Life in Boston

So I promised this a while ago, and I’ve been living here going on three weeks, I sure as hell should have something insightful to say about Boston! Right? Yeah, I guess.

There’s Boston, then there’s Boston College, and then there’s Boston College Physics. The three are somewhat distinct entities, and I feel like I should address them individually:

Boston (the City) is fantastic! I love it to death. There’s a million different things to do, and so many people! I mean, I live in a major metropolitan area, I will not strip Kansas City of that well-earned title, but it’s nothing like this. There’s just people everywhere. That was the biggest surprise was that it could even be possible for so many to live in so small a space. I’ve visited New York City, which I suppose is the quintessential example of such a place, but I never lived in New York.

Having lived in Boston, the sheer scope of the number of people living hear freaks me out just a bit. Those people, however, are all different races, and speak a host of different languages, which also surprised me. The most common non-English we get in KC is a modest bit of Spanish… Today we visited the Boston Aquarium, and I heard languages I couldn’t even identify! So that’s pretty neat, diversity and whatnot. To see what it really looks like, for once, has been nice. Missouri: You’ve got a long way to go.

Speaking of journeys, how about the T?! That is what the Massachusetts Transit Authority calls its bus/train/commuter-rail system. It is the best thing ever. Public Transportation is like… a hobby of mine, I suppose? Maybe that’s too kind of a word, and ‘infatuation’ better describes it. Riding the T is just fantastic. I went to the trouble of getting (for free!) a little card that has an RFID chip in it (remember those, debate folks?) that I don’t even have to take out of my wallet; you just slap the wallet against the console at the front of the bus, and it takes the money off!

Of course, eventually you need to put more money on… which I’ve done a copious amount. It’s too much fun though to just hop on and have it take you straight into town for 1.70$, and then not have to worry about parking, something happening to your car, the weather, drunk drivers, any of that! You just do your business in town, and provided said business is over before 12 AM, hop on the T and head home. BC is even the last stop for the train that I take, and so I can even nap on the way back without worrying. On top of all that, every time I ride the T is a time I’m not sitting my ass down in a car to burn fossil fuels, which also adds to the enjoyment of it all. (Caveat: Grocery shopping via public transport is sortof a hassle…)

Boston College: I have fewer good things to say about BC. Like, for me, right now, it’s great. I have a big old room, my suitemates are good dudes, the REU people are fun to hang out with, campus is fairly easy to navigate, and so on. But never have I been more proud of Truman. I don’t mean this as a slight to BC… but- well I’ll stop. The examples I present aren’t that lengthy so we’ll just hit it:

1) Papers
So it’s a silly complaint, but I’m gonna make it nonetheless. BC has no papers for me to read. Even during the summer (I can speak from experience) Truman has the USA Today / NYT / STL Post out there in full force for the summer students to read. I can see no sign of a news paper program here at BC, which I think is abysmal for any self-respecting academic institution. Even if the defense is that they subscribe to a lot of online sources or something, I’m gonna say that’s not good enough.

I’ve got a tech article in the wings where I compare the different feed-readers I’m trying, and how well they syndicate my news, which is something I’ve had a lot of trouble with recently. I’m go out on a limb, though, and say that I’m in the minority. Unless this news is readily available to students, I think it just encourages a lot of the apathy that’s already implicity in my age bracket. So yeah, the lack of a newspaper program is reprehensible.

2) Rec Center
So I can’t really comment on the nature or quality of BC’s recreational center because I haven’t been inside. “But Tom! How then could you possibly level an accusation of a shortcoming!?” Watch me. The reason I haven’t been inside the Rec here? It costs money per-visit! Madness, you say? Indeed. Their response? A 65-dollar all-summer pass. Really? REALLY?! That’s got to be a joke. It isn’t.

I had some of my fellow REU students assure me that this was well below what a full-time, equivalent gym membership would cost, but that really dodges the point. It should be free. You should be able to go exercise whenever you think you need or want to, and not have to worry about how much it costs… not have to factor it into your budget. Like with the newspapers, the dedicated kids are always going to find a way… but if Truman charged per visit? I don’t think I’d even be able to tell you what the inside of my OWN Rec Center looked like, because that’s not really my beat.

