The city of Boston is beautiful. Running across campus to get to your next class, you often see the skyline of the city in the background. But with so much homework, club meetings, and going to work, it’s often difficult to truly explore the city. When I had the chance to stay in Boston over the summer, exploring the city was my first priority after work. So join me in reflecting on my summer in Boston.
A so-called essential part of Boston to visit, Seaport became my second home as I went there every weekday to work. So while the glitz and glam was interesting at first, the overpriced food and long commute made it less fun overtime. While everybody should visit Seaport for its winter market and the Institute of Contemporary Art, frequent trips aren’t necessary.
The South End of Boston is an amazing neighborhood. With a vibrant culture that traces its roots back to being Boston’s BIPOC community, the lack of public transit access to the city makes historical sense. So while it’s a bit of a trek to get over to the South End, the walk itself has a beauty in itself. With a very different vibe from the rest of the city, the pop-up summer SoWa market along with the year round indoor SoWa market, it was a great visit. The South End also houses the city’s art community with open viewings of many art studios and beautiful works. It might take a little bit more planning and time to visit the South End, but it’s totally worth it.
Between the sprawling campuses of MIT and Harvard, it’s difficult to see the beauty of Cambridge. While it isn’t the city of Boston, Cambridge is close enough and has its own charm. While it also takes a little bit more walking, you get the chance to explore a lot more local Boston spots. From the overflowing clothes of the Garment District to the graffiti alley in Central, Cambridge has its fair share of hidden treasuries. All it takes it just a little bit time to look past what we normally see.
Walking is not the name of a part of Boston, but my favorite way to get around in the city. Yes, Boston is indeed the most walkable city. In the rush of life, taking the bus and the T is our best option. But when you have the time, a good walk is all it takes to feel like you have control of everything once again. My favorite walking trip? Walking from Marsh Chapel to the North End.
Yes it took 2 hours, but it was the most calming experience of my summer. I took it with fellow Kilachand student Monet Ota. Together we set out to walk all the way to the North End with the motivation of a delicious cannoli to end the trip. A walk full of recapping our summers so far, a break on Newbury Street for mochi donuts, playing on the playground in the Boston Commons, and finally a delicious tiramisu cannoli. College is stressful, but then you remember having moments like this.
Every tour I give at BU, I always make my group pause and look at the Boston skyline from Comm Ave. I always remind them that Boston University is in the city of Boston. But I forget that fact too, suck in the BU bubble. So after this summer, I’ve made a promise to myself to take the breaks I need to visit the city I came to BU for.
College has taught me that friendships bloom in unexpected circumstances and despite our most embarrassing shortcomings or insecurities.
For example, my now close and supportive relationship with my freshman year roommates defies the reservations I had about living with “strangers” and the clumsiness with which our interactions started. Even if the general adage is that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, my personal experience is solid evidence that you can overcome many initial social blunders with hundreds of subsequent interactions that better reveal your true nature and lead to genuine bonds of friendship.
As soon as I accepted my admission to BU, I became rattled by nerves. I had chosen a school far from home, where I would be forced to meet and live with new people. I’d have to share a room with strangers! This initial apprehension did not allow me to do any Facebook introductions or anything like that before I came to the deadline on filling out my dorm room application. Therefore, I was filling the form in the dark and putting my name in the random draw.
When I got 4 names back my restlessness increased. I was assigned to a suite where I would have to share my room with not one, but TWO strangers! I received 4 names and a room number, but other than that I had no idea how to reach out to them. I checked my email all the time and searched every social media platform I knew but couldn’t find any matches for the names I was given. Finally, sometime in July, I got an email from BU Housing in my personal account inbox telling me I could find information about my housing assignment in my school associated email account. My school associated email!?! I did not know I had one of those! Low and behold, as soon as I signed in to the me @bu.edu account tons of emails answering every question I had about college sat waiting for me, including, of course, an email from my suitemate Jillian with a phone number and an invitation to join a suitemates groupchat. My first message to that groupchat was something along the lines of “Hi guys! Sorry I missed all the introductions but I don’t know anything about college :/”. So that was my first impression!
