If you’re among the large portion of NYU students who left their hometown to come to New York City, then you’re no doubt familiar with this line of questioning: “Ooh, what’s it like in the big city?” I have this working theory that people who ask that question aren’t actually expecting you to answer. That’s why, instead of waiting for a response, they do that thing where they wink at you and act like you’re talking in code at the family dinner table. “Ooh, New York,” they say, with the same inflection I might use when saying “Ooh, dumplings” at a buffet.
I’ve always found it more useful to temper people’s expectations about New York and NYU rather than to amp them up. Instead of indulging their questions about clubbing and partying, I tell them the truth — once, during my first year, I watched four seasons of “Game of Thrones” in four days. When they ask for my best famous person story, I recall the time I passed Anne Hathaway on Ninth Street, put my head down and scampered off with my tail between my legs, afraid that eye contact with her might somehow melt me into a puddle (am I wrong?). If someone asks about brunches, I tell them that one of my favorite parts of my sophomore year was getting lunch by myself in the Kimmel Center for University Life, where the deli is extremely underrated and they’ll let you get an iced coffee for free with your meal swipe.
I’m glad I made this decision — to tell the truth about how NYU isn’t always the land of grandeur people assume it to be — early on in my time in college. For one, it was a lot easier than stealing scenes from “Gossip Girl” and hoping that the person listening had never watched the show. But, personally, it allowed me to lean into the things I was actually enjoying about college, rather than worry about some nebulous experience I felt I was supposed to be having. I often find myself telling people how different NYU is, how unique its college experience is compared to large schools with large campuses. And for that reason, how hard it is to meet friends and find a community where people know your name and care about whether you’re getting sleep and drinking enough water.
I walked into the WSN offices just days after I moved into my first-year dorm and, with some luck, was the sports editor just months later. And for all my complaining about how hard it is to find friends at NYU (and people who like sports!), I met my best friend by chance in a Journalism class because he was wearing an A’s hat and I vaguely knew he also worked for the paper. The collective fascination that my family and friends from back home have for New York and NYU has always struck me as incomplete. It won’t ever encompass all the effort that goes into building small communities like mine at the paper, or at the radio station, where I worked for the latter half of my time here, or countless others that exist at this school. It’s OK that it’s hard to get people to understand that though. That’s what’s made it so gratifying to find these communities. Plus, if nothing else, it’s been a lot of effort trying to explain to people why I spent the majority of my waking hours in college writing about sports at a university that wouldn’t know a student section if it smacked them in the face.
Read more from Washington Square News’ “While You Were Here” Issue.