Before I left Korea to come to Boston, the only thing I knew about Bean Town was that it was an educational city with MIT and Harvard University.
My husband (Michael Lee, September Cohort 2002) and I arrived in Boston on July 12th, 2000. Can you guess what was the first thing that greeted us? It wasn’t the beautiful Chares River, nor the famous Fenway Park, or the statue of Samuel Adams… It was the “Big Dig”.
We drove here from Chicago via the Mass Pike and missed our exit to Cambridge, so we ended up somewhere around the South Station area. Perhaps it was a clever ploy between the city and map manufacturers to increase sales because even our second map could not help us determine where we were. I had never seen so many direction signs in one place. The road was narrow and the dust was flaring up our nostrils. And I won’t even begin with the one-way roads that were created for the sole purpose of making you give up driving and take up the T. Finally we met a policeman and got directions to Harvard. We noticed the policeman had a gun with him. This may sound funny, but in Korea, all firearms are illegal, and policemen carry only gas guns for protection. In my 30 years in Korea, I had never heard a gunshot. I wondered if we would be bombarded with crime scenes we see in Hollywood movies.
We knew our goodies from home, our bed, tv and stereo, clothes, would arrive the next month, so it was quite odd to be living in an empty house. We bought a desktop so we wouldn’t be bored out of our skulls. Thanks to the generosity of General Mills(a cereal company), we got a free CD game of “Who wants to be a Millionaire”. Needless to say, we saw Regis on a daily basis as it was our only source of entertainment.
The first few days were difficult. We slept on sleeping bags for a week, until we finally bought a futon – “Sofa bed”. The first order of business every day was to go shopping. We bought a city map, one that was very detailed with all one-way streets correctly (I hope) displayed. This is almost a must when you drive here. We used the internet to find large stores and download directions using www.mapquest.com. Here are some tips for your inevitable shopping craze.
Go to “K-mart”, “Target”, “Wal-Mart” or any other large, discount store and you will find everything you need. Dishes, furniture, clothes, electronic products, decoration / household stuffs, and even jewelry, although my husband disagrees that it is a high priority item. The prices are low and you can return items, even if they are opened.
Usually in August and September they have Big Sales Weeks so make sure you buy the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe or Boston Herald. Flip through the ads and you are sure to find something you need on sale. Of course the design and quality are not of the finest, but I cannot complain, because the price is low. And till now, after a year, I have no problem at all with the quality. I still use my vacuum cleaner(It was only $45), which is big, ugly, and noisy as a drunken biker, but it cleans my two bedroom apartment just as neat as an expensive one. Of the three stores, I would recommend you start with “Target” first. They have really cool stuff at very reasonable prices.
For your furniture needs, go to a furniture warehouse. You will be able to find them in ads in the same Sunday newspaper. It is really good bargain. Maybe not as great for your husband who will inevitably spend half a day assembling your new table. Don’t forget to buy an electrical screwdriver. It costs around 30 dollars and will save you wrist and back pain.
And should you buy an item and discover several days or weeks later that the price of the same item went down, take your receipt and newspaper ad to the store and they will promptly give you a refund of the difference. So hold on to those receipts.
After 2 weeks of endless shopping, we returned to leading a civilized life. The phone was connected, we didn’t have to eat on the floor using an empty box as a table, we didn’t have to sleep or sit on the floor, and we had lights in our bedroom so at least we could read something! And yes, we forgot about Regis.
We also had to figure out how to spend our time. It was first time in years that both of us had so much free time. We started to explore Boston and beyond. Sometimes we got lost but Mapquest and other maps helped us get back on track. On very few occasions, Mapquest mixes up the overall direction, making you go South instead of North, so use common sense when things feel strange.
After our trips to the North End, the freedom trail, Boston Tea Party, museums, Historical Park at Concord etc., it was time to make friends. But where? At least Michael could meet many of cohorts, but what about me? Where can I meet all the partners that I can talk to, and spend time together? Then, Michael told me about ” HBS Partners Club” and recommended that I join.
I went to a Partners Club event titled, “First & Second year Mixer” for partners only. There, we started talking about our new lives in Boston and got all the tips from second-year spouses. And there, I met my best friend Ruby. After that meeting, I felt much more comfortable living in Boston, and had great fun attending all the events that the Partners Club has to offer. From time to time Michael also joins me at the events, dancing and partying!
Thinking about living in overseas, far away from family and friends, I was nervous. But, now, I have new friends and families. And thanks to the Partners Club, I could build wonderful friendship with lots of partners from all over the world. And with the support of those friends, Michael and I are expecting our first baby in August.
We will enjoy this bundle of joy, with all my friends and are looking forward to another year at HBS. (Partners Club will even bring food to newborn mothers! Isn’t it great !)