Theme II: A Grain of Salt, “What I wish I had known” from a Freshman

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By Su Young Lee, CAS ’18

It’s only been a semester since I arrived at NYU, but I can already bring myself to say that New York feels like a second —and hopefully even permanent— home. On the way to my 8.a.m. class, I can navigate the streets on autopilot, half-asleep, instead of anxiously checking Google Maps the way I did in the first week of school. Adjusting to this city comes so naturally that it no longer feels as foreign, frightening, or sadly even as exciting as it once did. Yet, the months of anxiety leading up to move-in day are still fresh in my mind. I remember scrolling through the “Class of 2018” Facebook page obsessively, hoping that other clueless freshmen would post questions that I also needed the answers to. Though I know how daunting it is to leave your old life behind, I am here to offer incoming freshmen a few tips that I have learned first-hand.

Your experience as a freshman all begins with Welcome Week, which you may already know from the fancy Guidebook app created to maximize your experience. NYU deliberately offers you the time to get to know the university and your peers by organizing events, some ridiculous, before you are thrown into classes. You learn your way around campus, consequently find out that we don’t really have a campus, and take advantage of free events, food, and sightseeing. Everyone will be in a frenzy to get to know each other, and the wide range of events will hopefully allow you to meet like-minded people.

While I stress that this is the start of your life here at NYU, remember that it doesn’t determine its entirety. Don’t panic if you don’t meet your best friend in the first week of being here. People are just as desperate to make friends as you are, but by the end of the week you will have numbers from people you will never call and names you won’t ever mention or remember. It’s simply an experience that you might as well make the most out of.

When Welcome Week is over, assuming that you have met or will meet people you actually like, you have to put in effort to keep in contact. With new friends scattered across different residence halls, classrooms, and dining halls, be bold and reach out or you may never see them again.

While the struggle of making friends and adjusting to this city may keep you busy, you also have to remember that you are still a student. If you constantly skip lectures, your GPA will suffer, no matter how much fun you have. There are resources to help you if you need them: go visit your professors and TA’s during office hours, as it can be an advantage if  they remember you from a class of over a hundred students. Find tutors at the University Learning Center and at the Writing Center, and if you feel stressed, seek help at the Wellness Center. While it’s scary to voice your opinion in class, your professors are desperate for a response as they face a crowd of blank faced students. I guarantee that other students will say things that sound stupid or you know that you could have said better.

Last of all, I probably don’t need to remind you that we’re in New York City—this is why we came to NYU. I confess Gossip Girl may have misled me before I arrived, but there is no denying that it’s one of the best cities to explore. Art galleries, museums, performances, and parks await you for the next four years.

Like those of you reading, I looked for tips online before I arrived. I made all sorts of goals but ultimately found the best strategy for settling into NYU is to just be yourself. The greatest thing about NYU and NYC is that they’re full of people who don’t follow rules or tips—they simply live as they like.

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