This is the fourth of twelve installments in a column, which will explore her experience of combining both worlds that seem so close, yet so far: Interior Architecture and Business. Read the first installment here, second here, and third here.
For this month, I decided to step back from my long stories on Interior Architecture & Business and remind myself on what makes me love this small metropolitan in the East Coast in United States quite so much. As I am writing this, the long awaited Summer finally hits Boston after months of what was believed to be the worst recorded winter in the past two centuries. When an average American hears the word “Boston,” some of the initial reactions they have will be something such as “the poor city which always get buried with snow every year,” “that’s where the American Revolution started!” or simply “smaht (yes, no typos are made here, Bostonians pronounce it that way) kids live there.” But for me the city of Boston is way more than those imagery. My past five years (and going) living here has gave me plenty experience of good and bad times, leading my journey of self-discovery to one conclusion: it is one great city to come, immerse in the culture, work, and foremost to study. Here’s why:
1. The third reaction I mentioned is true. Boston is filled with inspiring people from all across the country, not to mention all over the world.
And the reason why is quite obvious. The city is dubbed as an icon for education – for whatever field of knowledge you can think of. Boston and its surrounding areas are home to more than 100 colleges and universities, which also includes technical schools, art schools, liberal arts schools, major research institutions and more. A lot of them are ranked for being the best institution in the world on its category, ranging from medical to law; from engineering to business management; from architecture to arts & filming; from liberal arts to music production. In case you are wondering what schools are around, names such as Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Northeastern University, Wellesley College, Berklee School of Music and many more are no strangers to those seeking for first-class education experience. This abundant number of schools result in immense diversity of student profile. One common setting here will be to attend a thematic social event and meet people with various you-never-thought-before backgrounds; say a musician who used to be an aerospace engineer or an anesthetist who was once employed in a broadcasting company. I was once part of an environmental initiative on campus and I get to meet people all around the world with inspiring histories: an ambitious woman from Libya attending Harvard whose dream is to revolutionize food production back in her home country, a car designer from Germany whose interest is in making the best hybrid car possible, and a student from Malta with a huge passion in neuroscience and its relation to child education. There is something absolutely quirky about this particular setting, which I feel to be very Bostonian and hard to experience in any situation outside the Boston academic environment. Every memorable encounter with a person reminds me that there is very little boundary in what we can do. What makes the difference is whether we are willing to make things happen or not.
2. (Almost) everyone here is shaped to be critical thinkers, and so will you.
Going from my previous point, these various interesting background will ultimately result in an environment where academic discussions are often conducted with multiple points of view, making each of it to be very enriching, inspirational, and comprehensive. I am not saying all discussions are these broad, as I do still value the importance of in-depth, vertical analysis of a certain topic to be done on a regular basis. However, there are plenty academic seminars done in hybrid-style; say for example the effects of environmental impacts towards the economy or how engineering is applied to the music industry. This particular multi-dimensional perspective is wholly supported by the academic environment that has been cultivated in Boston for ages, in which students are encouraged to explore and take classes that has nothing to do with his or her major. As this setting is made possible, most students here tend to have multiple interests in different fields – and equally good at all of them. That, ultimately, translates to a challenge for me personally and continue to nurture interest in things that keeps me excited.
3. The people around are global-minded and ambitious.
Thanks to its amazing collection of colleges and universities, Boston has grown to become a melting pot for students across the world. I came to this city five years ago with low expectations that I was going to find the right fit; whether there is any way I can fit into the university community inside and out. This expected concern, however, was slowly shattered as I finish one semester after another. In this town I was given a huge opportunity to network with people across the globe, each coming to this town with their own dreams and ambitions. And few things feel more inspiring when you happen to meet someone who shares very little background with you culturally, but quite a lot in terms of world views and goals in life. You might not be able to connect with every single one of them, but many of conversations with these people signifies that a lot of them are driving their life to satisfy a certain ambition. My college years in this town led me to a priceless exchange of different cultures, global perspective and network of great people. Additionally, this richness also brings extra benefits of opportunities on attending numerous fun cultural festivals, trying native cuisine, and immersing in their culture be it in few hours or a little longer. Sometimes this makes me feel I do not really need to travel that often to see the world, but at the same time opens my eyes that what an interesting place our world is.
