Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Dork City

This morning, I woke up to Julia poking me gently and holding my ringing phone a couple of inches from my face (I died laughing) after about five hours of sleep. The cohort didn't fare well sleep-wise last night, and some of us struggled to stay awake on the many trains we traveled on today. Julia and I woke up early and got to the lobby first (again—but we ended up going back up to the room to get something we forgot, which sort of negates our earliness). 

In Washington Square Park
The cohort took a cab to the Amtrak station (Mr. Hillyer foolishly put me in charge of the cab, and Gwennie ended up doing the math for me after my exhausted early-morning brain stumbled on the basic calculation of $20 minus fare and tip; Gwennie has pretty much promised to make fun of me forever for that). 

We took a train to New York City (that sounds like a song lyric), sharing stories, playing word games, and solving riddles to pass the time. Those three things are becoming our go-to conversations on trains. When we arrived, we ate breakfast at a diner right outside the station, then walked around in Washington Square Park (which, as I later learned, is basically NYU's unofficial quad), the patch of green in the middle of NYU's bustling urban campus. 

Washington Square Park
Our information session was 
in this auditorium
Our New York University information session was next on the itinerary. One of the major things I picked up was that NYU has gone beyond the study abroad programs of other schools and has actually built several NYU campuses around the world. I found that very impressive, but for me, the idea of speaking another language every day or even being in a foreign country for a long time is daunting. More appealing to me was the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where students can develop their own programs  with a flexible curriculum. The information session also spent some time highlighting the accessibility and friendliness of faculty at NYU, which is important to me. 

The tour was next (no pictures were allowed during the tour, unfortunately; you guys are missing out on some pretty cool New York buildings), and we were led by an NYU student from the Bay Area. Her comment about the West Coast to us was that it was interesting to put yourself so far out of your weather comfort zone. The East Coast snows and has blazing heat (right now, we're experiencing the latter), while the difference between a hot and a cold day in the Bay Area is barely a temperature change to a New Yorker. Our guide talked a bit about the study abroad opportunities at NYU, adding to what was said in the information session that not only did NYU have great programs abroad, but the university also made it easy to be a part of one, and those programs seem like a wonderful part of NYU. The tour also covered the usual topics (I'm becoming a pro with college visits); the dorms, the food, etc., which I didn't really see as defining characteristics of NYU, so I won't discuss them here. 

Butler Library at Columbia
Once we had tried to make ourselves absorb all the information about NYU we could, we had to do the same for Columbia. (I know: two colleges in one day!) Fortunately, Columbia did allow photographs on the tour, so you won't have to go completely without college photos. A Columbia admissions officer named James gave us the Columbia information session. The highlights for me were that students at Columbia challenge themselves in their studies, and they are given the chance to learn from the best in every course and area of study, from law to physical education. He told us about how the Columbia swim test started as proof that you could get off of Manhattan Island in case of an emergency, and how the test became a fun event for seniors, which I thought was cool. 

All the different tour guides (from both schools, not just Columbia) showed me that these universities are full of bright people who aren't total nerds! It's amazing! On the tour, our guide showed us several buildings at Columbia and told us about what was inside each, and if some of the people on the tour were interested in that area of study, she would give more information about it for them. One of the things that impressed me: Columbia is home to some of the most gorgeous university buildings I've seen on this trip. There were majestic black columns in a giant hall where we waited for the information session to start, and the statues, trees, grassy areas, and three-to-five-floor brick buildings really made Columbia beautiful. 

We saw some members of the ILC Columbia cohort after our tour, and ate pizza with two of them at a pizza place that had the largest slices of pizza I have ever seen. I reached a point in the giant slice where I decided that I would hurt myself if I made myself eat any more. 

I had suggested that we see Barnard after Columbia, but that plan was cancelled after everyone was so tired and full. Still, we wanted to do something touristy in New York, so we saw the Statue of Liberty from a distance. A long distance...but it was still fun. Even though we didn't get to do much in New York, we got to see the Statue of Liberty, which isn't exactly something you get to do every day. 

The Statue of Liberty!

The way home was on more trains, and we had difficulties with the subway and the Amtrak train: Bryan and I had problems with our Metro Cards and had to walk and find the nearest place where we could add money to the cards (Mr. Hillyer and the rest of the cohort were already inside by the time we realized that the problem was not that we were bad at swiping our cards, but that there wasn't enough money in them). When we arrived at the Amtrak station, I watched in horror as our train went from being ten minutes late to thirty minutes late to forty-five minutes late. I tried to reassure myself by thinking that the Fourth of July was tomorrow and we would get to sleep in then, but was only reminded that I wouldn't be able to sleep until I finished the blog and was back at the room. (Almost done! Sleep is only sentences away!)

New York is its own kind of city, and it's for some people, but right now, I don't think it's for me, and I think I could be overwhelmed at a school like NYU or Columbia. But who knows? I'm still considering applying to both of these universities, and I suspect that after spending a few weeks independent in Philadelphia I'll be more comfortable on my own in urban environments, and I might move them up on my college list. I am aware of one change in myself already: after all of these college tours, I'm finding it easier and easier to speak the language of applications and college life, and that's something that I owe to the ILC. 

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