Saturday, July 12, 2014

Concrete Jungle

Our amazing first week of class has officially ended, and our weekend started off with a blast. I was actually very excited to travel to New York today since we were going to Times Square! My first time in New York with the Penn cohort was a great adventure for me since I had never been in a city as busy and huge before, but being able to explore the city with new friends in a whole new place is a completely different, yet wonderful, experience. 
New York Times Square
Our first stop was Columbia University, since the program wanted us to tour around the school for ourselves and look into other Ivy League universities in the East Coast. Nostalgia has been hitting me constantly for this past week, especially when I would pass by the Wawa Convenient Store and walk along the street where Mr. Hillyer used to take us out for food. Being at Columbia University has totally added onto the nostalgia. I was especially grateful that my cohort members and I had the chance to take part of the informational session and tour of the school, since today's schedule was running late and we did not really get to explore the campus. Nonetheless, we had big things to look forward to, such as our visit to Times Square! 
Rockefeller Center

Viewing pictures of buildings and landmarks in New York versus actually seeing and being a part of the city are two completely different experiences. I was taken aback with awe as we finally stepped foot into the heart of the city. The amount of diversity in New York was just incredible. Mexican grills, Japanese restaurants and Indian delis lined the streets, while people from all over the country formed the giant crowds that made movement almost impossible. We were given free time to walk around the city, but there was so much to do and too many places to seewhere do we even start? We found a quick answer. It was lunch time and the two hour drive to the city was much more tiring than we thought. After plenty of distractions, indecisive choices, and uncertainties, Gwennie, the Julias, Isabel, and I finally decided to grab some food at a store next to a bustling outdoor market. 

We definitely got a feel of the area as we started to roam around the market. They were selling the coolest items: from jewelry, blankets, to all kinds of food. The shops stretched all the way from Broadway Street to Times Square, with hundreds and hundreds of people at each block. It was nothing like I have ever seen before. Walking around and checking out the outdoor street shops was actually my favorite part of the day. There is no other place where you can find so much diversity all compiled together in one area. People handed out flyers, artists worked on their art pieces for sale right in front of us, and food trucks were blessed with amazing business. We spent a good amount of hours walking around Times Square and dodging around the crowd until we settled in a store for some frozen yogurt while we formulated a plan.
Exploring NY 
Our inner tourist kicked in as we headed towards the Rockefeller Center. It is one of the most major tourist attraction areas in New York and going there today was definitely worth my time. Although we did not do much there except sit and take pictures, the area was extremely comfortable and I actually enjoyed the peaceful moments while people-watching. 
Top: Times Square;  Left: Hand-made paper and wire figurines; Right: Artist spray painting his artwork for sale
On our way back to the bus after a long and amazing day, we passed by some famous New York landmarks such as NBC Studios and Radio City Music Hall (where America's Got Talent is held). Never have I ever imagined that I would be given this opportunity to see New York again for what the city is truly known as: a concrete jungle full of life and diversity. Today was definitely an experience that I will never forget.  

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