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Your Columbus Day Weekend Schedule

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Happy (almost) Columbus Day weekend! As many of you have the day off from work, this long weekend will be an excellent opportunity to explore the city and participate in the many celebrations happening in Boston. Columbus Day weekend is a lively time in Boston, full of parades, festivals, and other events - and may of them are free! If you're unsure of how you'll spend this (somewhat controversial) holiday, don't worry, here is a list of all the happenings this weekend so you can celebrate the discovery of America right! 

Friday October 7th (through Sunday October 9th): HONK! Street Music Festival 

Where: Davis Square, Somerville 

Time: Varying times 

Cost: FREE


Music appreciation meets activism at the HONK! festival in Davis square. This lively three day event draws brass bands from all over the world to Somerville in celebration of not only music, but the community as a whole. This is event is special because it is organized entirely by volunteers and is already in its tenth year. The festival begins Friday and kicks off with a lantern parade through Davis square neighborhoods followed by a band showcase. On Saturday over twenty five bands will take over Davis Square bringing live music and a dance party! On Sunday, many local community groups join the band members in a large parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square via Mass Ave. These local groups include activists working for extremely important causes such as economic justice, protecting the environment, world peace and ending racism. HONK! Also features a Day of Action, on which bands convene to play on behalf of a cause. For more information including schedule and times click here. 


Sunday, October 9th: East Boston Columbus Day Parade 

Where: East Boston

Time: 1:00pm - 3:00pm

Cost: FREE

The Boston Columbus Day Parade is an old tradition in the North End and East Boston neighborhoods. How old?? Since 1937. The parade celebrates Christopher Columbus's expeditions to the Americas as well as Boston's Italian heritage (in case you didn't know Columbus was from Italy) and the commitment if Massachusetts military units to American freedom. In even numbered years (aka 2016) the parade begins in the Suffolk Downs parking lot in East Boston, marches down Bennington Street and ends at Maverick square near the waterfront. Where to watch? The best viewing spots are along Bennington Street (Blue Line / Maverick). Get there early to claim a good spot! 


Monday, October 10th (aka Columbus Day) : Columbus Park Fall Festival 

Time: 12:00pm - 4:00pm 

Location: Christopher Columbus Park, Boston's North End (100 Atlantic Avenue - next to the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel) 

Public Transportation: Blue Line / Aquarium T stop 

Cost: FREE


I can't think of a more appropriate place to celebrate Columbus Day than at a park named after the explorer himself. This festival, which is sponsored by many local North End and Waterfront businesses, has become an annual event for the city and Columbus Day tradition for many families in the Boston area. The festival begins with a children's parade through the park, followed by a ceremony at the Christopher Columbus statue. There will also be a lot FREE entertainment and games (i.e. magicians, storytellers, musicians) My lunchtime suggestion: Bring a blanket and grab food from one of the nearby North End Italian bakeries or pizza joints, one of the many food stalls at Faneuil Hall Marketplace, or The Boston Public Market.

Opening our Doors Day

Time: 10:00am - 4:00pm 

Where: Multiple locations around the Fenway neighborhood 

Cost: FREE

More information:  Find a complete events schedule for Boston's Fenway neighborhood here 


The Fenway Alliance is inviting Boston residents to participate in the city's biggest single day of free arts, cultural, and educational events. The special festival will feature over sixty different activities, performances, tours, music shows, and games (did I mention for free??) Festivities will begin on the Mass Ave side of the Christian Science Plaza at the intersection of Huntington and Mass Ave with a kids parade (featuring a brass band), many performances, and...FREE CUPCAKES!! Also, as an added plus the event includes free admission into several Fenway museums (think: Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum and the Mary Baker Eddy Library Mapparium)


Find more fun things to do this weekend in Boston here and on our facebok page

A Fluff Piece On Fluff

Global Immersions Recruiting - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Last Saturday was the annual "What the Fluff?" festival in Somerville. If you're a New Englander than you probably know what fluff is (think: that marshmallowy sticky spread you can only get in this part of the country) and if you're an international visitor you're probably thinking what the fluff is fluff?!? I always found it amusing to ask non-U.S residents if they know what fluff is and then have them look back at me with a blank stare. If you've never eaten fluff before do yourself a favor : go out, buy some, and eat it on bread with peanut butter (aka a fluffernutter sandwich). You can thank me later.

So why does Somerville even have a festival to celebrate a marshmallow spread? Good question. It's because in 1917 a guy named Archibald Query invented fluff right there in Union Square. Every year the city hosts a festival, complete with musical performances, games, and street vendors, to celebrate this creation.

