Currently viewing the tag: "Student Stories"

When she’s not offering valuable advice to incoming students, Roxanne is still keeping plenty busy.  Last week, along with Prof. Dyan Mazurana, she presented a session at the Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict.  Interested?  You can get the details from the storify intro, (I love the way Roxanne is described as “a do-gooder of international proportions”), from the storify write-up, or from the video below.  Watch the whole thing, or fast forward to Roxanne’s presentation, at about 1:07:30.

Roxanne is off to Colombia for the next phase of her summer.  I’ll try to catch up with her a little later, once she has settled in there.

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My little survey from a few weeks back yielded some very specific questions from incoming students.  While I work on the answers, Roxanne is here to give you a big-picture view of what you should be doing and thinking about in the summer before you start your graduate studies.  

I am writing these words at 1369 Coffee House, which was one of my favorite spaces when I was a college student in Boston.  One of the indulgences of the early days of summer lies in exactly this moment: savoring a drink at a coffee shop, reading for pleasure, and watching the to-do lists temporarily shrink to include only leisurely items.

Therein lies my first piece of advice for the summer before you enroll at Fletcher: Embrace leisure.  Allow your mind to rest for a while, and engage in the activities that make you happy.  If it is possible, build in a few weeks of relaxation between the time your work commitments end and the time Fletcher obligations kick in.  Arriving at Fletcher with a rested mind can make all the difference.  While I am soon leaving for my summer work and research, the past two weeks have been full of picnics, tandem bike rides, a trip to Walden Pond, and other favorite Boston-area activities.

Use the summer to reflect on the experience you want to have at Fletcher: What do you wish to learn that you had not previously explored?  Which types of skills do you want to build?  Are there particular professors whom you would like to get to know?  What other opportunities in the Boston area appeal to you?  The answers to these questions shift constantly for most of us at Fletcher, and we welcome the evolution of our interests, but arriving here with a sense of goals and learning objectives — however vague and ever-changing — can be helpful in making the most of the experience.  The summer is also a good time to talk to past mentors, whether professional or academic ones, and to solicit their advice about how to make the most of your upcoming graduate school experience.

If you are planning on taking the language exams early in the semester, or the economics and quantitative reasoning placement tests, it may be helpful to brush up on some of those skills — but do not let the process stress you.  When I look back on my own summer before Fletcher, I wish I had worried less.  Yes, it is important to fill out the paperwork Fletcher requires in a timely manner, to set up your email accounts, and to prepare logistically for the semester.  Completing these steps will make your arrival here far less stressful, and it will enable you to delve into the community smoothly in August.  At the same time, the Fletcher staff is incredibly supportive, these processes are fairly easy, and they need not intimidate or worry you.

Some of you will go through the new course catalog as soon as it becomes available to make a list of courses you would like to take; yet others will arrive in Medford without ever having looked at the course catalog.  Let me reassure you that most of us change our minds about our preferred course choices multiple times before the semester begins, so do not feel pressure to make rigid choices.  If you are inspired by browsing the offerings, by all means, go ahead!  If, on the other hand, you’d rather wait until you get here and can solicit the opinions of your classmates or attend the so-called “Shopping Day” to watch the professors in action, know that many Fletcher students will be joining you.

Finally, I’d like to make some room for the pieces of pre-Fletcher advice that do not fit in the above categories, but reflect how I wish I had spent the summer before Fletcher:

