All good things must come to an end, and with the changing weather comes an ebb and flow of students in the Woods Hole community. Unfortunately, I am in the former since I will be leaving Saturday morning. For the next round of summer student fellows, consider some practical tips for living at Woods Hole in the summer:
- Program dates: most students arrive from mid May to mid June and leave sometimes in August. In terms of the pros and cons of arriving/leaving earlier vs later, I’ve found that arriving in the middle of the pack was fantastic because of it maximizes the amount of time spent with other SSFers. However, if I had to choose between arriving later or earlier, I’d choose later because of the availability of advice for living logistics/getting settled in your project from SSFers who have already been there for a few weeks. Having said that, it does get lonely towards the end of the summer when most cohorts start leaving/taking their end of August vacations
- Living tips: try to share supplies with roomates. The end of the summer not only brings me sadness in the friends that I will miss, but also at the dramatic amount of food and household supplies that are wasted by merely 30 people. A little bit of planning can save quite a bit of money down the road
- no worries about the lack of things to do in a small town. It never fails to amaze me how busy I’ve found myself with work and recreational activities, so much so that I haven’t even opened the GRE books that I lugged from Canada with high hopes of studying. I would suggest planning to take the GRE’s at another time rather than the summer, since the summer on the Cape is much more enjoyable outside or meeting the wonderful scientific community rather than reading GRE books
- many bikes are bought and left neglected since there are so many short-term visiting students in the summer. Ask around before purchasing one at your own expense
- do not be afraid to speak with other scientists about their research or offer to volunteer in other scientist’s labs to gain more experience. WHOI is a refreshingly welcoming place, and the scientists take time to speak to interested students about their research
- take time to make friends in this area. In addition to beautiful sailing trips they can take you on, the people are very kind and offer a potentially lasting network should you decide to return
- Travelling tip: consider avoiding purchasing a return ticket from Peter Pan (just the one-way from Boston is enough). i. you do not get much of a discount with a return purchase (I think one way is $32, while return is $56). ii. their customer service is terrible – you cannot return tickets, and could only exchange them for a fee. Tickets are also non-transferrable. iii. there are many people driving out of Woods Hole at the end of the summer and it is incredibly easy to arrange a ride, since the housing arrangement is somewhat flexible as well. Should I have known this, I would have saved a decent chunk of money that could have been spent towards other more justifiable purchases (such as spending time at the Kidd!)
My last sunset at Oyster Pond!
This was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I’ve met a very diverse and intelligent bunch of scientists, fell in love with the community here, and found that this is a wonderful place to pursue graduate studies.
Typically, SSFers bike south from Oyster Pond on the Shining Sea Bikeway to get to work, but the majority of the Bikeway lies north of Oyster Pond. The distance from Oyster Pond to the northern end of the bikeway is about 8 miles one way, and about 4 miles to the Great Sippewissett Marsh:
There’s nothing much more north of the marsh except for this groovy-looking shack…I wonder what it is?
The return trip (16 miles) took about 2 hours, so keep that in mind because sunset is at around 8 here and it tends to get quite creepy when dark (although that’s when you encounter less people on the trail, which is perfectly conducive to belting out eg. you sexy thang while biking, knowing that there’s no one around). Don’t forget to bring lots of insect repellant, since the area is mostly a saltwater marsh (although, I was under the impression that mosquito larvae resided in freshwater?). After being swarmed by mosquitoes in just a quick picture stop, I had master the art of one-handed bike riding while taking a photo to prevent further abuse. Although the marsh at sunset contained an almost magical quality, I probably will stick to the beautiful stretch of the bikeway that hugs the beach just south of Oyster Pond from now on.
The night biking journey further continued as a bunch of us biked down (with flashlights!) to the local pub, Captain Kidd’s. Boy was I glad it was a Wednesday night, so we didn’t stay for long, because the drinks here are ridiculously expensive (for American standards, which equals average-priced for Canadian standards). A pint of anything other than PBR hovered around $6 (as a comparison, that equals to some 6-packs here). However, the bartenders are nice, the atmosphere is lively, and it’s filled with WHOI students/employees. Definitely a neat place to check out!
I picked up my bike this week from the International Office’s bike loan program, which allows international students to borrow a bike for $15 (plus $15 refundable deposit). Andrew Beets was kind enough to meet me outside the pickup hours, which was very convenient because the past few days have been perfect bike weather. This bike is actually pretty impressive, offering a much more effortless ride than the cruiser I have in Toronto. Either they keep their bikes in really good condition, my bike at home is a deadweight, or its chain desperately needs replacing. Probably a combination of the three.
