So you’re back to school and excited to hang out with friends who you’ve missed or, if you’re a freshman, excited to make new friends and try new classes and go to the weekly football games. All that is great and the enthusiasm is certainly endearing, but what I often find happens with students at Boston College is that they forget how close they are to one of the country’s most abundant cultural resources.
Boston is literally minutes away from the campus by T, but when most people on campus think of the city, their minds wander to Faneuil Hall and the North End, both far-flung destinations that really do require planning and a seemingly wasteful chunk of time, especially once the semester gets busy.
I’m here to tell you that some of Boston’s best and brightest features lie on the outskirts of the city, often don’t cost much at all, and can even be accessed on foot if you’re feeling adventurous enough.
For freshmen especially, Newton Centre is a 15 minute walk from Upper Campus (even shorter from Newton Campus itself) and offers up a slew of fantastic amenities. It’s worth escaping campus on a drizzly Saturday afternoon to make the short trek to town if only to patronize Farmstead Table, a new restaurant in Newton Centre that only serves locally sourced food with an ever-changing menu. Stop complaining about the lack of options at McElroy, put on some comfortable shoes, and haul it over to Newton Centre if you want to do something about the quality of food you’re eating-think of it as walking off the calories you’re about to consume.
People often balk at the idea of having to take the bus anywhere, but truth be told, it’s easier and often more reliable than taking the T-especially if you’re trying to get to Cambridge.
One of Boston’s most hidden gems is a tiny streetcar-turned-diner called the Breakfast Club, accessible by the 86 bus that leaves pretty reliably every half hour from the Reservoir stop. Whether you were out in the Mods until 4 a.m. or had an early night in with your roommates, the Breakfast Club caters to all walks of life. It’s delicious, it’s cheap, and it’s only 15 minutes away.
Especially in the winter, BC students tend to get lazy about going off campus-understandable, I suppose, because it’s cold and snowy and icy and all the other reasons you come up with to justify another night of drinking in your dorm room. I find that winter is when Boston actually becomes a more accessible city. Restaurants and bars are less crowded, and the T is a lot more manageable.
While September turns chillier, as it seems to have been doing in recent days, take advantage of the knowledge that most other people are content just to kick back in their homes. Places that can be hotbeds of tourist activity and overcrowded in the summer months often become quiet and charming as the weather turns, like Chinatown, a district that BC students often overlook even though it’s mere steps from a T stop. Pop two Advil on a Sunday morning and take the train to Winsor Dim Sum Cafe, a bustling and sometimes shockingly authentic tea parlor in the heart of Boston’s Chinatown.
If you’re sensing a recurring theme throughout this column, it’s this: Make the city yours while you have the opportunity. As students, we often get swept up in classes and extracurriculars-and let’s be honest, partying-which can cloud the fact that we live so close to a multitude of incredible things. It’s easy to get caught up in the often referred to “BC bubble,” but there’s probably a reason you chose to come to school in such a great city.
I learned early on that Boston had more to offer than I ever expected, but wish I’d been told to explore the city as a freshman because now, in my final year here at BC, I’m frantically trying to tick off all the little “must-see and do” boxes on my list before I leave the city for good.
Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, don’t be content just to sit in your dorm room or go to the same Mod party week after week. Break the trend, even if it’s on your own, and go off-campus, whether it’s to Newton Centre or deep into Southie. You’ll be better off because of it.