StudyAdvantage Magazine

The Boston Experience

Published: November 20, 2016

What do the movies Good Will Hunting, Spotlight and Shutter Island all have in common? Apart from the fact that all of them are great movies, they are all set in Boston, Massachusetts. The city is also home to over 50 universities, making it a true academic hub of the East Coast.  

If you’ve seen Good Will Hunting, you might remember it’s the story of a janitor who works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one day happens to solve a next to impossible problem a professor had left on a blackboard. Turns out the guy’s a genius. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is arguably the best university in the world. Its many buildings, like the Media Lab, the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the Stata Center, and the famous MIT Dome, are spread out along the north bank of the Charles River. Although mostly known for its reputation in the sciences, MIT offers majors and minors in the humanities and social sciences as well, and is the highest ranked university for Economics according to QS.

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Just slightly further north, the rich colour of the autumn leaves makes Harvard’s campus one of the cosiest places to hang around. The university itself hardly needs an introduction. Perhaps as one would expect, Harvard is right next to Harvard Square, a small but lively area full of cafes and over-caffeinated, latte-consuming and laptop-glaring undergrads. If you’re hanging out with Boston students, they are likely to run into one of their TA’s (Teaching Assistants) around here. On Beacon Street, only a couple of blocks away from the campus, you can go have a drink at the Thirsty Scholar Pub, one of the filming locations of the Social Network, and a rumoured hangout spot of Mr. Zuckerberg himself.

Though only one stop on the ‘T’ (Boston’s subway) separates them, the atmosphere and surroundings of Harvard and MIT differ significantly. By attracting the best and brightest in the fields of Engineering and Computer Science, MIT has been surrounded by companies that have settled down around its campus. These include companies like good old Google, but also dozens of biotechnology firms looking to recruit the best minds to develop new methods and technologies in genetic engineering amongst other things. You can read more about MIT’s Biological Engineering department here.



Harvard and MIT are perhaps the academic highlights of the city, but students have an almost endless amount of alternatives to choose from. Did you know Martin Luther King Jr attended Boston University? Or that 107 alumni from the Berklee College of Music have received a total of 266 Grammy Awards? It’s a city that is booming with academic opportunities, and by attending one of the schools you are likely to get access to many of the other ones as well. Through an intercollegiate system, students can access other universities’ libraries, and academic collaborations between the schools are common, even at the undergraduate level.

Our perception of city size is entirely relative: some might find Boston overwhelming; others might find it gets too small at times. When in Boston, both situations are just one train or bus away. With the Amtrak train, Providence, home to the sister Ivy Brown University, is only 40 minutes away; quick escapades to New York city take just a bit longer. New England is an incredibly dense area, academically speaking, not least because it is home to every single Ivy League school. To get a better feel for the Boston and Massachusetts area there are plenty of bloggers at StudyAdvantage sharing their stories. You can follow them here:

Luca at Berklee College of Music

Denis at Harvard

Safa at MIT

Filip at Brown

René at Amherst

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