LIFE IN CAMBRIDGE (SO FAR)

Honestly it’s been really stressful.

Because it’s mainly just a dozen or more errands I have to complete to get settled in! I have been on a hiatus from the blog the past few weeks because I finished classes a week early and started making the move from Clemson to Cambridge. Having such a big move and moving to a completely different place than anything I’ve experienced before, I have a few things I want to say. 

Moving to the big city from the small town is scary. It’s scary as hell. It’s also expensive. I’m used to friendly smiles whether or not you meant to make eye contact, the “Hi, how are you today?” as you pass by strangers, and just the general friendly banter. You don’t get that quite as often here. I’m not saying I’ve never dealt with a rude person in the South before but I can tell you their attitudes toward you are totally different. I’m also not saying I haven’t had plenty of friendly encounters since being here but it’s certainly a slightly different interaction. 

The expense is also a huge adjustment. Noah and I rented an entire house (2 bedroom, 1 bathroom) with a large front and backyard for $725 per month which included our own private driveway. Here, I pay nearly $1,000 per month for a single bedroom in a four bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment that has off-street parking granted that your car is registered in the state and you have a city residential parking permit. I got all of that done my first few days here; I went to the RMV (Registry of Motor Vehicles, I guess Mass is SpEcIaL) and registered my car and converted my license for about $250.00. Then I had to go to city hall in Central Square to pay $25 for the city residential parking permit. Additionally and lastly (I hope), I need to get my car inspected within the first 7 days of having registered the car with Mass. I have that scheduled for tomorrow at the local Honda dealership and should cost no more than $35.00 per Mass law. This isn’t including the cost for shipping my things here, driving here from Clemson, SC, or else. It’s been so financially consuming my bank account has CANCELLED Christmas. I simply cannot afford it, sadly. Luckily, my family and friends are wonderful and awesome and simply ask for my presence this holiday. Which is all I can give, lol. So, the financial burden of getting up here and getting adjusted has been a large part of the stress I have been under.

Maybe you’re wondering why I am even sharing these dull errands with you. Well, I want to share my experience with a big move, especially for anyone who may have been too worried, concerned, or fearful to make a big move that they have always wanted to do or maybe feel like they need to do. Especially to those of you who have been born and raised in your hometown and, perhaps you have never lived anywhere else. It’s probably pretty terrifying thinking about a big change like moving to an entirely new city. I’m here to help you sort through the overwhelming tasks that come along with a big move. I want to share my pain, my stress, my anxiety, and my homesickness with you all. It’s hard making a big move. I already miss my friends back in Clemson. I miss my yard and being able to be as loud as I want in my own home, cleaning and keeping things exactly how I like them, and only having my fur babies and my partner as housemates. I miss the inexpensive life of the South. I miss my research group. And I have no clue what to expect with my new co-workers, peers, or hosuemates. The uncertainty stresses me tf out. Add a sprinkle of crippling social anxiety and OCD to add as the cherry on top, why dontchya? 

But hey, if I can survive, you guys can, too. I’m not gonna lie. I have no idea if this whole big move was worth it. I really hope it is and I am genuinely excited to experience the city and this new life once I get past the transition. Even though registering your car in Mass is a goddamn nightmare (P.S. I went to the RMV two separate times before realizing my auto insurance company didn’t properly complete the RMV-1 form and then when I went back a second time, they complained that the RMV-1 form was completed in handwriting as opposed to being typed up. Which, by the way, is not specified anywhere online or on the forms so like…..No. Take this form before I cry). But don’t worry! I added tips below. 