  • Read for pleasure. This is what a now-graduated member of the Class of 2013 had advised me, and it was the best piece of advice I received.  It was a treat to spend the summer steeped in the literature of my choice without the pressure to highlight or take notes.
  • Make some time to say goodbye to the place you have called home.  Some of you will be leaving a place far away from your birthplace, while others will be leaving your homeland.  Transitions are easier once you have carved out room for goodbyes and nostalgia.
  • Relatedly, carve out some time to make Boston a home when you arrive.  If you arrive a couple of days before Orientation, take the time to explore your new neighborhood or take the subway to Boston.  Give yourself some time to discover what may soon be your new favorite restaurant or café, develop a new running or cycling route, a new morning routine.  You will be part of this community before you know it, and there are many of us eagerly waiting to welcome you to the Fletcher family!  Until then, have a wonderful summer!
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Scott and the PacificLast week I received an email from student blogger Scott, who wrote about the cross-country trip from Oregon to New York, a distance of more than 3,000 miles, that he is undertaking accompanied by a friend.  By the time I received the email, Scott had crossed through Oregon and into Idaho.  (The photo shows him at his first stop, the Pacific Ocean coast of Oregon.)  His message detailed the motivation for the trip:

On May 11th, 2006 tragedy struck one of my best friends and his family.  Greg LiCalzi was my roommate freshman year at Union College, and although I was probably not the easiest person to live with at the time, we became great friends.  Greg’s twin brother, Michael, was serving our country in the Marines when he died in a tragic tank accident in Iraq.

Two years later, with the support of his family, Greg founded the Ace in the Hole Foundation to remember and honor his brother’s sacrifice.  The Foundation provides financial aid and material assistance to charitable organizations and causes.  The Foundation’s support is administered directly to deserving recipients or through contributions to charitable organizations with which the Foundation has working partnerships.  Through numerous events, fundraisers and corporate partnerships, Ace in the Hole has raised and donated over $300,000.

I have been unable to participate in many of the events for Ace in the Hole Foundation.  Because of my previous job I was always out of the country or on assignment.  I have been looking for a way to contribute with more than just a donation, and this summer I will have that chance.

Scott is using the trip to raise awareness and funds for the Ace in the Hole Foundation.  His goal is to raise $12,000 by the end of his ride.

You can read more about the trip directly from Scott.  He’s chronicling it through various media, most notably a Tumblr page and via Twitter.  I’ll try to provide occasional updates on his progress throughout the coming weeks, or you can check out his Tumblr and spread the word about his trek for a cause.

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Time for another round of thanks and farewell to a graduating student.  Maliheh contributed several posts to the blog this year, despite a heavy in-class and out-of-class workload, and a PhD admissions process that involved twenty schools and one lucky program that she has chosen to attend.  I first “met” Maliheh more than a year before she enrolled in the MALD program, when she first corresponded with our office.  Once I met her, I became a huge fan.  As much as I’ll miss her at Fletcher, I wish her the very best in her coming years of academic toil.  But before Maliheh leaves Fletcher, she offers this last post.

malihehIt is just that time of the year when everyone at Fletcher is finishing exams and preparing for their upcoming internship or new job.  I was preparing for my own internship last year at this time.  Everyone would tell me about Fletcher’s incredibly rich alumni network, but before experiencing it myself, I had no clear idea what a valuable resource this network can be.

From the first day I started my work at the World Bank, I tried to expand my professional connections by networking with people in other departments at the bank.  To my surprise, in almost every department I could find a Fletcher alum with whom I could meet and talk.  Even non-Fletcher people knew very well about Fletcher and would remind me that two current World Bank vice presidents are Fletcher alumni.

Working in the MENA region at the bank, it was not uncommon to hear people speaking in Arabic or Farsi, which I also used in speaking with my supervisor most of the time.  You can imagine that it is not easy to pick out English words exchanged in the middle of a conversation that is not in English, but “Fletcher” is a different kind of English word!  One day, in the midst of a long conversation in Farsi with my supervisor, and in a quite crowded venue, I said “Fletcher” to refer to a specific theory I had learned in one of my classes, and then returned to Farsi for the remainder of the conversation.  The woman sitting next to us picked out that one word and turned to me.  She asked, “I heard you say Fletcher.  Are you a Fletcher alum or student?”  And a very nice conversation followed from there!  Later I thought again about what I had heard before coming to the World Bank about Fletcher’s network, and felt very proud to be part of this extensive and supportive community!

