decision letters to your GAMS account, so hang on to your username and password!

3.   Uploaded applications are printed in batches.  Once we have the paper copy, we’ll create a file folder for you.  (A big moment in the life of your application!)

4.  Meanwhile, Admissions Office staffers will risk paper cuts and worse while they open an endless stream of envelopes holding test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation from recommenders who weren’t registered online, etc.  We sort and file the mail.  If the application hasn’t yet been uploaded, the paper materials will “wait” for it to emerge from the system.

5.  Once we have your application in a file folder, we dig out the mail that has already been received for you and include it.  Then we manually update your record in the admissions system to show what materials have come in by mail.  You should track your application through GAMS, but we’ll also email you if there’s a document missing.  Emailing a member of the Admissions staff will, at this point in the process, give you only the information you can access yourself through GAMS.  And I want to stress here that the aforementioned ten business days are the period during which the humans will be entering information into GAMS.  Keep on top of things, but remember that the registering of your materials won’t happen immediately.

6.  Your completed application is then given to Committee members to review, and you’ll receive your admission decision in late March.

The bottom line:  Pressing submit is the easy part for you, and receiving online materials is the easy part for us.  The challenge is that most applicants submitted their applications during this past weekend, and it will take us a couple of weeks of mad scrambling to clear the instant backlog and create a thousand-plus application files.

Be sure to stay on top of the status of your application, but try to give us a little time to pull everything together.  By early February (only two weeks away, though we know it can feel like forever), everyone who has submitted all the materials needed for an application should find accurate and reassuring information on GAMS.

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Continuing this week’s travel guide theme, I first want to suggest you check out the places Fletcher students have been visiting, in the second annual “Where is Fletcher” video.  On dry land, or underwater, those students get around!

But more locally, let’s hear from Kristen and Liz, who provide suggestions of activities that are easily accessible from campus.

Kristen recommends:
One of my favorite Boston activities is getting out and walking.  For an American city, Boston is very walkable, and taking the city on foot is one of the best ways to get to know each neighborhood.  Among my favorite pleasant-weather walks is to start on the Charles River near MIT and the “Salt-and-Pepper-Shaker Bridge,” and then wander down Mass Ave (no one here calls it Massachusetts Avenue — those extra syllables are too pesky).  Mass Ave has a great collection of watering holes (I particularly like the Miracle of Science), scandal-ridden ice cream shops, and Indian markets.  You can feel the personality of the street change from the quiet area filled with architectural behemoths around MIT, to the salty collection of characters at Central Square, to pure Cambridge academia at Harvard Square.

Liz says:
I don’t often get out into the city, as I live a little north of Medford, so I should really be taking suggestions from my peers on things to do.  However, there is one activity I’ve done a few times that I found to be fun and a bit different:  Afternoon tea at the Taj Boston (formerly the Ritz Carlton).  I know, it sounds stuffy and boring, but I’ve had a really great time, especially with a good group of friends.  The room is lovely and it has this sort of aura from another era about it.  I do enjoy tea, and they have a nice assortment to choose from.  (No Lipton tea bags here!)  Then there is the food.  I’m not much of a sweets kinda gal, but they have many different pastries, scones, and desserts to choose from.  Best, and what I really enjoy, are all the different types of finger sandwiches!  It’s a unique way to spend an afternoon in Boston with friends.  If you do get the chance, I certainly recommend trying it at least once.

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Paul and I have English visitors staying with us this week — his aunt and uncle, Penny and John, who have never been to the U.S. before.  Paul is quite the energetic tour guide, and they’ve covered a lot of territory since arriving on Tuesday.

If you prefer to do your touring over the course of, say, two years while in graduate school (or even if your time will also be limited), you may want some suggestions of what to see.  Fortunately, my Admissions pals have volunteered to supply the blog with their ideas!  I’m going to start with Jeff, whose list happens to include Penny and John’s plan for today while Paul and I are working.  Jeff (who enthusiastically ignored my suggested word limit) writes:

How does one keep a blog entry concise when there is so much to be said about the topic?  While you are visiting or studying at Fletcher, there are many things to do on this side of the river, but you also need to take time to visit the other side (Boston).  I’m sure the ideas that immediately come to my mind are already on your radar screen, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Freedom Trail.  I love walking, and Boston is a walking city.  The trail covers many of the attractions you’ll want to see while in town, from churches to parks to graveyards to shipyards; it’s a great 2.5 mile walk around the city.

If you are more of the museum type, one of my favorites is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  Aside from the great artwork, the building itself is a sight to see — custom built with a beautiful garden courtyard in the middle.

