Getting Up and Out of the Square
A couple of weeks ago I went into Boston to do some errands. I only planned to stay there long enough to buy a few things, but as I passed the Boston Common, I changed my mind.
Thousands of students were gathered in the park, listening to rock bands and chomping on fried dough. At first I was hesitant to join them, thinking that I would be out of place in this type of environment. They looked like the poster children for body-piercing parlors, and I looked like I had just stepped out of a J. Crew catalogue.
But then I had a sudden rush of self-esteem. Feeling like the villainous Dr. Evil, I thought to myself, "I'm hip, I'm cool, I'm with it"; and I burst onto the scene. I had no idea at the time that I was joining a Free Hemp protest, but the festival's ideological affiliations are of little concern to me. I had fun, and I wondered why it had taken me three years to discover life outside of Harvard.
Like many students at this University, an important criterion in my choice to come here was that Harvard has Boston, while schools such as Yale, Brown and Dartmouth have New Haven, Providence and Hanover. I was looking forward to the chance to live in the same metropolitan area as hundreds of thousands of other students. Though I do not regret my choice, I do regret allowing myself to settle for the Crimson walls of Cambridge for my first two years.
I sense that many others at the College share my sentiments. We have all heard students lament the fact that they hang out exclusively with their over-sized blocking groups and that they wait for hours on end to gain entrance to the Crimson Sports Bar and Grille only to see the same people that they saw there the weekend before (when they also waited for hours on end).
On a campus with an administration and student body that so eloquently expound on the virtues of a diverse learning environment, it is odd that we do not take advantage of the unique combination of people and places that Boston offers. Few of us have made friends at other schools since beginning our college careers. Many more of us in fact, have lost touch with high school friends at B.U. or B.C., friends who might be able to introduce us to the places in Boston that we are missing.
Boston gives us the rare opportunity to see world-class art, drama and historical sites. Few other American cities can boast such cultural attractions. The Museum of Fine Arts houses the works of countless prestigious artists, and it often hosts traveling exhibitions, such as the Monet exhibit currently on display. Beantown also has a wide array of theatrical shows, from Shakespearian plays to the Blue Man Group. Boston even offers many historical locales which were important during the American Revolution.
Of course, there are obstacles that prevent many of us from crossing the Charles. Harvard's brilliant Ec-10 minds will not hesitate to mention that any journey into Boston entails the two greatest opportunity costs--time and money. In the age of instant gratification, sitting on the T for 15 to 30 minutes seems like an interminable amount of time. The T also costs money, $1.70 round trip (two dollars for those of us with a disturbing propensity to lose our small change). Worse yet, the T stops running at 12:30 am, which means that diehard partiers must often return home in the working man's (yellow) limousine.
Nevertheless, the extra time it takes to travel to Boston and back is not a good reason to miss out on the city's cultural experiences. If you're time is too valuable to spend an extra few minutes in transit, then bring a book to read on the way. The only legitimate argument for not spending time in Boston is a monetary one, since the costs of transportation, museum entrance fees and food and drink can quickly add up. However, many events, from art fairs to the Hemp festivals, are free, so even the most cost-conscious Harvard student still has reasons to make the journey every once in a while.
No matter how much some of us may love the Harvard community, Boston offers opportunities that we simply cannot find in Harvard Square. Taking advantage of those opportunities can enrich our education and our social lives. Alex M. Carter '00 is a history and literature concentrator in Dunster House. His column appears on alternate Mondays.