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Returning to the questions blog readers asked me to cover this spring, Mirza is going to describe options for cross-registration.  The opportunity to cross-register for up to a quarter of the classes a student takes toward a Fletcher degree is one of the factors that makes us say that no two students graduate with exactly the same curriculum.

One of the many great options at Fletcher is cross-registering at other graduate units of Tufts or Harvard University, or even beyond.  (Keep in mind that MALD or MIB students are allowed to cross-register for four classes total during the two years at Fletcher.)  With so many great higher education institutions in Boston, such cooperation and sharing of resources among different schools makes sense and you should by all means take full advantage.

Currently, in my second semester at Fletcher, I am taking two classes at Harvard — one at Harvard Kennedy School (Values, Interests and the Crafting of U.S. Foreign Policy) and one at Harvard Law School (Political Economy After the Crisis).  They have both been challenging but intellectually rewarding, and have offered a slightly different perspective and learning environment from Fletcher.  Combining such outside academic experience with the Fletcher experience has been, at least for me, extremely valuable.

Not everyone, however, will find cross-registering beneficial to their academic and professional path.  For some, Fletcher offers exactly what they need, and this is perfectly fine.  It can also be overwhelming to browse through hundreds of captivating courses at other schools, in addition to over a hundred amazing courses at Fletcher.  Still, it is an option well worth keeping in mind as you think about the courses and fields that you’d like to pursue while in graduate school.  One piece of advice is that you should not cross-register during your first semester at Fletcher.  The incipient relationships that you form with your classmates are quite important, and you don’t want to hinder that vital component of the graduate school experience.  As you settle in, however, venturing outside of Fletcher and Tufts will not be a problem, and will likely add considerable value to your academic growth.

Like almost everything in life, there are pros and cons to cross-registering.  Here are a few tips, based on my experience, to keep in mind should you wish to cross-register:

  • A different perspective (Always a good thing.)
  • A new network (Also always a good thing.)
  • A better awareness of the many free events, lectures, and seminars in the area.  (These are the activities from which you will learn a whole lot — really worth exploring, and Harvard offers a great deal of them, all throughout the academic year.)
  • Harvard Square (It’s quite lovely, but bring waterproof boots in the winter.)
  • Access to the beautiful Harvard libraries (They are, indeed, quite nice.)
  • Time spent traveling to Harvard Square (Not so bad, but in the rain and during midterms/finals… it can become a drag.)
  • Group work taking place outside of Fletcher (So even more time spent traveling.)
  • Conflicting class schedules between Fletcher and Harvard (Not usually a problem, but HBS especially can be tricky.)
  • Nostalgia for Fletcher (It’s true — we’re all at Fletcher because we love it for one reason or another, so it’s possible to start missing your “real” home even if you’re away for just a short while.)

Overall, cross-registration is not a biggie, and there are so many great courses that it’s worth at least a quick look to see if something strikes you.  The rest is just logistics — a bit annoying, but not enough to prevent you from taking a great class.  A quick note regarding MIT, Boston University, and other Boston-area schools: they do not participate in the official cross-registration process with Fletcher, but it’s possible to take classes there with the instructor’s permission and a couple of logistical “tricks.”  Feel free to talk to me about it if you wish to find out more — I’ll be taking classes at both MIT and BU next year.

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My thanks to Roxanne for her comprehensive description of the process.  Take it away, Roxanne!

First of all, it was so wonderful to meet many of the prospective members of the incoming class last week! We are sad to part with our second-year students soon, and getting to hear the stories of the incoming class gave many of us a lot to look forward to! One of the questions that emerged through these conversations was about the Fletcher summer internship search process. While it is very challenging to speak about a universal Fletcher experience, given that interests vary widely in this diverse community, I would like to shed some light on how some Fletcher students begin to think about their summer internships. Feel free to also browse the post I wrote about this topic in February, right before the DC Career Trip.

