Tag: Waltham

I’m Admitted, Now What? Housing Part Three: Neighborhoods to Consider

This time of year, it seems like I have a conversation about housing at least once a day. The truth is, the Boston rental market is one of the most competitive in the nation, due in large part to the vast numbers of students who live in Boston (more than 150,000 students, two-thirds of whom don’t live in university provided housing). When you’re looking for housing in Boston, it can seem like you’re competing with every single one of those 100,000 students, and if you’re not from the Boston area, knowing which areas to look in can be extremely frustrating or confusing. This blog post is my attempt to help: these are the neighborhoods that I would recommend checking out if you’re moving from out of state (although keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list and is just based on my experiences and conversations with students).

If you don’t have a car:

Waltham. Starting off with the obvious here, Waltham is a popular choice for many students who attend Brandeis. Because it’s outside of the city limits, it’s more affordable than what you would find in the main Boston area, and it’s also relatively easy to find roommates among your fellow Heller students or even other Brandeis graduate students. There are plenty of buses and Brandeis shuttles to help you get around the area and to your classes.

Somerville/Cambridge. Porter Station in Somerville is on the same commuter line as Brandeis, making this a really convenient area for students without a car. Harvard Square, in Cambridge, is connected to Brandeis by a university sponsored shuttle, giving you a really affordable option to get to campus. The neighborhoods of Union Square, Davis Square, Winter Hill, Spring Hill, Magoun Square, Powder House and South Medford are all within walking or biking distance from either Porter Square or Harvard Square. These areas (especially Union Square and Davis Square) are all pretty desirable areas since there are great restaurants, shopping, and activities, so expect to pay a little more than you would in Waltham.

North Concord/Concord/Acton. Okay, I’ll admit: these are not the most popular places for graduate students at Brandeis to live because they’re further out from the city and don’t have as many apartment buildings, but I’m here to advocate for them as an option. These towns are also connected to Brandeis by the commuter rail and have a lot to offer in terms of culture. Because they’re atypical places for students to live, you can sometimes find really surprising deals.

If you do have a car:

Jamaica Plain/Hyde Park/West Roxbury/Roslindale. This cluster of neighborhoods south west of the city is a really popular place for graduate students and young adults to live in Boston. The Jamaica Plain are has definitely gotten more expensive over the years, but the neighborhoods surrounding the area are still affordable and give you the same access to the city as you would have if you lived in Jamaica Plain. Although not linked to Waltham by a major highway, it’s very easy to get to these areas, with commutes around 30 minutes.

Allston/Brighton. These neighborhoods, located just east of the city, are really popular places for students of all ages to live. You can definitely find some more affordable housing in this area, especially if you live with roommates, and you’ll be more in the center of Boston nightlife. These neighborhoods are right off of 90, so you can get to Brandeis in under 20 minutes with no traffic.

Arlington/Medford/Malden. Again, these are probably not the most popular neighborhoods for Brandeis students to live in, given that they are further out than the other options I’ve listed here. However, I would not ignore these places as an option: you can take Highway 2 to 95, which will take you right to Brandeis, so it’s actually very easy to travel from these areas to Brandeis, and you can usually get to these areas in under 30 minutes. They’re also relatively close to Somerville and Cambridge, which are great areas for dining, shopping, and entertainment, while having a lot of restaurants of their own, not to mention the natural beauty of Mystic Lake and Middlesex Fells.

Like I said before, this is no means an exhaustive list, and there are tons of neighborhoods and housing around Boston. But if you’re finding yourself lost as to where to start, take the time to explore some of these options and see if they might be right for you!