The festival this year, themed "Fluff U: A Sweet Education" included events like fluff covered musical chairs, fluff jousting, a fluff inspired cooking competition (during which winners were given honorary degrees from the Somerville Mayor, Joe Curtatone) and more. The festival was even MCed by an Archibald Query impersonator. Basically, the whole thing is an big excuse to have fun, be weird, and eat a lot of fluff (what more could you want in an event??)

If you couldn't make the festival this year, MC (fake) Archibald Query made it known that next year is the 100th anniversary of the creation of fluff and therefore the festival will be an even bigger celebration. So big that planning for the festival will begin as early as next month. So save the date! And maybe think up some creative fluff baking ideas...

For other quirky state food fairs check out this article from National Geographic travel!

Krazy for KitKats

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, September 27, 2016


I'm assuming you're familiar with the KitKat -- the milk chocolate and wafer bar you can find in just about every supermarket, gas station, and convenience store in the country. KitKat is definitely a popular chocolate in the U.S. but did you know that it is HUGE is Japan?? I had no idea until I read this article from CNN. The article is about the KitKat craze and why this chocolate is so popular in the country (it's a really interesting article so you should read it) We were so intrigued that we asked our Japanese culture consultant to give us some insight into this aspect of Japanese life.

To understand the KitKat craze in Japan it is important to understand the involvement of lucky charms in the culture. Belief in good luck charms and trinkets is strong in Japanese society. Japanese often keep a lucky charm, such as a coin, on their person during exams or important events so that they may have good fortune. KitKats became so popular because they are given as good luck charms. Why? Sort of by an unintentional coincidence. The candy's name sounds very similar to the Japanese phrase "kitto katsato", meaning "to surely win". Japanese students will receive KitKats from their parents or friends before exams as a way of saying good luck. Just how popular are KitKats?? In Japan they are sold in over 300 flavors - though not the kinds of flavors you would find in the U.S. Some notable KitKats include pumpkin pudding, green tea, shinshu apple, adzuki bean sandwhich. matcha, wasabi, purple sweet potatoes, cherry blossom, and sake (and to think I thought the white chocolate kind was adventurous). The reason for so many flavors is because of the large amount of competition within the Japanese candy business. Over 2,000 new confectionery products are released in the country each year, so KitKat must create new flavors to keep up. Colors also play a role in the creation of new flavors, as Japanese tend to prefer bright hues to ordinary ones. The different colored KitKats are more attractive to Japanese consumers than standard chocolates. KitKat in Japan goes beyond your standard chocolate bar, with products like KitKat pizza and "baking bars" designed to be cooked before eating. Since 2012m KitKat has begun to overtake major candy companies like Meji. 

KitKats are produced and displayed in Japan the way you might imagine gourmet chocolate is made here. In Japan, KitKats are sold in large stores, the way Lindt or Godiva chocolate is sold in the United States. However, despite their "gourmet" preparation, KitKats are still not viewed to be as fancy or classy like gourmet chocolate brands in America would be. For example, while it may be culturally appropriate in the U.S. to give a box of Godiva chocolates as say a housewarming gift or as an end of the year thank you to a professor, it would not be appropriate in Japan to give a KitKat as a gift in these same situations. So give a KitKat to your Japanese students before their test, but don't expect any from their parents if they come to visit. 


Did this post give you a KitKat craving?? Lucy for you, you don't have to go all the way to Japan for Matcha flavored KitKats. You can find them at most H Marts or Asian grocery stores. 

Autumn Colors Around The World

Global Immersions Recruiting - Monday, September 12, 2016


This month marks the beginning of the Autumn season in Boston. Soon the leaves will change and the air will become colder..even though it was 90 degrees and humid last week (gotta love that New England weather, right?) For me, fall is a season I really enjoy because of things like the excitement of going back to school, upcoming fall festivals, events for Halloween, and of course the beautiful way the trees look when I'm walking around the city.

Thinking about the changing seasons has me wondering what the fall season looks like in other parts of the world ( I've experienced fall abroad before, but I was in Greece and its basically hot there until December) I read an article on Lonley Planet about the world's best places to see Autumn colors and found that many countries also have New England-esque fall foliage.  Here are some highlights. 

Fall in Japan is just as pretty as the spring. Kouyou or Autumn leaves can be seen coloring the whole country, staring in the North and spreading to the South in September. The above photo is from the ancient capital of Nara, where its historical shrines are surrounded by leaves in an array of colors. 

The landscape of Scotland offers some of the finest Autumn scenes in Europe. According to the article, the best place to experience these Autumn hues is Pitlochry, which also hosts an Enchanted Forest each October where the trees are lit up and music is played as residents explore the woods around town.  

Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, is, according to Lonley Planet, arguably the best place in China for getting the full Autumn effect. The trees covering the mountain turn a bright red throughout October drawing in thousands of tourists from other parts of the country. The foliage is particularly beautiful at sunrise.  

It's no surprise that New England made the list, after all there are so many different destinations (and all equally beautiful in the Fall) to choose from. The New England location that the article decided was the best place in the area (and in the world) to experience Aumtumn was New Hampshire's White Mountains. A hike through the hills in October will surround you with bright red maple leaves and a drive to Silver Casacde Falls in Carroll Country provides a stunning view of the trees next to a gorgeous waterfall. 

If you are looking for ways to experience Fall close to home, we provided a few destinations in last weeks blog post. You can also check out our Facebook page to see what seasonal activities are happening around Boston! 

How Do You Like Them Apples!

Global Immersions Recruiting - Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Autumn season is a great time in Boston to be out doors and admire one of the most beautiful seasons in Massachusetts. A fun activity this time of year is visiting farms around Boston for apple picking, pumpkin picking, hay rides, corn mazes and more...because (although it is delicious) pumpkin spice iced coffee isn't the only way to experience Fall. So put on your best flannel and enjoy the finest foliage (and cider donuts)  that New England has to offer. 

Boston Hill Farm, North Andover MA


Boston Hill Farm is a PYO orchard and farm stand located thirty minutes from the city in the quaint suburb of North Andover. The farm is open for berry picking in the summer and pumpkin and apple picking in the fall. Beginning in mid September through October the Farm hosts Apple Festivals every Saturday and Sunday and offers pumpkin picking until Halloween.  After you've decided on the perfect future Jack o' Lantern you can visit the farm stand for homemade treats like honey, jelly, fudge, and ice cream. 

Connors Farm, Danvers MA


When I looked at the map of Connors Farm is reminded me of an amusement park. There aren't roller coasters or anything like that but it definitely has more entertainment attractions that your average little red barn. In addition to apple picking and a fresh farm stand, Connors Farm is famous for their Giant Corn Maze which opens this year on September 10th - and this year its Charlie Brown themed. During October they open the Hysteria Scream Park (think: Giant Corn Maze but scary) in celebration of Halloween. Like I said before, there's no roller coasters, but there is rides! Hay rides that is....you can take one around the whole farm!

Russell Orchards, Ipswich MA


Russell Orchards might be well known for their apple picking, but the best part about the farm (in my opinion) is definitely their cider donuts. They are well worth the drive from Boston and are freshly made at the store everyday. Actually, one of the things that makes the Orchard's store so special is that everything is made fresh and all of the produce they see is grown right there on the farm. Right now, the store also features produce, honey, and eggs. My other favorite part about Russell Orchards is the animals :) You can visit all of the barnyard animals and even feed them too. If you don't visit for the cider donuts at least come for the bunnies. 

Labor Day Weekend!

Global Immersions Recruiting - Monday, August 29, 2016

Next Monday, September 5th, is Labor Day in the U.S. You may only know Labor Day as that Monday in September where you don't have to work, or if you're a student, it's that day in the beginning of the school year when you don't have class. But what does Labor Day really mean? Why do we have this holiday?



Labor Day is a public holiday that honors the American Labor movement and celebrates the contributions that workers have made to better the country. Labor Day has its origins in the labor union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.

For many countries, Labor Day is synonymous with, International Workers' Day, which occurs on May 1st (you might also know this as May Day). For other countries, Labor Day is celebrated on a different date, often one with special significance for the labor movement in that country. (hint: ask you visitor about Labor Day celebrations in their country)


Labor Day in Canada and the United States is also considered the unofficial end of Summer (*sad face* ) as it is celebrated on the first Monday of September during the time summer vacations are ending and students are returning to school. 

What can you do to celebrate Labor day? When the it was first created, The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: "A street parade to exhibit to the public the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations, followed by a festival for the workers and their families". Since then, A festival or parade has remained the basis for a proper Labor Day celebration, though with some changes made over time. Now, we see Labor Day filled with fire work displays, last trips to the beach, outdoor BBQs, and, of course, $ales. If you're looking for ways to spend you Labor Day this year, consider taking part in these events around Boston: 


Labor Day Fireworks over Boston Harbor-

Fire works launched from barges anchored off the North End and Seaport will illuminate the sky over Boston Harbor in celebration of Labor Day and the beginning of fall. The show begins at 9pm on Saturday, September 3rd. 