Bumbling and nervous and probably a little goofy… I worried about this first impression for days. The first impression I made on my roommates was a text message I sent in a suite groupchat which I joined weeks after my other four suitemates had been using it to share their hopes and expectations for a wonderful new year. So, I started our relationship by having to explain to my “future best friends” (hopefully) that I had not been ignoring them during those weeks but that I simply had been clueless about the separate email for all things BU and had, therefore, been completely unaware of ALL the updates and information related to college and dorm and roommate assignments for over a month. For days after sending that text I worried that my suitemates would perceive this opening faux pas as evidence of the fact that I was too goofy to befriend. Somehow, however, the incident that I worried had painted me as clueless and bumbling had been perceived by my kind suitemates as sincere, nice, and maybe the sweet expressions of shyness.
Luckily, that dopey first impression ended up being less impactful than the subsequent hundreds of interactions we shared after move-in. The first night we all slept in the room, my roommate Mira and I went out for a walk, shared our concerns and expectations for our college years and ended up clicking immediately; talking and sharing our thoughts as if we had been friends for years. When I was late to class on my first day, my roommates Mira and Caro helped me collect myself as I rushed to get across campus and earned my devotion due to the tender kindness with which they tolerated my flustered nervousness. As the days and weeks went by, we shared our apprehensions by bringing each other sweets when we got back from class and we walked together into our neighbors’ rooms to introduce ourselves and develop new bonds and friendships. Day by day, one small kindness after another made us an inseparable unit and created shared memories and joys that bonded us together. The transition from strangers to friends was so seamless that I can’t remember or pinpoint when or how it happened. I am certain today, however, that these unexpected interactions with the “strangers” assigned by BU Housing to live with me have made college not only bearable, but fun.
By Peyton Tierney (ENG’21) & Deema Abdel-Meguid (ENG’21)
Freshman Year (Don’t worry about the extra credits!)
Peyton: Freshman year on paper is daunting, and I’m not going to lie it wasn’t easy. Since both KHC and the engineering core curriculum are front-loaded, you will be taking 2-3 more credits than your peers who are either in just ENG or just KHC. The good news is the extra credits are primarily just for the first year, and once you get the hang of it you're in a better place to deal with the more fun and challenging work that follows in your next few years. Deema and I survived the freshman year workload while also joining clubs and making friends so we are here to tell you that you can do it too!
Deema: Freshman year certainly was not an easy one. I was maxed out on credits, signing up for a bunch of clubs and organizations and trying to maintain the clean pink and grey aesthetic I had chosen for my second floor KHC double. Finding a balance was challenging at first, but knowing I was not the only engineering student going through it helped tremendously. I quickly got into the swing of things. My peers and I encouraged and supported each other to keep pushing through. I distinctly remember Peyton, who was amazing at chemistry, teaching me about moles using a tree and leaves metaphor when we were freshmen. Who knows what would have happened in that class without her...
Eventually, freshman year was over, and it was on to the next. Being in ENG and Kilachand is more work than your major alone, but it is ABSOLUTELY doable and highly worth it. There is a lot of talk about the retention rate in Kilachand when you are an engineering student, but the reality is that if you are willing to put in the work and you value the balanced education Kilachand gives you, you will pull through and you will make some of the strongest academic connections imaginable when you do.
Advising (Plan ahead)
Peyton: I am graduating this year as a KHC, biomedical engineering student with a concentration in nanotechnology and completing the pre-med track while having studied abroad and worked in a lab for 3 years. It takes lots of advanced planning, good time management, and a lot of hard work and dedication, but you can accomplish whatever your goals are. And you don’t have to do it alone, you have a veritable fleet of advisors to help you navigate class registration, extracurriculars, and future planning. I have a KHC advisor, an ENG advisor, and a premed advisor to ensure that I am fulfilling all of the necessary requirements for my degree. All are extremely supportive of my goals and have also helped me plan what research/extracurricular I should strive for as well as helped refine my post-grad plans.
Deema:Throughout my time in the Honors College, I worked with my ENG advisors and my KHC advisors to flesh out my schedule and academic goals. At one point, I wanted to minor in Biology, and even with my Kilachand schedule and requirements, I was able to work with the department to make it possible. I ended up starting a minor in Mechanical Engineering and was able to take a few extra classes and opportunities to work towards it. My advisors were supportive every step of the way.
