Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine

Before I begin my awfully long rant, aka TLDR: I like Boston University, and think that the college and campus are brimming with options and opportunities. The problem with my opinion is that I use the word in the singular. Mine is one voice in thirty-thousand, a staggering number of students each with their own opinion. My set of experiences is singular, as are theirs, and as will yours be. So like the five-second rule, drinking milk without sniffing it, and using a public restroom in New York City, YMMV.

To hear more voices from those teeming masses that attend or once attended BU, head on over to the Livejournal community called BUnite. Its members post everything from upcoming events to discussions about prospective classes, but they’re especially vocal about campus life. Around admissions time in particular you’ll find questions about the quality of life and whether or not one should make the jump to BU.

This started off as a Facebook message to my friend Janice who asked me what BU was like. I wrote a couple whopper messages as she inquired about specific topics, and like all my essays, they ended up being a giant conglomeration of ideas that still somehow flows from start to finish without being planning in advance. Someone else asked me not long after her, and I fed them some copypasta. It wasn’t until I received a third inquiry a year later that I said you know what? Others will surely benefit from my impressions of BU, why don’t I post them somewhere more accessible?

In reality I did it because Facebook lags like a bitch when you write too much text in a message, and this way I could tell people off with a simple Ctrl+C Ctrl+V. My contact information is freely available on Facebook if you want to make me get off my lazy ass and dignify you with a real response, just look for the Steven Li graduating in 2010.

God this intro is a TLDR wall of text in itself. Actual entry gogo.

BU is quite large, with 30k students, and there are a correspondingly large number of resources and opportunities, clubs and potential friends. There are enough places to live such that you’re bound to find someplace you like, whether it’s in a dorm with lots of people down the hall, or in a quieter brownstone with a common room and kitchen, or in the high-class Student Village with all its amenities. The large dorms all have dining halls in them, and the food is actually quite good (although truth be told I am not a picky eater). They all have 100+ channel cable with Food Network, Discovery, Comedy Central and G4, and our internet is quite speedy.

If you do find occasion to leave your dorm, you’ll notice that Boston is a city, most evident by the four Starbucks along our “campus,” dozens of restaurants, a mall in either direction, parks within train distance, and a gorgeous river view right beside us. There is a train that runs right through campus, along with the bus service and free shuttle service. Eat Italian at North End, Asian at Chinatown, or take the $15, 4 hour bus back to New York to eat home food. You can come to BU with nothing but a credit card and be able to find stores with everything you need or want.

If BU itself doesn’t have it, several other schools are within train distance. MIT is across the river, Harvard is just a train stop past that. Northeastern, Simmons, Wellesley, I am geographically challenged but I am pretty sure the list goes on. Obama visited our campus, XKCD artist and the Mythbusters have talked at MIT, and I saw Avenue Q last spring.

We still have facilities on-campus though: Agganis Arena and Fitrec, our hockey/multipurpose stadium and the adjoining fitness center, look like they had a million dollars put into each of them. Fitrec has a rock climbing wall and a lazy river, along with god knows how many pieces of equipment that are free for you to use daily.

It is because BU is so big that everyone’s experience is unique. It is a system that demands but rewards effort. If you are incurious, you can be a ghost throughout your years of college and not be satisfied at all. If you didn’t take a chance and step out of your room, you might never experience the electricity of a hockey game filled to capacity, of the pleasure working alongside other BU students mentoring local children, of founding a club and seeing people take a chance on you.

Those are just some of the actual events that have made my experience here at BU one to remember. People are usually friendly and willing to get along, but everyone has a different comfort zone. Some people are only friends with one set of people because of circumstances, the more social are part of several. Think about how you met your own current friends: you might have pursued the friendship of some, might have simply fallen into others, and might have had someone else pull you into their circle. You’ll find that mixture in BU as well, if you’re willing to put yourself out there and meet people. It’s as diverse as you make it.

The key term is “as you make it.” Your experience here, possibly anywhere but especially here, will be what you make of it. If I had not taken chances, I probably could have ghosted and just drifted through BU. But I didn’t. I went to clubs, I found people, I found interest and passion and life.

Clubs are perhaps the best way to meet people in smaller settings. They are where you’ll see the most activity, because unfortunately the school doesn’t unite except for hockey games. In fact, given that our school has so many kids, the fraction that each club contains would indicate /dis/interest in them. They might be no more bigger than clubs at your high school, depending on what you’re interested in. Larger groups are community service groups, ethnicity clubs, etc.

There are clubs for pretty much everything, which is even truer with a large school. If there isn’t, then founding one isn’t out of the question; last year I saw a soccer club be founded because people were regularly playing soccer in the open courts in Fitrec and figured it would be a good idea to start up a club. If you had taken a single look at the club list, saw that a soccer club/team was absent, and given up on the spot, you might never have known that a thriving group of players was waiting to be united. But if you went that extra mile and asked around, spent time in FitRec, signed up for a class or simply put up flyers, you would have discovered a whole new untapped facet of BU. I would know: a club of mine started from a simple BUnite post.

I keep stressing motivation because it /is/ easy to get lost in the crowd. Even if there are other people from your school applying to/attending BU, it is large enough so that if you don’t want to see someone, you might very well not unless you make an effort to. It is a double-edged sword, but one you can wield safely once you are aware of the dangers.

BU can be spectacular or craptacular, and it will all depend on the people you meet and the things you see. Every day you can meet brand new people and see brand new things, so by sheer probability you should be able to find people and things that you do like and end up holding dear. It is only when you start glossing over the sights and sounds that that probability goes down, as does your happiness. And there will be no one to pull you up out of the gutter unless you ask them to.

So ask them. Find them. Even if you don’t come here, the same will be true wherever you go. College can be anything you want it to be, so you might as well make it unforgettable.

3 comments on Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine

  1. Very well-written. I am sorely tempted to take it and use it as my stock answer for Rutgers as well—excepting the Boston specific bits, of course. 😉 By the by, will I see you before you leave? And when exactly is the leaving happening?

    1. I’d love to meet up! I am unfortunately feeling a bit under the weather, which I hope resolves itself before I leave Monday morning for Redmond…I’ll be back on Thursday and have a tidbit of time before heading back to Boston Monday or Tuesday.

  2. agree w/ yoli- rutgers is v v similar, except things don’t always look as if they’ve been injected w/ millions of dollars and we’re in a much smaller, shadier, subway-less locale.

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