Tips to surviving a big move

  1. See if your employer offers reimbursement on moving expenses and what type of expenses would be covered. There could be a maximum expense amount they will agree to cover so be sure to plan accordingly.
  2. I used UPACK Relocube to ship my things. It’s not cheap but my employer will reimburse me luckily. I used a dorm/studio apartment sized cube. They come and drop off a large portable storage unit based on your needs and you pack it as you see fit. When you’re ready, they come and pick it up and deliver it to your new residential address for you within 3-5 business days! It was my first time ever doing something like this and my experience was awesome and I highly recommend it. You can track the shipment real time and always know where your things are. 
  3. If you’re driving and/or bringing your car, figure out if you need to be a resident in that state. If you’re a student, you can generally get away with not being a resident. However, in cities like Cambridge, it’s virtually impossible to be an out-of-state student with a car. It’s in your best interest to register your car and get a city residential parking permit. If you can get to a city like Cambridge without a car, you can live life without one. I barely use my car as it is because public transportation is awesome and I’m a southerner and terrified to drive in snow. You can plan ahead of time by doing this research before the move which will make it much smoother!
  4. Be sure to research the area you will be living in. Make sure you like the location, safety (street lights, crime rates, etc), local shops you will want to have nearby (pharmacy, vet, coffee shops, etc). Figure out how far your commute would be under different circumstances (inclement weather, public transportation or commuting, etc).
  5. What’s the price for a gallon of milk at your local grocery store? Bread? Eggs? This will be helpful in understanding the fluctuation in prices you will need to prepare for. 
  6. Reach out to friends on social media that might be in the area where you are moving to. They could be a huge asset in helping you find housing and getting your feet on the ground. I have reached out to TONS of old friends, acquaintances, peers, and they have all been so helpful in giving me advice and places to look for housing. 
  7. If you have animals, be sure to consider what they need to make this move as smooth as possible for them, too. For me, I had to get Ruca more anxiety medications because he is a nervous nelly. He hates car rides and has never flown with me but now that I am so far from my hometown, I must fly home for the holidays. So Ruca must fly with me (in the cabin) and he will thus need Trazodone. Mars, my tabby cat, also has issues, particularly with his cat carrier. If I put him in the cat carrier for long periods of time, he goes bonkers. He will distort his body and press up against the carrier as hard as he can and yoooooowwlll the entire carride. I knew I wouldn’t last with Mars in his cat carrier from Clemson to Cambridge so instead I invested in seat belt leashes. I used these:
And they are also linked here (P.S. They are only $10 for a pair of two and are currently Amazon’s choice).  I also used this cheap upholstery pet protector. I used the hammock design so it created a cozy space in the backseat for both Ruca and Mars. It kept Mars from trying to get up front (which he does try to move around quite a bit in the car and that makes me nervous he’ll make me get in an accident) and keeps the pets from bouncing around if I need to slam on my brakes. The leashes are especially awesome because they have the stretchy elastic near the clip so this helps absorb any sudden jerks the dog or cat may feel. It worked really well!
My nearly-final tip is as soon as you commit to a big move, start saving as soon as humanly possible. This will help ease any emergencies or unexpected expenses that will likely come your way. 

My final, final tip is to relax. Which is honestly really rich coming from me. I’ve been a basket case these past few days. But I’m here and alive and I’ve managed to get most of the annoying errands over and done with.


Enjoy the time you have in a new city. Explore, adventure, try new things! Acquaint yourself with everything your new home has to offer. Find your favorite take out place. Find your new running route. Before you know it, you’ll realize you just made this new place home and according

to Creed from The Office, humans just have a knack for making a place home no matter where they go.

VISITING CAMBRIDGE, MA

WAS AWESOME.