Setting goals for the summer: The first, and perhaps hardest, step in the internship search process is defining the summer experience we each wish to have. Some Fletcher students consider themselves “career changers,” shifting away from the professional field in which they worked prior to Fletcher and towards new endeavors. Other Fletcher students wish to use the summer to build their international or field experience, so they are explicitly looking for opportunities outside the United States. Yet other students wish to conduct research that will culminate in a capstone project, thesis, PhD proposal, or other document — either in parallel to an internship or instead of one. Some classmates wish to obtain or apply particular skills, such as quantitative analysis, crisis mapping, or practicing a language. Yet others want to remain in the same sector they were in prior to Fletcher, but wish to diversify the organizations and partners with which they have worked by building new institutional relationships over the summer. As you can see, there is no pattern that defines every Fletcher summer experience: The locales that host us for the summer range from Boston to Japan, from the public to private sector, from paid consultancies to research initiatives, and from entirely new endeavors to a return to beloved projects.

The critical role of mentorship: Mentorship is a critical component of developing a clearer sense of our goals for the summer. Conversations with professors or guest speakers at Fletcher events, as well as informational interviews with alumni, help us clarify our vision for what we seek to accomplish over the summer. Prior to both the New York City and DC career trips, the Office of Career Services compiles a lengthy list of alumni, including their professional affiliations and contact information. Students arrange many chats with alumni both during the Career Trips and outside of them in order to better understand potential summer opportunities. Informational interviews continue through the spring and they often end with a clearer “next step” for the students or an introduction to someone who may be of further help.

The Fletcher network does not just consist of faculty, staff, and alumni; rather, students themselves are an invaluable resource to their peers. During the second semester, many emails are sent on the Social List (our beloved and informal email list) asking if fellow students have worked in X country or with Y organization or if they know a particular individual. Many coffee chats emerge from these emails and it is always a delight to put each other in touch with people we have met or places we have worked, in the hope that we can create more opportunities for our peers.

Applying to summer positions: The Office of Career Services plays an instrumental role in coaching students through the application process. Once we have identified the types of opportunities we wish to apply to, we can make appointments with Career Services staff to review our résumés and cover letters, conduct mock interviews, receive assistance in negotiating potential compensation — or even in proofreading our communications with potential employers! For students who wish to conduct research or work on a Fletcher-affiliated project, whether in the Boston area or beyond, conversations with professors and campus centers that are supervising these initiatives are an important part of building future relationships.

Funding the summer experience: The availability of funding differs greatly among the various sectors in which Fletcher students immerse themselves for the summer. There are many opportunities to fund the summer experience for those who have received an unpaid internship. The Office of Career Services has a simple application for summer funding, and these resources are supplemented by other research centers on campus that can provide financial support, such as the Tisch Active Citizenship Fellowship Program or the Feinstein International Center. Some professors  and departments make grants available for language study or for internships in a specific sector or region of the world. Additionally, there are Boston-area resources, such as the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School Summer Fellowships, that are accessible to Fletcher students because of the partnerships between Fletcher and the funding institutions. Students in the private sector or those who have secured paid consultancies for the summer may follow a slightly different process.

Pre-departure preparations: There is never a dull moment at Fletcher, even with an internship and funding secured! The months prior to departing for the summer are filled with building skills that may be essential for our research or employment, from training ourselves in statistics or ethnographic interviewing to brushing up on language skills and conducting pre-thesis research. In the next month, I will also be offering a “blogging and social media” workshop for Fletcher students, so we  can compile a document of our online presence, enabling us to follow each other’s summer journeys and learning. A classmate is in the process of compiling a Google Map with Fletcher summer internship locations, so we can find community wherever we go. The bottom line is that this is an exciting, exhilarating process, which — like most other processes at Fletcher — requires putting ourselves out there, being curious and open to learning, and leveraging the power of this community to create opportunities for all.

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In only four days, on Monday, April 15, Boston will host its famous annual marathon.  In addition to well-known long-distance runners, you’ll find the Tufts Marathon Team, which includes a Fletcher squad.  And one of the Fletcher runners is student blogger Scott Snyder.