Where to watch: The best place to see the display is from the lawn along Christopher Columbus Park or by Long Wharf in the North End. The fireworks can also be easily seen from the South Boston Waterfront (especially around Fan Pier/ Seaport), the downtown waterfront, and Piers Park in East Boston


Labor Day Sales- 

Do some back to school shopping or revamp your fall wardrobe with Labor Day Sales throughout the city. The best places to shop? You can take advantage of reductions on already discounted prices at places like Assembly Row or Wrentham Village. If you're looking to stay in the city to shop, check out sales at Faneuil Hall, the Prudential Center, or shops around Downtown Crossing. 

For more Labor Day activity ideas click here. Enjoy the long weekend with your visitors!! 

 


Little Italy's Big Feast

Global Immersions Recruiting - Wednesday, August 24, 2016

This Friday marks the start of the three day festival, Saint Anthony's Feast, in the North End. As you might know, the North End has feasts and festivals all summer long, but Saint Anthony's is definietly the biggest and also happens to be a personal favorite of mine. Last year I attended the feast with my family and celebrated my (37.5%) Italian-ness by eating a cannoli on Endicott street. Even if you aren't Italian, or a canoli -lover like me you'll definitely still enjoy the festival - but come on, who doesn't love cannolis??

The Feast is a very lively event, drawing huge crowds that cover the historic streets of the North End. Hundreds of food vendors line the sidewalks serving every Italian plate you could think of; from caprese salads, to sausages, to lasagna, to aranchini. Pizza, calzones, calamari, ceci, torrone, cookies, pastries, and more.  National Geographic wasn't kidding when they called it "The Feast of all Feasts". Once you're full of Italian cooking you can stroll the streets listening to live musical performances or watch the giant statue of Saint Anthony be carried through the streets in an even giant-er parade. Experience food and beverage tastings, dancing, games, and crafts for kids. 

The best part about the celebration is that a lot of North end restaurants that are typically crowded (think: Mikes Pasteries, Pizzeria Regina) have stands where you can get their famous food without waiting in an endless line. Did you say Mike's Pastries without a line??? I know right, unheard of. 

I also really like going to The Feast because the atmosphere is so upbeat and the crowd is so fun. Even though I'm only like (almost) half Italian, its nice to be around a group of people who are all part of a similar history and are celebrating a common heritage. Above everything, I enjoy being surrounded by others who share my love of c̶a̶r̶b̶s̶ ̶ Italian food. So, if this post has convinced you to go, then the only remaining tough choice is deciding what to eat. 

For a full schedule of the weekends events and a brief history of Saint Anthony's Feast click here. 

A Little Taste of the World

Global Immersions Recruiting - Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Would you eat a pickle chip? What about an octopus chip? Would you try a whiskey and haggis chip? How about a Marmite chip? Why am I even asking about chips???? Well, National Geographic recently published an article about unusual potato chip flavors around the world which I thought was very interesting. The article is an interview with Ali Payne, the vice president of global snacks innovation at PepsiCo, who explains how cultural cravings affect potato chip flavor trends. She talks about how chip flavors reflect the components of the typical foods in each region and are therefore the best way to eat like a local when traveling. 

 In other words: potato chips make great souvenirs. 

If you're familiar with the Do Us a Flavor competition (aka the thing responsible for Chicken and Waffles Lay's) then you've probably seen some pretty crazy chip flavors on the shelves. According to Ali Payne, preferences for flavors in the program are usually similar to local comfort food - which explains flavors like garlic bread or southern biscuits and gravy in the U.S. and English Breakfast in the U.K.

The part of the article that I found really interesting though was about how globalization is affecting our food - or more specifically our chips. The article explains that since people are becoming more and more exposed to different flavor around the world from travel and social media, ingredients from other countries are gaining popularity.  "A flavor like wasabi and ginger, which may have once been considered exotic in the U.S., is now a hugely popular flavor thanks to the prevalence of Japanese cuisine, and Italian red meat is now one of the most popular flavors in China." 

I also learned from this article that the U.S. has the most flavor diversity of any country (which makes sense considering the whole melting pot thing) so I was inspired to go to a local grocery store and see for myself the range of flavors that the US potato chip market has to offer. What I gathered from looking at the aisles was that the US does in fact have a wide variety of chips...actually compared to the grocery stores that I've visited in Europe, we have a wide variety of everything. So, perhaps it is true that the food in our stores reflects the diversity of our nation. If anything, it definitely reflects our culture of consumerism. 


In looking at a survey done in 2015, it appears that although we have a diverse variety of odd flavors, the most popular flavors among Americans tend to be more conservative, reflecting typical American dishes and usual food flavorings. This is not surprising given the information in the article. People prefer the types of flavors that they have grown up eating, and for Americans this means flavors like plain and (of course) BBQ. 

