When Katie Shubat (‘13) arrived in Boston for her freshman year at Boston University, the first thing that stuck out to her was how “the city is built upward, not spread out.”
Culture in Boston is largely the same — influenced by nearly 400 years of history, built by people with drastically different backgrounds. Chinatown is a mere 1.6 miles from the North End, Boston’s “Little Italy.”
Regardless of cultural differences, people in the city will “stick with each other,” according to Shubat. She saw this firsthand when her first visit to the city coincided with the Boston Marathon bombings on Apr. 15, 2013.
“I was confused and a little scared, but it was really cool to see how the community drew together and helped each other out [after the bombings],” Shubat said.
Michael Gray, guitarist and vocalist for the Bostonian folk-rock band American Beauties, calls Boston “New York City without the snob.” American Beauties got its start playing in cafes and bars in Somerville, Mass., two miles northwest of Boston.
“We’ve always just been playing close by,” Gray said. “There’s a sense of community between the musicians and the audience. It’s kind of like you’re watching your friends perform, even though they’re total strangers.”
Anna Huang (11) visited Boston for the first time in the summer of 2012, on vacation with her older brother. Although she did not get a chance to watch American Beauties perform, one of her fondest memories from the city was attending open mic night at The Dugout, a café close to Boston University with open mic nights every Tuesday.
“I honestly don’t remember any of [the performers’] names,” Huang said. “What I remember is thinking that everyone on stage seemed like performing was all they wanted to do.”
Gray agrees, saying that one of the most rewarding moments was performing in front of the “first real audience of complete strangers, and seeing that they really enjoyed the music.”
“There are some really talented, legendary artists out there,” Gray said. “But when you go to one of these local shows, there is a rawness and passion in the music that only someone who really loves the music and being part of it can have.”
Gray said that a large part of his audiences consisted of college students, who are “open to different styles of music and bring their friends and get less well-known artists noticed.”
Shubat said a distinctive feature of Boston is its intellectual atmosphere, as the city is both full of and surrounded by colleges and universities.
“I think Boston is a popular place for college students because you get the city environment without being thrown somewhere hectic, like New York,” Huang said.
However, at the time of her visit, Huang’s focus was seeing the places she had read about in books — the Charles River and the Boston Common were her favorites.
“It wasn’t the river itself [that I really liked], but the area around it,” Huang said. “It was grassy, and there were people running and walking dogs and some were just watching the boats. But if you just turned away from the river, you saw all the tall buildings and everything behind you. I really liked the contrast.”
Huang visited Boston for a week, but she said there is a lot she has not seen. She described it as “very different from San Diego in a good way,” echoing Gray’s description of a culturally interesting environment “without the snob.” Shubat also found the move a big change, but said she adapted to city life very quickly, and that people in the city were always willing to help.
“The best difference from San Diego is the public transportation,” Shubat said. “You can take the T pretty much anywhere you can’t walk. I’ve never had to take a taxi.”
Much like the ever-growing culture in Boston, Shubat is influenced by every person she talks to, every accent she hears and every brick building she sees.