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USA Studies Tips and Advice 6 - The Insider Guide: Boston

Sun 15 May 2016

Overview

Boston is a city of history.  Boston (actually just south in Plymouth) is where some of the first settlers landed in America.  It is also where America later won its independence from the British about 150 years later.  These two events have had a large influence on the city of Boston.  You see it in famous landmarks and sites like the Freedom Trail and the famous ‘Tea Party’ ships and museum which is where Americans overthrew British tea from boats as a signal of their independence and freedom.

Boston has retained this colonial feel with cobblestone roads, quant neighborhoods and many monuments and statues.  Yes, the city has grown into a modern financial hub – but people can still feel the history when they walk around.  Boston has maintained the old while ushering in the new.  There is a large public garden/park in the middle of the city and the city is on the water as it is on the Northeast coast of America.  It is by far the academic center of the USA – with the most universities and students of any city.  This creates a young and creative vibe. The city has this wonderful and interesting mix of professional workers, university students and older life-long Bostonians who are proud of their heritage.  Often, that heritage is from the Irish – whom comprised a large portion of the immigrants who settled in Boston some 300 years ago.

Boston Pride

Most people comment that people living in Boston have a real pride for their city.  It is far smaller than some of the larger, spread out American cities – and is still quite easy to walk around.  The people of Boston have overcome different adversities through the years so they are fiercely loyal to their city.  You see that in the support for the sports teams and in the annual festivals and events in the city.  These include the Boston Pops concert on the Charles River on the American Independence Day of July 4, the Boston Marathon in early April, and of course all of the Christmas lights and decorations in the month of December.  The symphony orchestra and ballet in Boston are both world famous and this emphasis on the arts is seen in the many art galleries and museums.  Boston has culture.  Oh, and Bostonians don’t say car…….the Boston accent sounds like “cah”!  Famous Bostonians in the movies like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon love to speak in their best Boston accents.

People from Boston, including many in my family, like to ask me: “Why would you want to live anywhere else?”

What to do in Boston?

With over 250,000 students in Boston, there are a lot of things going on. I’m trying to think back to my days as a student in Boston.  Well, when I wasn’t studying, I loved taking the T (the train in Boston) to go around the city on the weekends. Cambridge (home to Harvard and MIT) is really fun for students. There are many coffee shops, bookstores, stores with cool clothes and gifts, and a lot of street performances in Harvard Square. In and around Cambridge, you also have lots of really good and inexpensive  ethnic restaurants with food from all over the world. And music, the live music is great.

The North End is the Italian neighborhood of Boston.  It can be touristy waterfront area is home to Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall, which are world famous shopping areas with museums and an aquarium and lots of good food.  This is where the Union Street Oyster House is located, which is the oldest operating restaurant in the United States.  Boston, being located in the Massachusetts, is part of a group of 6 states called New England.  And what is the food that Boston is most famous for?  It has to be seafood.  Lobster, fish and chips, and clams – which are part of the famous clam chowder of Boston.  Actually, baked beans too – these are often cooked in molasses, a dark sugar, and the city of Boston is often called Beantown.

Walking back through the Boston Common (the start of the Freedom Trail and the oldest park in the country) gets you back closer to Wheelock College, home of ONCAMPUS Boston.  In the warmer months, students like to relax and read and have picnics on the gardens or even ride the swan boats in the lake in the park.  In the colder months, ice skating is a popular activity. Or just drinking a Dunkin' Donuts coffee, which is also from Boston.

Entering the Back Bay neighborhood is probably the best part of the city.  It’s very close to ONCAMPUS Boston.  Home to many galleries, boutiques, restaurants, shops….it has everything.  Larger, brand name shopping malls exist at the Prudential Center and  Copley Place while many smaller hip shops dot Newbury Street.  Both students and workers love Newbury Street.  The next train stop is Fenway – home to the famous baseball stadium Fenway Park where the Boston Red Sox play.  There are also many colleges and universities including Wheelock College which creates a lively and diverse student neighborhood.  The area and the city are both considered very safe.  

What else is from Boston?  Well, cranberries are a huge growing crop in Boston and New England.  They actually grow in bogs – which are like wetlands and every year the cranberries are harvested in September and October.  I grew up next to a cranberry bog so the autumn season looked like this photo to the left.  In winter, we would skate on the ice when the bogs froze.  As you may know, Boston has four distinct seasons – with each being attractive in its own way.  Boston does get cold in the winter.

Boston’s Development and Future

Boston now stands at the center of American intellectual, technological and political ideas.  This has come through the development of the medical industry in the 1970’s – as currently Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals all lead America in medical innovation.  Higher education, through universities including Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University, Tufts, Wheelock, Northeastern and others has impacted Boston with a steady influx of young, talented educated students from all over the world who often stay and contribute to the American economy.

Many successful high-tech companies have founded by these graduates, which places Boston second only to Silicon Valley in California as a technology center.  Finally, financial institutions remain an important part of Boston’s development, with Boston being the leader in the mutual fund industry.  And surrounding these industries is an artistic community that contributes to the city’s development.

Of course the challenge remains for Boston to keep its historical charm while continuing to advance and grow.  And it is its students, from all different backgrounds and cultures, that will be leading this in the future. 

Jack



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