As one of America’s oldest cities, Boston, Massachusetts, is a true melting pot of different cultures that together create a diverse place to live and study. Students from all over the world come here each year to attend one of the city’s many colleges — more than 30 are in the metropolitan area alone. The city is known for its history (be sure to walk the Freedom Trail, which includes multiple landmarks), its universities, and championship sports teams, but there is so much more to this New England town than meets the eye.
Boston’s International Neighborhoods
Greater Boston boasts a wide range of cultural districts and neighborhoods that are home to immigrants from around the world. Each celebrates the flavors, sounds, artwork, and spirit of their respective communities. For instance, the North End neighborhood may be located on the waterfront, but its old-world charm and authentic Italian businesses make it feel like it’s in Italy.
Thanks to these ethnically specific neighborhoods, international students attending UMass Boston or Wentworth Institute of Technology can combat homesickness by finding a little piece of home in Boston.
East Asian & Chinese Neighborhoods
As the third-largest Chinese neighborhood in the United States, Boston’s Chinatown offers a taste of home for Chinese, Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese students. The neighborhood is bordered by Surface Road and Essex, Kneeland, and Tremont streets, and has its own Chinatown subway stop on the MBTA Orange Line.
Founded by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century, the neighborhood features buildings adorned with Chinese architectural details and filled with restaurants serving dim sum, sushi, ramen, dumplings, pastries, and other regional specialties; spice shops and food markets featuring familiar ingredients; and stores selling specialty clothing, home décor, and other regional items.
The iconic paifang gate stands as an entrance to Chinatown and the park, which features bamboo accents and tables for enjoying a steamed bun or playing chess.
Chinatown Main Street is a great place to learn more about Chinatown; the nonprofit organization hosts events throughout the year, including the Chinatown Farmers Market, the Lunar New Year Cultural Village, and the Lantern Festival.
Accessible via several stops on the MBTA Red Line, the city of Quincy has seen a rise in Asian residents over the years, as well as an influx of new cultural restaurants, stores, and markets that cater to the community. With the Asian population growing at a rapid rate, the city established Quincy Asian Resources, Inc. (QARI), whose vision is “to foster and improve the social, cultural, economic and civic lives of immigrants and their families in order to benefit their communities.” QARI is a great resource for international students and the organization hosts events throughout the year including the Lunar New Year Festival, the Community Banquet, and the August Moon Festival.
Boston Little Saigon
Located in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester (also on the MBTA Red Line), Little Saigon is an officially designated cultural district that “aims to recognize and preserve the Vietnamese American culture in the area.” Alongside a wide range of Vietnamese businesses and restaurants serving hot pot, banh mi, bun mam, bubble tea, and more, the area also includes the nation’s first Vietnamese American Community Center and the Luc Hoa Buddhist Center and Temple for those who would like to worship. The community hosts a range of cultural events throughout the year, including Tết, a Night Market, and others.
Indian/South Asian Neighborhoods
Just a quick subway ride across the Charles River from Boston, Cambridge can offer a taste of home a little bit closer to the city. The city boasts several eateries serving authentic Punjabi, South Indian, and Bangladeshi specialties such as dosa, chaat, and tandoori. For a bit of entertainment, head to Apple Cinemas in Fresh Pond. The revamped movie theater regularly features Hindi/Bollywood films right alongside American blockbusters.
Though there are plenty of Indian restaurants and specialty shops peppered throughout Boston, international students may also want to travel outside the city. Located along Massachusetts’ Route 9, Shrewsbury is home to a thriving Indian-American population. The area is a great spot to grab a familiar bite to eat at one of the many authentic Indian restaurants, catch a game of cricket, see a Bollywood movie, or shop for regional ingredients and spices at Patel Brothers.
Students may also want to make a trip to the India Society of Worcester, about 45 minutes west of Boston. Originally started to help immigrants stave off homesickness, the organization is now “one of the most active Indian organizations in New England” and hosts events and activities throughout the year, like “India Day and Diwali functions to weekly/biweekly/monthly health workshops [and] cultural programs like Antakshari, Kavi Sammelan, and more.”
Situated in the Hyde-Jackson Square area of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, the Latin Quarter is a recognized cultural district that “aims to preserve and uplift the decades of rich history and contributions of Latinx immigrants who have made our neighborhood what it is today.” More than 65% of the 125 businesses in the area are immigrant-owned.
International students looking for a taste of home will find eateries serving Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and other Latin-American cuisine. Many are situated near parks where people play dominoes or salsa dance, depending on the time of day.
Colorful murals decorate buildings throughout the quarter — visit artist Roberto Chao’s newest one capturing the spirit of Afro-Latin music and dance in Mozart Park. A self-guided audio walking tour is available to learn more about all of the murals.
There is always something happening in the Latin Quarter; be sure to check the Hyde Square Task Force website to find the next “live music, youth performance, Halloween Festival … and Three Kings Day Celebration” event.
Feel at Home Without Leaving Campus
Situated on Boston Harbor, UMass Boston is proud to be “the most diverse university in New England, and the third most diverse in the US.” With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, students get “a small-college experience with the vast resources of a major research university.” The college offers more than 100 student organizations, including those specific to international students such as the Asian Student Center, Casa Latinx, UMB Naach (Indian dance group), and others.
Wentworth Institute of Technology
Wentworth Institute of Technology offers master’s degrees with an “action-oriented, hands-on learning environment.” Boasting a prime location in the Fenway neighborhood, the college’s 31-acre campus has “access to some of the most innovative and fastest-growing companies, non-profits, and start-ups in the Northeast.” International students can find support at the Center for Diversity and Global Engagement (CDGE), which aims to “promote cross-cultural perspectives, inclusivity, leadership development and personal growth among the Wentworth community.”
Finding a Home Away from Home
With so many distinctive cultural districts and ethnically diverse neighborhoods, Boston is an ideal place to attend school while still engaging with a community that feels like home.
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