Tag Archives: New England

Take Day Trip to the Blackstone River Valley

Photo by Abigail Epplett

Written by Abigail Epplett, M.A. 2021 in Museum Education

Need to get away from campus for the day? There are plenty of things to do away from the hustle and bustle of Boston. If you love to spend time outdoors or learn about history, check out the region where I am from: the Blackstone River Valley. Extending from Worcester in south-central Massachusetts to Pawtucket in northern Rhode Island, this National Historical Park offers a wide variety of activities and destinations, from zoos and museums to hiking trails and bikeways. You might even check out the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at the Tufts University campus in Grafton, MA. As I continue to shamelessly plug my home region, here are some suggestions for what to do on your day in the Valley.

Visit Worcester

Worcester is the second largest city in Massachusetts, edging out Springfield by about 30,000 residents. While diminutive in comparison to Boston, the city offers art, culture, and history without the high price of parking or traffic. See fine art from around the world at the Worcester Art Museum, whose exhibits range from an enormous Greek floor mosaic and a medieval armor collection to special exhibits highlighting baseball-inspired fashion and early American folk art. Explore local history at the Worcester Historical Museum & Salisbury Mansion, where an entire exhibit is dedicated to Harvey Ball, the Worcester native who created the smiley face. If you’re traveling with children, or you’re young at heart, visit the eclectic Ecotarium, part children’s museum and part zoo. Be sure to say hello to my favorite residents, Salton and Freyja, the mountain lion siblings who live at the museum’s Wild Cat Station. If indoor adventures aren’t your style, swing by the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Visitor Center in Worcester to check out the exhibits and grab maps of local trails before heading south for a day of biking & hiking. If you miss this venue, don’t worry! Similar visitor centers are located in Whitinsville, MA and Pawtucket, RI.

Biking & Hiking

The Blackstone Valley Greenway is a project to connect Worcester to Providence through a series of bike trails. Currently, three sections of off-road, paved trails make up seventeen miles of the bikeway, with further expansion in progress. The path crosses through many of the towns in the Valley and is a great way to get some exercise while touring the area, with plenty of signage along the way. Visit the Captain Wilbur Kelly House Transportation Museum beside the path in Lincoln, RI to learn more about the Blackstone Canal and the Industrial Revolution.

Photo by Abigail Epplett

Follow the remains of the canal by biking or hiking on the historic towpath from Plummer’s Landing in Northbridge to Stanley Woolen Mill in Uxbridge. Take note that some areas of this path are badly eroded. If you want a less arduous trip, stick to the walking tour near the Canal Heritage State Park portion of the trail. The visitors’ center at River Bend Farm also provides parking and restrooms, along with areas to picnic, fish, and canoe or kayak. Just down the street is West Hill Dam Reserve, which is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The reserve permits dog walking and horseback riding on the trails, and swimming is permitted on the beach.

For more easy biking and walking, head south to Lincoln, Rhode Island for two different outdoor experiences. First, you can roam the fields of Chase Farm, located between the Hearthside House Museum & Hannaway Blacksmith Shop and Historic New England’s Eleazer Arnold House. The blacksmith shop holds classes for smiths at any level on most Sundays, while both houses offer led tours. If you would rather stick to a path, visit Lincoln Woods, part of the Rhode Island State Parks. This slightly hilly three mile loop takes walkers and bikers around a pond suitable for swimming, fishing, and boating. When looking for more extreme outdoor adventures, check out Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton, managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Hike the trail through the chasm, or bring your own rock climbing gear to scale the walls. Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes and carry plenty of water. The hike back is longer than you think! If you enjoy long walks without a climb, try Douglas State Forest, also managed by DCR. This trail system connects to the Southern New England Trunkline Trail, which runs near the Massachusetts – Rhode Island border for twenty-two miles.

Even More History!

If you’re a tinkerer or inventor, you’ll love the Willard House & Clock Museum in North Grafton, MA. The small museum showcases over 80 clocks made by the Willard family during the 18th and 19th centuries. The building itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and retains its original character. The spacious lawn of the museum makes it an ideal place for plein air painting and photography. Museum of Work & Culture in Woonsocket, RI houses multiple exhibits on the lives of mill workers in the Blackstone River Valley, focusing on the experience of French-Canadian immigrants to the region. Life-sized reproductions of houses, a church, a parochial school classroom, and a union hall combine with video presentations and sound effects to create an immersive experience.

