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Reflecting on First Term

Taking a break to enjoy being in a new environment doesn’t just mean exploring Boston itself but visiting other places, too. A one hour drive took my friends and I to the relaxing coast of Massachusetts and even up to New Hampshire!

December has wrapped up my first term at NECO. During the holiday break before second term commenced, I reflected upon all my experiences in becoming an optometry student and newly crowned Bostonian. Here is some advice I hope will be helpful to incoming and/or prospective students to consider.

Housing

Boston is a beautiful city full of character - the community, the events, and especially the infrastructure. NECO is located in Back Bay which is full of historic brownstone buildings. Incoming students will most likely be living in an apartment that may be low in frills but high in charm. This wasn’t much of a change for me, growing up living in many homes with the high ceilings, thick wooden trim, and oddly shaped rooms that were full of their own unique character.

Students at NECO choose to live all over Boston. Different neighborhoods offer different kinds of apartments, different prices, and access to different restaurants and entertainment. You get to decide what is important to you – being close to the College, in an area with lots of restaurants, or meeting your budgetary needs.  The Housing Fair that NECO holds is very beneficial for getting an idea of living space and price! As a Canadian student, be ready to have a co-signer and cheques for fees that may arise with securing a place.

I highly encourage connecting with future classmates to make living arrangements! Having NECO students as roommates helps to split costs and makes it easier for many people to live within their budgets. I did this and it’s really nice living with people who have the same schedule and priorities.

I chose to live walking distance from NECO.  That means I don’t have to pay for transit and I get to sleep in more! I am also able to study late on campus, go home for lunch, and am close to the Esplanade for quick runs. 

What can you get out of this? Choose a location that will best suit your needs. If you’re unsure at the time, don’t worry, Boston is a very walkable city.

Finances

This section goes out to my fellow Canadian students. The summer before coming to NECO, I opened up a Cross Border Banking account, ordered cheques in USD currency (for rent), and applied for a student loan. All of these took a relatively short period of time but come August, the process will be slower due to an influx of students looking to do the same thing. 

There are plenty of TD Banks here in Boston, which brings some familiarity to Canadian students. They are not exactly associated with each other, for example, you cannot perform any actions pertaining to your TD Canada Trust accounts at their bank, but you can link them through Cross Border Banking. The employees there are very welcoming and I’ve never seen any branches have a line. 

The number one app I wish I downloaded before coming to Boston is Venmo. Everyone here seems to use it. It’s an app that allows for quick, easy, and convenient money transfers between people you end up splitting dinner, groceries, anything really, with. It even connects with your bank account and is free.

I do have to say that I felt rather optimistic about budgeting here, but the workload is heavy and sometimes a quick meal at the Prudential is hard to pass up. It ended up being difficult to keep track of by the end of first term, but I am able to (so far) keep up a general budget for categories like food and groceries.

What can you get out of this? The sooner the better to get your finances ready for coming to the US of you are an international student. Get all of the forms and paperwork done as soon as possible so that if something comes up, you won’t be in a time crunch to fix it. Also, don’t be afraid to treat yourself to something after a long, difficult day of studying - five dollars on an ice cream is not that much in the grand scheme of things!

School

As we all know, school is hard work, and it would be even harder if we didn’t have the support of friends, family, classmates, and an external hard drive to back us up. One of the first things I did once I accepted my offer to NECO was join the Facebook group and connect with my future classmates. This is actually where I found the current roommates. So, for those who don’t have Facebook, I highly recommend creating an account. Most of my class updates and student communication are done through Facebook. 

I wasn’t kidding about the external hard drive either. It really does provide a new kind of support. The last thing I wanted to happen was for my MacBook (the one with the CD drive) to die on me and to lose all of my lecture notes just before midterms came around. It did happen, but luckily, I backed it up weekly and didn’t lose anything. 

What can you get out of this? Connect with your classmates, they’ll be your second family! 

And everything in-between: Let’s talk about the more fun stuff. Housing is finalized, finances are set, and school is around the corner. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the new environment you’re in, whether that’s going for a walk, trying out a new restaurant, or just kicking back to watch a movie. Since being here for only four months, I have found my favourite places to study, my go-to stops for food, but I know there is still so much more to seek out and explore! Even if you don’t feel the most prepared coming in, there are many other people in the same position and a countless amount of support here waiting for you.

Michelle
Michelle is a Canadian student in her first year. She graduated from University of Waterloo in 2018 with a BSc, minoring in Biology and Geography & Environmental Management. Her passion to pursue optometry stems from her experience working at a practice, as well as volunteering her time to blind and partially sighted youth. During her free time, Michelle enjoys running, photography, and exploring new places and foods.