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Me posing in front of the mysterious historical observatory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). I’ve tried to do some digging on the history of this guy but with no success as of yet.
First of all, just wow. I visited Cambridge, MA for the first time ever to begin moving into my new apartment up there, in preparation for my predoctoral fellowship with the CfA. I begin early January 2020! I also visited so I could take it all in and start visualizing myself living here.
I was really nervous about visiting because it’s a city. I’ve always hated cities. I denied this for a long time but after moving to the Appalachia to pursue physics in undergrad, I came to terms with it. I hated Richmond when I visited for college tours. And that was apparently that. My love for the mountains and wide open spaces grew as I moved further south to continue my education in Clemson, South Carolina. By the time got here, I had done away with thinking about living in the city. I started picturing myself buying a house in South Carolina – far from civilization, no neighbors, no homeowner’s association; just rolling hills and wildlife. That’s what I wanted (and I still do!). But for now, we are taking a little detour.
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Ugh ok. So I am an amateur photographer (for fun). This day, I COULD NOT get my camera to focus. This was the best I could get. Believe me though: with the moon out, the sparkling buildings towering over the park, and the colorful fall leaves, it was a gorgeous evening in downtown Boston.
And, oh man, was I in for a pleasant awakening. Maybe I still hate cities. I don’t know truthfully. But I do think I will love Cambridge. Where we live is a 10 minute bus ride to my work and a 10 minute bus ride to Harvard Square and from there, you can go anywhere! We have a grocery store just around the corner from our house. And, ironically, where we live in Cambridge is a lot quieter than where we live in Clemson. This is because in our Clemson house, the main road is directly behind us. We hear that traffic all day and all night. Only at about 3am does it cease momentarily for an eerie calmness. In Cambridge, I felt the same eerie calmness our first night in the apartment and then it hit me – it’s quieter ​here. Of course, that is some good luck. Oh also, we have a small backyard! That’s more than most city residents can say.
We have a fresh pond, literally called Fresh Pond, that is walking distance from our house, featuring a ~2 mile loop around the pond with both a dog beach and dog park so yeah – Ruca (the beagle) will LOVE it here. He also loves snow! Mars and Bella, the cats, on the other hand, have never even see snow. So that’ll be interesting to see.
And everyone is right about Cambridge. Even if you want a car, you simply won’t need one. Additionally, everyone is also right about parking: it’s a frikkin nightmare. I will have to become a MA resident in order to park my car on most any streets which should cost a few hundred dollars. Parking in general in Cambridge can be wildly expensive as well. However, my street is convenient. A $25 annual fee for a resident parking permit is required to be able to park pretty much anywhere in Cambridge and, luckily, my street is more residential and so there is plenty of parking. Anyway, I didn’t want my blog to focus on parking in Cambridge so, moving on.
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Another somewhat out-of-focus shot from the local park right off the Park redline T stop in Boston.
So I hate most cities. What makes Cambridge any different? First, there are two things I noticed right off the bat:

1. It’s clean
2. People are nice

Maybe you have had similar experiences in other cities, and that’s great! I’m happy for you and I truly hope you love where you are located now. But personally when I visited places like San Francisco, Richmond, Anchorage, Atlanta, etc., I couldn’t help but notice how nasty the city and the people can be.

To me, people in the city look depressed. They look down and walk fast, never noticing the world around them. Trash is littered on every street curb and cluttered on every street corner. The traffic is, like, insane. No matter what time of day. People will honk when you slow down to take a turn! Like, they legitimately get annoyed in the city when you inconvenience them for you to safely try to make a turn. Are you guys aware it’s just part of being a responsible vehicle operator? I don’t get that, lol.
In Cambridge, I will admit, it doesn’t seem like a “normal” city. It’s compact and has skyscapers and all but it doesn’t quite have the living-on-top-of-each-other feel. It still feels open. Of course, it could be just me.

Though Cambridge still feels pretty city. Public transportation is well-developed and reliable. It’s expensive to live here. Housing is at least triple the cost what it is in the south and groceries, too. For comparison, Noah and I pay $725 to rent a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom HOME with a nice front and backyard and a shed. In Cambridge, I pay nearly $1,000 per month for a SINGLE bedroom in a four bedroom apartment, shared with three other roommates.

Other things I really enjoyed about Cambridge:

  • THEY CHARGE FOR PLASTIC BAGS (WHICH IS GREAT)
  • Didn’t see a single confederate flag while visiting! (also great)
  • DOG FRIENDLY. People are not obsessed with rules on animals. People nonchalantly brought their non-service animals into food establishments regularly. I. Love. That. Ruca would hate it though if I tried to make him socialize like that but, I love that.
  • Public transportation is awesome
  • Beautiful city in the fall (Boston, too!)
  • They use the mail slots on the doors still like in Harry Potter. They don’t do mailboxes on our street. I know this might still be a standard in other places but it’s not where I come from!
Other things I did not so much care for in Cambridge:

  • Housing expense. Note: It is very hard finding pet friendly AND affordable housing. Not impossible though (cause I, afterall, found a good place satisfying both).
  • Car owner expenses. Yes, I am bringing my car so I can still do weekend trips out of town if I’d like and(or) for emergencies. I do not anticipate to need it regularly.

And, that’s really it for me: Juggling finances in the city. For me, that is going to be the biggest challenge. But as for the rest, I am SO excited!

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I can see both of our cats getting a kick out of our mail slot.

P.S. I’m OK with snow.