The Shining Sea Bikeway runs along Woods Hole, north nearby the Oyster Pond residences, then finally north into west Falmouth. Oyster Pond is only about 10 minutes (2 miles) away from Woods Hole by bike on the Shining Sea Bikeway, and the views are very impressive.
Everything seems to be white and blue, including the fire hydrants!
I think despite the lack of a big city feel (which isn’t that big of a deal since I am inside the lab most of the day anyways), I am starting to fall in love with this place. How could one not after seeing this beautiful shade of blue, even on cloudy days?
Sunset over Oyster Pond
I had just arrived over the weekend and am pleasantly surprised at how organized WHOI is at accommodating us. The security guard at check-in is on site 24/7 and ready to give you a ride to the Oyster Pond houses, where 30 SSFers, 2 guest students, and 16 graduate students will be residing this summer. I love this setup as encourages the SSFers to easily get to know each other and instantly immerse yourself in a group of interesting individuals. The residences are also surprisingly clean and spacious (but I may be biased since I live in a tiny apartment in downtown Toronto). Every house comes with a porch, huge living room, TV, two bedrooms, one bathroom, and holds four people. Since the Cape is a popular summer vacation location, the rent here is ridiculously high – our housing bill is $177/week, which translates into about $2800/month for this two-bedroom complex. Thankfully, WHOI covers this!
Cape Cod is absolutely lovely. It’s also extremely windy – I am pretty sure I have sand blown in every nook and cranny of my clothes/shoes, and can really use some of my Canadian fall clothes right now. Nevertheless, the air smells of salt, the scenery is beautiful, and everyone seems to be enjoying their vacation homes in the Cape. For what a Torontonian is used to, the people are surprisingly friendly (greeting everyone you pass by on the streets) and the prices for staples are decently cheap (another fellow Canadian and I were gushing about our dollar’s purchasing power here relative to Canada). The closest town is Falmouth, about an hour’s walk away or 20 minutes by bike.
Falmouth’s Main Street
Beautiful summer homes abound
There are several settling in events planned for this week, including an orientation, housing check-in, making WHOI student cards, and for international students, a check-in with the international committee and an opportunity to rent a bike for only $15 for the three months! Once again, WHOI is very accommodating and the program is thoroughly-designed to make our time here as comfortable as possible. Looking forward to what the summer will unfold.
In order to receive your stipend at WHOI, international students must come under a J-1 exchange visa. The international committee completes a DS2019 form and pays for your SEVIS fee. Then they mail the form and payment receipt to you. You’d have to complete form SD160 and, as a Canadian student, simply bring all the forms to US customs for entry (in addition to this, non-Canadians are required to book a consular interview). I am very impressed with the organization of the international committee at WHOI and their speedy processing/explanation of US visa applications. It is definitely a better experience than that of my roommate’s, whose project was delayed for a month due to visa problems with another-US-institution-that-shall-not-be-named-here.
The program coordinator at WHOI, Michelle McCafferty, also made a SSF 2013 mailing list for the SSFers to contact each other. We made a facebook group and are sharing our arrival dates/majors/where we are from. Most people seem to be arriving around mid May to mid June and leaving sometimes in August. It is such a diverse group of people – can’t wait to meet them.
Ending on another happy note, I found a sublet for June 1st – September 1st (woo!), and booked my flights for those dates. This translates into 12 weeks at WHOI and 1 week of hanging around Boston/New York. Super excited… but for now, onwards to exams we go.
Two weeks after notification of acceptance, I received an email for housing requests. Thankfully, the program is scheduled in a way so that students would be put in contact with advisors regarding potential projects and dates of arrival/departure prior to this. SSFers are typically housed in the Oyster Pond complex, in Quissett Campus. Although the housing office opens from 8-5 on the weekdays, the security office (where you check-in and get your keys) is open 24/7 so we can arrive anytime. I will be there from Saturday, June 1st to August 24th.
The beautiful Oyster Pond complex. Photo from WHOI website
Now it’s time to book flights – always the most exciting pre-departure part for me. For international students, Boston is easy to fly to. After arrival, the Peter Pan bus company runs bi-hourly from Boston Logan Airport to Woods Hole (return price is about $52). This is how I visited Woods Hole last summer and the bus is generally reliably on time.
It may also be a good time to figure out if it may be possible to buy a bike on Craigslist, since public transportation is deemed as inconvenient and Woods Hole is lovely to bike around. Also, the Oyster Pond complex is apparently almost an hour’s walk away from the WHOI village campus. However, Craigslist primarily contains listings in proximity to but not actually in Woods Hole (which may mean an inconvenient pickup/delivery). Maybe it is a better idea to have one shipped instead? Alternatively, the International Committee has a few bikes for that you could loan for a deposit, which I’m hoping that I could get because that would be much more convenient.