Spring semester assignments are coming due and internship application season is in full gear, but I’ve also been concentrating on another yearlong goal — the Boston Marathon.

For the 10th year running (no pun intended) the Tufts Marathon Team (TMT), which consists of students, alumni and staff, will run to raise money for Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, mainly geared towards fighting child obesity.  I had heard about the opportunity to run the marathon before I started this year, but didn’t realize how much fun it would be to train under coach Donald Megerle and with the team.

I ran my first marathon last summer in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia and trained all over Asia — Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore, and cities throughout China.  I didn’t think training in Boston, with a bunch of people who run at different speeds, would be as interesting and fun as that experience.  Turns out it has been even better and has given me an outlet outside of the classroom — like so many of the opportunities here at Fletcher.

During this training process I have spent my weekends running the actual course — from Hopkinton, through Wellesley and Newton, to downtown Boston — so I’ll start the race having run the whole route and knowing all those brutal hills.  I’ve run Heartbreak Hill about six times; if you don’t know the myth/story behind it, you can view it here.  Along with my training partner, fellow Fletcherite Morgan Lerette, I trained on the route twice with Greg Meyer, the 1983 Boston Marathon winner with a time of 2:09:00 and the last American to win it.  We got to hear plenty of stories about training in Boston during those two runs — luckily he’s a good storyteller.

Scott

Running is a passion of mine, and along with the TMT, Fletcher also has a running club, if you are not up for running 26.2 miles in April.  There are also numerous other clubs here that can fit with your own personal and professional interests.  All these clubs are student run and are always looking for new leaders to take them over.  They bring in renowned speakers, put on conferences, and most importantly, sponsor our weekly Social Hours (really, Happy Hours) to educate the student body on the issues of the day.

So, not matter how busy Fletcher will make you academically, you can always find time to put in hours working on something that may be different from whatever you are doing in the classroom.  Or, if you are a very studious individual, you can build on your academic interests through your clubs focus.

Scott’s photo above includes from left to right, second-year MALD student Mario, head of the Fletcher running club, Marathon-winner Greg Meyer, Scott, and running-partner Morgan.   Fletcher TMT runners, whose profiles can be found on the TMT page, are:  Natalie Bowlus; Oscar Camargo; Katherine Ferrari; Jacob Fromer; Amy Heading; Alex Kaz; Morgan Lerrette; Brennan Mullaney; Tomo Nagasaki; Maki Nakata; Jane Phelan; Davie Wallsh;  and Annie Wanlund.

In this installment, Student Stories blogger Roxanne shares some of the academic rituals she has started developing at Fletcher, including her experiences attending conferences and workshops in her field of study.

I have written about the “exhale” I associated with the feeling of semi-permanence that a two-year Master’s degree program afforded me, after a few years of relatively nomadic work abroad.  In addition to the content of the learning, I looked forward to the rituals and rhythms of an academic life — ranging from establishing traditions as simple as having a favorite library desk (mine: on the 3rd floor by the windows) or having a studying playlist, to finding an academic mentor and crafting papers word-by-word and footnote-by-footnote.  Academia differs from field work in conflict management not only on account of the different kinds of impact these sectors make, but also in terms of the lifestyles they entail.

In the past month, I have had the privilege of indulging in another beloved – or dreaded, depending on your level of dorkiness and/or outlook – academic ritual: the conference.  The Fletcher School and Tufts at large are bursting at the seams with summits, conferences, and workshops this spring, but some of us have been traveling beyond this community as well.  Shortly after the DC Career Trip, I went to New York to attend “Deconstructing Prevention,” a conference on the prevention of mass atrocities.  What drew me to the event was a panelist list full of the authors whose work I footnoted regularly, and the practitioners of genocide prevention whose articles I have bookmarked for years.  Therein, for me, lies one of the greatest sources of exhilaration about returning to an academic environment, after a few years as a practitioner of conflict management around the world: One can, even for a few days, be in the presence of, or in conversation with, the individuals who shape the direction of their field of work, study, and interest.  What was previously a remote and theoretical study can become an interaction and a present conversation, in ways that humanize intellectual pursuits and spark curiosity.

