Haileybury Almaty and Haileybury Astana university trip to Boston, USA.

Welcome to the US University trip to Boston blog!

On June 16th, Twenty-four year 10 students and their teachers from Haileybury Almaty and Astana left for a twelve-day trip to Boston. Our goal; to inspire these young minds by visiting ten universities in hte Boston Area.

The flights - from Almaty, to Astana, then Frankfurt and finally to Boston took 25 hours and 30 minutes. The kids counted each minute! We arrived in Boston, then had our first adventure - taking a bus and two crowded subways to reach our accommodation.  Needless to say, we were thrilled and exhausted. When Sarah showed us all of our rooms, we couldn't quite collapse because there was too much energy bouncing around. 

After a short trip to the 24-hour shop to buy some cola and shampoo, and then finally we all fell soundly asleep

The next morning, we had a great big American breakfast with scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, cheese, waffles, and maple syrup. 

But unfortunately, there was a storm coming in from the Atlantic Ocean, and our planned boat trip to Spectacle Island was canceled as no boats were allowed out of the harbor. Instead, we bought some umbrellas and walked along Newbury Street, the famous shopping street of Boston. We kept walking over the old part of Boston to the New England Aquarium, to have lunch, visit all the sealife exhibits, and finally a 3D movie on a giant IMAX screen about the sea. We will go whale watching later this week, so now we already know about the whales near Boston.  We took the subway back to Backbay, had another dinner, and easily fell asleep again. 

On Sunday, we will go to the Franklin Zoo for the day. We won't let a little rain spoil our parade!

June 18, Sunday, Franklin Zoo

We had a big Sunday breakfast again today. Delicious. Then we walked to the Back Bay Station and took the Orange line to the very end, Forest Hills. From there, we took a local bus to the Franklin Zoo.
There was rain on and off all day, but most of us brought our handy umbrellas and others bought a bright yellow plastic poncho at the zoo. But the rain quickly finished, and we followed the booklet of Mrs. Munoz to find the answers to many of the questions about the animals in the zoo.

The gorillas were the hit - a family of silverback gorillas, very rare, were playing and showing off for our cameras. Bright laughing birds, a great lion, zebras, giraffes, and so many other animals. The time went by quickly and we laughed on our way back to the dorms. Another great dinner, then some quiz games (the winner gets candy), and then some quiet time before we all fall asleep again.
Tomorrow, Harvard! Our first and most famous university.

June 19th, Harvard University

Today we visited our first university, Harvard. After breakfast, we took two subways to get the Harvard Square, where we met with our specialized guide, Alison. She is a Harvard Master's degree student while teaching in the university theatre.

She took us for a two-hour visit around Harvard Yard, telling us interesting facts of the history of the oldest university in America. We saw the dormitories where all freshmen must stay, the President’s Offices, and the library building where John Harvard’s books and paintings once were, but were all destroyed in a fire. Except for one book which was borrowed by a student and wasn’t returned on time. This is the only book of the founder of Harvard that survived the fire, but the student was still expelled for keeping it too long!
We saw Memorial Hall, where students all dine together every day. Ever since a huge and famous Food Fight was held, only freshmen are allowed to eat at Memorial Hall.

We saw the statue of John Harvard and rubbed his toe. But as the statue was made hundreds of years after all the paintings of Mr Harvard were burned, no one knew what he actually looked like. The sculptor used a handsome actor as the model for the statue!

We saw Convocation Hall, where thousands gather every May to celebrate their graduates, and across the field, the Harvard Library, donated by the surviving mother of a son who died in the Titanic sinking in 1912.
She gave us all good advice on how to get into Harvard - great grades and demonstrate a passion for leadership in making the community a better place - and gave us inspirational examples of some people accepted.

After that, we had lunch in the Harvard Square area, then returned to the Harvard Natural History Museum. It is a fascinating place with so many exhibits that we could have spent all day there.
Finally, we walked home through the Boston Common parks and Commonwealth Avenue. Tired and hungry and happy.

June 20th, MIT

Today we went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology  (MIT). It is just across the Charles River from our Back Bay home, so we walked across the Harvard Bridge. Along the bridge, we saw the famous Smoot measurements. This is something unique about MIT - in the 1950s, a group of students decided that they wanted more than just meters and feet, so Oliver Smoot decided to measure how many of his bodies - one Smoot length - are needed to cross the bridge.

We stopped in front of the famous MIT Dome and took photos there. We sang Happy Birthday (very badly, but with great affection) to Zere. A day I hope she always remembers.
We then met with Ekarteria, the International Affairs coordinator for MIT. She gave us lunch and then we heard from Haileybury’s own Togzhan Shyntay about her life in MIT. Other students - Joanna, Jose, and Septeka - also told us their stories about life there, and gave us all good advice on how to make a great application to be accepted here.

Then a tour of the large campus, including the famous Infinity Corridor, classrooms, and other places.
Finally, back to the dorm after another long day.
Tomorrow, early morning on the train to Yale and Brown!

June 22, Northeastern University and Whale Watching

We took an early bus to Northeastern University. It is not far from Back Bay. We were greeted by the dean of admissions, and she was very enthusiastic that a group from Kazakhstan was there to visit. She admits that in Boston, her university is usually considered fourth, after MIT, Harvard, and Boston U, but according to her, that ranking is unfair. Northeastern works very well with students especially on Coop programs or long paid internships and for that big reason, a graduate of NEU has a much better chance of getting into a good job or grad school quickly. 
For example, a Computer science student will work and get paid at Google for six months one year, then at Apple for another year. Both of these tech companies usually offer full-time jobs upon graduation. 
NEU also has a campus in London, UK, with a UK degree in 3 years. They have one more in San Francisco specializing in business and computer-related courses.

