Pulgarita traveled to... · The PhD voice

What I learned in 1 month in Cambridge & MIT

Hi! So, if you read my blog frequently, which I hope you do (Pussy the Boots eyes), you might have noticed I’ve been a bit absent from writing and making social media content. So that would be my first lessons about this month! Today, March 3rd 2017, it’s 1 month since I’ve arrived! I am absolutely LOVING being here. I have had some sad moments of course, but the good greatly outweighted it. So, without further ado (something people here say A LOT), know the most important things I’ve learned so far so that you know what to expect when you come here.

1. This is a really busy place

Every day there is something fun to do. MIT has so many different clubs, so many events going on, that it’s hard to say no! I admit that I haven’t gone that much outside of MIT for a drink (because it’s way more expensive) but there seems to be a whole lot of fun options too. Also, if you’re into other community meetups, like I am, there’s Meetup groups of literally everything. So, let’s make a short overview of the events I attended.

  • Chicken wings nights at Muddy Charles and Thirsty Ear (the campus’ pubs);
  • Board game night;
  • Swing dance class (I loved it! Finally I might find a type of dancing I don’t suck at?);
  • Karaoke night;
  • Brunch at one of the dorms;
  • Pyladies;
  • Toastmasters;
  • Dinners and lunches of the International Students Office (including one lesson in American “small talk” and on American dating, what?);
  • Making cupcakes and eating them after;
  • A talk on Cost Effectiveness and Global Health;
  • European Career Fair;
  • Leadership tips for introverts (there will be a post about it soon!);
  • And some others!

Well, I’ve been working as well, I swear! But never in my life I thought I would have such an easy access to so many interesting events. Even though I attented a lot of career events in Lisbon, the offer here is exponentially larger.

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2. Save money on groceries. Eat free food

Before I came to MIT, a colleague told me “You must join the Free Food mailing list for God’s sake!”. So yes, there is a mailing list where everyone can post when there are leftovers from some event and you can pick them. You have to hurry up, because everyone is attentive to the same! Last Saturday we were on campus working and received this e-mail there were 50 lbs (= approx. 25 Kg) of bagels and muffins lying around. We went straight away, took about 10 minutes to arrive to the pavillion where the bagels were, and we only got the last 5 bagels or so. If you want to be a bit more ahead of planning, there is the MIT Events page where you know which events offer food and of which kind. Plus, there are some events with free fruit! Fruit is so precious, because I still haven’t told you how much fruit costs in the supermarket yet 😉 I’m a bit fed up of pizza, but I got to try quite different foods, like Indo-Chinese and Bangladeshi. It’s a cultural experience!

I’m so busy (and lazy =p) eating that I didn’t take any photos during my dinners. But since I mentioned fruit is very expensive, today it seems I found the most shocking value ever for fruit here in Boston. An apple for $1.50?

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3. People are pretty physically active here, even with snow

My friends tell me I am quite aloof because I go to the gym on campus, or walking around town, or even to the supermarket, in days with heavy snow. Well, I go before the heavy snow falls. By the name of my blog, you can tell I can’t stand still for that long, so I try to do my daily tasks as much as possible, like most people around here seem to do. Even when temperatures were negative (which have not been for a few days now, all snow melted), I see people around Cambridge running like it’s nothing, walking around, and shoveling their alleys because it has to be done. I didn’t run in the snow because I have an ankle that likes to play tricks on me a.k.a getting sprained in random occasions, but it seems I feel like a local in that sense apart from that. Well, maybe just don’t go out when snow is like this. You can hurt yourself. I didn’t, but it was tough.

Harvard Bridge, Boston, MA, USA

4. Negative temperatures are not as severe as I thought…but come prepared

Before I came, I bought a good winter jacket, snow boots, thermal leggings, thermal shirts, and so on, thinking I would be freezing. I never felt that freezing. In fact, besides good outer layers, gloves and a beanie, you’ll do well. If you enter the buildings, everything is too warm and I find myself sweating. It feels colder in Portugal, but invest in good quality items. Nothing feels worse than having your feet wet after a few minutes in the snow. So, I am quite satisfied with how prepared I came, much better than when I did my Erasmus in Prague, Czech Republic.