In a sense, what I describe above is similar to the feeling I had when I arrived at my first field placement as a gender and conflict management professional in Egypt.  At the time, I was craving a more intimate look into the questions I had been studying from afar, a diminishing of the distance I perceived between me and impact.  Returning to academia – even if this is a temporary return – has cast new distance between me and field work, but has placed me closer to the minds who form much of the discourse in this field.  A lot of the explorations remain theoretical in their content, but being in the same geographic area as many academics and practitioners has motivated me to ask more questions, establish more mentoring relationships, and seek to learn from and alongside anyone who can share their knowledge.

In addition to Deconstructing Prevention, I had the pleasure of attending “Advocacy in Conflict,” a terrific week of events planned by the Fletcher School’s World Peace Foundation.  The public event and closed seminars drew together many human rights advocates, humanitarian personnel, journalists, and academics.  Later this semester, I hope to attend a conference on gender and armed conflict, an event on public speaking, and a workshop on gender mainstreaming.  Fletcher’s location in the vibrant academic community of the Boston area is conducive to these explorations.  Additionally, Fletcher makes available a small amount of discretionary funding to students who wish to attend conferences, enabling us to learn from our peers and other institutions.  Next time you see me at a conference, please do say hello!

I suppose that most Fletcher students ultimately miss a class or two — they’re out and about for a job interview, or they attend a special lecture and ask a classmate to take notes for them.  I’m pretty sure, though, that I’ve never (in my long Fletcher life) heard of a student returning a week late from spring break, due to his music tour through Russia and Europe.  Here’s Mirza’s report, which hit my email inbox on Sunday, midway through the tour.  Blog readers in Belgium can catch the final gig Saturday night at the Dunk! Festival.

As I was preparing for my new life as a graduate student at Fletcher last summer, I made a decision to no longer pursue music in any capacity, in order to focus all my attention on school.  As music for me was never just a hobby, I couldn’t envision balancing the demanding schedule of running a small business that I am passionate about while concurrently being a full-time student.  In addition, my music partner was in the midst of his own MA degree, and together we simply could not dedicate sufficient time to Arms and Sleepers.  We talked about it, and decided to call it quits.

Throughout my first semester at Fletcher, however, I realized that despite the busy and hectic graduate school schedule, most students maintain their personal interests and successfully balance their professional aspirations with personal passions.  This is why there are so many student clubs, after all, and even a school band, Los Fletcheros.  Through my classmates, I learned that it’s a good thing that the library is not open 24/7, that Fletcher shouldn’t take up 100% of one’s time and energy, and that pursuing other interests makes for a healthier and more fulfilling graduate school experience.  By the end of the fall semester, I decided that there was nothing really wrong or impossible about calling oneself a musician and a graduate student at the same time.  My schedule would certainly prove tricky, but not unmanageable.

One of my first endeavors as I return to music has been a two-week long tour of Europe and Russia.

Tour schedule

One week fell during the spring break, and for the second week I will be missing a couple of classes.  I decided that this would be a worthwhile pursuit, since it means that I would not need to be employed during the semester, allowing me to focus on my studies.  By working intensely for two weeks, instead of a few hours each week, I could set up a schedule for the semester that would suit my personal preferences.  Moreover, taking a small break from Medford and doing something completely different for two weeks would provide mental rejuvenation.  Though completing assignments while traveling non-stop is exhausting, being in an entirely different mindset for a short while could be quite rewarding.  Finally, pursuing several passions is never a bad thing, no matter how divergent they may be.  Each has its own benefits and can contribute immensely to personal growth.

Arms and SleepersI am writing this blog entry at a Starbucks next to Red Square in Moscow, Russia.  The tour thus far has been extremely demanding and hectic (two hours of sleep last night, travel early in the morning, write a short paper today, perform tonight), but I am quite happy to be exploring new places, meeting new people, and being in a different environment from my usual day-to-day.  I have managed to complete class readings, and will even try to Skype into one of my Fletcher classes.  I am also meeting two admitted students in Moscow and Kyiv, Ukraine to chat about Fletcher.  So, though a busy schedule, it’s proving to be personally rewarding, fulfilling, and memorable.

