Shaun: Why What We’re Doing is Worth It

andrik-langfield-0rTCXZM7Xfo-unsplash (1)

We’ve been doing this thing for a month.

That fact struck me today when I was sitting in a park in Brookline, reading a depressing story in last week’s New Yorker, watching a group of dog owners do their best to stay 6 feet apart from one another, thinking about how nice it was just to sit in the sun because I know it’s going to get too cold to do that in just a few week’s time. 

We’ve been doing this face covering, nose swabbing, class streaming, mobile ordering, symptom surveying thing for longer than a lot people thought we could — longer, certainly, than a lot of people thought we should. And it’s going OK. Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of students and employees on campus have tested positive for the virus, the data shows, and lab results are now consistently coming back in less than a day. 

So many parts of campus life that felt normal earlier this year — packing so tightly into the BU Shuttle you could barely breathe, waiting in a half-hour line for a bagel at Einstein’s, screaming the words to “Mr. Brightside” in a basement you barely remember — are uncomfortable and distressing to think about now. This pandemic, more than probably anything else in our 18 to 22-year lifetimes so far, has fundamentally changed the way we interact with the world. 

Will life at BU ever go back to the way it was? For me, as a senior, it almost certainly will not. The university has already delayed the start of classes next semester and canceled spring break. When I have my graduation ceremony (if I may be so bold as to assume I will graduate) it will be together with the Class of 2020, who got perhaps the worst end of a very ugly stick. 

And it would be naive, I think, to assume any aspect of the world around us will ever return to the way it was pre-pandemic. History has never taken place in a vacuum, and our country’s gross inequities around access to healthcare and financial security — which are splintered along racial and socioeconomic lines — will undoubtedly impact future policymaking for years to come. 

Even at BU, in our huge but tiny bubble, I’m sure all the infrastructure that was put in place for remote learning and student health services will continue to be used. There’s just no way the university would have taken on the gargantuan cost of bringing back thousands of students, from all over the world, without considering how it can benefit them in the long-run.

But when we look back at this time five, 10, 15 years from now (even at the daily reminders to fill out a survey we’ve already completed), I’m confident we’ll be happy we took the safety measures we did. Following the rules was, we will realize, 100 percent worth it. 

Because I’ll say it again: things are going OK right now. And they can continue going OK, too. Whether or not they go OK is up to us. But we’ve been doing it all for a month, which is long enough that to abandon it now would be nothing short of a waste. 

Shaun: Transportation Options on Campus, Ranked


I'm a big transit nerd. Want to talk about trains?

1: Walking

Honestly, anywhere you need to get to on the Charles River campus is walkable if you give yourself enough time. Sure, it’s cold out, but throw on a coat and accept the fact that we live in Boston. It’s also one of just two options here that are free!

2: The MBTA 57 bus

DO NOT SLEEP on the 57. It comes more frequently than both the Green Line and the BU Shuttle, and it can get you up and down campus much faster, too. It’s cheaper than the subway — $1.70 — and there are seven stops between Kenmore and West Campus.

3: The MBTA Green Line

I don’t need to explain much here. The Green Line is your best option if you're coming back to campus from downtown Boston. But, for on-campus trips, you’re better served taking another service (or walking!).

4: Bluebikes

These are pretty affordable, just $2.50 per trip, and extremely easy to use. All of that pesky construction in West Campus is wrapping up and has given way to some lovely protected bike lanes. The city also just recently created an eastbound bike lane on Bay State Road.

6: The BU Shuttle

The reason I have the BUS so low on this list — a list about Comm Ave. transportation — is that the BUS was originally designed to get students between the Charles River and Medical campuses, and not to ferry them up and down Comm. Ave. alone. There is a Comm. Ave loop, but the service is unreliable and the BU tracking app sometimes just gives up. It is, however, free!

7: Uber/Lyft

This is by far the most expensive option on this list; a ride-hailing trip across campus can run you anywhere from $7-$15 for a private car and $5-8 for a shared one. If you’re going somewhere off campus, like an apartment in Brookline, I can see the appeal of taking a car. But you’re almost always better off saving that dough and choosing another way. 

