It’s a huge cultural shock moving from a town of under 16,000 people, to a known world city of almost 700,000. I’m from the suburbs of western Massachusetts, and while around where I lived is totally familiar to me, I’m pretty sure only one out of ten people have heard of my town. Small town living is exactly what it is stereotyped to be; you make your friends as early as kindergarten and keep them all the way through high school. You grow up around a group of people knowing too much, but once you graduate, if you see them on the streets there’s a high chance you won’t acknowledge each other. There’s a certain bubble effect around the suburbs, and I’m not going to lie, but because of it, I had become very sheltered.
When applying for colleges, I had only chosen one in Boston (spoiler alert – it was Emmanuel). In a seemingly unrelated topic to this blog, about a week before I had to officially declare, I watched Silence of the Lambs with my dad. Even though the movie’s setting has a small town vibe, for some reason it completely freaked me out about living in a city. I think it was the fear of living on my own in a place that was so much different than what I was used to.
I haven’t traveled to a lot of places, so my experiences with cities then were Newbury Street of Boston, Times Square in Manhattan, and the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco. Clearly, my family is too into tourist traps. But all of these places, as aesthetically appealing and cool they are, are not the heart and soul of the cities they belong to. People who live in San Francisco don’t spend their time hanging out on a bridge. If I lived in Boston, I probably wouldn’t be on Newbury Street every time I was out of class. And on living alone – it was pretty definite that I wouldn’t meet any Buffalo Bill-esque individuals.
Move in day arrived and it was with an unfortunate amount of fear that I said goodbye to the cul-de-sacs, rotary, and multiple frozen yogurt stores in the suburbs. Stuffed into the backseat of my mom’s car between a mattress pad and a rug from Home Depot, Boston’s skyline looked even taller than I had imagined. I didn’t want to be swept up by the busyness of it all.
The thing about Boston, though, as I’ve discovered from almost finishing my second year of city living, is that there’s a reason it’s nicknamed The Town. When you live in Boston, it is the farthest thing from intimidating. Still, though, it’s a city and a whole new change of scenery. Each year on return I learn something new from living in the *greatest* city, such as:
- The T isn’t as awful or scary as newcomers make it seem. Yeah, it’s crowded at times, and a small nightmare for germophobes, but it’s a cheap and easy way to get anywhere in and out of the city. Bring some hand sanitizer and you’ll be fine.
- Nine out of ten interactions on the street with strangers are oddly friendly, it’s almost like you’re talking to a neighbor on your hometown street. Bonus friendliness if you wear anything New England sport related.
- Boston is home to thirty-five colleges and universities, so everywhere you go you’ll be surrounded by people your own age. This is great because unlike suburban living, you can make friends from all over the city.
- Going places by yourself isn’t that terrifying. In fact, it can be pretty peaceful. Of course, it probably isn’t the best idea to wander around at night by yourself, whether you live in a city or not. Just saying. But a day trip to the commons or a museum is hardly a hazard.
- Boston is a series of neighborhoods, and each has their own personality. The Fenway area is way different than the Financial District, which might as well be on a different planet from the student-run Mission Hill. And don’t even get me started on Back Bay. Sail boats…in a city?
- The lack of wide-open space does not make the city warmer. The buildings that make up the skyline are not preserving heat. Because Boston is near the water, it’s most likely even colder than your hometown. Make a point to pack that turtle-neck sweater.
- And lastly, you’ll figure out how to find your way. Boston is made up of 700,000 people, but once you live here, you become one person in that number. There’s a greater sense of community here compared to the small town that I grew up in. It’s easier to fit in when you’re surrounded by so many diverse people. For me, the factors that terrified me about moving to a city melted away instantly.