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Why NYU Made Me Grow Up Faster (And I Why I Love It)

When we think of the typical American college experience, there are a few images that typically pop into our heads. Schlepping to class in sweats, dancing in a crowded frat house, tailgating at Saturday football games—the list goes on. Because of pop culture, we see this experience as being absolutely essential to bridging the gap between our teenage years and adulthood as we grapple with responsibility and freedom for the first time. It’s okay to take it slow sometimes and take a break to be young and reckless—it’s college, after all.

Compare this to my non-traditional college experience in downtown Manhattan. Even when dressed down on exam day, most students in my classes look #OOTD worthy. Students skip out on frat parties and keggers in favor of trendy clubs and $14 cocktails. And you’re more likely to find an NYU student sipping mimosas at brunch on a Saturday afternoon than shotgunning Natty Lite outside of a football stadium (as if we would even know where to find a football stadium in the first place, but I digress).

At 19, my life more closely resembles a millennial’s post-grad life than it resembles undergrad life. I wake up well before the sun rises, make myself breakfast and commute to either my internship or class. Rather than revolving around house parties and lecture hall meet-cutes, my dating life is largely Tinder-based and entirely outside of the sphere of my university. On top of my responsibilities at work and school, I also get to come home every night and prepare my own dinner since dining halls are a relic I left in freshman year. Also, considering that I walk an average of 15,000 steps per day just by the virtue of living in Manhattan, I have no idea what this “freshman 15” thing is supposed to be. I actually lost weight since starting college.

Sometimes at NYU, it feels like there isn’t room to mess up. Coming to class in pajamas feels a little more than out of place when you go to school with a top model and countless Instagram-famous style bloggers. But of course, that’s the least of my worries when the rigor of my academic program sometimes prevents me from taking classes outside of my comfort zone and going through that “finding yourself” thing that college students are supposed to go through. So, no “Underwater Basket-Weaving” for me. Stereotypical college student phases, like carrying a set of bongos around campus or wearing a lot of tie dye, feel sort of passé at NYU, where everyone is outwardly sure of who they are and what they want.

In America we have this ingrained idea of what it means to be a college student and frankly, I reject that idea. I didn’t need to detour my life and career by taking four years off from the real world to “find myself” because I needed to build myself. And the best place to do that was as close to the “real world” as I could get. I don’t get to take it slow, but honestly, did I ever want to? For plenty of my peers, getting to spend their college years in a cute, sleepy town is an integral part of their growing up process. Meanwhile, I probably may not have thrived in the same way. Choosing NYU meant choosing to embrace adulthood a few years early, but more importantly it meant choosing the path that was right for me—not the path that pop culture says I should be on.

Images: @hannahstarry

Features Editor at HC NYU. Loves coffee and clothes.
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