Greetings From Japan

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Our group programs coordinator, Gen, has been away recently, visiting his family and friends back home in Japan. Gen has been writing about his experiences in Japan and providing us with some insight on Japanese culture. Read Gen's post below to learn about one of the traditional holiday seasons occurring in Japan this month! 

Greetings from Japan! I am currently back in my country Japan just temporarily, seeing my family and relatives for the first time after two years and reuniting with my old friends.  These past two weeks have been wonderful and have really been enjoying the authentic Japanese foods here, but also I’m excited to come back to Boston in about a week and be back in the office!

So, in this Blog I’d like to talk about one of the traditional holiday seasons in Japan, called “Obon.” The Obon holiday runs for about a week before and after the 15th of August, and just like the Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays in the U.S., everybody takes some days-off from work to celebrate this yearly tradition. Typically, people travel back to their homes to visit their families, and have family reunions with a lot of foods and drinks to celebrate with. Towns and villages throughout the country organize large festivals at parks and shrines for those who celebrate the holiday. It’s not very common in where I am from, but in some regions people celebrate the holiday with parades and massive bonfires. There are no rules about what foods to serve and it varies a lot from prefecture to prefecture. Here in Ishikawa prefecture, people usually prepare fresh fish and root vegetables like radish because Ishikawa by the ocean and abundant in rich soils.

When did this tradition originate? The exact time is actually not certain as different websites say the different times in history, but the general idea is that it began around 600 A.D. as a Buddhist ritual to welcome ancestral spirits back to the earth for the week to demonstrate respects to them. Haka-Mairi, or grave visits, are one of the most important and widely-practiced family traditions for this holiday. People visit the graveyard of their ancestors, decorate the gravestone with flowers and special ornaments, and pray for the well-being and good health of their family members for another year to come. Again the traditions and ritual customs vary slightly in different areas in Japan, but the picture below is how these gravestones during the Obon time usually look. 

I talked about the religious aspects of what Obon is, but the most important part of this holiday is that this is when Japanese people have reunions with families and friends, and along with New Year’s Day (or Oshogatsu) this holiday brings back all generations in the family. Many families plan their August activities based on their own Obon celebration date in August. With all the Obon themed festivals, fireworks and “bon-odori” Japanese traditional dance events, this holiday is the absolute favorite for many Japanese.



Rio Recap : Gymnastics

Global Immersions Recruiting - Friday, August 12, 2016



With the 2016 Summer Olympics now in full swing, watching TV with your host student has now become much more exciting! If you haven't been able to catch any of the events we got you covered. Here is a little recap of key moments  in the world of Olympic gymnastics that everyone is talking about. 

The Women 


The Final Five (aka US women's gymnastics team) won gold in the team event last week, making them the best team in the world...for the fifth time. The US team has won two consecutive Olympic gold's and three world championships titles in 2011, 2014 and 2015. What's even more impressive is that they didn't just win by a little, they won by ALOT. Like record breaking a lot. Like the largest margin of victory since the "Perfect 10" scoring system was replaced a lot. Who's on the team? Former Olympian (and Needham native ! ) Aly Raisman, other former Olympian Gabby Douglas, along with Olympic newbies Madison Kocian, Laurie Hernandez, and Simone Biles. Whats with the name? The Final Five is referring to the new Olympic rule, which requires all future gymnastics teams to be composed of four girls instead of five. Clever.

In the team event, Russia won the silver medal followed by China wining the bronze.


Final Five member Simone Biles won the women's individual all around gold medal on Thursday, making her the greatest female gymnast in the world on the best team in the world...oh and btw she's only 19. Simone Biles even has a special manouver named after her, as shes the only gymnast that has the ability to perform it. The "Biles"  is a double layout with a half twist followed by a stage leap. You can watch all 4 feet and 9 inches of Simone Biles doing absolutely amazing things in this video here.

In this event, Aly Raisman won the second place medal and Russian Aliya Mustafina won third.

 

The Men


There was some controversy in the realm of men's gymnastics this week when Kohei Uchimura (aka the Michael Phelps of gymnastics - aka arguably the greatest gymnast in the world) became the first person to defend an Olympic all around championship in more than 40 years. He was nearly beaten by Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev, who was the only male in the competition to score a 16 on any apparatus- very impressive. Uchimura only beat Verniaiev by a tenth of a point - thus, controversy.  When asked if he believed the scoring was unfair Uchimura said that it absolutely was not. Verniaiev probably disagrees with that, but being the classy athlete he is, he is staying out of the drama.