Point here is that if lowly Truman State can swing this, surely the illustrious Boston College should be able to as well, and I’m in awe of their failure to do so thus far.

3) Dorms and Residential Life
As mentioned above, this isn’t a huge bitch-fest about how much I dislike BC. Allow me to reiterate that I’ve been treated very well, and have tremendously enjoyed my time here. Stark differences remain though, and this category is the most telling one. BC has a beautiful campus: some manner of Gothic architecture graces many of the older structures, while the others are tastefully modern with overt and cohesive structural ‘tips of the hat’ to the Gothic style. It looks really good. Inside many of the main buildings you’ll find cutting edge equipment, new, clean and modern work spaces, and some of the most qualified instructors in the Boston area (which is saying something, given the looming presence of Harvard, MIT, and some 35+ other higher education facilities).

None of this, however, changes the fact that if I leaned hard enough, I could destroy the wall that separates me from the small hallway in my suite. At night, light seeps through the top of the wall and the ceiling because the two don’t actually connect in many places. As a result: you guessed it! These things are about as acoustically insulating as a facial tissue. The suite is designed for two people per room, with three rooms total (meaning 6 occupants) supported by 2 bathrooms and 1 kitchen, equipped with a GE oven circa 1950, and an average-sized fridge. In addition, there are two small, adjacent common rooms to stave off what must be the inevitable cabin fever.

I guess the punchline to all of this is that Ignacio Hall, where I live, is undisputed as the best dorm on campus. I had to hide my surprise when I heard that. Again, not that it’s uninhabitable, but only that… relative to all the other stuff on campus, it does not “wow” in an appreciably comparative way. Say what you will about ol’ C-Hall, but you could throw bricks at the interior walls of that room all day and into the night, and the worse you’d do was chip the paint. The outer-walls of the rooms here could stand such a test; they’re made from brick. You know how I know? THEY WERE NEVER PAINTED. You literally walk down a hallway composed exclusively of brick, with only the periodic door to break the pattern.

Ack. It also doesn’t help that laundry is expensive as the dickens (1.50 for a wash, 1.50 for 60 min. drying time). That’s one thing, I understand stuff costs what it costs… but the machines only take quarters. Annoying as that is, it would be ok if there was a change machine nearby. There isn’t. Perhaps someone like myself felt this was an injustice, and got them to allow you to place money on your ID, and then you could then in turn use that to pay for laundry. You can. JUST NOT IN THE SUMMER TIME BECAUSE THEY SUMMARILY SHUT DOWN THE ENTIRE SYSTEM FOR SOME UNKNOWN REASON. I swear, at every turn, I feel increasingly more thwarted.

So these aren’t huge issues. But they are issues. I’ll openly call out BC’s student government (, and ask them “Where the hell have you guys been?!” I know I don’t understand the situation fully, but I gotta ask myself what these people have been up to, given their failure to address any of the issues mentioned above. To their credit, they have a professor evaluation system in place… which is open to the public so near as I can tell (it’s called PEPS), which seems like an awful idea. But again, I’m willing to acknowledge my ignorance of the entire field of issues.

Somehow, our Student Government, for all its flaws (and there are many!) and trouble getting students engaged, has managed to bite, claw, kick, and bitch its way to a point where students are in a good place; and in areas where it isn't a good place, it's one that's getting better. All those times I felt like maybe we took ourselves a little too seriously, I suddenly feel less bad about. Anyways. BC Physics is a slightly less soap-boxy story (albeit more technical): You can ready my impressions of it over at the SPS REU Amalgamate Blog which I haven't posted nearly as much as I should, having founded the damn thing. So it goes.


  1. ok

    1. we do pay for the rec center, it’s just a built in fee, so you don’t know you’re paying it.

    2. Laundry is really expensive here too, only we can only use cards, that only take $5 bills

  2. Ethan totally got to use the Rec last summer, and he was just a summer student, and didn’t pay anything extra; That’s what I wanted here, and I didn’t get it!

    Also: I would bet they still pay for SOME of it with tuition and fees.

    And I would totally trade your laundry situation for mine, but I guess we’re just stuck.

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