The anticipation of the holiday season ahead combined with schedules that often seem mundane usually leads to a November homesickness for many, if not all students. I’ve discovered that the best way to get over homesickness is to create and find your own home outside of your dorm room. Getting off of campus and exploring a neighborhood can not only help you find comfort in your surroundings, but also helps you to connect to the place you came from. For me, finding cute cafes and bookstores that remind me of the ones in my hometown always helps me to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed in a new city.
The only problem is that a lot of these neighborhoods in Boston don’t necessarily reflect the town I grew up in. I spent part of my formative years living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a small country located south of Thailand and north of Singapore. When I moved back to the United States, I lived in a small farm town in Washington state. So, needless to say, I can’t really relate to the trendy neighborhoods of Cambridge with their abundant cupcake stores, or the wholesome cobblestone lined streets of Beacon Hill.
Boston is a big city, though, and there is hope for everyone to find their niche and, after a lot of searching, I found mine. If you’re like me, then home means hole-in-the-wall restaurants, a wide array of ethnic grocery stores, and colorful murals. I found all of these in Dorchester, a neighborhood just five stops away from campus on the Red Line.
Dorchester is a blue-collar neighborhood with one of the most diverse populations in Boston, which includes a large population of African-Americans, Caribbean-Americans, Latinos, and East- and Southeast-Asian-Americans. During the few hours I spent in Dorchester, I came across at least five different Asian food markets. Inside, I found the foods I missed while living in the States. High stacks of bagged rice lined the walls, and the delicate scent of jasmine tea wafted through the store.
I got to Dorchester as school was ending for the day, and while walking through the streets, I found myself in a crowd of students either walking to the library to do homework or rushing to the busy pizzeria on the corner. I didn’t realize until then that this small, interwoven feeling of community was something I was missing in Boston.
My visit to Dorchester reminded me that ‘home’ means many different things to different people. This is why lot of people I know probably feel at home right on campus, but to me, home will always mean diversity. If you agree, then Dorchester should be next on your list of Boston neighborhoods to visit.
Text by Noel Gasca
Photography by Becca Chairin