The Real World: Just a Train Ride Away

Snowy, study-filled weekends on the cold Andover campus may never be thrilling, but who says we have to stay on campus? The nearby metropolis of Boston, a huge draw for prospective students of Phillips Academy, is a forgotten asset for many once they are here. Students should take the initiative to go into the city in their free time, and the school ought to encourage students to take advantage of all that Boston has to offer. Currently, students do not have the time, the knowledge or the motivation to go into Boston on the weekends or on free afternoons. The first problem – our busy lives – will always be an issue, but students should inform themselves about Boston, and then the inclination to go there will follow. Here’s the most important fact: all of the information is available. Between the Internet, house counselors, teachers and friends from Massachusetts, of which there is no shortage at PA, there is no mystery left surrounding Boston. A brief online search can turn up museum locations and exhibits, movie listings and train schedules. Most dorms have lists of car-rental services and maps of the city. Student Charlie Cards, Boston’s metro passes, are available at the Student Activities office and provide a convenient discount. In a 2003 Commentary article, Jane Herzeca ’05 suggested, “In addition to a listing of school activities, the Weekender should include a listing of weekend activities in Boston in order to entice Andover students to take advantage of such a vigorous city. It should also provide opportunities to purchase advance tickets to popular events. Furthermore, the Student Activities Center should organize more weekend trips into Boston.” While the school could offer students the opportunity to purchase tickets early – or provide more maps and guides within dorms – students are already able to organize their own trips into Boston, and that is a significant, oft-forgotten freedom. It is far more convenient to take the train with a friends, to walk downtown at a time of your own choosing and come back when you feel like of it, instead of climbing into a crowded school bus and being picked up at a specified hour. Yes, there could be more organized trips to Boston, but students do not have to wait for those few weekends a year. Train tickets are always available at the convenience store across from the train station and on the train ride itself. Few teachers and faculty members consider Boston when planning their syllabi. In an exception to the rule, Ruth Quattlebaum’s Art History class spent an afternoon in Boston on a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts this past Sunday. The course only takes two trips a year, and many other classes do not have any outside excursions at all. Other art classes could benefit from visiting museums, such as the MFA, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the new Institute of Contemporary Art. Theater, dance and music classes could take in professional shows, ballets or concerts. And other disciplines could certainly do more to fully use Boston’s many libraries and archives. Still, if you want to take the initiative to do outside research or pursue an interest, go ahead. Boston is waiting. When students are deciding between New England’s many boarding schools, Andover has one enticing advantage that cannot be matched – its proximity to a city. If we get too caught up in our lives at Andover to remember that, then we might as well be in the middle of the woods – like Exeter or St. Paul’s. Whenever we want to get out of our lives for a few hours at a time, we can. No one is holding us hostage. The rest of the world is just a few stops away on the commuter rail. Boston may still be a sleepy revolutionary town compared to other cities, but it is something. It is a center for the arts, an academic resource for classes, a place to relax with friends away from school and it is something Andover students do not take advantage of nearly enough. Sports games, music rehearsals and crushing academic load aside – our time is ours too spend. And our apathy towards Boston is only holding us back.