It’s easy to forget why we chose to come to NYU. As we get caught up in the hullaballoo of what it means to “go to college” in 2018, we might inevitably desire to begin seeing NYU as a traditional campus. We might hope that over time Washington Square Park will feel like a quad and you will wave to people you see walking on Fifth Avenue as if it were the sidewalk of a gated campus. But NYU is not just any other school — and in all that makes it different, there are little treasures to cherish.
Relegating yourself to simply circling around Washington Square Park is fine and all, but then what is the point of being in New York City? If all a student wanted was to go from dorm to classroom to library and then back to dorm, they could have gone to school anywhere. There would be no point in having the particular NYU experience that we all have.
When I came to NYU, I grappled with the lack of cohesion. What had sold the school to me during the tour — the freedom, the immersion, the accessibility — became overwhelming. Sure, it was exciting, but if anything, it soon felt more dizzying than enthralling.
I had a lot free time that I didn’t quite know how to spend, and at a school like NYU where college life is not packaged and handed to you in a basket along with some pom-poms and a bullhorn, students need to practice independence. I know they tell you that on the tour and in the brochure, and it’s pretty much as obvious as it gets even without the constant reminders — but regardless, it’s still a shock. People adjust differently to their newfound time. And so, with my free time, I walked.
I walked until I could hardly make it back to my bed at the end of the night. I walked to Central Park and back; I circled every crevice of the East and West Villages. I sat and studied in Tompkins Square Park, in Madison Square Park, on the High Line, in the Elizabeth Street Gardens, in Union Square and, of course, in Washington Square Park.
Bumps in the road and snowstorms aside, the walks led to many little excavations of New York City’s artifacts that can only be done on foot. I roamed along the West Side Highway and the East River, searched Chelsea Market, hopped from coffee shop to coffee shop from the Lower East Side through SoHo to Tribeca. When my friends and I planned outings, we made them into adventures — because why not, when adventures are so accessible? We could have weekends in Williamsburg looking for trinkets to decorate our rooms, picnics in Central Park, or Saturday evenings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My advice is to walk as much as you can and only rely on the subway as a last resort.
This is not to encourage idle exploration at the cost of school or extracurriculars. But it is to say that after you have seen so much, you start to feel a little more confident in being a part of the fabric of New York, and therefore a part of the fabric of NYU. Your neighborhood, whether it’s the East Village or Gramercy Park, will feel like a warm respite from the erratic undercurrent that permeates New York City’s every block.
You might discover something special. A second home maybe, or at least a place on this grand island where you feel peaceful — even if it is not necessarily enclosed within ivy-strewn gates.
A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 26 print edition. Email Hanna Khosravi at [email protected]