Shaun: Some thoughts on, and from, a co-op

I know what you’re thinking — aren’t co-ops a Northeastern thing? If I had wanted to take a semester off of classes to go work, wouldn’t I have gone to school on the E Line, not on the B Line?

Maybe, but hear me out when I say that, even for a BU student, a co-op can be a fantastic experience and a great way to break up the rhythm of classes. I’m doing a co-op this semester at The Patriot Ledger, a daily newspaper based in Quincy, Mass. that covers about 30 cities and towns south of Boston. That means I’m not taking any classes; instead, I commute to and from an office each workday like a (semi) adult. I still live on campus and eat in the dining halls, but I haven’t done a lick of schoolwork since May. 

I’m really happy that I chose to do a co-op, and while I know it's an uncommon thing for a BU student to do, it’s something I would suggest considering if you have the space in your schedule. Many COM students will have that space, I’ve found, and it’s an experience that can show you firsthand what a future career could look like on a daily basis. 

Luckily, I still like what I’m doing — print journalism — after almost five months of doing it for 40+ hours a week. That’s the big risk you take with a co-op. It’s a bigger commitment than most internships are, so if you hate it, you’re kind of stuck for the long haul. But if you love it, I don’t think there’s any better way to get real-world experience in your field as an undergraduate student. 

I’ve also found that my co-op is a nice break from the rhythm of classes and, especially, exams. I know it’s midterm season on campus because my friends are busy studying, but for me, it’s just been like any other couple weeks. In fact, I’ve almost found my life has more structure nowadays than it did at any point before in my college career. I wake up at the same time, eat at the same time, commute at the same time and get home at the same time every weekday.

And I think that when the time comes, I’ll be more than ready to get back into that full-on college student rhythm. So yes, I know we don't go to Northeastern. I know ours is the B Line, not the E. But consider a co-op, anyway!

Shaun: Four T Stops That Will Show You a Different Side of Boston

  1. Maverick
    This stop is in the heart of East Boston, which is the neighborhood that includes Logan Airport and its surrounding area. East Boston is largely residential, but the square around the station is packed with small shops and restaurants. Walk down from the station to Lewis Mall Harbor Park for what is (in my opinion) the best view of the downtown skyline and Charlestown anywhere.
    How to get there: Take the Green Line C/D from Kenmore, inbound to Government Center. Change to the Blue Line, outbound to Maverick.
  2. Kendall/MIT
    This one’s much closer to BU (and on a nice day is actually pretty walkable). Kendall Square is buzzing with stores and restaurants, and the architecture (in true MIT fashion) is interesting. The station has big chimes in between the tracks, and they clang together to play music if you turn a lever on the platform.
    How to get there: Take the Green Line B from anywhere on Comm. Ave. (or the C/D from Kenmore), inbound to Park Street. Change to the Red Line, inbound to Kendall/MIT.
  3. Forest Hills
    It’s a bit of a ride to the southern end of the Orange Line — but Forest Hills is worth the trek for its proximity to the Arnold Arboretum, a massive and beautiful park/nature center owned by Harvard. Spend a couple hours walking the trails, then head up South Street until you hit the commercial core of Jamaica Plain. Restaurants are abundant and the houses are beautiful.
    How to get there: Take the Green Line B from anywhere on Comm. Ave. (or the C/D from Kenmore), inbound to Park Street. Walk through the underground concourse to Downtown Crossing. Change to the Orange Line, outbound to Forest Hills.
  4. Courthouse
    If you haven’t spent time in the Seaport neighborhood, you’re missing out (ever been to the Lawn on D? That’s in the Seaport). The neighborhood quite literally gets larger every day with constant construction, but there’s a ton of stores and restaurants already well open for business. Head over to the waterfront and check out the massive federal courthouse building, as well as a view of the financial district and ferry terminals.
    How to get there: Green Line B from anywhere on Comm. Ave. (or the C/D from Kenmore), inbound to Park Street. Change to the Red Line (toward Ashmont or Braintree), outbound to South Station. Change to the Silver Line (1/2), outbound to Courthouse.

