Currently viewing the tag: "Housing"

I don’t steal from my past writing as much as I could (or, even, should), but today I thought I’d toss out the links to a couple of past posts on housing.  Lots of enrolling students are starting to think about where they’ll be living come September.

My first link takes us back to when student staffer Ariel had her own admissions advice column.  She runs through the basics of how to kick off a housing search.

Next was a post in which I described the different neighborhood options for housing-hunting students, and how close together all those areas are.

Finally, I tidied up my sloppy tagging, so that more of the relevant posts can be found with this housing tag.

The perfect apartment is not likely to appear without some effort, but all of our students succeed in finding something that works for them.  Give yourself some time to search (by which I mean, start now!) and it will all be fine.

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As admitted applicants make their decision to enroll at Fletcher, they then turn their attention to arranging housing for September.  Our blogger, Diane, lived in Blakeley Hall last year (2013-2014) and gathered some thoughts on living there from her fellow dorm-mates.  I should note that the majority of our students live off-campus, in apartments in surrounding communities, but for some new students, a room in Blakeley is just right.  Also, last summer (2014), the Blakeley kitchen was renovated, expanded, and improved, taking care of some of the issues that existed a year ago.  Here are Diane’s reflections:

blakeleyFor many incoming students, particularly those new to Boston, the question of where to live can be quite daunting.  In my first year at Fletcher, I chose to live in Blakeley Hall, a dormitory specifically for Fletcher students.  Much like any housing situation, living in Blakeley has its advantages and disadvantages.  Blakeley has space for around 80 students.  Each student has a private bedroom within a suite that has a living room shared with one or two other students.  There is one bathroom on each floor, shared between four or five people (two suites).  The kitchen, common room, and laundry room are shared by everyone.  There are seven separate towers, each with its own door, and they do not interconnect.  So what does this mean for a student who chooses to live at Blakeley, and what kind of students decide to live there?  I interviewed a few students who lived there with me last year to capture the different experiences they had.

Eric, Canada:

1) Your favorite thing about living in Blakeley: My favorite things about living in Blakeley were the spontaneous moments of fun that were enabled by living with 80 other Fletcher students: participating in an impromptu cricket match or poker game; sharing a drink or meal with others on a Monday night, just because; and the always lively discussions on topics such as nuclear proliferation, Pakistani politics, or Tibet’s struggle for independence, which were a regular part of a dinner conversation.

2) Your least favorite aspect of living in Blakeley: Sharing a bathroom with four other people, sharing a fridge with 12, and having to go outside to get to the kitchen.

3) Your Blakeley memory: I will remember the kindness and generosity of my fellow Blakeley residents when they offered to share their home-cooked Indian meals, apple pies, and Thanksgiving feasts.

Justin, America:

1) Your favorite thing: The three-minute commute to class.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The towers are not interconnected.

3) Your Blakeley memory: Unexpectedly getting amazing spiced tea from Elba on the way to class in the morning.

Jessica, America:

1) Your favorite thing: My favorite aspect of living at Blakeley was the community.  I got to live and learn with 83 wonderful people.  Whenever I needed a break from studying, I always went to the kitchen to have tea and talk.  There were parties, barbecues, and Game of Thrones evenings.  There were midnight birthday celebrations and snowball fights.  Living at Blakeley helped me make many close friendships, and I am so grateful that I have those people in my life.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The shared kitchen.  So many people in one kitchen: it got rather cozy at times.  I got to try some amazing food, though!

3) Your Blakeley memory: My Blakeley memory is our “Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner” that was held the Sunday before the actual holiday.  Thanksgiving is a big celebration in my family, and I wanted to share the tradition with my friends.  With the help of many Blakeley residents, we made dinner for about 50 people — including two 20-lb turkeys, 15 lbs of mashed potatoes, 10 lbs of apple crisp, salad, stuffing, cornbread, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, brownies, and more.  It was incredible to see how many people pitched in to help with the cooking and the decoration of the common room.  It was a fun night, and it helped distract us from thoughts of our upcoming finals!

Deepti, India:

1) Your favorite thing: It’s the perfect place to get to know your new classmates well and adjust to a new environment or country!

2) Your least favorite aspect: The space constraint.

3) Your Blakeley memory: Impromptu conversations over food in the common kitchen!

Xiaodon, America:

1) Your favorite thing: Being able to duck back home for a coffee break between classes.