Moving to Boston? Put these on your to-do list

The location of your graduate school can play a huge role in your experience, and in my (perhaps slightly biased) opinion, the Boston area is a great place to be during graduate school. There are tons of cultural events and attractions, and there’s never any shortage of things to do, both in the city center and the neighborhoods and suburbs surrounding Boston. Here are my top five picks of places to visit once you move to Boston:

1. The Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum

Every time a friend or relative visits me in Boston, this is at the top of my list of places to take them. It’s unlike any museum I’ve ever been to— the lush courtyard in the middle surrounded by beautiful Venetian architecture as well as it’s unique blend of Asian, European, and African art make it feel completely separate from the rest of Boston. As an added point of interest, it’s also the site of the largest art heist in history. In 1990, thieves stole $500 million works of art, including pieces by Vermeer and Rembrandt. As you explore the museum, keep an eye out for the empty frames that the museum has left hanging.

2. The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation

This museum may not be as well known as some of the larger museums on this list, but I consider it a hidden gem. I hadn’t visited it until I started working at Heller, but it soon became one of my favorites. It’s the site of America’s first factory, and the museum holds artifacts of the industrial revolution from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and provides insight into Boston’s role in the Industrial Revolution, as well as a look into Waltham’s history.

3. The Peabody Essex Museum

While not strictly in Boston, the Peabody Essex Museum is one of my favorite museums to visit in the area. They have an eclectic collection featuring artists from around the world and often have immersive, experiential works that make visiting it worthwhile during your time in Boston. Currently, you can view their collections of Chinese, maritime, Oceanic, African, and Native American art, including photographs, sculptures, paintings, and jewelry. Fashion aficionados will also appreciate the Alexander McQueen dress on display— there really is something for everyone!

4. The Boston Common and Public Gardens

While this isn’t a museum, it’s certainly worth a visit while you’re in the Boston area as an important historical site. The Boston Common was originally founded as a common grazing area for cattle (hence the name), but eventually developed into the first public park in America. Over the years, it has been used for numerous protests, from the American Revolution to Black Lives Matter protests, and both Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II have delivered speeches here. Across Charles Street lies the Boston Public Garden, which is part of the Emerald Necklace string of parks designed by  Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed Central Park in New York City). During the spring, tulips lining the walkway to the George Washington statue and blooming cherry blossoms make for an amazing photo opportunity.

5. Brandeis’ Rose Art Museum

I would be remiss if I didn’t feature Brandeis’ very own Rose Art Museum. They always have thought-provoking exhibits, but I’m particularly fond of their permanent collection, The Undisciplined Collector. It’s a wood-paneled room filled with artifacts and artwork that’s meant to evoke the feeling of stepping into a 1960s living room. If you’re a fan of mid-century furniture or design (or maybe just really liked Mad Men), be sure to check this one out.

BONUS: I asked my co-workers where their favorite places in Boston are, and here’s what they had to say!

Hannah Locke, Associate Director of Admissions: I recommend getting out of Boston to check out the various New England islands in warmer weather – Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, MA; Block Island, RI; and Deer Isle, ME.

Jill Maley, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions: Although I don’t get into Boston often, I love to visit the Andala Coffee House (which is technically in Cambridge) for a strong cup of coffee that’s perfect for either sitting in the cheerful cafe, or wandering around Cambridge.

Ellen Driscoll, Admissions Coordinator: On a sunny day, I enjoy walks along Boston Harbor from South Boston, to the Waterfront, and to Charlestown. And don’t miss our newest park, the Greenway, which rests atop our tunnel through downtown Boston and connects the North End neighborhood with Quincy Market and the Financial District.

Boston in the Fall

Hannah Lougheed, MA SID/MS-GHPM’22

Trivia time! Name this song:

And I’ve never licked a spark plug,
And I’ve never sniffed a stink bug,
And I’ve never painted daisies on a big red rubber ball,
And I’ve never bathed in yogurt
And I don’t look good in leggings
And we’ve never been to Boston in the fall!

If you guessed “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything!” from Veggie Tales you’d be correct! Next logical question: why am I quoting Veggie Tales in a blog post made for Heller Admissions? Answer: BOSTON IN THE FALL!!

