The first semester of college is a time for learning — and not just in the classroom. For many students, it’s their first time away from home and they have to figure out how to navigate their academics, social life and a new beginning in New York City all alone. As winter break grows near, the Class of 2022 reflects on their time so far at NYU.
Though we’re all here for school, academics are oftentimes not the biggest concern during a student’s first semester. Making new friends and navigating NYU’s somewhat tricky social scene can be the hardest part.
LS first-year Dani Zipkis found it difficult to make friends at NYU. A feeling of isolation exacerbated by NYU’s open campus, on top of school work, were factors in Zipkis’s decision to take her second semester off.
“It’s not like a typical college experience,” Zipkis said. “It was an expectation versus reality wake-up call — ‘I don’t know how to do this. It’s hard to make friends.’”
It’s also hard to know if your potential best friend is going to be someone among the sea of faces in a chemistry lecture. For CAS first-year Kathy Wang, it’s nearly impossible to make friends in a big class. However, group projects were the secret to making crowded seating feel more intimate.
“Especially if you have work that you need to do with someone, and you guys arrange to meet up and work, I think that really helps,” Wang said.
Others found it easier to start closer to home in their residence halls, such as Tandon first-year Edgar Lei.
“After my roommate and I finished unpacking, we went down the hall, knocked on some people’s doors,” Lei said. “We made some friends right away, and after, we played a game of poker to get to know one another.”
Away from the trials of making friends, acclimating to NYU’s academic demands also proved a challenge for many new students. Nearing the end of her first semester in the Liberal Studies program, Anel Oaxaca said the skill she found most integral from the get-go was time management.
“I got hit with a pretty severe case of procrastination, and I had started writing an essay at 3 a.m. on the day it [was] due,” Rivas said. “I stayed up until 6 a.m. just trying to rush through it, and once I finished, I went straight to bed in order to get an hour or two before class. The problem was that I slept over my alarm clock and didn’t wake up till 2 p.m., missing two of my classes, including the one the essay was due for.”
This pattern of missing deadlines seemed to be fairly common among first-year students. Wang said she has also struggled with balancing her course load and new life in New York.
“Today I was in my recitation, and I realized that I had a paper due for my next class,” Wang said. “I just sat there knowing I wouldn’t be able to finish it. I just learned that you have to check your course syllabus because I just wasn’t paying attention to it.”
So, when professors tell you to read the syllabus, you should probably do it.
LS first-year Isabelle Amegashie said that her best tip for getting through the first semester is meticulous scheduling — that way you can make sure the sneaky syllabi won’t catch you off-guard.
“I use a whiteboard calendar,” Amegashie said. “A lot of people use planners, but I think this helps me visually remember everything that I have to do.”
Though school and friend-making can be stressful, first-years can bond over many aspects of life at NYU. Students connected over their newfound love or hate for certain dining halls. LS first-year Philip Meng has the ultimate compact guide to NYU dining.
“Upstein for convenience, Kimmel for quality and Lipton or Downstein for quantity,” Meng said.
At the Brooklyn campus, Lei dispelled claims that their dining hall, Jasper Kane, is trash.
“Personally, I think that the food is pretty good and that some people are just too picky,” Lei said.
In addition to finding their favorite on-campus places to eat, first-years also discovered everything New York’s vibrant nightlife had to offer. Many NYU students love immersing themselves in the city that never sleeps, but trying to do this can be difficult — especially for non-New Yorkers. However, Oaxaca has advice for those struggling.
“Asking your floormates for any parties during the weekends or any events occurring in [New York City] that they are interested in going [to] opens up more opportunities to be more social,” she said.
There are also nightlife activities that first-years can partake in outside of the traditional party scene. Oaxaca admitted she’s not the biggest partygoer:
“I use my dorm’s RA, [who] hosted outings as a way to get out of my dorm and see the city,” Oaxaca, who had the opportunity to go to events like a boba tea exhibit, said. “Most events are free or have extremely low costs.”
Moving into the second half of their first year, these students know a lot more than when they first got to New York — but there’s still so much left to discover about the city and themselves. Here’s to hoping the next stage is one of deeper self-discovery — after all, that’s what this time of their lives is all about.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Dec. 3 print edition. Email Anna de la Rosa at [email protected]