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MIT student blogger Karen F. '11

The City On A Hill by Karen F. '11

The "M" of " MIT"

People often find it shocking when I say it, but if MIT was in Illinois, I wouldn’t have *matriculated.

Though the MIT campus within itself offers 57334534923 (not a hyperbole) convincing reasons to attend, to me, one of the most important aspects of being here is the world directly outside MIT. The “M,” if you will.

After graduating, I kind of felt like Frank Sinatra in New York, New York: these vagabond shoes were longing to stray. Living one hour away from Chicago, it would not have satisfied my shoes to go to school there. Not one bit. But if it was anywhere in Illinois except directly in Chicago, I’d continue to suffer from my high school case of little town blues – that’s just not worth it to me. Hey, we all have our priorities.

Luckily, it’s not in Chicago. It’s in Massachusetts, and not a day has gone by without me thinking “TGI Boston” (even though we’re actually in Cambridge) at least once. This is because Boston is an unbelievably cool city. From the music scene to the history and diversity and proximity of other schools and even New York, nothing disappoints.

Someone asked yesterday if anyone at MIT could cross-register at Harvard. The answer is yes. People usually go to Harvard for language classes, but it’s definitely not limited to that. Students can take anything less than half of their units there each semester. There are also opportunities for cross-registration at Wellesley (yes, even boys), the Massachusetts College of Art and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. The availability of cross-registration here is definitely near the top of the List of Things I Love About MIT (or at least it would be, if such a list actually existed). I really love the idea of studying at another school because, well, I love learning about different cultures, and cultures aren’t just limited to countries or regions, but cities and schools as well. It’s also a good way to expose yourself to different teaching styles, get off campus and meet students from other schools.

Speaking of other schools, this morning as I was riding the T to that other school I take a class at, I remembered what it was like to live in a place without public transportation. I come from a place where even the most dedicated environmentalists often have no choice but to drive. I happen to hate driving for more reasons than one, so coming to a city with a Subway system like this is like heaven. And the fact is that a lot of times, you don’t even need the Subway because Boston is small and walkable (walkable cities are also runnable, which is really great. I’m still amazed at the number of runners there are in the city year-round. It’s fantastic). But it gets cold and the Harvard Bridge is pretty harsh, so the buses and trains are the way to get where you want to go. By itself, I think the T is kind of expensive, but MIT offers student discounts on Charlie Cards that make it much more worth your money.

I urge you all, when deciding where to go to school, to consider how important location is to you, and possibly how important it *should* be (I’m trying really hard not to preach, but I do think it’s good for everyone’s sanity to be able to get off campus once in awhile). When doing college visits, don’t just see the campus, but the surrounding area as well. After all, you’re more than students. You’re people, and sanity often demands something other than school :)

*This is the very first thing MIT ever taught me. A new vocabulary word.

24 responses to “The City On A Hill”

  1. Anonymous says:

    When you live in Bots…any place else is good..lol

  2. Mark S. says:

    Great entry. Location is really important to me when choosing a university, too. How long would you say the bus ride from MIT to “that other university” is?

  3. Larry V says:

    Hah! The T? Expensive?

    After living in New York City ($2 flat fare) and Boston/Cambridge ($1.70 flat fare), spending the summer down near Washington, D.C., was hell. The distance-based fare fare there can be as high as $4.50.

  4. Larry V '10 says:

    @ Mark S.: It’s not very long. The MBTA schedules say that 77 Massachusetts Avenue to Massachusetts Avenue/Holyoke Street is roughly 10 minutes, but 15 to 20 is probably more realistic, depending on traffic.

  5. archimedes says:

    Karen, thanks for this! I am a big believer in the campus visits, too. I really wanted a school with four seasons instead of the summer and colder summer I’m used to.

  6. phreaker says:

    Yeah, boston is a great place. One thing that impresses me from documentaries is the hiway system and subways, how they put that in an already big city. Imho, more impressive than the sears tower and i’d love to see it myself. BTW, i heard that mit students can cross-register at stanford too, but i’ve also heard that no one has ever done that. Is that true?

  7. Mike says:

    I have the same feelings about Atlanta. Despite the fact that it’s only an hour away, I’ve always wanted to go back north for school after moving to Georgia. Boston really sealed the deal for me. I fell in love with the city after my visit last spring. I couldn’t really put a finger on it, but Boston seems perfect to me.

  8. Lauren says:

    @phreaker – Stanford is a looooooooong way from Boston, so I don’t know how that would work….

