What I learned during my first year at NYU

While I haven’t mastered everything during my first nine months at university, these nine tips will help any incoming student ease their first few semesters.


Max Van Hosen

(Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

Alexa Donovan, Staff Writer

Going to a rigorous college in New York City can be challenging, but I’ve learned certain things that have made the transition easier. College can be fun, academically challenging and rewarding, as long as you’re able to find a balance. Taking care of yourself along the way certainly helps. That said, as the year nears its end, here are some of the most helpful things I’ve learned as a first-year at NYU.

Find your study spot

At the beginning of the semester, I wasted so much time roaming around, trying to find a spot to study and do my work. While the silence of Bobst’s eighth floor sometimes sucks the life out of me, the view inspires me and helps me to concentrate on my studies. To get to this conclusion, I did have to experiment — the lack of natural light in the library’s underground levels was a quick deal breaker — but it was worth it in the end, as I now have a place I feel comfortable and somewhat sane to work in.

Go out for yourself, not to find a romantic partner

While meeting a potential partner can be one of your goals during a night out, having fun with your friends should be your top priority. That way, whether you meet someone new or not, the night can still be successful and fun. Plus, you’ll notice you’ll meet more people and build stronger connections when you’re not constantly looking for someone to flirt with.

Wake up at the same time every day

Before I got to college, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. every day without much issue. When I arrived at NYU last semester and had a different start time to my classes each day, the one day per week when I had to wake up at 7 a.m. became a huge struggle. It was only by being consistent about when I woke up that I was able to feel refreshed and ready to go each day. After setting this consistent schedule, waking up early doesn’t seem so bad — I get up way earlier than I need to in order to have time to get ready, maybe even grab a cup of coffee, and wander to class rather than having to run.

Ration your Dining Dollars

I’m a big advocate for healthy study habits, but I’ll be honest — during finals season, you probably won’t get any sleep. As a new caffeine addict, I promise you this: you will want to use your Dining Dollars toward the end of the semester. Don’t buy random things at the Market at Sidestein those first few weeks of the semester when Dining Dollars feel so abundant. That cup of Starbucks will be way more worth it than those Sidestein snack packs which you can generally find for the same or a cheaper price at CVS. Also, let this serve as a reminder that you can use a meal swipe at Peet’s Coffee — you can get a coffee and a pastry for one swipe! 

Utilize the free resources available to you

Nobody dances around the fact that NYU is expensive — we are all painfully aware of it, each and every day that we spend on campus — so we may as well make the most of it. Whether it is taking advantage of 404 Fitness, using the University Learning Center or meeting with your major’s career service department, get your money’s worth. While we have all of these resources at our disposal, it is important that we use them!

Take the bus

Though I’ve spent much of my life in New York City, I only began taking the bus during my first year at NYU. While the bus can take a bit longer and can sometimes be even more unreliable than the subway, it is so much nicer, all things considered. A street view is much easier on the eyes than a tunnel. The bus also smells better and is typically cleaner than the subway. And sometimes my rides on the bus are peaceful. I don’t think that word has ever even been uttered in a subway station. If you’re still wary of trying the city buses, NYU offers a shuttle bus system that can take you around campus anytime between 7 a.m. and midnight. 

Take breaks 

My classes end pretty early most days, and I often find myself studying in Bobst from my noon lunch until my 7:30 p.m. dinner. This is, in fact, unhealthy — and it is certainly not something I recommend. I would find myself meeting my friends for dinner and zoning out the whole time because I was so exhausted. Once I began introducing an hour for the gym before dinner, or even just painting my nails before I headed back to the dining hall, I felt so much better and much more capable of socializing. If I’m really pressed for time, I now force myself to take 15-minute breaks every time I finish an assignment.

Stop walking around with noise-canceling headphones on

This is dangerous, and you have a high chance of getting hit by a moving object. Whether a driver or a cyclist, it does not matter if you have the right of way, because they will continue to move forward. Being aware of your surroundings, especially in this bustling city, is incredibly important. So, for heaven’s sake, stop canceling out the sound cues that could save you from an injury. Not to mention the headphone snatchers on campus that could easily make you their next victim. The sounds of New York are part of the experience!

Take time for yourself 

College can be exhausting. With a heavy course load and constant socialization — at least at the beginning of the semester — it’s important to remember to take some time for yourself. Every once in a while, I’ll take a long stroll around a new neighborhood or visit one of my favorite museums to be with myself and revitalize. It’s refreshing to be alone with your own thoughts, and getting to plan out your own activities for yourself without having to make any compromises is fun! After all, college is a nice time to learn to become your own best friend, and if you prioritize the time you have with yourself, it becomes so much easier.

Contact Alexa Donovan at [email protected]