What surprises me the most about living in a city is how quickly I got used to the noise. The rumbling of the subway, the shouts from the sidewalk, the honking cars — after a few days spent jumping at each sound, they’ve quickly faded into the background music of what has become my everyday life.
I’m 18 years old and living in the heart of downtown Boston with three other girls. With campus closed and classes online, we’re taking our first semester of college together from our East Coast apartment, 1,800 miles from the Texas suburb where I grew up.
It sounds strange when I explain it. Why Boston? Why these girls, whom I barely knew before we signed the lease? I still have trouble picturing the series of events that led me here; the days after the University announced that fall semester would be online are a blur. I knew it was time for me to leave my hometown if I could, and I was fortunate enough to find three other Princeton girls who felt the same way. As for choosing a location, I was completely enamored with the idea of living in a major East Coast city. When we found an apartment in Boston, an energetic student hub so wildly different from where I grew up, it seemed like the perfect choice. Looking back, I’m shocked at how well it worked out considering how quickly everything came together; we only had one group call before moving in, so I was effectively committing myself to spending three months with absolute strangers in an unfamiliar city. It’s almost mind-boggling that I ended up here, but I am so grateful that I did.
It’s been five weeks since I left home, trading quiet suburban life for the bustling brick maze of Boston. As I started my first college classes, I was simultaneously receiving a crash course in life, figuring out how to function without my parents in between physics precepts. I’d always thought of myself as a fairly independent person, but it wasn’t until I was no longer living with my parents that I realized how much I relied on them for basic common sense.
Imagine my surprise realizing about two weeks in that I had to clean my room and wash my sheets even if no one was nagging at me to do it. I was equally startled to learn through experience that if you don’t shop for groceries, you will run out of food and end up having a gourmet dinner of Ritz crackers and pickles. I quickly learned not to buy asparagus if you’re going to just forget about it and let it rot in the back of the fridge.
In my somewhat embarrassing journey towards gaining the common sense I didn’t know I lacked, I’ve been fortunate to have three girls learning alongside me, reminding me to do my homework and not to leave dishes out. Thank goodness that my roommates, who were strangers just a few weeks ago, are girls who I can stay up late watching “Love Island” with and who get milkshakes with me after a hard math test. Getting through a semester of Zoom is easier together. Of course, texting has also come in handy — sometimes you just need to ask your mom if drinking expired milk is OK.
Beyond lessons in living alone, there are also the little things I’ve learned about Boston, a city I’ve grown to love in such a short time. I’ve learned how to take the metro to Cambridge (the subway here is called “the T”), where to get dumplings at 2 a.m. (there are actually multiple places in Chinatown), and which bridge offers the best view of the skyline (Longfellow, if you’re ever in town). Sometimes, when I’m walking to my favorite coffee shop or sitting in the park, I realize with a jolt how quickly I’ve become accustomed to life here. At these moments, when I want to remember the extraordinary circumstances of this semester and all the possible adventures this city has for me, I take out my earbuds and focus on the background music.