EUROPE

Visiting Europe for the first time was a way of celebrating passing my written qualification exams in January, passing my Master’s thesis defense in April, AND earning (and later accepting) a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, specifically funded by the Chandra X-ray Center, in May. I think I more than deserved a vacation, right? Especially a grand adventure! So, Noah and I bought tickets to visit my good friends, Kirsten and Jacob in Belgium. 
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Heidelberg, Germany! Our first adventure altogether. Pictured is the town center with a beautiful view of the Heidelberg castle.
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View at the top by the Heidelberg castle, over looking the gorgeous town that hugs the Neckar River.
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The Aare glacier waters that run through Interlaken, Switzerland.
We were in Europe for two full weeks. This was Noah and I’s first time ever leaving the United States (at the ages of 25 and 27!). We managed to visit SEVEN countries:
1. Belgium

  • Cities: Lens, Brugge, and Brussels

2. Germany

  • ​Cities: Heidelberg

3. Switzerland

  • Cities: Interlaken, Grindelwald, and Spiez

4. France

  • Cities: Annecy

5. Czech Republic

  • Cities: Prague and Karlovy Vary

6. Netherlands

  • Cities: Amsterdam

7. Spain

  • Madrid

Below I outline my favorites and highlight areas I think everyone should visit (!), and some tips for navigating Europe.

My favorites: Heidelberg, Switzerland, Prague, and Amsterdam
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Grindelwald, Switzerland! This was at the location of the ride Toboggan. You ride on a fast slide through the Swiss mountains! It’s great fun.
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The Charles Bridge in Prague. The bridge was finished in the 15th century and crosses the Vltava River.
Heidelberg: Gorgeous town, rich in history (like the rest of Europe pretty much) and features an ancient castle dating back to at least 1214. We stayed at a small hotel called Hotel Dier Johresjeiten with its own intriguing background, itself dating back to 1690. The hotel staff were knowledgable about the area and were very kind!

  • Average price to visit here (1 $ being cheap to 5 $ being very expensive): $$ — not bad. 

Switzerland: Interlaken is absolutely beautiful! Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by towering mountains and glacier streams. This includes Spiez and Grindelwald. We visited Harderkulm, a peer in the mountains nearly a mile above sea level, that overlooks Lake Brienz and Lake Thun, and has a stunning view. In Grindelwald, we went up to ride the Toboggan! It was so much fun! Everyone should do that when visiting Grindelwald. 

  • Average price to visit here: $$$$ –the Frank is comparable in value to the US dollar but the cost of living is much higher. Four of us stayed in a one room AirBnB that shared a bathroom with another hotel room that was walking distance from the train station and to the city center for two nights: nearly $500.00. 

Prague: The capital city of the Czech Republic has remarkable architecture with winding roads that all stream from the city center where the astronomical clock sits. The cuisine is divine! You feel like a king when you dine in Prague. 

  • Average price to visit here: $ — A big perk for me about Prague was the prices!! You could buy a decent beer for $1.00 at pretty much any convenience store. You could buy a fabulous sausage dish and a latte for $10. We did one of those tour buses for $25! It was awesome. Plus people are really nice. We have some very interesting stories from this city…. One being we stayed on the fourth floor of a hotel in downtown. Every night you would hear SWARMS of men stumbling in the streets, belting out famous songs (We’re not gonna take it and Don’t you love me baby to name a few)  at the top of their lungs as they made their way to the next bar. I was still recovering from jetlag at this point so I wasn’t necessarily annoyed by it. In fact, I thought it was rather funny. If I can’t sleep, why not listen to Prague at night?
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Amsterdam, Netherlands. Beautiful and captivating in architecture, culture, and history.
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Annecy, France. A brief trip but was lovely nonetheless. Took a dip in the lake and appreciated the clear blue water.

         Must sees!

  • Heidelberg Castle in Heidelberg, Germany
  • Brugge (great beer, good prices!), Belgium
  • Toboggan ride in Grindelwald, Switzerland
  • The astronomical clock in Prague, Czech Republic
  • Harderkulm in Interlaken, Switzerland
Tips to follow in the next post. There are a few apps that saved me while traveling in Europe on a budget and with limited cell phone service! Other things, like traveling with a group and planning on a budget, I will try to provide advice on next.