To see the mill that started the Industrial Revolution in the United States, visit Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark in Pawtucket, RI. The building is currently closed as its programs undergo a transformation after its purchase by the National Park Service. Current signage around the building tells the story of the mill, although it’s unclear when tours will begin again.

Nature within Your Grasp

Animal lovers might hesitate to travel abroad to see their favorite species, but here in the Blackstone River Valley, exotic animals are never more than a few minutes away. You can see over 850 species from around the world by visiting family-owned Southwick Zoo in Sutton, MA. My favorite exhibit is the Deer Forest, where visitors can pet and feed tame fallow deer. While you can’t take a deer back to campus, you can bring home fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farms. Visit Wojcik Farm in Blackstone, MA; Foppema’s Farm in Northbridge, MA; and Douglas Orchard in Douglas, MA to buy locally grown produce, jams, and baked goods from an old fashioned farm store. If you would rather get your fruit directly from the field, Sunburst Blueberry Farm in Uxbridge, MA offers pick-your-own blueberries in July. Be sure to come early! Between the efforts of long-time local pickers and the birds, there aren’t many ripe blueberries left by the afternoon.

So Much to Do, and So Close By!

When you need a day away but don’t want a long commute, the Blackstone River Valley is the perfect place to take a break. Whether it’s learning the history of the region, exploring on a trail, eating fresh food, or simply relaxing at one of the many parks, you can be sure to find something that interests you. I hope you enjoy your next trip to the Valley! Be sure to tell them that I sent you.

Oh no, I have to do a practicum!

Written by Abigail Epplett, M.A. student in Museum Education

If you’re a newly minted grad student or looking to join a program, you’re probably aware that many master’s and certificate programs require students to complete a practicum. What does this mean? Think of a practicum as an independent work-study class where you gain experience in your chosen field. In some ways, it is similar to an internship, but practicums may require classwork, depending on the program. The method of placement varies between disciplines. Since my area of expertise is in Museum Studies, I’m going to focus on this model of practicum.

Looff Carousel, Slater’s Park in Pawtucket, RI – photo by Vicki Francesconi-Sullivan

What do you need? Who do you know? What can you do?

The first step to completing a practicum is finding an institution willing to host you. As I mentioned earlier, the method of placement varies between disciplines. Some departments place students in practicums. In Museum Studies, the student find their host institution on their own. As you can imagine, finding a host institution during the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions adds some challenges. Yikes! To make the process easier and less scary, try asking yourself these three questions: “What do I need?”, “Who do I know?”, and “What can I do?”.

Let’s start with the first question: What do you need? What is required for your practicum? Are there any limitations or deadlines to keep in mind? Each practicum lasts a certain number of hours and must be completed at a specific type of organization. For example, my practicum needed to last for at least 125 hours over the Summer 2020 session, and it needed to be held at a cultural institution. Due to the complications surrounding COVID-19, students in the Summer 2020 session could petition for extra time to complete their practicum. I did not need additional time, but it’s something to keep in mind if you are worried about getting your hours completed, especially if you already work a full-time job.

While the requirement to work at a cultural institution might initially seem pretty limiting, a wide range of organizations fall into this category. Working at a museum is an obvious choice, but during the Spring and Summer 2020, most museums were closing and furloughing staff. Visitors centers, university galleries, and museum-related businesses were likewise closed. What was I going to do?

This brings me to the second question: Who do you know? What are your connections to the industry? Who understands your potential? The idea of networking is frequently discussed in any academic setting, whether visiting a fair or workshop held by career services or learning from professors during class time and office hours. During COVID-19, I reached out to my network to find an organization to host my practicum and found a willing organization a few miles from my house: Blackstone Heritage Corridor, Inc. (BHC). This opportunity was so obvious that I nearly overlooked it. I had run or driven past the building that housed the BHC offices two or three times a day for most of my life, and had begun volunteering with BHC in January 2020, a mere four months before applying for a practicum there. This short amount of time was enough for them to see my potential and offer me a practicum opportunity.

