The hour-long bus ride and the two-hour train journey I took this weekend to Boston was perhaps the most tedious traveling experience of my life, although it was totally worth it. Boston is a wonderful city – Congratulations, America. You have managed to impress me, and no, I’m not even being sarcastic.
Having been stuck on the university campus for the majority of my time here, (normally locked in the library and chained to the computers due to the numerous research papers I have,) the two and a half days of freedom in Boston were vital for me to maintain a relatively functional level of sanity.
There is a bizarre juxtaposition between history and the present in Boston that I haven’t really experienced anywhere else, even in London. In London, the old and the new are fused together as though it had always been intended to be that way. In Boston, the roads, glass towers and traffic lights have just grown up around little pockets of history, not tainting them in any way.
I walked along the Freedom Trail, which took me through various landmarks throughout the city that related to different points of American history. For a slightly over-enthusiastic history student like me, it really was a fan girl moment when I spotted places like the old State House where the American Revolution arguably began and where the Declaration of Independence was first read out, nestled in amongst the society it founded over 200 years previously.
All these historical sights brought out the professional photographer (annoying tourist) in me. Autumn (Fall) is just so pretty in New England, how could anyone resist documenting the streets and the churches and parks? The seemingly hundreds of photos of trees led to my friends rolling their eyes as they flicked through, trying to find that nice photo of us all rather than yet another 10 photos documenting the gradual breakdown of chlorophyll in the leaves of the trees. They just don’t appreciate it like I do.
I did not appreciate the cold, though. The weather has changed so suddenly in the last week that I haven’t had time to adjust. Â I have learnt the hard way that multiple layers are essential to my continued survival in New England. A sunny day allows for really nice pictures, but gives a cruel false hope. One jumper and a coat is just not enough when you are walking around a city all day, constantly battling against the icy winds which stamped down the streets. Although the cold does give this rare ability to feel justified in stopping at any coffee shop for a hot chocolate and a cake as pretty much any point during the day. Â The Italian restaurant we took refuge in for lunch, in Little Italy, felt like a tiny piece of heaven.
I always find it a little bit strange that things like a Little Italy or a Chinatown pop up in major cities. It’s as though the streets from these countries have been copied and pasted into America as people of the same nationality naturally congregate together. Â As a study abroad student, I can see the appeal of forming your own little bit of home in a foreign place.
I met other study abroad students from around the world, including the UK, in Boston. Some of them were from Scotland, so not the best kind of British, but when you are far from home anything vaguely related to home is an unparalleled luxury. There is a weird comradeship between people of the same nationality in a foreign country, which for us, lead to the singing of the only line of “Rule Britannia” we knew until the students of other nationalities seemed to be seriously questioning our sanity, especially as the British aren’t particularly known for expressing national pride.
I think you just appreciate something more when you don’t have it – Study abroad and you’ll see what I mean! There is a need to balance between links to home, (whether it’s through calling home or randomly singing patriotic songs) and all of the new and eye opening experiences.