When Colombia native Nicole Theilkuhl was looking at universities in the U.S., strong academics and small class size were a priority. But when it came to a campus, she wanted the best of both worlds: one that was close to a city that offered a variety of job opportunities but was also a traditional, close-knit college community. Bentley fit the bill.
“I have the comfort of a small community made by Bentley students, faculty and staff where I see familiar faces all around, and at the same time Boston is only about 20 minutes away,” Theilkuhl says of her ride on the commuter train from Waltham. “I get to experience the city when I want to, without being overwhelmed by living in the middle of so many distractions.”
A lot of that exploration in Boston revolves around food and socializing — with some studying mixed in too. A self-declared foodie, Theilkuhl takes the train into Faneuil Hall to Magnolia Bakery for their famous banana cream pudding; she heads to a sushi restaurant in South Boston; for “home-cooking” it’s a Colombian restaurant in East Boston.
“In East Boston there is a strong Latin community, so as soon as I came to Bentley I met some friends from high school who had been living in Boston and they took me to get Colombian food,” Theilkuhl recalls. “I never would have thought that existed in Boston, but the restaurant is something that people from Colombia pass down to each other. It reminds me of home.”
A lot of times Theilkuhl meets friends who attend colleges in Boston; other times she and her Bentley friends take a train, Uber or the Bentley shuttle into the city for a “change of scenery” after class ends. Their favorite hangouts to study are Jaho coffee shop and Tatte Bakery & Café in the Seaport district. If it’s warm, Theilkuhl unwinds by sitting at the Boston Harbor docks or catching a movie.
She also explores: On Newbury Street she found a shop where she buys animal-themed hats for her little brother; and she was particularly happy when she found a fruit stand with rambutans, a fruit she used to have as a child when she lived in Indonesia.
“It’s funny because back home in Colombia I couldn’t find it but here it is at a fruit stand in Haymarket,” she says of her visit to Boston’s oldest outdoor market on Hanover Street. “Little finds like that make me happy.”
Theilkuhl, who has visited New York City, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago, calls Boston an “iconic U.S. city without the chaos” of other metropolitan areas. “There are so many good universities and companies in Boston that I feel successful just being here around other students and professionals. I also love that Boston is a big sports town. It’s like a small epicenter.”
An epicenter, she adds, with culture. “The population in Boston is extremely diverse in a cultural sense, so as an international student I feel more comfortable. I also feel it is relatively safe, which is something that is very important to me.”
The times Theilkuhl is missing home, she is happy for her Bentley community and close-knit campus. “It’s nice to be in a place like Bentley where it’s so familiar and all your friends are. You feel relaxed and safe. It’s good balance because my friends who attend schools right in the city sometimes end up feeling crowded and have a hard time concentrating with the noise and traffic.
“At Bentley, I get the best of both worlds, and it’s a great feeling.”