Finally, we’ve come to the final question: What can I do? What talents make me stand out from other practicum-seeking students? How will I bring a unique skillset to the organization? If you are in the museum program, it’s a given that you know a lot about art, history, and education. Similarly, someone looking for a teaching practicum needs to know a lot about classroom management and pedagogy, while someone seeking a laboratory practicum understands scientific practices and research methods. But there are many skills outside of standard curriculum that are part of daily work and valuable to organizations. Do you design beautiful and engaging presentation slides? Are you great at troubleshooting problems with technology? Are you experienced in photography and video editing? These skills are important for any organization, especially cultural institutions with limited funding and small staffs, and will make you stand out to your potential host.

A Brief Note on Supervisors

A major component of the practicum is the onsite supervisor. This is an employee of the organization who will act as your mentor during your practicum. They make up your practicum “team”, which also includes you and your academic advisor. The supervisor has to fill out paperwork and attend at least one meeting with you and your advisor during your practicum. That being said, while it is not always possible to choose your supervisor, like when your department places you in a practicum, if you are required to find your own practicum, make sure your personality meshes with that of your supervisor. Try to meet them in person ahead of time before making a commitment. During my practicum at BHC, I worked with Suzanne, the Volunteer Coordinator, which was a great match. I had previously met Suzanne through volunteering at BHC, so I knew we would get along well.

Talk to Me, Baby

“Hunt House” – photo by Suzanne Buchanan

A less interesting title for this section might be, “Communication is key.” You’ve heard this throughout undergrad, high school, and even earlier, but this is still a difficult concept for some people, especially because there is such a range of communication methods and styles. On one end are people who view communication as a biweekly, five-minute phone call. On the other end are those who want frequent updates via email, text, and video chat. When these two people work together, chaos ensues.

Communicating with your supervisor is a major aspect of the practicum, especially when many practicums must happen remotely during COVID-19 restrictions. What helped me to communicate during my practicum was setting up a schedule of the entire practicum and sharing it with Suzanne. The schedule showed when we needed to have face-to-face meetings, whether they were over Zoom or in person, and what projects I needed to work on. I also sent regular updates on my projects and asked questions via email. Because we had agreed upon a schedule ahead of time, I never felt confused through lack of communication, even when the schedule inevitably changed.

Finally, Paperwork

The main difference that I found between a practicum and an internship was the classwork. The Museum Studies practicum comes with its own course on Tufts’ online course management site, Canvas, where students answer questions, complete self-evaluations, and submit a final paper. During my practicum, this component happened asynchronously, and I had no trouble completing the work, but it is one more thing to remember. Also, time spent completing classwork does not count toward your practicum hours, so you need to figure that into your schedule.

Your practicum supervisor also has to fill out a small amount of paperwork, mainly to verify that you are indeed working at the organization. This is where having a personality match with your supervisor is especially helpful: someone who enjoys working with you is much more likely to leave a glowing review than someone who dislikes you or is ambivalent about your existence.

Wrap It All Up

Ultimately, your practicum is intended to be an experience in the “real world” of your industry under the guidance of seasoned professionals and your academic advisor. It’s a great way to learn your likes and dislikes in the field, along with gaining new skills and making connections. Good luck finding the practicum that is perfect for you!

Why Michael Chose Tufts

Written by Michael Ruiz, Bioengineering M.S. 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend trips near Tufts – the best places to hike and explore!

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

Let me tell you something that you’ve probably never heard before: grad school is tough. It requires hard work, dedication, and spending most of your time deep-diving into whatever you are working on. Even though we are lucky enough to perform our studies on a truly beautiful campus, we spend most of our time in our classes, labs or study areas. Because of this, removed from nature! Along with the significant health benefits of fresh air, nature has a lot to offer us. Spending time outside provides physical (and mental) rejuvenation, helps you to cope with stress, enhances your mood, reduces anxiety, and muscle tension. You focus better, become more creative, and improve your problem-solving skills. Luckily, even grad students have weekends, and the Greater Boston Area couldn’t be located in a more strategic position for weekend getaways. It doesn’t take more than a couple of hours to drive to get to the most beautiful mountains of the East Coast, stunning lakes, and gorgeous national parks. Here are my favorite destinations to spend some quality time in nature, which are very convenient to visit either as a day trip or overnight stay.

What to bring:

  • Hiking gear, sturdy shoes
  • Water
  • Lunch and some snacks
  • A light jacket, it can be windy up there

White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire

This state offers shopping with no sales tax and many mountains with several trail options for hiking. It takes approximately two hours to drive from Medford, depending on where you are heading. White Mountains National Forest is a personal favorite, as it houses the majority of 4,000 footer mountains in the area (mountains which have an elevation of at least 4,000 feet). Mount Washington, the tallest and the most famous one, is definitely a must-go, but there are some other options for those who are not very experienced in hiking.

