“Ugh, thanks NYU” should be our school’s motto. Every day someone mutters it to me or I grumble it myself. But what makes us so irritated and bitter toward our school?
Perhaps it’s the line at the Washington Square Starbucks that snakes out the door, not moving an inch as we impatiently wait for our coffee, already late for class. Maybe it’s never finding a seat at Bobst Library during finals, forcing us to settle for a pathetic corner on the eighth floor just so we can cram in some studying. Or maybe it’s the lingering feeling that we are alone at NYU, that lacking a physical wall encircling campus also means we lack a community. But if we think about it, it’s this very exasperation toward our unconventional school that helps identify an NYU student. It is as if our shared unwillingness to settle, to remain complacent and our insistence to work for more are what define us as a community.
This past summer, I had to leave NYU due to the soaring tuition costs we are all too familiar with. Although I was devastated to leave the home I had made for myself, I was ready. The irony is that NYU itself prepared me to face this obstacle.
NYU refuses to coddle us, pushing us out into the real world where we quickly learn to fend for ourselves. From the times we had to scrape by on a sad budget to live in this ridiculously expensive city, to suffering through the depressing New York City dating life, to a merciless professor not giving an extension on an essay, we become equipped to withstand unexpected hurdles every day. It’s this quality of scrappiness and industriousness that unites us and that has driven me forward through this year of heartbreak and disappointment.
It’s easy to see that this common thread of endurance and determination achieve something that solidifies our community. I came to this conclusion when I studied abroad in Madrid last spring. While I was abroad I expected that homesickness would weigh me down as I got lost in a foreign place and the language barrier prevented me from adequately expressing myself.
Yet, my classmates in Madrid pushed themselves to speak the native language, tried new cultural norms, refused to slack off despite being on a “just-play-around” semester. All of this reminded me I wasn’t alone in this experience. As I traveled to other countries across Europe, discovering NYU’s presence in London, Florence and Paris, connecting with ambitious, worldly students, I realized our community does exist. I connected with this diverse group of people, despite our differing cultures, languages, upbringings, religions and beliefs, for the one thing we shared — our NYU identity.
The NYU community is not as tangible nor as easy to find as those at most colleges, but it’s there and spans across the globe. To find it, however, we have to work for it.
We may be constantly annoyed with NYU and tired of living an unconventional college life, but here we are, swapping frat parties for bar hopping, choosing Washington Square Park over rolling campus lawns and replacing football games with Broadway shows and Tisch student theater. Here we are, embracing the unorthodox undergraduate life, keeping up as we hop on the crowded subways, bustle through the throngs of people walking in the streets to make it on time to class and surviving the challenges in the world’s fiercest and most indifferent city. Here we are, secretly loving this unique university that has bestowed us with more struggles than any other college but that has also propelled us further.
I always imagined writing this piece for my own graduation from NYU. But, even though I left, it feels as though the school never left me. As cliche as that sounds, the university’s beauty is in how it prepares it students for the world. Perhaps that’s what the absence of iron-wrought gates and college town borders does for us.
I have left NYU, and in a few weeks many of you will also leave. Yet this community that often felt nonexistent lingers with us. Whenever an NYU alum wins an Oscar, becomes the chair of the Federal Reserve or leads a cause to end world hunger, I am reminded that we come from the same place.
I won’t feel closure because the pieces of NYU left in me are not gone — never will be gone, and they won’t leave you either, even after you walk out of commencement in Yankee Stadium. Whether we like it or not, we’ll always be defined by NYU. So NYU, thanks for that.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 24 print edition.
Email Katrina Fadrilan at [email protected]