Things I’ve Learned While at NYU

As I’m writing this, there’s 2 weeks left of classes and just over 3 weeks until graduation. Saying I’m a chaotic mix of excitement, anxiety, and terror would be an understatement, yet it is as accurate a description of my mental state right now. During this incredibly nostalgic time as the semester winds down and summer is beginning to peak its head around the corner, I’ve been taking the time to think back to my past self 4 years ago.

I was in a similar state as I am now; I was finishing up high school and getting ready to go off to college three months after that and, of course, filled with dread and excitement as I finished off my high school days. But as I look back now, there are some tips I would have given to my younger self, or really any prospective NYU student to make the college journey just a bit better (and definitely easier). For all those who are coming to NYU for your first time in the fall, or those who are in the midst of your academic journey and need some advice, here’s some things to keep in mind.

Push Yourself to Meet People

It’s perhaps the most cliché statement to say, but one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from my friends and classmates around me is how incredibly difficult it is to meet people at NYU. And let me say, it’s true. Because NYU doesn’t really have a campus-centric college life, it can be incredibly difficult to meet new people who your really jive with. While the city is extremely exciting and can bring many unforgettable experiences and opportunities, it can be daunting and rather frustrating at times to really connect with people.

But never fear; there’s ways to meet people and friends you can mesh really well with at NYU, but it will take some effort on your part. My best advice is to talk to classmates. I’ve met some great friends in my classes just from talking to the people next to me. Those small conversations can snowball into really great friendships. Just strike up a conversation and see where it goes.

Also, get involved on campus! I’ve known people who have met some of their closest friends through their clubs and organizations that they attend. Even if you’re not down to sign up for a club, attend events around campus. There’s tons of other people there who are friendly and could be your next best bud. Moral of the story, while it definitely takes more work than perhaps other campuses, don’t lose hope if you haven’t found a group you meld well in.

Connect With Your Professors

Perhaps it’s the inner academic nerd in me, but connecting with your professors is undoubtedly something that can really be helpful on an academic and professional level. I’ve had some amazing professors during my time here at NYU who have been so friendly, encouraging, and incredibly smart and inspiring. Granted, of course this isn’t every professor, but there’s so many professors in each school at NYU who are there for you to reach out to. I’ve also been fortunate to get some opportunities just from talking to them and actively participating in class.

While participating in class often is not always something people are confident with doing, just showing the professor you care or are trying is something they really appreciate. Even if you’re not always speaking up in class, going to their office hours, emailing them, or just chatting with them before or after class is a small act that will get them to know your name and remember you. Everyone always says to network, network, network, as much as you can in university, but I think professors or other people in the academic circle are not utilized as much as they should be. They are valuable and can help you along your college journey.

Networking is Important, But It’s Not The End of the World

Attending NYU means you’re undoubtedly going to hear from every other person around you that you need to network as much as possible and work that crowd in your favor. If you’re anything like me...I’m not the best at it, and if I’m being honest, I’m not a fan of it. But I’ve come to realize the part I dislike most is people treating others merely as means to receive something. If you genuinely connect with someone, even if it’s on an acquaintance level, it can make all the difference.

As I mentioned before, making connections with your professors is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. But more generally, treating people as people first as foremost is something I think isn’t really talked about within the networking world. People are there to help you, but it shouldn’t be the only thing they are there for. I believe making friendships or even just having polite conversations with people is far more valuable than introducing and pitching yourself to every person you see.

Don’t See University as a Set Track to Complete

While we’re all here to learn and, more importantly, get a degree that will help us in the future, college shouldn’t be looked at as something that’s a fixed plan. Be adventurous. If you have time in your schedule, take classes that may not have anything to do with your major or minor and could just be something you’re interested in. You could find you have a passion or talent for something you never knew you had.

Also, if you find out you end up hating your major, don’t be afraid to switch. I’ve had lots of friends who ended up switching their major midway through college and ended up a lot happier with their studies than those who have committed to studying something they hate. While it may feel like you have to catch up on lost time, don’t see this as a deterrent. You could be happier in the long run just by trusting yourself. Stop and enjoy the ride you’re on instead of stressing about making your college experience the “best” college experience.

I don’t have the answers on how to successfully navigate college unfortunately. It would be so much easier if they gave us some guide book on how to go through college, or perhaps more generally life, in order to live the best. But see college as a time to find parts of yourself and learn as much as you can. I hope these tips can help guide you on your path through your years at NYU.

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