2 March 2015

One month at Boston University

I remember my first days in Boston very clearly. I was so excited, yet so nervous about living and studying in a city that was so far away from home. I remember pressing my face against the window on the plane and marvelling at how everything was covered in pure white snow. I remember trying to navigate through the “T” (Boston’s super complicated public transport system) and eventually setting foot on Boston University’s campus.

It’s been one month since I arrived. Here’s a review of my experiences and some highlights (there are really too many to go through!).

Being on the other side of the world, the seasons are reversed, and I found myself in the midst of winter. And not just any winter, but a record-breaking winter. January 2015 was the snowiest month ever recorded in Boston. I remember the day it was announced that a historical blizzard named Juno was about to hit the State. Everyone made a run for the grocery stores to stock up on food for the “snowpocalypse”, and I was advised to charge all my electronics in case the electricity went out. But the snowstorms didn’t stop coming each week. After Juno, came Linus, then Marcus and Neptune.  There was so much snow that five days of classes had to be cancelled. It was fascinating to see cars buried under the snow, even public transport caved in on some days and stopped running altogether.

Like a true Bostonian, I have become accustomed to temperatures that have usually ranged from between -20 to 0 degrees Celsius. I can thank Boston that my concept of “cold” will never be the same again.

 Trying to cross the road right after Juno the snow blizzard

Studying at Boston University isn’t quite the same as studying at the University of Sydney. All my classes here are “tutorial” style and they are all taught by the same professor. Attendance and participation is really important; it’s worth 30% of the total grade for one of my subjects. Also, forget about getting HDs, Ds or Credits - the grading system here is based on letters.

One of my favourite things here is that the gym is completely free to students. You can take classes at the gym that are worth credit points, and I took advantage of this by enrolling in kickboxing (which I currently have a love-hate relationship with – it was a lot more intense than I thought). As a Marketing major, another thing I’m extremely excited about is that one of my Marketing group projects involves working with the famous Boston Red Sox.

School spirit, not to mention, is also really huge and unforgettable here. Friday nights are spent at the School arena cheering on the hockey team (very loudly and passionately), draped proudly in red and white gear (pictured below with friends from my dorm).

Dorm Life
At Boston University, about 75% of undergraduate students live on campus, meaning friends are never too far from you (and parents are far far away). I was so lucky to be assigned to live in a “brownstone” dormitory. It’s a beautiful 19th century house along a tree-lined road, and looking out my window, I can see the Boston skyline and the Charles River (pictured below). I also got to experience what having a roommate is all about; eat at dining halls and do my laundry in a laundry room.  But the best part of it all – it only takes five minutes to walk to my classes every day!

The view from my window before the snowstorms began

If you look closely, you’ll see number 179 which is my dorm number

American Culture
Even though I had to part ways with some of my Australian habits, it has been worth it to experience things that were unique to Americans. For example, I’ve had to change some of my vocabulary. Whenever I asked someone simple things like, “How are you going?”, I was always given a puzzled look – I’ve since learnt that “What’s up?” was how everyone greeted each other in Boston. I’ve also accidentally walked into a store asking if they were selling “thongs”, when I meant to say “flip-flops”, resulting in one of the most awkward situations I have ever found myself in. Luckily I just explained that I was from Australia – which then reminds me, I’ve lost count of the amount of times someone has told me that they loved my Australian accent and wanted me to keep talking. I wish making friends was always this easy!

Another notable thing about living in the U.S is that I’m always carrying a wallet full of coins. Yes, 1 cent coins for some reason still exist, and they are bigger in size than the 10 cent coins. To add more confusion, the coins are referred to by their names – penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar, and I’m still trying to figure out which is which. You also need to tip at restaurants or after a taxi ride, and this continues to stress me out because I never know how much to put down. I’m also still learning how to convert Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius, miles to metres and pounds to kilograms in my head. I’m definitely getting there though, becoming more American everyday – which is one of the best ways to make the most out of Exchange.

All in all, applying for the International Exchange Program has definitely been one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Fiona Le
Fiona is a student at the University of Sydney Business School, and currently participating in the International Exchange Program at Boston University.

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