After NEU, we went to the Aquarium wharf and got on a high-speed, very large boat to go Whale Watching. The boat took off and flew to the site, about 50 km offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. What wind was incredible!  But the captain knew what to look for and soon we had whale surfacing and diving all around us. 
We followed a pod of three humpback whales as they dove for food, then surfaced to break. The size and the magnificence of their dives, with giant tails the most visible part, drew astonished gasps from everyone on board. It was an experience we will never forget. 

After the boat returned to Boston, we retraced part of the Freedom Trail, the historic sites of the American Revolution. We saw the graves of one of the first Pilgrims, Samual Adams, Paul Revere, and several other important Americans at that time. We saw the Church Tower where the warning of the British attack was secretly given, and the grounds where the British troops gathered to attack Bunker Hill, Concord, and Lexington. 
Finally, we walked along the North Boston Italian district, with some say the world’s best Italian restaurants and pizza. We indulged - it was not cheap, but it was the best pizza any of us had ever had!

Tomorrow Tufts University!

June 23, Tufts University

Today we visited Tufts University, in a leafy suburb of Boston.  Tufts is a smallish school, with less than 2000 students admitted every year. It is a Tier 1 university for research, along with all the other big Boston schools, but is lesser known internationally because of its size and location. For Americans, it is one of the best, and has an acceptance rate of below 10%.

Tufts has a Liberal Arts program in Arts and Science, meaning a student can choose many different fields of study, and only needs to specialize after two years. They are strong in humanities, and have one of the top International Relations Masters in the world. But they also have leading reseach laboratories, lots of internships and an international campus in France.

What our students liked was the quiet, green spaces everywhere and the calm atmosphere, while still just a 20 minute train ride to central Boston.  They have about 15% of international students, ranking one of the highest in the Boston area.
Importantly for some of our students, they are Need Blind, meaning if you are accepted into Tufts and you can prove that you need financial assistance, they can pay 100% of all your costs.

After that visit, we promised our students a visit to an American mall. Being in the city centre, the malls are not as big as the ones in Almaty. The really big American malls are all further away from the city, where a car is mandatory. But the Cambridge Side mall was great for our student shoppers!


Tomorrow we will go the Science Museum and the Duckboat Tour!

June 24, Saturday. Boston Science Museum and Duckboat Tour

Today we went the to world-class Science Museum in Boston. It was outstanding! There were exhibits and science challenges of all kinds. We spoke with scientists from MIT and from Northeastern University, who gave talks about AI and about Graphic Imaging. We saw the famous Boston Dynamics robot dog, Spot, do an amazing routine.

We went to a domed IMAX movie, a 4D full immersion screen about the Serengeti. Amazing!
And then we saw and spoke with an astronomer while watching a planetarium show about the universe. The images and movement were unforgettable.

We were there all day, but the day seemed short. Then we went on a very cool Duckboat Tour of Boston - the historic center and the Charles River. The guide was very fun and cheerful and even allowed us all to pilot the Duck Boat as we were on the River!

Now, back home, tired and hungry. We’ll eat here, then play some Kahoots.
Tomorrow the Museum of Fine Arts!

June 25, Sunday. Boston Museum of Fine Arts, South Boston and Presentations

Today was Sunday so we let everyone sleep in a bit. But we didn’t miss the Boston 10 K Run, in which about 10,000 people from Boston run for 10 kilometers - right in front of our dorm! It was cool to see some of the world’s top runners competing. They were astoundingly fast. But even more impressive were the thousands and thousands of regular people out on the street getting healthy.

Then we took the train to the Museum of Fine Arts. What an impressive building and collection. We saw the ancients - Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greek, Chinese and the classics from Europe and America, there was a special show on Hokksai from Japan, an amazing exhibit of the Bronzes from Benin, Africa….
What I liked best was Rueben’s huge painting of Kazkahstan’s famous Queen Tomyris, when she soaked the head of Cyrus the Great in a pool of blood after defeating his Persian army… Yikes.

After four hours in the museum, we decided to go to the cinema, but as it was Sunday afternoon, the buses were not running regularly and we arrived late at the cinema and were not able to see the movie. We saw part of a local baseball game on the way there though. However, we left the cinema and shopping area early as everything closed early on Sunday, and went home for dinner. After dinner, everyone had to make a presentation for 2 minutes, without reading, about one of the universities we had seen.

Tomorrow, we will see Boston University and meet with Mrs Munoz’s and Mr Stockermans's friend, who is the head of admissions there. We will also meet with another friend of theirs, Dr Wasif, an important Harvard graduate who will give us advice on getting into great universities.

June 26, Boston University. Newbury Street and Dr. Wasif

Today, our last full day, we started the day with a long walk along the Charles River to the Boston University Campus. We met with Scott Dyer, a friend of Mrs Munoz and Mr Stockermans, who is the assistant dean of admissions. He gave us lots of good information and advice on applying to US universities. Then we went a tour of the campus. We saw the school where Dr Martin Luther King Jr studied, the impressive new Data Science building and many other schools of Engineering, Sciences, and Business. 

Then we visited the big mall and shopping district of Newbury Street. Too many things to look at!
After dinner, we had a fantastic lecture from Dr. Wasif, a colleague of Mrs Munoz and Mr Stockermans who runs large government sponsored college preparation programs for students in Saudi Arabia. He is a grad of Cornell and Harvard Business School, so his experience and advice are very important. In summary, he said we need first very good grades as well as an outstanding portfolio of achievements. To do this, we have to think strategically and long term, use our connections to build a project, then to scale it upward to make an impact.  This is easier to say than to do, but with a plan, it is possible.  We came from his talk inspired and ready to make our plans to gain entry into top level universities. 

Now we are packing and getting prepared for our long flight home tomorrow!

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