Stefan Rausch at MIT, Cambridge, USA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA:
The feeling of studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is hard to describe. Everywhere around you the “high potentials” of the world, a Nobel laureate sitting in the floor next to you, and for a little student form Remagen so many interesting and new things to do and see…
The working atmosphere at MIT is very good, in the mostly crowded labs you usually find the newest and best equipment and everybody is so cooperative and has always an open ear for your questions and problems, even the usually very busy professors.
Most of the research staff are international students, PH-Ds and postdocs and are usually very nice and open minded for new people and definitively not snooty as one could expect them to be at MIT – of course there are some nerds somewhere. So after starting my work at MIT I found myself very quickly sitting at Killian Court, the famous courtyard of MIT, for our daily coffee break discussing with my colleagues about all the world and his brother.
Beside the research work concerning your project you have the opportunity to attend very interesting weekly science talks and group meetings and learn a little bit more than only the topic you are working on.
Beside studying, MIT offers a very large number of interesting stuff to do. You can find clubs for nearly every hobby, a huge fitness centre you can access for free and every other sport.
Besides spending time at MIT there are several nice things to do around Cambridge and Boston. The two cities are only separated by the Charles River and both have complete different characters. Cambridge is the “student city” with its two big educational institutions Harvard and MIT. It’s very international and has a very nice flair with its small pubs, shops and facilities.
Compared to Cambridge Boston is a little bit more “the real world”. It’s a mixture of modern architecture containing skyscrapers and famous ancient buildings. Boston is a very European city, mostly grown and not designed like other American cities. Also it’s Americas “Walking City” and so you can visit nearly all important places in Boston like Beacon Hill, Boston Common, Back Bay, Down Town and the Waterfront in a couple of hours by going for a nice walk.
But what’s about finding friends at MIT? It’s not a big deal. Because of the mostly young staff you could find easily some nice guys in your working group, but they are usually very busy and have to work also during weekend evenings. So the best way to meet interesting people is to attend one of the weekly MIT EuroClub meetings. The people there are mostly in the same situation like you – visiting for only a couple of month - and so you are on the same wavelength immediately.
Some tips before you leave:
- I think most of the important points in advance of a stay abroad are described very detailed everywhere, so I will point out here only some things I afterwards found very important (or not).
- It can be very helpful to have an international student ID. It is obtainable at our Campus. With it you have for example access to cheap student fares concerning flights etc.
- Also I would highly recommend a Credit Card. It’s not a big deal to pay here with cash, but with a credit card everything is much easier. I use a VISA Card and never had any problems with it.
- One point which is not necessary to have is an international driver’s licence. Here in Massachusetts you can drive with your euro-licence, not the old paper one, during one year.
Some tips on site:
The first important thing after arrival in Boston / Cambridge is to find a (nice) room to stay. The easiest way to do so is to look up on the internet. The most popular site is without question http://craigslist.org. There you can find everything you need: a room, some furniture, a bike, car, and friends, whatever. Another chance is to have a look at the several message boards of the different student communities for example the EuroClub at MIT (http://euroclub.mit.edu).
For living I can recommend the towns of Cambridge and Somerville or Boston Beacon Hill, depending on your financial background and personal preferences. If you decide to live a little bit out of town try to find a home close to one of the underground “T” stations.
I found a partly furnished room in a newly renovated 4 person apartment at the Cambridge/Somerville border and pay $650 + utilities each month for it. For this location the price is ok, in Somerville you can get a room for about 500$, in Beacon Hill you have to pay a little bit more. The utilities here are highly depending on the present season. During colder days the heating will be the biggest point in your bill. In the summertime you usually don’t have to pay more than $40 for including telephone, high speed WLAN, electricity and water.
The other living expenses are also mostly dependent on your own preferences.
You can find grocery stores and restaurants in every price and quality range and after some time you will find the places which suits you best.
Eating in Cambridge / Boston is also not a big deal. For lunch you have for example several opportunities around MIT, so you can visit one of the international food trucks or a close by canteen and you don’t have to spend more than $4 for lunch.
Dinner is also affordable. For a good big burger including salad and fries you pay about 6-10$, but you always have to add 15% tip, the fee for your waiter – that is very odd at the beginning, but you get used to it.
Beer is an expensive joy here. For a pint (ca. 450ml) of a local brew (Sam Adams – you get used to it) you have to pay $4, with tip $5 so a nice pub evening can be very expensive enjoyment.
For your daily life it’s very helpful to have a liquor ID. This little card can be easily obtained at the local registry of motor vehicles and is accepted here as a king of passport and replaces your bulky passport. With it you can identify yourself wherever it is needed, get entrance to pubs and clubs and it entitles you to buy alcohol.
Another very helpful thing to do here is to open an account at a local bank. With this account it is much easier to obtain cash money and to pay your room and other thinks with checks.
I had a great, great time in Boston / Cambridge. And half a year is nothing - it passes by so quickly… A stay here is really worth all its money or efforts you need to come here. I for myself learned a lot concerning my field of research, got a good overview about other technical topics, improved my English and made many, many good experiences, which will be important for my later life and meet many nice people I will stay in contact with.
Also now I know a little bit more about the American culture and the American way of life and of course I’ve seen New York, an experience every body should make, after this, big is not big anymore…
After 4 month of staying in Cambridge I feel now more European then before and realized how nice it could be to speak different languages. Back in Germany I want now to improve my French as well and travel more.
Despite the good time I had here in Cambridge, I’m looking forward to come back to Germany and do my Masters at the RheinAhrCampus, but I think I will see now many things from a different point of view.