2) Your least favorite aspect: Overcrowding in the kitchen.

3) Your Blakeley memory: Too many.  Here’s a random one: epic essay-drafting all-nighter in the common room near exam period with Fedra, Clare, Cilu, Caleb, Juanita, and other sleep-deprived supporting characters.

Sid, India:

1) Your favorite thing: Feeling of community — I made friends from all over the world.  The kitchen was one of my favorite places (also one of the reasons that prompted me to move out) as I got to make new friends.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The kitchen and the laundry room were too far from my room, especially during winters.

3) Your Blakeley memory: FRIENDS!

Paula, America:

1) Your favorite thing: My favorite thing about living in Blakeley was the chance to become good friends with people from all over the world.  I think living in a dorm together inevitably builds a special sense of camaraderie among Blakeley residents that’s otherwise harder to come by in a graduate program.

2) Your least favorite aspect: My least favorite thing about living in Blakeley is having to share a kitchen with 80+ other people.

3) Your Blakeley memory: My favorite Blakeley memory is Thanksgiving 2013 — everyone cooked and ate together and there was truly a feeling of Blakeley being a second family for all of us.

Diane, Australia (that’s me):

1) Your favorite thing: Being able to take a nap between classes.

2) Your least favorite aspect: The kitchen, particularly if you don’t live in a tower that interconnects with it.

3) Your Blakeley memory: The snow day — everyone went to Fletcher Field and had a giant snowball fight, and then we came inside and made pancakes and hot chocolate.

So you can see, living in Blakeley can be lively, convenient, entertaining, and full of fun, but it also has its downsides, particularly if you like to cook a lot on your own.  I am glad I got to experience an American dorm, and was able to live for a year on the Tufts campus, which is beautiful in all seasons.

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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.
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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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In May, before the students took off for their summer internships or post-Fletcher lives, I asked them for suggestions to pass along to incoming students.  While most of the ideas relate specifically to life at Fletcher (and I’ll hold those until closer to the start of Orientation), a handful are tips for your pre-Fletcher summer.  Before any more time gets away, here is a selection of suggestions from the experienced:

Amy:  If I were starting at Fletcher in the fall, I would take the summer off and spend time with my family.

Veronica:  If I were preparing to go to Fletcher in September, I would give extra thought to career planning, and I would also travel somewhere I’ve never been.

Margot:  If you’re concerned about the language exam, I suggest reading a newspaper in your language every day.  The vocabulary in regular news stories is quite similar to what you’ll see on the exam.  Also — catch up on reading fiction!  You won’t look at that stack of novels again (except longingly) until next May, so make a dent now.

Jeff agrees:  Read.
But he also suggests:  Start investigating housing early.  It fills up fast in the Medford/Somerville area.  And be realistic about your budget — make sure it is in line with actual costs in the area.

Rachel:  If I were starting at Fletcher in the fall, I would try to pursue language study, because sometimes it’s hard to find the time to audit language classes on top of everything else you’re doing.

Vanessa:  Spend a week on a beach and read lots of fiction.

So, incoming students (2012 and future years’), you can see a theme emerging in just these few suggestions.  First, take time to read, see your family, and travel.  But also, take care of some basic Fletcher student needs, such as housing, career planning, and language preparation.

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I grew up on the south shore of Long Island, where each town had the bay as the southern border, and there was one town each to the east, west, and north.  Then I moved up here, where the borders are ragged and you can travel along a single street unaware that you have crossed from town to city and back again.  With all these interconnections, housing-hunting incoming students needn’t feel bound to Medford and Somerville.

In particular, parts of both Arlington and Cambridge are within a mile of Fletcher, and five miles would get you to Winchester, Belmont, Watertown, Malden, as well as parts of Boston.  Depending on your housing needs and whether you decide to bring a car, any of these towns could be the right place for you to spend a couple of years.

As for that tricky question of whether to bring a car, here’s what I’d say.  If you don’t own one, don’t buy one!  You’ll find other students who can run you over to the supermarket now and then.  And, there are Zipcars on campus, including in the Fletcher parking lot.  If you already own a car, I’m sure you’ll find it helpful, but you’ll want to plan carefully to prevent unintended expenses.  We locals get used to a crazy array of parking (more accurately:  NO PARKING) regulations on our narrow streets.  Meanwhile, public transportation is good, so owning a car isn’t a necessity.

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