If you’re considering going to Heller, but feel some apprehension because you recharge in nature (like me) and feel there will be less nature to enjoy – fear no more. Boston in the fall is beautiful, not only within the city, but also in the surrounding areas – like Waltham. One of my favorite weekend activities is finding a new place to hike; be it with a friend or alone, after having been in brick buildings all week for work or classes, surrounding myself with living, breathing flora is – quite literally – a breath of fresh air. At Brandeis, there is a hiking club with folks who get together almost every weekend to explore the surrounding woodlands if you prefer to hike in groups. If you prefer solo hikes, there is a great app that I use that informs me on all aspects of a trail (call AllTrails). By using this app, I can see how heavily trafficked specific hikes are, their difficulty level, length, and proximity to me. I specifically really like to see the traffic levels because I tend to trend towards mid to heavily trafficked areas when hiking alone for safety.

Now, you may be thinking, “okay Hannah, we get it, there are hiking trails. I have trails where I live, so what’s the big deal?”. First of all, cut down the sass. Secondly, Boston is unique in the fact that if you were to drive 10 minutes in one direction you would be in a woodland that has little to no noise pollution, then drive 10 minutes in a different direction and you’re in the heart of a bustling city. So if you’re looking for the cliché “best of both worlds” this could be a nice fit.

Now, you may be thinking, “but Hannah, I don’t prefer to hike up mountains in my spare time – nor do I want to be attacked by a turkey in the forest”. To which I would reply – fair, but many of the trails in this area are pretty easy to stroll leisurely through. As far as the turkey goes,  that’s out of my hands… may the odds be ever in your favor. Some nice trails near/in Waltham (that do not all require a car to access) include Cat Rock Park Loop, Weston Reservoir Loop, Charles River Walkway, and my new favorite, Storer Conservation Land, just to name a few.

So, if you’ve never been to Boston in the fall, consider checking it out! It has beautiful foliage, lovely hikes, and fun and mostly harmless wildlife.

Need a break or snack between classes? Daniella has you covered!

Daniella Levine, MPP ’21

Due to the pandemic, I began my time at Heller in the virtual classroom. Now that we are back in person, I am excited to take advantage all that school has to offer, and that includes finding the best spots for food and otherwise! I have lived in the greater Boston area for five years, and beyond a few scattered visits to Brandeis in the past to see friends or go on a campus tour, I have not spent a considerable amount of time in Waltham. I am eager to add new eateries and locations to my repertoire. Instead of starting from scratch, I crowdsourced with my colleagues to learn more about Brandeis/Waltham and hear about places that are special to them. I compiled a list for myself and now want to share their recommendations with you. Whether you are new to Waltham or have lived here for years, it’s always nice to have some suggestions to look back on. I hope this will help you as much as it’s helped me during my first few months at Heller!

Favorite place to pick up a quick bite between classes:

“I love the sandwiches at South Street Market. Their bread is fresh and the people working there are always so kind” – Amelia MPP ’22

“I like getting lunch at Tree Top Thai. Their Thai food is always super yummy and enough for leftovers too plus they write your name in beautiful handwriting on the to-go bags” – Hannah MPP ’22

The Prime Deli. Period, end of story” – Sierra MPP ’22

Leo’s Place Diner! Great food and lovely owners. It always feels like home” – Louisa MPP ’22

Molti on Moody for delicious sandwiches!!” – Lydia MPP ’22

Cafe on the Common has great coffee and wifi and it’s not too far from campus. It’s a good place study for a few hours if you need a change of scenery!” – Paulina MPP ’22

“I love grabbing groceries at the Waltham Indian Market, they have everything you can imagine and need!!” – Mariela MPP ’22

Favorite place on campus: 

“Brandeis has some great views of Boston. I love to take a moment outside to appreciate the scenery between classes. I highly recommend the outdoor area of the science center and the lawn in front of the skyline for the best views” – Kerin MPP/MBA ’22

“The balcony of the Shapiro Science Center has one of the most beautiful views on campus, especially when the weather is warm and the trees are green!” – Adam MPP ’22

If you find yourself in Waltham, for a visit, a campus tour, or school, please leave a comment of what you did or where you ate so we can keep growing the list. I’ll add that in addition to the places mentioned above, I love Taqueria Mexico. The food is delicious and affordable. What keeps me coming back is the staff, who are so friendly and accommodating.

