Want Some New Friends? Join a Student-Led Stroll on the Esplanade
Happy Terrier Walk program helps form connections and gets people outdoors
On a sunny afternoon earlier this month, a group of 14 students gathered on Marsh Plaza. As a crisp autumn breeze surrounded them, they took off on a walk, crossing the BU Beach and making their way to the Charles River Esplanade. Here, among pedestrians, bikers, runners, and hints of fall foliage, the students found respite from the obligations of college life. They formed new connections, got some exercise, and took in the million-dollar river views that lie just beyond Comm Ave.
Sonia Nguyen (SPH‘24), Student Wellbeing’s graduate assistant for programming, leads the walk each week and says she appreciates the opportunity to get some exercise while at the same time meeting new people. “It’s combining two of the best worlds for me into one activity,” Nguyen says.
Happy Terrier Walk started as the summer break brainchild of Yael Rudelman (CAS‘24), who followed the “Hot Girl Walks” trend on TikTok. For those unfamiliar, the videos feature women talking power walks for their mental health. Rudelman thought BU could replicate its success and suggested the idea to Pedro Falci (COM’11, Wheelock’15), director of the Wellbeing Project.
A lover of long walks with friends, Rudelman says she wanted to create a program for all BU students to enjoy the simple pleasure of a walk in nature. “I thought it would be a great way to meet other people with similar interests and for people to get a break from studying and stress,” she says. Throughout the summer, Rudelman worked with Student Wellbeing to implement the program.
Falci says walking with others can promote not only social and physical well-being, but also environmental health. “Spending time outside provides the opportunity to appreciate the relationship between ourselves and our surroundings,” he says, “and practice mindfulness by observing things like the change in seasons and the beautiful landscape.”
“Spending time outside provides the opportunity to appreciate the relationship between ourselves and our surroundings and practice mindfulness by observing things like the change in seasons and the beautiful landscape.”
With college students inundated by schoolwork, extracurriculars, and career plans, experts say, physical and social well-being often falls on the periphery of their concerns. According to a 2021 study by the American College Health Association, almost three quarters of college students report moderate to severe psychological distress, and over half report loneliness. What’s more, many studies show that exercise helps ward off depression and anxiety.
Carrie Landa, Student Wellbeing executive director, says helping students find a way to connect, away from screens and outdoors, can help alleviate some of these issues.
On that first early October Happy Terrier Walk, Irene Zhang (CAS‘27) stood on one of the Esplanade’s docks, illuminated by the sinking sun. The group was taking a quick breather and gazing at the Charles. “It’s definitely nice just getting outside,” Zhang said. “And if I wasn’t on this walk, I would just be in my dorm and sitting there.”
Although some walkers were solo, Zhang’s friend Elena Chen (CAS’27) had come with her. Looking out at the river’s blue expanse, dotted with sailboats, Chen was struck by how gorgeous the views were from down on the docks. “It’s so wonderful. And because it’s going to be sunset, it will be even more beautiful 15 minutes later,” she said.
As well as providing a much-needed break from school, Rudelman also thought Happy Terrier Walk would be a good way for students to ground themselves. Caught up in the stress of the semester, she says, students often forget how hard they worked to come to BU—many a high schooler’s dream school—in the first place. The banks of the Charles or the shade of a Back Bay cherry tree provide a perfect place to rediscover their love of the city.
“Remind yourself that this was your dream and this was what you always worked for, and that you have to be grateful for it,” Rudelman says.