4. The size of the city is perfect for college life.
Now to the less academic-sounding stuff: If you are the type of person who does not prefer huge metropolitan cities such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago but are still longing for that all buzz and cacophonies of cars, nighttime music and street lights, then Boston will give you a great college experience. From the ever-so-famous college town of Allston to the quaint, orderly district of Wellesley, Boston will keep you entertained with various aspects of what a great college town should offer. There are plenty attractions to keep you amused, restaurants to satisfy your inner foodie soul, festivals and concerts over the summer to attend, walk causes to participate, museums to inspire, world-class seminars to constantly sharpen your intelligent side, and nature sites to connect you with world in its truest form. Countless of professional meetups and short session classes in (literally) anything are hosted all year round to keep you busy. And in times when you need those private times, the city will be quiet enough to provide you with the silence you occasionally need.
5. The weather trend is unlike any place in this world. But it’s a lot of fun.
Moving on to the thing that a lot of people does not like so much about Boston: Spring is basically two weeks long and Winter commences for almost half a year. The last winter was so dreadful the word ‘snow’ got eventually banned from casual conversations among Bostonians this Summer. But despite all the mess and somber, Boston (and New England in particular) is a lovely place to be all year long. Spring is always bright, cheery and the Public Garden is filled with blooming cherry blossoms (which calls for many great events and festivals throughout the season), Summer is lively and calls you for day trips of explorations to the city’s surrounding towns that are no less charming , Fall is nothing less than iconic and breezy under the panoramic view of foliage leaves, and the oh-s0-famous winter calls for various exciting winter sports which are casually available all across New England mountains, all within reach of an hour or two drive. For me personally there is something inspirational about these periodical changes as well; each season sets the tone for me to take in the atmosphere and translate them into my work as an interior architect. It also calls a new beginning; a change of mood; a fresh start (although winter is on its way.) And as cliche as it be, conquering winter-by-winter makes me feel I am a stronger person (ever meet someone who gets whiny pretty easily with weather changes? I learn to not be one.) Nonetheles, believe me, experiencing Boston winter is like no other. Its memory is priceless despite all the hassle it might have created. What makes us appreciate spring and summer days even more if we haven’t got hit by those stormy winters anyway?
6. It is ever-growing and that makes the city more exciting.
As a city that gravitates towards three main fields: education, healthcare, and technology, it is rhetorical to explain that Boston is a city that puts high values on innovation, development, and growth. The research culture is particularly strong here, and it makes Boston an amazing place for both researchers and practitioners alike to come and see what this town has to offer. It is home to some of the most innovative startups in the country (Zipcar, Trip Advisor and Rethink Robotics are all founded in this town) and the ground for many more to emerge. It is also home to some of the best healthcare facilities and research institutions globally (Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s Hospital tops US’ best hospitals list) and these institutions also boast highest quality of research centers, all open for possibilities of students to jump start their science-related career here. Numerous newer areas such as the town of Somerville and Waterfront area are also currently in rapid development, allowing more spaces for startup incubators and young designers to flourish. Since my first day living in Boston, I have been witnessing interesting developments across the area, be it in commercial, hospitality, educational, or healthcare sector. It is truly a city driven by innovation, and there is always room for creativity, entrepreneurship and academic development. Whether you’re quirky or nerdy, musical or science-ish, artsy or technical-minded, Boston will reserve a spot for you to grow.
As I end this post, I recall the first time I stepped my feet on Boston close to seven years ago and try to remember what made me fell in love with this city and became so determined that I will make my way here someday. Now that I looked back, the answer is fairly simple: It is a city of great past, present, and future. Come here once and you’ll be longing to go back.
*Images were provided by the author