Finding Balance (Class, Life, Lab)
Peyton:While good time management is essential to managing the busy schedule of ENG KHC student, finding activities you enjoy and friends to hang out with is critical to your success and wellbeing. Growing up with a family who plays a lot of boardgames, I joined the BU Boardgame club my freshman year. Through this group, I met the majority of my friends outside of KHC and ENG and used our Thursday night meeting times as both incentives to finish all my weekly problem sets a day early and to ensure I always had a night off to have fun. Boardgames have been a part of my weekly routine for 4 years now, and I am the current president of the club. Making sure to give yourself a couple of nights off every week despite how busy you are is a great way to ensure you always have the energy you need for your busy schedule. Managing lab work and classes also gets easier starting your junior year as you are finished with the engineering core curriculum and have a greater say over your electives and class schedule. This makes scheduling blocks of time to participate in research a lot smoother. Also, there are a number of opportunities for paid summer/semester research work for engineering students so you can get paid for these hours.
Deema: Looking back on my four years at BU, it was really the people I met who helped me find balance. It was the friends I made in my Dance Theater Group who made the late rehearsals after a long day of academics worth it. It was my colleagues in my research labs who were also up late nights making incredible research happen who helped me push through my own late nights. It was the Brothers I met in my professional fraternity who became my family in Engineering and made me smile during the tougher weeks. It was the KHC friends that I got to bond with during classes that made every moment in Kilachand worth it. Finding balance for me was about finding the right support groups and people who kept me on my toes and reminded me of the activities that I enjoy the most. Balance was about finding moments between classes like walking or eating at the dining hall to catch up with friends.
Making time for the things you love and the people you care about (including yourself) is absolutely key for navigating whatever academic path you choose to pursue. Taking care of your physical and mental health, whatever that looks like for you, will re-energize you and enable you to better fulfill your obligations. The road was bumpy at times, but here I am getting ready to graduate!
Peyton and I have done almost every project possible together when given the choice. We are both BME, so we have been in most of the same classes both within KHC and in ENG. We always worked together well, but it was really the common experience we shared of both being in KHC and having similar ways of thinking that brought us success and honestly a lot of fun while we worked on a ton of deliverables together. Our story is not unique, and many people in ENG and KHC tend to pair up because they are the best equipped to support each other through the entire process.
Peyton: My best piece of advice is finding a group of friends to become your study group. Since we all tend to be busy, we often schedule longer than necessary group meetings or study sessions so that we can also use these work periods to hang out. These study sessions work even when we are not working on the same sets of assignments, it's just nice to have the blocked off to keep each other accountable and catch up on the week!
For just barely being a freshman in high school in August of 2015, moving my sister into Kilachand Hall for her first semester of college was an eye-opening experience for me. As cliché as it may sound, BU felt like home to me from that day on. Reflecting back on that moment as I finish my second semester of sophomore year, I can’t help but think about how significantly KHC has continued to impact myself and my family. My sister Charlotte graduated in 2019—the same year I started at BU—from both KHC and the College of Engineering with a degree in mechanical engineering. Now a PhD candidate at Princeton University, I thought I would compare and contrast our experiences as two very different KHC students.
1. What was/is your experience like in KHC?
Charlotte: KHC was my break from a rigorous STEM schedule in mechanical engineering. In my major studies, every question had an answer, neatly binarizing my work into “right” or “wrong.” KHC classes gave me a chance to discuss bigger, more conceptual problems with my friends and peers, each with their own expertise or bias. We examined things critically and explored the moral or ethical shades of gray that exist in real world problems. While this might not be as satisfying as having a clearly defined solution to whatever problem was at hand, I found these conversations, and the community that fostered them, so fulfilling.
Kadie: For me, as a political science student, KHC offers a more intimate space outside of a lecture hall surrounded by hundreds of other students. Typically where my non-KHC courses fail in leaving much room for discussion or analysis, my KHC courses make up for. I thoroughly enjoy discussing our curriculum through my specific policy/political centered lens while simultaneously hearing analysis from my peers through their differing major and minor focuses. My KHC classes have been the place where I really develop my opinions on a number of academic and social topics which I can bring to my other classes. Unlike my sister, who experienced very little interdisciplinary overlap, the convergence of my non-KHC and KHC courses have both focused and broadened my thinking as a student.
2. How did you meet friends when starting at KHC?
C: Honestly, mostly from classes and luck! I also did the tried and true method of leaving my door open for the first week or so of freshman year which let me meet my hallmates, as well as talking to them after our floor meetings hosted by our RA. Truly, though, our discussions in KHC studio classes let me talk to and get to know my classmates, and then that branched off into hanging out at the dining hall or the 9th floor together! Then I met their roommates and their friends, then their roommate’s friends, and on and on until finally I’d met my entire class! I met my best friend and future roommate at KHC just by hearing my other friends mention that she had great notes for our chemistry class and so we headed to the 9th floor to see them. You never really know how or why you’ll meet your people, but KHC let me meet everyone in the program quickly so I could find them easier!