Shaun: Five Things You Can’t Be Afraid of if You’re Going to Study Journalism

1. Talking to strangers

This might sound obvious, but when you’re standing in Kenmore Square on assignment to talk to five strangers, it can be very intimidating. The truth is that most people will give you their time if you identify yourself as a reporter and are respectful of their personal space and opinions. That said, you’re going to get rejected, sometimes with a polite “I don’t have time, sorry,” and sometimes with any number of rude gestures. Subway stations and bus stops are great places to find strangers who have nothing to do but talk to you anyway.

2. Phone calls

You can’t interview everyone in person — in fact, you can’t interview most people in person. A lot of the reporting process is spent on the phone, which means phone anxiety has to go. I came to college with major phone anxiety (I think it’s common for people our age), and the first time I had to call a source for a Daily Free Press article, I was terrified. Phone calls are awkward, and depending on who you’re calling, they can be intimidating. Just remember to talk clearly, listen closely, and offer verbal affirmation that you’re listening every 10-20 seconds. You’ll be dialing like a pro in no time.

3. Criticism

It’s the only way you get better. You might come into COM as a first-year thinking you know how write a good news story, but chances are you’ll be amazed (like I was) at how you actually don’t. COM, and all the extracurriculars that go along with it, are full of people who have climbed the ladders and done the nitty-gritty and want to help you succeed. Take advantage of them and the feedback they give you.

4. Competition

I want to be a White House reporter one day, and maybe you do too, and so do a thousand other people, but not all of us can do it. There are a TON of jobs in journalism (despite what your parents might be telling you) across an incredible array of areas. That said, you don’t get a job just because you want it (insightful, I know). Competition for internships and jobs is palpable, but I think in some ways that’s a good thing. It encourages you to push yourself to better.

5. Anti-journalism rhetoric

People will argue that journalism is dying, but I’d argue that journalism has never been stronger. I know people whose parents hate that they’re studying to be a journalist, because they don’t believe the profession is noble or fair. And even a cursory scroll through Twitter will show you that it’s far more popular now to say “fake news” than it is to actually read news articles. You have to take anti-journalism rhetoric in stride, and use it to motivate yourself to be the best, most accurate, most factual reporter you can be.

Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

Shaun: Sword making, or, the Importance of a Major/Career-Related Extracurricular

My high school track coach always said that freshmen were like the beginnings of a good sword: useless, worthless hunks of metal. They have no idea what they want to do, he would tell us, much less what they should or should not do. So they try everything; things they’re good at, things they’re definitely bad at, and everything in between. Freshmen are stupid, he said — and that’s what makes them great. They take the biggest risks, and they fail most of the time, and they really consider quitting. But once they find that thing that makes them come back for another day, either because they’re good at it or because they love it or both, it makes all the stupid first-year pragmatism worth it.

At this point it’s time to start making the sword, and the worthless, first-year piece of metal gets thrown into the fire. Day in and day out the metal is casted and molded, then casted and remolded again, until it’s strong enough to be brought out onto the anvil. Now the metal is hammered out, then it's plunged into ice water, then hammered again, and again, until a sword is finally taking shape. In time the metal is remarkably strong, and it starts to be sharpened. Subtle and precise refinements form the edges that make the sword so effective and powerful. Some four years later, it’s spring of senior year, and what was once a shapeless clump of metal has been forged into a tool of absolute and utter destruction. The process was lengthy, and it was difficult. But it pays off. The result is something unstoppable, something purposeful, and above all, something of which you’re incredibly proud.

Sword-making is a really good metaphor for track and field, but I think it’s a really good metaphor for college, too. Freshman year on campus is the time to embrace the hunk of metal status. It’s the time to try everything, and be bad at things, and be stupid, because that’s the only way to find your thing. For me, that thing was The Daily Free Press; for you, it could be literally anything (we’re at BU, people — don’t tell me you can’t find an extracurricular). And once you have that thing, throw yourself into the fire. If you’re already in the fire, keep throwing yourself in. Hammer yourself into shape. Sharpen your edges with internships and study abroad and classes you love. Four years will go by in a blur. But you’ll come out of this workshop we call Boston University a tool of destruction ready to conquer your field and, if you’re feeling up to it, the entire freaking world.

And please, don’t be afraid of failing. The fire will always be there.