I’m bobbing in the middle of the Charles, its liquid silver waters stretching flat out around me. The sun is shining but the chill in the air keeps it from beating down. Without even thinking I begin singing to myself, a manifestation of the perfect moment and my absolute happiness in it. As I croon away I suddenly stumble on a lyric long enough to realise just exactly what it is I am singing. I almost fall out of the boat in embarrassment… it's Mariah Carey - Always be my Baby.
But its ok, I’m in love, and I’m not about to hide it, even if it does show itself in the daggiest of ways. Due to a range of coincidences, choices, and semi-uninformed leaps of faith I have found myself on exchange at the third largest private college in the U.S., one that proudly holds Martin Luther King Jr. as an alumni member. Its disjointed campus dominates a huge stretch along the Charles River, the crime scene of my now not-so-secret midday-diva music-recital.
My new home Boston is a beautiful, historical and lively city almost overrun by more than 35 colleges and universities, making it a real college town. In fact they say it is dominated by four things that are mutually self-sustaining; Universities, Dunkin Donuts, Irish Pubs, and Hospitals. And frankly, what more could you want?! But my love goes deeper than the town itself, into the heart of one of these aforementioned features, Boston University (BU).
The way an exchange works from Sydney Uni is that you choose a similarly prestigious institution across the world that has an arrangement with Sydney Uni whereby you get the benefits of an exchange, without having to cop the overseas fees. Instead, you just keep paying your uni fees back home at Sydney Uni. On an exchange to the U.S., this is pretty wicked (sorry trying to get in on the local slang!), as a whole range of extensive services are provided for students in return for them investing their life savings into their education. Forget HECS, they don’t get it nearly as easy as we do. The good news is you don’t have to fork out upwards of $30 000 USD a year, as you only pay for the equivalent subjects as if you were in Sydney. So in the effort to make the most of this opportunity I find myself doing some crazy things.
Oh yes it gets worse than blissful kayaking leading to Mariah Carey. If you know me at all its time to make sure you’re seated for this next revelation. Because I have, for the first time in my life, gone to the gym! Oh but it’s not just any gym, this place is an attraction in itself, free for students and amazing enough to get even my lazy ass onto the elliptical machine. It has a rock-climbing wall, indoor running track, squash courts, swimming & wave pool as well as all the usual sweaty men pumping iron into their guns. Who are they to know I can only last ten minutes on each machine? My new regime is partly motivated by the fear of what is commonly known as the “freshman fifteen”, a phenomena that occurs when 17-18 year olds leave the comfort and safety of their homes to attend college, and as the name suggests, put on fifteen pounds (don’t even try to get me to convert their crazy backward measures). You see going to university here is so much more of a lifestyle than in Australia, indeed this was one of the things that motivated my coming here (remember “Felicity” anyone?). The fact is that unless you’re a country bumpkin, most Aussies stay in their home-town, and overwhelmingly live at home too. This is virtually unheard of in the States, a factor that gives the uni experience an entirely different dimension. For them you live and breathe uni, miles away from home, there is virtually no need to leave the campus as it contains anything you may need: food, education, parties, and well that’s about it isn’t it!
I think this is the most worrying thing for me right now. I have built a life for myself here, and that life is entirely centered around my love, BU. The thought of leaving what has already been one of the most amazing experiences makes me more than a little sad. Perhaps that’s why I need Mariah Carey. In immortal words she reminds us that, although all good things must come to an end…
“you'll always be a part of me
i'm a part of you indefinitely
(BU) don't you know you can't escape me
ooh darling cause you'll always be my baby”