K: Similar to my sister, the spider-web of existing KHC student relationships is how I met a lot of my class. As daunting as it was to transition from knowing most people in my high school to knowing no one entering college, putting yourself out there is the best advice I can give on making friends. My roommates and I did a lot of knocking on other people’s doors in KHC just to say hi and introduce ourselves during the first few weeks. From these initial meetings it was much easier to recognize people in classes and get to know them better. My current roommate and I met while walking from KHC to Nickerson Field for Splash; both being political science students we decided to walk around the tables together and through conversation realized we had classes together! From that point on we started sitting next to each other in classes, walking back to KHC after, and hanging on the weekends in our dorm rooms. It truly only takes making one connection to get to know everyone in KHC!
3. Where did you prefer studying within KHC? Are you a 9th floor girl or common room girl?
C: Absolutely the 9th floor. I would spend entire evenings up there with a group of friends hanging out under the guise of working. I actually had to study in my room to get any actual work done because the 9th floor was really my favorite spot to socialize.
K: I am also team 9th floor. The 9th floor is great if you need a change of scenery while studying or doing work and also, of course, is a great place to socialize and get away from studying or doing work. It was also great for getting help from KHC classmates on assignments and topics.
4. What was your favorite KHC class you took? Who was it with?
C: It’d have to be a tie between my freshman year seminars — Spaces of Art with Professor Dana Clancy (a wonderful class on art and curation in contemporary museums, which meant our classrooms were the great museums of Boston! Weekly trips out to the ICA, MFA, ISG, and Harvard Art were an incredible way to get to know my classmates and the city) or Broken Bones, Buried Bodies: Forensic Anthropology and Human Rights with Dr. Jonathan Bethard (now working at USF). Each allowed open-format discussion between students, hands on exploration of the course’s materials, all with the insight and guidance from some of the most thoughtful and passionate teachers I’ve ever had.
K: I would also have to say my favorite course was the forensic anthropology class offered in my freshman year of study called Fractured Lives and Bodies: Forensic Anthropology, Disasters, and Human Rights with Professor Sean Tallman—an updated version of the exact course my sister took four years before. This class was quite a step outside my comfort zone and truly allowed me to get a new understanding of a topic I most likely would never have learned about if not for KHC.
5. Since graduating from KHC what have you taken with you from the program?
C: The ability to care and critically think about a variety of topics! The work we did examining ethics across disciplines - public health, history, ecology, engineering, literature - impacts and inspires the way that I navigate the world and academia. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to participate in such illuminating, sometimes infuriating, always exciting discussions over the course of my studies in KHC. From all of that work in presenting our own ideas as well as listening and absorbing those brought by other students or scholars, I feel as though I’m always ready, willing, and excited to talk with basically anyone about basically anything. In graduate school, your studies can become so hyper-individualized that it can be hard to break back into the big wide world of reality. I like to think that the work I did while in the KHC program helps keep me more well-rounded (academically and on the whole) than I would have been otherwise.
As I waited by the ocean-themed Ben and Jerry’s stand outside the Aquarium I grew a little nervous. I’d never led or even gone on one of Kilachand’s Walking Tours. For that matter, I’d never even been to the New England Aquarium before. How could I lead a group of nine freshmen expecting an exciting excursion and ensure that they weren’t giving up their Friday night for nothing? Of course seeing sealions, penguins, and water dragons up close is always breathtaking, but would COVID dampen the fun?
Easily, one of the best aspects of Kilachand is all the events the Honors College hosts throughout the year. From the Back-to-School BBQ, to Study Breaks, to screenings in the Common Room there’s always a chance at KHC to connect with friends (or make new ones) and enjoy some of the best food Boston has to offer. With the introduction of walking tours, KHC found a way to keep students connected with one another with the added benefit of getting to explore the city. Usually led by upperclassmen in the mentor program or KHC faculty, these tours offer a great way to escape the BU bubble and meet new people outside of your classes. Walks along the Esplanade, trips to J.P. Lick’s, and even tours of the New England Aquarium are only a sampling of the walking tours KHC students embarked on over the course of the last year.
