New York is a city of first impressions.
It’s my fifth or so time in the city—so one might think it unfair of me to write about my first impressions of New York City—but I drove in from a new direction (from Newark), and I spend time in a new part of the city (Union Square), and I am here with different people, and above all: I actually go to school here now. So there are a lot of first impressions still to be had.
Yet I am in the odd position of being an NYU student, with all the benefits that that brings, while also feeling strangely removed from New York students, who are suddenly, of course, vastly in the majority. I attend NYU—I take classes, I go to Bobst to study, I sit in the park when it’s nice out, I work out at Palladium and I shop at Trader Joe’s and the Union Square Farmers Market. It is easy to begin feeling “in and of the city,” as our old NYU maxim goes, because when you are just walking around, it is not that easy to tell who is “actually” from New York.
But being here for only a semester, I feel more markedly than ever how different my perception of NYU, and even of the world, feels compared to students from New York. Being part of the Global Network is in our identity as NYU Shanghai students—to students in New York, the Global Network seems to be more of an appendage, a vestigial apparatus that they might or might not have any particular feeling for.
It is a combination of exhilarating and exasperating to be at such an enormous school. Going to a small school such as NYU Shanghai does pose its challenges to anyone wanting to get away, fade into the crowd, escape—and NYU New York certainly makes it easy to do those things. It is easy to toe the line, however, between that and a burdening sense of isolation.
That said, I do see about four or five people I know every day, just walking to and from class, or walking around Washington Square Park or anywhere around the area.
Unlike in Shanghai, I can accomplish everything I want on my own, all my errands and tasks and trips—but having that kind of limitlessness to my schedule feels overwhelming at times. I have felt sometimes like I “suffer” from having too many options.
Academically: my professors are surprisingly intense; I had heard from a lot of NYUSH classmates that New York classes were easy, good grades easily gotten, and attendance hardly necessary. This is not the impression I have gotten from any of my classes thus far, though we also haven’t yet hit a point where we start receiving grades—so this remains to be seen.
But these are all first impressions. And my biggest first impression of all is that everything about the city contradicts itself to me. Where else could life be so easy, and where else so hard? Part of me felt instantly settled in New York when I arrived—and part of me feels like I will never be able to settle here. Maybe I will get a better sense of the city by my second impression.
This article was written by Kiril Bolotnikov . Please send an email to email@example.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Kiril Bolotnikov