Chapel Hill is a lovely place, filled with beautiful architecture, great academic resources, and awesome food. However, after not leaving the town for over two months (in fact, I did leave once: I went four miles east to Raleigh, to a homeware store, and bought a pan), I decided that Fall Break would be a great opportunity to get out of North Carolina and try to make a dent in this huge and diverse country.
With five days at my disposal, I hopped on a plane, and two hours later, found myself in Boston, Massachusetts.
Old World Charm in Yankeeland
Living in the Southern US, getting around without a car can be tricky, and things are quite far apart. To give you an idea: the town of Chapel Hill is as bigger than Westminster and Southwark combined, but has only 57,000 inhabitants, whereas the two London Boroughs together are home to over half a million people.
Thus, the first thing that jumped out at me when I was in Boston was how European it seems compared to North Carolina. The city is quite small and very walkable, with sights on every corner. Boston is also one of the oldest cities on the continent, and thus has tons of sights to offer, so early in the morning on my first day, I set off, determined to make the most of my short stay.
The Massachusetts State House Street Scene in Beacon Hill, Boston
Town and Gown
Apart from its crucial part in American history as the home of the Boston Tea Party in the 17th century, the Greater Boston area is known mainly for being the home of several of the best universities in the world, leading with Harvard and MIT. Therefore, I could not leave a stroll through their campuses off my list of activities.
Both campuses are beautiful and inspiring locations and absolutely worth the visit, if just to compare the radically different architectural styles: Harvard, the oldest university in America, is kept in a traditional, red-brick colonial style, while the campus of MIT, a science and engineering school, is known for its variety of styles from different time periods, from neo-Classical to experimental.
Competing architecture at MIT (left: MacLaurin Building; right: Ray and Maria Stata Center)
Tips on Planning Trips During Your Year Abroad
After giving you a taste of your travel opportunities on your year abroad, here are some tips on making travelling (either during your year abroad or during reading week) work out best for you:
- Don’t be too spontaneous. I know this sounds odd, but last-minute bookings to popular destinations could end up being very expensive. Plan early to get the best tickets and discounts.
- Download apps. Using apps like FourSquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor and others can be a great help in planning out your trip and finding good and cheap places to eat. I never paid more than $20 on any meal, and they were all delicious.
- Plan ahead. Read up on the place you are going to, and try to make a preliminary plan on what you want to see. This will help you avoid long detours, and some places actually require that you book tickets in advance, so don’t miss out on a great activity because you didn’t look it up.
- Don’t be afraid to go alone. All the places King’s sends its law students to on a year abroad are fairly safe. So if there is some place you really want to go, don’t let others hold you back – go on your own. I went to Boston alone, and I had a great time exploring the places and things I wanted, and it was great seeing my friends after Fall Break and having lots to talk about.