  9. Sergey says:

    Heh, actually distinguishing between ‘walkable’ and ‘unwalkable’ (!) cities is funny. To europeans, that is wink

  10. Marissa says:

    I hate walking in Boston. I think the only reason they call it “America’s Walking City” is that it’s impossible to drive.

  11. Hank R. says:

    I feel ya. My friend asked me my college choices two years ago, and asked, “What? GeorgiaTech isn’t good enough for you?”

    It’s not a question of being good enough, but GT is 45 minutes max away from my mother’s house, and that’s just too close.

  12. Rena says:

    I love being able to walk everywhere! Too bad I can’t do that here, near DC, where you have to drive everywhere and spend at least 45 mins in a car no matter where you want to go… i love boston =)

  13. AwayfromHome says:

    If you want a nice mass transit system (in a good city), you really need to visit Berlin someday. I fell in love on day 1.

  14. Reg says:

    HK transport seems so cheap in comparison.. but it’s on a completely different scale XD

  15. Lina says:

    I agree. Driving sucks. I’ve already gotten into two accidents.

  16. Clara '10 says:

    @Marissa: you might be right that people only walk because the driving sucks, but I think there are some other reasons. Nothing in Boston is ever more than 3 miles away, and most of it is a lot closer. For anything within than a couple subway stops, it’s usually faster to walk. And if you ignore the three or four weeks when it’s too hot or snowy to be outside, the weather is usually great for walking.
    @Hank R.: 45 minutes does sounds a bit too close to home, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn down MIT for proximity (I can WALK from my dorm to my mom’s house in 20 minutes!). And if you (any of you!) do end up going to school close to home, DO NOT VISIT!! (maybe once before Thanksgiving, but no more) Pretend there’s a few hundred miles, and you’ll be much more able to concentrate on your schoolwork, form new friendships, do your own laundry, and not get homesick.

  17. Oasis says:

    I was just in Chicago for transit today!!

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go to the city (haha, I never did). I stepped outside and was surprised at how cold it was (I think it’s colder than Boston!)

  18. Karen says:

    Yes, Chicago is very, very cold this time of year smile I believe that it was about 7 degrees with the windchill.

    I would tend to say that Chicago is sorely lacking in avaliable, safe, clean public transportation, and I’m excited to (hopefully) get to explore Boston’s. I’m definitely afraid to take the L at night with just a few friends, is the T any better?

  19. Karen says:

    I hear there are sketchy parts of the T, but you really have no reason to go there, and even then, I’ve been on them and it still didn’t seem that scary because the stops aren’t usually deserted.

    Overall, I’ve felt quite safe on the it (considering it’s only open until a bit after midnight, though, that isn’t really saying much), and it’s generally pretty clean. I like it a lot more than the L, though my experience with it is limited.

  20. Karen says:

    By the way, Chris,

    Today weather.com said Boston felt like -3 with the wind chill, but overall I’m still convinced Chicago is generally colder and snowier than Boston. We have that “lake effect,” after all (The Other Karen will know what I’m talking about…)

  21. Paul says:

    South Bend gets lake effect too. wink I don’t know about colder – Cambridge has that whole “wind” thing going on – but South Bend did seem a lot snowier than Boston.

  22. E. Rosser says:

    We didn’t get to spend much time in Beantown when we toured MIT, but I was there a long, long time ago when I was really tiny. For some reason, all I remember are the statues of ducks. But from what I’ve read/seen since, BOSTON ROX! SO DO THE SOX! THEY THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX! AND DR. COX (from “Scrubs”) WEARS NIKE SHOX AND HAS CHICKEN POX!
    lol, sorry, that was a stretch…
    But yeah… And I sympathize about the small town-driving fix. All I have to drive over the mountains of Maryland is a CO2-spewing old van, and the treehugger in me cringes at each puff…
    Overall, nice post!

  23. Karen #2 says:

    I’m convinced that the lake effect is an urban legend – it’s still pretty hot in the summer and pretty cold in the winter. Chicago is also windy much of the time, I’m not sure about Boston but it most definitely feels colder when the snow’s being blown into your face constantly. You get used to it after awhile though…two pairs of pants usually does the trick smile

  24. ankur satyam says:

    hello mam i am sorry i am using this as a piece of notepad
    i am from india and has tried every bit but still am not clear what to do or how to things so that i can get in mit as a freshman
    can you help me………………..