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My boots have been awesome 🙂

5. You’ll take good pictures, no matter the weather

In my previous post about my first weekend in Boston, you’ll see that in the first day I got awesome weather, the second day not so much, and in my afternoon in East Cambridge, it was freezing after having snowed. But nothing beats extreme weather like the day I walked 40 minutes in the snow from MIT to the Museum of Fine Arts. I never thought I would see a river as large as Charles completely frozen. Check it out.

Charles River, Boston, MA, USA

Pretty gloomy, no? And what about Fenway Park, completely covered in snow?

Fenway Park, Boston, MA, USA

(Ok maybe this picture is not so good. You can at least see how extreme the weather was). Anyway, for my untrained photographic eye, I think every moment here is beautiful. Cambridge and Boston are full of little details, like the red fireboxes, golden signposts, and cute lamps. And maybe that’s because of the river, but the light when there is a sunny day is breathtaking. I was feeling a bit down lately because my life had been very home – MIT – home these last days, but my advice would be to always explore a bit. Who knows what gems you can find, like this perfect sunset close to Harvard?

Harvard, Cambridge, MA, USA

Or even this lunch time sunny day around Beacon Hill (teaser for the next blogpost, stay tuned!)?

Beacon Hill, Boston, MA, USA

6. People are generally very nice and down to earth

When I came here, I was a bit afraid of a certain culture shock, both in terms of workplace culture and in terms of general acquaintances. Anyway, so far the nice people have been the norm. People are very talkative, they like to ask for your opinion, and they listen to it most of the times. In particular, in my work environment, I felt that it is very informal but still respectful. Also, people are very welcoming when they know I just came. I think this really nurtures good working conditions. I can’t wait to see what casual conversations will I be engaged in, like the following peculiar ones:

“You have a Trader Joes bag. Is the food good there?”

“Tell me, how should I have my coffee? Is half n’ half the way to go?”

“I’m torn between the blue and green notebook for a gift. Which one would you choose?”

7. Anyway, it’s always good to have some piece of your home town/country with you

I’m all for meeting people from different countries and cultures and that is one of the things I love the most when I travel. However, I feel really happy to be sharing this experience with some colleagues from Portugal and my PhD program in particular. It’s always great to be sharing your findings and worries with people that feel the same things, and to have someone who always reminds you of how special your country still is, while you’re not there. Or to cheer you on when you decide to make some typical Portuguese dish. And knowing that there is always some Portuguese restaurant lying around in East Cambridge (I still didn’t eat there) when I miss some codfish or octopus is nice. So, thank you for all of these things!

Well, I guess I could say even more things about this month and I can’t wait to see what March will bring my way. I know I have some deadlines but I’ll do my best to keep up with them, have fun and still be able to blog. Also, since I am participating in the #wearestemsquad challenge on Instagram, follow me and The Stem Squad over there to know more about the great stories of women in STEM!

Did you know the facts about Cambridge and MIT I talked to you about? If you know more lessons, feel free to tell them in the comments. In the meantime, follow me over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to keep up to date with my PhD and travel adventures in the USA!

Cátia

4 thoughts on “What I learned in 1 month in Cambridge & MIT

  1. Adorei a partilha Cátia! Isso parece ser espetacular! Espero que tenhas uma óptima estadia aí 🙂 fico a tua espera quando regressares 😀 beijinho

    1. Obrigada minha querida! Está tudo a correr muito bem, e tudo bem por aí? Se vires cá este ano já sabes! Ainda tenho que escrever sobre o nosso passeio na Covilhã guiado por ti haha. Beijinhos!

  2. If you want less expensive fruit (and vegetables), go to Haymarket in Boston, around the corner from Faneuil Hall on Fridays or Saturdays.

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