What’s for Lunch? Doug Nevins’ Brandeis Culinary Tour  

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

Of the many things I am looking forward to this fall, when Brandeis reopens for in-person courses, revisiting some of my favorite culinary destinations ranks… not as high as seeing friends and professors in person, or attending class without opening Zoom – but still pretty high! I miss the many dining options available on and near the Brandeis campus, as well as the opportunities for hanging out and studying with classmates which they provide. For incoming and prospective students (and anyone who has been remote this past year and happens to read this blog), I’ll share a few recommendations of my favorite spots on campus.

Einstein’s Bagels

New Yorkers may quibble with bagels made outside their home state, but for me, walking towards Heller from the commuter rail at 8 AM in a decidedly un-caffeinated state, Einstein’s, located in the Shapiro Campus Center, beckons like an oasis before the long uphill walk to Heller. With ample seating, it’s a great place to have meetings, study, or pause before or after a train commute to campus.

My go to order: everything bagel, double toasted, with veggie cream cheese, and a large iced coffee (in all seasons, because I am from New England).

Louie’s Deli

Housed within the Usdan Dining Hall near Heller, Louie’s is a great, quick option for grabbing a kosher sandwich in between classes. There are plenty of other options in Usdan as well.

Go to order: chipotle chicken salad sandwich on challah (+ chips and a pickle)

International Business School deli

I must admit I have never been 100% clear on the name of this place, but it’s a satellite of one of the best sandwich shops in Waltham, Dominic’s (the primary location is also walking distance from campus). This is a great spot to meet people and study, with ceiling height windows facing the pleasant Sachar Woods.

Go to: meatball sandwich with provolone

Heller Starbucks

The one, the only – the place to see and be seen. A central convening point in Heller’s Zinner Forum, this spot is a great go-to for quick coffee refills and snacks during breaks from class. I tried to avoid going more than twice in one day, but during long study sessions, it can be unavoidable.

Go to: coffee, tea, pastries, chips (I believe they also have fruit)

Off-campus honorable mention: South Street Market

Less well-known to Brandeis students than the neighboring Prime Deli (also a great option), South Street is my go-to for sandwiches on the days I am willing to walk a further distance from Heller (also conveniently located by the train station). A great place to take a break from campus, though running into friends is not uncommon!

Go to: pesto chicken panini, Italian wedding soup

As I’ve learned from watching innumerable cooking competition and travel shows during the pandemic, dining out is about more than food – it’s a way to connect with your community. Frugal-minded grad students should absolutely take advantage of the fridge and microwaves in Heller to avoid dining out too often (this is among my top resolutions for this fall). Still, it’s also worth taking advantage of opportunities to grab lunch with friends and use your lunch breaks as an opportunity to explore campus. Let’s eat!

“The New Normal”: Things Doug Nevins is Excited About Reopening in Boston

Man in plaid shirt smiling at camera

Doug Nevins BA ’11, MPP ’21

As vaccination rates increase and a return to something approaching normalcy feels attainable, I’ve been reflecting more about the things I’ve missed the most during the pandemic and am most excited to do again. I thought this would also be an opportunity to highlight some fun activities in the Boston area which prospective and admitted students might find interesting. While I hope that political and business leaders take a cautious, public health-focused approach to reopening, I also hope that the local institutions I love are able to come back strong in the coming months. So, presented here are the things I am most looking forward to reopening.

