“But New York University has no campus, how will you make friends?”
I heard it all the time, yet I felt never too worried. Maybe I should have been.
Coming from New Jersey, I went to New York City many times throughout my life. Like many children who knew every word to the Rent soundtrack, I fell in love with it. I loved every trip my family took to the city.
Then, my older sister decided to go to college in the Bronx. I visited frequently and grew jealous of her city college experience. I knew that I wanted to follow in her footsteps, but not too closely. I wanted a different kind of city college life.
When applying to school, NYU’s lack of campus never concerned me. I found it exciting, thinking I could truly feel like a New Yorker. I would blend in the swarms of people traveling by foot to class, work or whatever.
I imagined my life strolling through parks, attending Broadway shows weekly and wearing out my shoes as I walked and walked and walked the city streets. Then, I got in.
I was going to New York University.
Friends and family congratulated me and assured me of the high status of the college I would attend. I went to Accepted Students Day. I picked my classes and bought my dorm décor. Finally, I moved in.
My first week at NYU I went to as many activities as I could. I was determined to find my people and my place and my interests at NYU.
I fantasized of falling in love with a club or organization and finding six of seven like-minded, yet unique faces to call my friend group. I could stage the Instagram pictures I’d surely post. I invented the stories I would tell my friends at home of wild New York nights.
But something weird happened. Weeks and weeks went by and I had nothing to show of my firsts at college. I didn’t find new friends to introduce to my old ones. I didn’t share wild stories over text.
Instead I could only share facts from all the new television shows I binge-watched on nights I spent in my dorm, oblivious to the wonders of the city outside my window.
The worst part? I was really trying. I went to club meetings alone. I went to the dining halls alone. I volunteered at local charities alone. And I went to the events my residence hall organized alone.
Groups of people around me somehow already found their groups of people, making me feel even worse. Countless seminars and events I attended told me how to get involved at NYU.
None of them told me how to make friends.
I needed a class on how to reach out to people on my floor or in my classes and somehow convince them to spend time with me outside my dorm room. I allotted hours walking on the busy streets of New York and somehow felt lonelier. I felt every emotion people warned I would feel when I committed to a very large city school with no campus.
I would call my mom over in New Jersey every day and tell her of the few things I did. I could not help but upset her when she called on a Friday evening and found out that I made no plans that night, yet again.
This led to me traveling home several weekends of my first semester. I kept returning to the town where I would pray and crave to leave and move to the city. Everything seemed wrong and reversed like I made a wrong decision.
I considered transferring, but I really enjoyed my classes and living in the heart of New York City. I knew I would not experience this at any other college.
Selfishly, I did not want to abandon the status that comes with saying I attend NYU. I liked that I was making my situation work, even though I felt miserable most days.
I reached out to my sister and friends who lived close by at other city schools. No one seemed worried about me. I made a lot of friends in high school, and served as treasurer of student council and started a club.
Everyone I turned to for advice told me that making friends and establishing a new home takes time. But, they always assured me that it would happen eventually. They knew that I would succeed.
They weren’t worried—but I was. I worried I would never find community at NYU, eventually transferring and starting over. But my stubbornness and love for the city I felt blessed enough to live in pushed me to finish out my first semester.
Nothing changed in my situation as I drove home for Winter Break. I still thought I made no real friends or sense of community at NYU. The major only difference was that I signed up to go on a service trip to Clarkston, Georgia for Spring Break. At least I could look forward to something.
Community came slowly, but I found it. Now a sophomore, I feel so happy that I remained at NYU. I made friends I can count on and joined organizations. I do not think that NYU could do more to facilitate my friend making process.
I learned that for some people it takes more time. It is harder to meet people in a school of 50,000 undergraduates with no centralized campus in a city that always moves.
I could have transferred. But I don’t regret my decision to stay. There’s no one right way to be in college. Sometimes you go through a very lonely first semester to then find your place in January.