The lesson for me — mostly learned from my classmates — has been that managing several different interests while in graduate school is possible and perhaps even worth it.  Not only that, but if you can maintain in some capacity your pre-Fletcher work position, it could be a good way to pay for your living expenses while in school.  (The burritos and frozen yogurts in Davis Square.  The vending machine snacks during marathon library sessions.)  Not everyone will have this option, but for those who do, it’s worth considering before setting foot on campus.

(Photos were borrowed from the Arms and Sleepers facebook page.)

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Medford-Somerville mapAs I mentioned, last week was spring break for students.  Roxanne used her time to write about how she likes to spend her Sundays when not on vacation.  She also suggested that I explain why we refer to the campus as being in Medford/Somerville.  This old map shows why.  The dotted line is the Medford/Somerville boundary.  The highlighted portion is Fletcher field, and the F represents Fletcher (though not to scale).  So you can spend happy hours walking on and off Fletcher field, crossing town lines as you do so.  (Medford.  Somerville.  Medford.  Somerville.)  But back to Roxanne.  Here’s her prescription for a perfect spring Sunday:

As I write this blog post, I am pretending the winter is over.  The snow melting in the driveway co-exists with buds on trees, and the part of me that was looking forward to experiencing four distinct seasons upon her arrival in the Northeast is ready for the next season to arrive.  I have cherished the long, slow, beautiful Boston fall and the accompanying foliage, the many snowflakes of winter and the legendary Fletcher Ski Trip and snowball fight they inspired, and I am now ready for the river to thaw.  In the spirit of sharing what I am looking forward to in the Fletcher neighborhood, here is a glimpse into what would constitute my perfect spring Sunday in Medford/Somerville.

First, a sacred ritual of the weekend: brunch.  Better yet, an affordable, graduate-student-friendly brunch.  Sound Bites and its stuffed French toast are favorites, as are their bottomless coffee and the Syrian managers with whom I reminisce about our time in Aleppo, particularly at a time when Aleppo is the site of much heartbreak.  Renee’s Café, open from Wednesday to Sunday, is another favorite local business, whose menu is colorfully handwritten onto a chalkboard and whose staff members fill a weekend with smiles.  And if you are in a rush and must skip sit-down breakfast, you have to stop by Magnificent Muffin, where the line snakes out the door for the yummiest muffins and iced coffee in the neighborhood.  Now, allow me to cheat for a minute and veer away from my weekend plan, and say that if this were the middle of the week, you would not be able to skip Masala. On weekdays, their $8 all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, with free servings of garlic naan, is a culinary highlight and the warmth of the Masala employees is equally memorable.

Back to the vision of a sunny spring weekend, though….The kayak that is defrosting on the balcony wishes to go for a float down Mystic River, around the corner, perhaps all the way to Mystic Lake.  And if we are in more of a biking mood, the Minuteman Bikeway is — you guessed it — around the corner as well.  Middlesex Fells Reservation is a terrific place to hike, and the watertower at the top offers beautiful views of downtown Boston.

Speaking of downtown Boston…on the first Friday of the month, a number of Boston museums — including the Museum of Fine Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art on the waterfront — offer a “Night at the Museum,” with DJs, wine, and an opportunity to wander through the galleries with a different ambiance.  Museum admission is free with a Tufts ID — and while you are exploring, do not miss the courtyard of the beautiful Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

At this point, you have likely run out of weekend time, and that is before I have had the chance to share a few other Boston favorites:  bookstores, cafés, experiences around my former neighborhood of Harvard Square, and all the talks, panels, and events happening at the many universities around town.  Stay tuned for more tours of the area, and hopefully, for some images of spring to complement the photographs of Fletcher seasons.

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