Another place I enjoy visiting with out-of-town guests is the Samuel Adams Brewery, located in Jamaica Plain. (Jamaica Plain is a neighborhood of Boston only a few T stops away from downtown.)  The brewery tour lasts about an hour, a $2 donation is suggested, and tours culminate at the pub located inside the brewery with a few free samples.  While in the area (if you like nature), a stop at the Arnold Arboretum is a must.  The Arboretum is 265 acres, open from sunrise to sunset year round, with seasonal activities, walking tours and, of course, beautifully manicured trees and flowers.

Last, I would like to give a plug to the Boston Harbor Islands, made up of 34 islands, including 35 miles of undeveloped shoreline and 1600 acres of land.  If you are in town during the spring, summer or fall, and have a free day, you can hop on a ferry to one (or more) of the islands to hike, picnic, explore, kayak, fish, or swim.  Plus, there are two national historic landmarks on the islands:  Fort Warren is located on George’s Island and Boston Light is located on Little Brewster Island.  Only a few of the islands are accessible by ferry, while some can only be reached by taking a special tour.  However you get out there, it’s a nice way to take in a different view of Boston.

One last thing:  RESTAURANTS!  There are too many favorites to mention here.  Just stop by my office when you’re visiting, and I’ll be happy to chat.  Restaurants and food are among the most frequent topics of conversation between members of the Admissions staff.

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No, this isn’t a case of Admissions staff amnesia.  Many admitted students, waitlisted applicants, and prospective applicants will pass through our neighborhood in the coming months, and you may be wondering just where, exactly, I am (or, more generally, Fletcher is).

Fletcher is on the Tufts University campus in Medford/Somerville.  Medford and Somerville are two of the small cities ringing the bigger city of Boston, and the border separating them runs right through Fletcher.  Though a lot of students live in Medford (and I have my hair cut there), I think it’s fair to say that for social activities, students are oriented toward Somerville and beyond.  Here’s how it looks on a map:

The marker is pointed at Fletcher, and you can see all the different towns that surround us.  Notice that a little map like this one can also include Logan Airport, as well as Mystic Lake (convenient for biking, swimming, etc.).  So I’m not going to argue that Fletcher sits in the center of a giant metropolitan area, but I can tell you that there’s a fantastic variety of easily accessed spots.  You want to shop for local produce at a farm, hang out at a beach, and dine downtown in a single day.  Go ahead and make your plans — it’s all doable!

When people talk about Boston, they sometimes mean the city alone, but they’re often referring to a broader area, which could include the inner-most neighbors or more.  The population of Boston proper is just under 600,000, about 20th by size in the U.S.  The population of Boston plus its nearest neighbors (including Medford and Somerville) is about a million, and “Greater Boston,” stretching out a little further but still within easy commuting distance, is about 5 million.  For a small city, we’re rich with universities, museums, theaters, restaurants, and all the trappings of urban life.  But being a small city, it’s also easy to head out of town and hike, bike, and otherwise recreate.

We’re often asked what it’s like to be a student here.  Personally, I think there’s a great balance between the opportunity to focus on student life on a leafy campus and access to those urban trappings only a short subway ride away.  The best of both worlds!

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We have Norway maples around our house that provide wonderful shade in the summer, and hours of leaf raking in the fall.  Bagging leaves was, therefore, high on the agenda for the weekend, along with cheering on Kayla’s soccer team during the final game of the season, and doling out candy to trick-or-treaters for Halloween.

But between those activities, we still managed to squeeze in a few unplanned extras.  On Saturday, Paul and I decided to check out a new restaurant in Davis Square on our way to the movies.  We had barely walked through the door when we saw friends of ours.  Once we sat down, we spied one of this year’s MacArthur grant winners, whom we recognize because he works with our former next-door-neighbor.  On our way out, we passed Tufts president Larry Bacow.  Later, as we left the movie, we bumped into friends near the theater and, having walked them to their car, waved to yet another friend as she drove by during our trek home.

These are the days when, contrary to Somerville’s municipal status, it feels like a small town — the kind of place where you run into people you know wherever you go.  I like that!  But it’s also great to take advantage of all that Boston, our larger city neighbor, has to offer.

So off we went on Sunday.  Hopped on the T and soon arrived in Chinatown for dim sum.  When we walked out of the restaurant, I had a hankering for a cannoli.  (Doesn’t everyone follow-up dim sum with Italian pastries?)  A quick walk down the Greenway and we were in the North End, Boston’s traditional Italian neighborhood.  Warmed ourselves with coffees and yummy cannoli at a busy but mellow spot.

Back on the T in time for Paul to carve a pumpkin before the youngest trick-or-treaters started ringing the bell.  And we could hardly have forgotten about Halloween, as we passed witches, zombies, skeletons, one large elf, and a wookie on a Segway, as we meandered through this area where — depending on how you crunch the numbers — as many as 20 percent of residents are students.

All in all, a perfect small-town big-city fall weekend.

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