In the Art of the City

SPRING 2017
Dongying
S.
Chemical Engineering

I spent my childhood in Shanghai, the largest city in China. However, as a child, I never had the chance to explore this big city.

After I graduated from high school and moved to Pasadena with my family for my undergraduate studies, I became accustomed to life in the suburbs, a place where people drive everywhere and the neighborhoods are quiet.

Not surprisingly, when I first moved to Boston for graduate schooI, I was not used to an urban lifestyle. I thought the city was too expensive, loud, and crowded. (Plus, during my first three-and-a-half years at MIT, I constantly struggled with mental illness.)

As my condition improved and I had some free time, I started to take advantage of the exciting opportunities in the city, and my impressions began to change.

Music
Because I am a fan of classical music, I got the College Card for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and have been able to enjoy performances of Brahms, Mozart, and, Beethoven by world-class musicians like Yo-Yo Ma, Hélène Grimaud, and Emanuel Ax — all virtually for free.

Even more exciting, I was inspired to resume my own piano study. I found a teacher from New England Conservatory and practice with the pianos in the student center and the graduate dorms.

One of my favorite pastimes now at MIT is to play the second movement of Mozart’s piano sonata K.332 on the rainy days.

Painting
As an MIT student, I also am allowed free admission to the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), which is about 30 minutes away from MIT by public transportation.

An avid reader of European history, I trembled to see the 350-year-old paintings of Infanta Maria Theresa and Don Baltasar Carlos with a Dwarf by Diego Velázquez, one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age.

My eyes filled with tears when I saw the Triumph of the Winter Queen: Allegory of the Just by Gerrit van Honthorst. This painting depicts the Electoral Palatinate family that lost the Battle of White Mountain and subsequently were forced into exile. I recalled the brief reign of Frederick V and his queen, Elizabeth Stuart, in Bohemia. He tried to defend their protestant faith in Bohemia against the powerful catholic Habsburg family. Despite Stuart's regal bearing, she appeared, in the center of the painting, to be deeply sad. It's almost like you can tell her husband and eldest son had already died when the painting was commissioned.

This work made me think about love, separation, and loss — all constant themes of human history.

People
It has also been very interesting just to observe different people when I explore Boston.

When out in the city, I have seen well-dressed ladies and gentlemen attending religious service on Sundays in the churches of Back Bay.

At the same time, I also have observed people dressed in gypsy style, advocating for certain political causes in a different neighborhood.

I have seen even seen someone dressed as a bear, performing Prince and Rick James songs in the train stations.

Living in Boston is truly a memorable experience, as it brings both culture and adventure to my 20s.