As I mentioned, I’d never been to the Aquarium before, but I figured for my first walking tour I might as well go big. The Friday we went, the New England Aquarium hosted a special events night in which divers interacted with the 900+ species of animals held in the 200,000 gallon salt water tank that serves as the building’s centerpiece. Any worries I had dissipated with our stop at the first exhibit: The Manta rays. From there the entire event became an intoxicating blur of amazing sea-life, laughter, and pure awe. There really is nothing quite like meeting the eye of a 90 year old 550lb green sea turtle as it emerges from the water only feet away from you. Or looking down through the skeleton of a 35ft-long right whale to see penguins playing below. Of course no trip to the Aquarium is complete without a stop at the gift shop. Between stuffed penguins, whales, sea lions, octopi, and flamingos, with a few more walking tours KHC will likely be able to open its own faux-Aquarium. Even though walking tours were created as a solution to the limit the pandemic placed on in-person events, there’s hope that they will continue well into the future.
Fun Fish Facts
A collection of the most interesting facts we learned at the Aquarium.
1. Octopi have nine brains: a central brain and one in each arm. They also have three hearts: one heart circulates blood around the body while the other two pump blood specifically to the gills.
2. As reptiles, sea turtles breath air, but they are able to hold their breath for 4-7 hours if necessary.
3. Penguins’ tuxedo-like look is attributed to a camouflage technique known as countershading. When hunting for food in the water other animals looking up will have a hard time discerning a penguin’s white stomach from the sun. Meanwhile potential predators from the land and air will miss a penguin’s black backside in the dark ocean.
Above: My view of the Prudential Tower and downtown Boston from my dorm window.
In high school, I was involved in upwards of 10 extracurriculars. I played two sports, was an officer for student council and National Honor Society, played in the band, was involved with my church, and more. The time I needed to devote to these activities was balanced, with all of it fitting together neatly. Most of them also doubled as social time because my friends and I joined the same clubs. If I tried to be involved with that same number of activities in college, I would fail miserably.
College extracurriculars ask much more time of you than high school ones did, and because of that, I knew I would struggle to maintain the same level of involvement. I was given a piece of advice before going to college about how to choose among the thousands of activities that colleges have to offer, and regardless of how involved you were in high school, I think it’s important to consider: “Choose three things to get involved in when you get to college: one for academics, one for service, and one for social interaction.”
As a note before I tell you what I chose to get involved in, it will take some trial and error to find the perfect three. You should probably start with 8 or 10 and narrow down which ones serve you the most, providing a balanced array of opportunities and engagement. Also, three is a guideline. I have 5 main extracurriculars that I have been involved with for most of college, and other ones have come and gone or require less time and can be added on, so take everything that I say here with a grain of salt.
Now for my big 3.
1. Academics. I am a health science major looking to get my Master of Public Health and then continue into clinical medicine. To boost my skill set and strengthen my resume, I joined Peer Health Exchange as a Health Educator. I teach a public health curriculum to Boston Public School high school students, and can say with confidence that I now know how to communicate health information and work well with young people, both of which will be valuable to my professional career.
2. Service. I have participated in community service activities my whole life and quickly found that I was missing it when I got to college. I joined Camp Kesem, a free camp run by college students for kids whose lives have been affected by their parent’s cancer, to both develop my leadership skills and become more involved in service. I am now a development coordinator and have organized fundraisers that have gathered our chapter more than $20,000 in 5 months.
3. Social. I have been inseparable from my best friend since we met in seventh grade, and going to college left a hole that she had filled in my everyday life. I struggled to find close friends and, though I was successful in making a few, I wanted a larger group of people to be involved in, so I joined Sigma Kappa, a panhellenic sorority, and Omega Phi Alpha, a community service sorority. I have absolutely loved my time in both of them and have found it so easy to find friends among girls that are like minded and hold similar values.
I want to emphasize again that getting involved is not a formula. Nobody can tell you what three things to join or if three is going to be your magic number. I also have a job that I love at the FitRec center, served as an FY101 peer mentor (highly recommend taking FY101!!!), am a Kilachand ambassador, will start a job as an EMT in the fall, and do normal college things like working out, going out with friends, and sitting around watching movies when I don’t feel like doing anything else. These are all integral parts of my college experience and have made my time at BU as amazing as it has been in just my first two years.
I think getting involved is a good thing to start thinking about before you’re in college and even for my fellow college students, it is never too late to join something that looks exciting to you. My best piece of advice is to join what you find interesting, stop being involved in something if it is not adding great value to your life, and do what you need to to maintain your balance, which for me is fitting my main extracurriculars into one of those 3 categories.