Cannon Mountain is 4,100 feet high, and very convenient for visitors since it has a parking lot right next to the beginning of the hike. The hike is steep, and offers a fascinating view if you can make it all the way up to the summit. Even if you cannot, the mountain has some sub-peaks called “The Cannon Balds,” which are great places to have your lunch in the woods with an awesome view of mountains. If you feel lazy, but still want to see the view, there is a family-friendly cable car which can carry you up to the top, but I highly recommend you to take the high road and reward yourself with well-deserved cold beer at the observatory. If you are an experienced hiker, you can try a steep trail loop to North and South Kinsman. To turn your day trip into a longer visit, stay at the affordable and convenient Fransted Family Campground nearby and stop at Franconia Notch State Park and Echo Lake for more hiking and sunset views, and One Love Brewery for food and fun. 

*Pro-tip: It is awesome to watch sunset on the mountains, but be prepared to go all the way down in pitch dark.

Acadia National Park, Maine

For a longer trip, I recommend Acadia National Park in Maine. It takes approximately four hours to drive there from Medford. If it will be your first time in Acadia, I suggest you camp in Black Woods,since it is very close to the main trails and mountains.

*Pro-tip: Book your spot in advance! They are very likely to be sold out.

The best time to visit this mountain is late summer and early autumn. Maine is a very cold state, so bring some warm clothing in addition to your camping gear—I wore my Christmas socks at night to keep myself warm… in August!

Start exploring with Ocean Trail, which is the most popular and easiest trail of the park, and runs along the beautiful Atlantic coastline. You can hop on the rocks if you feel adventurous to get closer to the water.

If you are in Acadia, you must watch the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain – you will be the first to watch the sunrise in the entire country! Start climbing at 3:00 am (or drive up later) and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views around.

If you want to challenge yourself, Beehive trail is a two-hour, strenuous climb offering crystal clear lakes and a beautiful view at the summit.

Another steep trail is Precipice Trail, which is more demanding than Beehive but more beautiful. Avoid this trail if you have fear of heights, as you will be climbing over rocks and walking along the edges of cliffs. Prepare yourself mentally and bring a lot of water if you feel comfortable tackling this hike.

There’s nothing better than taking a dip right after a long and exhausting hike! Take a break at Bar Harbor Beach and enjoy the sun on the sand after swimming in ice-cold ocean. Follow your beach break with some seafood in Portland, Maine, on your way back to Medford.

There are many other places New England offers to us. A weekend trip to Cape Cod to enjoy beautiful shore and the national park before it gets bloody cold is a great idea, and it is only two hours away. Take the ferry to visit Martha’s Vineyard for even more. Vermont is a bit further away, but southern east part of this state has amazing mountains where you can witness stunning fall foliage. Check out the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes for a day trip.

Boston is beautiful, but it doesn’t hurt to travel away to spend some time in nature. Your body and your mind will thank you!

So you think you want to move to Boston… now what?

Written by Lennon Wolcott, M.F.A. 2017

Before coming from the Midwest to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts for my Studio Art Post-Baccalaureate and M.F.A. programs, the only things I knew about Boston were from the films “Good Will Hunting” and “Last Stop Wonderland.” Both films I will point out offer a general and off-putting view of the MBTA (T) system. I also had associated the word tuft with the Dr. Seuss book “The Lorax” and “the bright colored tufts of the Truffula Tree.” A delightful but cautionary tale, which is actually available online by searching “Tufts Lorax.”

It’s funny how even moving states and regions within one country can feel like a complete divide. Through the graduate community of SMFA at Tufts and ASE, I have embraced these Boston and New England differences, which helped me get through the culture shock and feel at home in this vibrant, creative, and significant community.

Here is my Boston and New England glossary of specific themes or cheat sheet, if you will, of days to know, and even how to order coffee in this north east community.

