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angiemancini
2nd March 2022

Life as a Masshole: Massachusetts and America’s mistakes

Escape to Massachusetts through the eyes of a Masshole. The state is rich with history, nature, and student debt
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Life as a Masshole: Massachusetts and America’s mistakes
Photo: Angelina Mancini @ The Mancunion

My name is Angelina Mancini and I am a Masshole, meaning I am from Massachusetts,
USA. We’ve earned this complimentary nickname for our ‘wild tempers’ (pfft), the recognizable
accent of not pronouncing Rs and our notoriously bad driving (“Use ya blinkah!”). Personally, I find the term Masshole endearing.

Photo: Angelina Mancini

This is my family! I’m the oldest of four children and with a name like Mancini, blatantly of Italian descent. I’ve lived in Worcester, Massachusetts all my life with both parents growing up here.

Massachusetts is a wonderful state. We’re the seventh smallest state and one of the thirteen original British colonies. We are also known for our notorious universities – Harvard and MIT. Our state capital, Boston, is a historical centre for some of the most recognizable events in our country’s history. Boston Tea Party for example was where the American revolutionaries dumped British tea into the harbour in opposition to England’s harsh import tax. In more recent history, the smiley face was actually invented in Worcester. Harvey Ball, the inventor, was paid just $45 for his drawing.

Now Massholes are big on sports and Fenway Park, the home of the baseball team the Boston Red Sox, is the oldest ballpark in the states!

Beyond our historical reputation, we have an interesting geological composition. In the western part of the state, we have the Berkshire mountain range. This is a part of the famous Appalachian Trail, an eastern coast hiking route stretching from Georgia to northern Maine. I’ve actually hiked the last 100 miles in the Maine portion of the trail.

Massachusetts in autumn (or fall, as we say) is truly the most beautiful spectacle. The foliage is
absolutely breathtaking and there is a certain smell to the air that you just have to experience for
yourself. Personally, autumn evokes an immense feeling of nostalgia for me and is when I feel
most connected to where I live.

Photo: Larry Ferreira @Unsplash

To the east, on the hook part of the state, we have Cape Cod. It is a massive summer destination and recognised for its clam chowder (chowdah) and sand dunes.

Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island make up the North East corner of the United States and is actually referred to as New England. Worcester, again inspired by England, is just about an hour away from Boston. Worcester is a little under half the size of Manchester (population-wise) at 200k people and is the second-largest city in Massachusetts after Boston.

We’re known for having the largest concentration of three family homes in America – these are either multigenerational or multiple households under one roof. They were originally built as affordable housing and my great-grandparents, who were Italian immigrants, moved to a triple-decker in Worcester’s Italian neighbourhood back in the 1960s.

Photo: The Earl L. Marcey Family via The U.S. National Archives

However, some things in America aren’t as fun. I came to the United Kingdom for university because fees in America are shamefully expensive. Unless you go to a community college or somewhere ‘in-state’, university costs (tuition plus room and board) are currently averaging around $50,000 per year. Obviously, scholarships and financial aid are available but not everyone qualifies for aid or is awarded a scholarship.

As such, students plummet into deep debt with no real guarantee of being able to pay it back. One of the reasons I looked into England for university was because even as an international student, I am saving tens of thousands of dollars per year on my education. I’m a value-oriented person and really appreciate what higher education offers. I wanted to pursue a degree in university without suffering from crippling debt with high-interest rates following graduation.

In the United States, a degree does not ensure financial stability after university. Many people, especially if pursuing a non-STEM degree like myself, don’t have a great deal of high wage jobs waiting for them immediately after graduation. Candidly, this frightens me! According to Forbes, “Since the 1999-2000 academic year, the net price of tuition, fees, room, and board at a public four-year college has increased 68%. The amount borrowed to go to college each year has doubled in the same time. Today, the cumulative federal student loan debt is over $1.54 trillion, more than double the amount in 2010.”

While I love where I grew up, it just was not financially feasible to stay in the states for university and also have an experience somewhere new (i.e. not staying in Massachusetts for state rates). Now, America clearly has a lot of economic reform to undergo in more areas than one. I do not want to oversimplify a nuanced economic crisis whatsoever, but socioeconomic inequality is a real issue in my country.

Each year the 1% is getting richer and those remaining are struggling with taxes, inflation, wage inequality, and housing shortages. The university system is just one piece in an overarching societal system that needs policy reform, beginning with a value readjustment of those who are in power.

America is known for its immense opportunity and I am grateful to have grown up in a place where I have felt safe, cared for, and not to be cliché – but genuinely free. There are structural issues in my country which need to be addressed, but generally speaking and bearing in mind I come from a very small part of the United States (1/50th, to be exact), it was a pretty awesome place to live and grow as a human.

 


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