When I was applying to college I was adamant what I wanted and particular about what I was looking for. There were a few things I knew for certain and was rather stubborn in sticking to:
- I wanted to go to a small liberal arts school with an average class size no bigger than 20
- I wanted extra-curricular activities to be stressed, legitimate, and immensely valued by the school, students, and faculty.
- I wanted to have my academic experience extend beyond the classroom.
- I didn’t want to have to spend a year or two just taking general education requirements. I wanted to be able to dive into my major classes right away.
I wanted to go to school smack dab in the middle of a major city in the northeast. I wanted to be able to walk outside my dorm door and take advantage of the myriad of opportunities an urban environment provides. I envisioned my college lifestyle mirroring a city one – fast-paced, go-getter, constant activity, and never a dull moment. In addition to that, I didn’t want to feel confined to a college campus. Not that there’s anything wrong with a traditional collegiate experience on a campus, but I knew that just wasn’t for me. Having been born in New York City and then moving an hour outside of it to suburban Connecticut, I could feel my restlessness grow at 18 and I wanted to satisfy my urban roots.
Attending Emerson College was the perfect decision for me. Emerson is located in the heart of Boston right on the Boston Commons. The location is optimal with several T stations in short walking distance, the theatre district on the same street as our performing arts building, the Boston Harbor an enjoyable walk away, and endless opportunities that a center city can provide. Because of my college’s centralized location, in my freshman year alone, I was able to craft my schedule around my classes so that I could volunteer at a children’s homeless shelter regularly, babysit for a few families downtown, attend my extra-curricular organization meetings, and then involve myself in events in my local community. Attending college in the middle of a city made that possible and its convenience allowed me to experience more.
If I didn’t have anything to do on a random weekday night, I could take the elevator down my residence hall, walk outside, and blend right into the city life of Boston. I could easily fall into the urban bustle and not miss a beat. Weekends weren’t restrictive either. Although I was on a tight budget as a college student, financing my education as best I could, and struggling through my student loan debt – I would always remind myself that I’ll only be a college student once in this amazing city. On Friday or Saturdays I could go see a show at the Boston Ballet, try a new bar or restaurant, take a night stroll down Comm Ave, see a movie at Coolidge Corner with friends, or see live music at a funky venue. My college experience was multi-faceted and always presented me with a surprise or new experience.
Aside from the entertainment and activity that a city provides, being in downtown Boston also allowed me to sink my teeth into professional opportunities while still pursuing my undergraduate degree. By the end of my senior year, I had interned at five different nonprofit organizations, worked around six different jobs, networked with professionals in my desired career field, and regularly volunteered at several nonprofits in the city. I felt accomplished, proud of myself, and ready to take on my next challenge as I crossed the stage at commencement.
Although balancing my class load with an internship in downtown Boston, a job, and extra-curricular activities sometimes posed challenges, those challenges greatly prepared me for the ‘real world’. It has been a year since my graduation and I still stand by my decision to get an undergraduate degree in the middle of a city and take full advantage of the opportunities that city provided. I feel like I can juggle more on my plate without getting overwhelmed or fatigued, I can work well in a fast-pace environment and keep up, and I’m always in search of new things to do and opportunities to take on. You may not think those traits are unique to those who attended college in a city and maybe that’s not always the case – but at least for me, I refined and learned a lot of those life lessons and skills because of my college experience in the heart of a major city.
I realize that going to college in the middle of a city is not of interest to everyone. The city life can be an acquired taste. Admittedly, there were times when I wondered what my four years in college would feel like if I had went to a traditional college, had a real campus that wasn’t a frequently-traveled city street, and experienced a lifestyle that was strictly collegiate. I wondered what it would have been like to sit on the quad with my textbook after a class instead of reading my textbook on the T on my way to class. Or how my college experience would have been different if I attended football games and tailgates while showing my school pride instead of going to a Quidditch game or musical. But then I’d walk down my “campus” on Boylston Street and Tremont and feel the contagious energy of the city and feel assured in my decision. I don’t regret dedicating four years of my higher education to a major city and I’m constantly thankful for what I learned throughout it.
Thank you Boston and Emerson College for an unforgettable, meaningful, enriching, and exciting four years of my life. I can’t imagine a better city for me to have lived in and I can’t wait for the time when I’m ready to go back and live there for good. I’ll miss you till then!