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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Moody Street offers experience other colleges don’t

Published: April 4, 2014
Section: Opinions

I must say that I deeply enjoy being around various places on campus as tour groups pass by. There’s something exciting about being observed in my natural habitat of the SCC library as parents and prospective students pass by, scrutinizing me like I’m some sort of fascinating furry creature in his own terrarium. While in my terrarium, I have noticed that generally, the tour guides do a very good job selling Brandeis to potential students. However, one of my experiences of tour-group-watching left me feeling like a lot was left unsaid by the guide.

Perhaps it happened about a year ago. I was just sitting in a chair in the SCC as a group passed by. A parent asked a question about Waltham, trying to figure out what there is to actually do in the town. I can’t really blame her. This is a typical question that one would have when applying to Brandeis. I know that my college decision wound up being a choice between Brandeis and George Washington University. One is in a bustling city and the other is in … well … Waltham. However, the answer given left me unsatisfied. The tour guide said something about how there was a nice square downtown with a lot of banks. I don’t recall the exact details of what he said, but what I do remember is the bit about the banks. It goes without saying that when you’re trying to answer a question about what there is to do in a city, banks are not the correct route to take. I do not write this to put the tour guide on the spot or in any way admonish admissions, but to suggest that many of us are guilty of not recognizing what Waltham has and taking advantage of it.

Sure, Waltham is not New York City or Washington, D.C. That much goes without saying. If a prospective student wants to be in a bustling city, then they should go somewhere else. However, Waltham has what I would call “gritty charm.” It is not a flashy place, and indeed some of the buildings are run down. Nevertheless, one need not look far to see that it has a lot to offer.

When I think of Waltham, one of the first things I think about is food. If you walk along Moody Street, you will find numerous good restaurants to eat, from a tapas bar to a delicious brunch place to a pizza place that even my smug Long Island friends insist is “almost as good as New York pizza.” Furthermore, it goes without saying that Lizzy’s ice cream is fantastic, and certainly worth a trip into downtown Waltham.

Beyond that, the Common really is very nice—especially in the spring. There is even something to say for how the Common looks with Christmas lights all around in December. There is also a movie theater that really should be taken advantage of. Like many of Waltham’s institutions, the Embassy is not part of a large country-wide brand. It is a nice, classy theater where people can feel like they’re part of something unique to the town. I must also say that the Skellig is a pretty decent bar, although I do admit that this should maybe not be the selling point to a crowd of 17-year-olds eager but unable to drink legally.

While all of this is true, I’ve got to confess that my favorite thing to do in Waltham isn’t something that can be bought. One of my greatest joys in Waltham is running across the Charles River at sunset. I’m a runner, and will be running a marathon in October. While I am not in “training mode” yet, I still do like to go out for a few miles every now and then. If I were to try to sell Brandeis to a prospective student, I would simply tell them about the magical sensation of running along Moody Street, feeling the strength and exhaustion that comes with the pursuit, and then looking out over the sparkling water as I cross the bridge. I would tell them how I always turn my head for at least a few seconds to check out the view. I would tell them how I smile after I see what I see.

It is fine for people to want to move on to new places. I know that I want to move on to a new city after I graduate. However, I would caution those who are still underclassman to try to stay positive regarding their surroundings. So many ache to get beyond the “Brandeis bubble,” and I’m confident that everyone can find something they love about Waltham. It just takes a little looking. For me, it happens to be running at sunset across the Charles. What is it for you?