New England Mentality

Attire: Flannel, L.L. Bean, duck boots, fleece vests, raincoats

I was confused my first winter when I saw people wearing rain jackets, instead of big puffy jackets. However, the amount of coastal influence on the weather affects the amount of water that is produced within the greater Boston area. Although the city can get quite cold and experience a heavy amount of snow it is entirely realistic to need both a rain jacket and winter coat. This New England town, has a very distinctive look come mid fall and into winter. The hearty brands seen through the streets are functional for the ever-changing weather and are also New England wardrobe staples. Umbrellas are useful; however, I have gone through at least seven since living in Boston. The wind is so strong that they can be swept upside down and rendered useless in mere minutes. You’ll never go wrong with a heavy rain jacket.

Accents and Language:

“The wicked awesome time she tried to park the car in the yard.”

I will never fully understand the Boston accent. Or why certain places don’t sound at all how they look (see Town Names). The accent is highly tied to living in various areas of the city, and socioeconomic factors. The accents are not as thick as they sound in the movies and on TV. But there is a sense of historic use within words tied to specific functionality and form. When I first moved to Boston, I thought people were trying to fake me out by using words that didn’t make any sense in the context they were giving them. There is a whole New England/Boston vocabulary. The terms bubbler, frappe, rotary, are only a few of the words that may be heard, mispronounced and misunderstood.

Town Names: Worchester (wou-ster), Haverhill (hav-r-ill), Billerica (Bil-ric-a), Leominster (lemon-ster ), Scituate (sitch-you-it), Gloucester (gla-ster).

Town names throughout new England region are mixed with Native Algonquian words and phrases and old English names. After four years I still get quite a few of them wrong, and just point on the map. Luckily, people here are helpful enough to enjoy the mistake, laugh with you, and then educate you on the correct pronunciation

New England/Boston specific foods: Whoopie Pie, Tasty Burger, marshmallow fluff, lobster roll, clam cake, “clear or white but no red” chowder, Sam Adams, Harpoon Brewery, Coffee Syrup (Rhode Island/Massachusetts), Awful Awful (New England style milkshake).

Seasonal, traditional, international, and experimental cuisines are all part of Boston’s rich cultural experience . There are several amazing breweries and food experiences in the greater Boston area to try these dishes throughout the year.

American Horror Story: September 1st in Boston – how to find an apartment and knowing your borough

September 1st is the turn over day for 2/3 of Boston’s apartment leases and has become known as Moving Day. This day is also known as Allston Christmas, a nickname for the tradition in which some people dump furniture and other household items on the curb while moving, which are subsequently scooped up to be reused by neighbors. However, moving into Boston, it is possible to find places to live that have different rental periods beyond September 1st or that will allow you to sublet the last couple of months before September so that you are not stuck in the crunch of college move-in day.

 Sports paradise…it is what it is…at least there’s passion

Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, New England Revolution, Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics.

As the oldest major league baseball stadium in the country, Fenway Park serves as a symbolic home of New England and Boston pride. You may not be a Boston sports fan upon moving here, but if you stay long enough the chances are that you will be eventually. I have never seen a community come together in such a caring and sincere way to show such support for a group ideal like it does for its athletes and teams. People in Boston area show the kind of reverence that many would for a religious figure or beloved family member. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in that kind of infectious behavior.

Gruff but gracious accents

There is a common misconception that the people of the greater Boston area may be unfriendly or unwilling to help newcomers. This is something I have found to be wholly untrue by and large. It has been my experience that often those who meet you with a cold and hard exterior at first are the same that will make sure that you have whatever you need. They may make fun of the situation but are more than willing to help. Whether it be directions, recommendations, or a conversation. New Englanders don’t like to waste time and get to the point, but they will engage for it all.

Lastly, finding time to stop and smell the Dunkin

Dunkin Donuts is a Boston area staple. In almost every area, you are bound to run into one every once and a while. Like Boston itself, there is a unique order and specific language to ordering from this shop.

 How to order a coffee

A “regular coffee” comes with cream and sugar (3 cream, 3 sugar). If you want a black coffee, you need to ask for a black coffee.

You can specify your order by having cream or milk added in 1,2,3, amounts and the same with sugar.

If you ask for a flavor—it’s without sugar added.

Any flavor swirl has a healthy dose of flavored sugary syrup added.

If you get an Iced coffee

Boston area residents have been frequently known to ask for a Styrofoam cup with iced coffee. I thought this was strange, however it makes sense. It keeps the cup cool in the spring/summer and your hands warm-er in the winter. Bostonians are not afraid to drink ice cold drinks throughout the winter!