Movie theaters

One of my favorite things about the greater Boston area is the high density of independent cinemas showing both first run and classic or cult movies. Unlike some of the bigger chains, most of these have remained closed for almost a year. While quarantining has created ample opportunity to catch up on Netflix and the like, I really miss the communal experience of watching a classic movie (or humorously bad cult movie) in a theater – not to mention the popcorn. My favorite cinemas, the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square and the Somerville Theater in Davis Square, host screenings of classic and contemporary independent movies, as well as book talks, concerts, and other events. The Brattle in particular holds some nostalgic value for me – I can still remember attending their annual Bugs Bunny film festival as a kid, as well as numerous matinees and late-night screenings in college and since. I honestly can’t wait to go the movies again!

Live music venues

The Boston area is not lacking in great options for seeing live music, but this has also been steeply curtailed during the pandemic. Fortunately, many independent artists have found creative ways to perform online, and I feel like I’ve discovered more new music in the past year than for several years prior! Still, nothing beats local, live music, or the opportunity to see a nationally touring act live. I’m particularly looking forward to going to shows again at places like Toad, a tiny bar venue in Porter Square near the commuter rail station from which I commuted to Brandeis; the Burren, an Irish pub in Davis square which hosts informal Irish folk sessions and Beatles brunches; and the Sinclair, a Harvard Square complex where I’ve seen performances by some of my favorite indie rock and hip-hop groups.

Gyms

Ok, so gyms are technically open in some cities, but I have not been for a while. We’ll just say it’s because of Covid. But, now that more cities in Massachusetts are opening gyms, and given that the Brandeis gym is open with all appropriate safety measures taken, I’m hoping to get back into the habit. Having access to a gym is a great perk of grad school, and one I plan to take more advantage of in the coming year.

Outdoor seating

It is somewhat cold in Massachusetts in the winter, I’m afraid. However, it’s beginning to feel like spring! This past summer lots of restaurants and bars in the area created extensive outdoor seating, helped in part by street parking, and sometimes entire streets, being converted to seating and pedestrian-only areas (Moody Street in downtown Waltham, for instance). I’m hopeful that this trend towards greater walkability and shared outdoor space continues post-pandemic, and I’m definitely looking forward to it this summer.

I know the pandemic has been difficult for everyone in different ways, and that feeling able to engage in some of the activities mentioned above is a privilege. Still, I hope everyone reading can stay connected to their communities and begin to resume some of the activities they enjoyed pre-pandemic in the coming months.

Exploring the Boston Area with Sami

Woman in glasses smiling at the camera

Sami Rovins COEX/MS ’21

Waltham and the greater Boston area as a whole are such fun, vibrant, and exciting places to be a graduate student. There is always something to do, something new to experience, eat, or see! It’s not easy to narrow down a list of recommendations, but here, in no particular order, are my top five:

  1. Walden Pond is a historic, wooded area that’s a perfect place to spend an afternoon in the Spring or Summer. The lake has plenty of room to swim, get a tan, relax with friends, and enjoy the trails in the surrounding woods. For history nerds like me, there is lots of information about Henry David Thoreau, who famously lived and wrote there. You’ll even be able to visit a model of his house. Walden Pond is only about a 25-minute drive from Waltham, and it is the perfect escape from the business of grad school.
  2. If you’re a fan of Indian food, you’ll love Punjabi Dhaba. It’s a casual spot to eat in Cambridge that is usually overflowing with happy customers. It can be tough to choose what to order off of their long and varied menu! Personally, I’m a very big fan of their Paneer Chili Masala. Combine that with a samosa and a mango lassi, you won’t leave disappointed.
  3. The Isabella Stuart Gardener Museum is my favorite art museum in all of Boston. Having once been Ms. Gardener’s personal art collection, it’s a unique and unusual space filled with art from many different places and times. Be sure to keep your eyes out for a few large frames with no art inside of them: after a robbery (the paintings were never recovered), the museum chose not to replace the stolen work with anything else.
  4. Take a walk along the Charles River and enjoy one of the more scenic spaces in Waltham. There is a long and lovely trail along the water that provides a beautiful walk through Waltham. It’s another great way to escape the stress of a busy day, and a great opportunity to get to know the town of Waltham in more detail. You can also explore the Charles by renting a kayak and navigating through the water.
  5. Enjoy a dance party, see a show, or do karaoke at The Middle East. A funky club and bar in Cambridge, The Middle East is the perfect place to unwind after classes end on a Friday or over the weekend. Once you’re there, you’ll discover new music, make new friends, and enjoy delicious Middle Eastern food. My favorite is getting nostalgic at their 90’s throwback dance party.

