I can still remember some of the first words one of my roommates said to me– “Be prepared. At first, it feels like the week will be never ending, and then suddenly a month goes by, and another, and another and then you find yourself packing to leave.” Somehow, that is exactly what has happened.
When reflecting on my time at Barnard and in New York, I couldn’t help but think back to the very day I found out that I was coming here. Upon opening the email from the lovely Visiting Students Coordinator, Rachel, I was ecstatic. I could hardly sit down all day and told anybody who cared to listen about my wonderful news. I feel like these initial feelings are characteristic of my time here and the adventures I have had. I still feel like it’s a dream come true. I barely have had a moment to sit down as I run around, rush off to classes, explore New York, and learn about the American way of life. From all this, I still try to tell anybody who will care to listen about the wonderful things I had been able to experience whilst being here.
I remember so vividly that first time I laid my eyes on Barnard. It was incredibly surreal. As I stood there dumbstruck, admiring the beautiful gates in front of Barnard Hall that stood before me, a man approached me and said “Welcome Back!” Despite his incorrect assumption that I was returning from my winter break, I immediately felt the sense of community that is fostered here at Barnard. I already felt like I belonged. This was nothing in comparison to the amazing sense of community and incredible friendships I have made during my time here.
Having come just come from the beautiful Aussie summer, the winter weather was initially hard for me to embrace. I had never realised it could be so cold! I couldn’t help but laugh every time anyone said how mild the winter was – for me, it had never been colder! As I witnessed the first, and unfortunately only, snowfall of the season, I felt like I had been transported to a magical wonderland. The January weather also provided me with the opportunity to fall in love with my new favourite winter drink: hot apple cider. I was initially very perplexed by it as I thought was alcoholic (cider is always an alcoholic beverage in Australia) and was confused as to why children were drinking it. This I feel was the first moment I realised the little differences between home and Aus, despite speaking the exact same language. I also came to realise how much of a disconnect exists between Australians and Americans (or maybe just ignorant ones). On numerous occasions, I was asked whether English was my first language.
There have also been many amazing things I discovered during my time here. Firstly, New Yorkers are incredibly nice. Whoever stereotyped them in a negative way obviously has never has been here before. One of the greatest things about studying at Barnard is being able to call New York home. It was a trip to Philadelphia when I first realised this. If it were not for my time in New York, I would never have had the chance to really fall in love with wandering around in Central Park, the opportunity to just avoid spending my entire life savings in Soho, the time to take a weekly pleasure in the New York institution of brunch, and the ability to roam around markets in Brooklyn and experience American college life.
As the wintery weather bloomed into an early spring, everything changed. Classes became a little harder with the never-ending demand of midterms (which I firmly believe should be changed. If it isn’t going to be in the middle of the term, don’t call it that!). As Spring Break arrived and left faster than anyone could imagine, the most exciting thing to look forward to was the prospect of leaving our winter coats behind and sitting beneath the cherry blossom tree of the Diana. Watching everyone emerge from wherever they had hidden during those winter days completely brought a new character to the area of our little home here in Morningside Heights. The warmer weather complimented the fantastical reality of my life here. So surreal that in fact I was surprised the day when life went from being like a movie to actually being a movie as campus and 116st became the set of two movies. On top of that, nothing could have prepared me to see the quintessential New York girl, Sarah Jessica Parker casually hanging around campus. But then again, nothing could have ever prepared me for all the wonderful people I have had the chance to spend time on campus with every week!
After all the late nights in Butler, mastering the art of navigating the subway, consuming a ridiculous amount of bagels, finding myself yet again in the midst of a perennially crowded Times Square, and taking endless amounts of photos, I and the other Visiting Student have nearly come to the end of our time here. New York and Barnard will always have a place in my heart and will be a part of who I am. I’m eternally gratefully for not just having the opportunity to come here, but also for having the chance to meet so many special individuals. You have all made this adventure a dream and New York would never have been so fabulous without you all.