There’s so much to see and do around Boston and Waltham, it’s hard to pick just five recommendations! Once you’re here, you’ll have ample opportunity to get to know the area and discover what’s most exciting to you.

Stuck at Home? Start Exploring Boston!

Even though the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston may be re-opening this week, many of us aren’t yet ready to start exploring everything that Boston has to offer. Luckily, many Boston attractions are hosting virtual tours, giving people the opportunity to experience the cultural institutions that make Boston so special. If you’re on the fence about whether the Boston area is the right setting for your graduate studies, or if you want to get started on exploring before your move, today I’m sharing some of my favorite museums and attractions around Boston that are currently hosting virtual tours.

1. The Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum

Every time a friend or relative visits me in Boston, this is at the top of my list of places to take them. It’s unlike any museum I’ve ever been to— the lush courtyard in the middle surrounded by beautiful Venetian architecture as well as it’s unique blend of Asian, European, and African art make it feel completely separate from the rest of Boston. As an added point of interest, it’s also the site of the largest art heist in history. In 1990, thieves stole $500 million works of art, including pieces by Vermeer and Rembrandt. As you explore the museum, keep an eye out for the empty frames that the museum has left hanging.

2. The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation

This museum may not be as well known as some of the larger museums on this list, but I consider it a hidden gem. I hadn’t visited it until I started working at Heller, but it soon became one of my favorites. It’s the site of America’s first factory, and the museum holds artifacts of the industrial revolution from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and provides insight into Boston’s role in the Industrial Revolution, as well as a look into Waltham’s history. While the collection itself is more interactive, the museum website has a variety of pictures and videos to let you experience many of its exhibits.

3. The Peabody Essex Museum

While not strictly in Boston, the Peabody Essex Museum is one of my favorite museums to visit in the area. They have an eclectic collection featuring artists from around the world and often have immersive, experiential works that make visiting it worthwhile during your time in Boston. Currently, you can view their collections of Chinese, maritime, Oceanic, African, and Native American art, including photographs, sculptures, paintings, and jewelry. Fashion aficionados will also appreciate the Alexander McQueen dress on display— there really is something for everyone!

4. The Boston Common and Public Gardens

While this isn’t a museum, it’s certainly worth a visit while you’re in the Boston area as an important historical site. The Boston Common was originally founded as a common grazing area for cattle (hence the name), but eventually developed into the first public park in America. Over the years, it has been used for numerous protests, from the American Revolution to Black Lives Matter protests, and both Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul II have delivered speeches here. Across Charles Street lies the Boston Public Garden, which is part of the Emerald Necklace string of parks designed by  Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed Central Park in New York City). During the spring, tulips lining the walkway to the George Washington statue and blooming cherry blossoms make for an amazing photo opportunity.

5. Brandeis’ Rose Art Museum

I would be remiss if I didn’t feature Brandeis’ very own Rose Art Museum. They always have thought-provoking exhibits, but I’m particularly fond of their permanent collection, The Undisciplined Collector. It’s a wood-paneled room filled with artifacts and artwork that’s meant to evoke the feeling of stepping into a 1960s living room. If you’re a fan of mid-century furniture or design (or maybe just really liked Mad Men), be sure to check this one out.

The location of your graduate school can play a huge role in your experience, and in my (perhaps slightly biased) opinion, the Boston area is a great place to be during graduate school. There are tons of cultural events and attractions, and there’s never any shortage of things to do, both in the city center and the neighborhoods and suburbs surrounding Boston. Even while you’re stuck at home, there’s no limit to what Boston and Waltham have to offer!

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