Morgan Allen, junior Oxbridge Music major, reflects on life in The Big Apple and its differences from being a student at William Jewell College.
When I left my dorm room, I walked five minutes to reach my classroom. The line at the beak never felt too long, and even when it was, I never risked tardiness. I knew people in every class. Anywhere I went on campus was filled with friendly faces. I got to see Dr. Dema’s smiling face and catch up with her in the union. I sang with the Jazz Band. I talked with my sorority sisters. I never felt lonely.
But that was William Jewell College, not New York University. Last semester I was itching to get off campus, dreaming of my semester away from a small town school, losing my identity and finding some true sense of self. I thought that spending my fall semester in New York City would forge a new journey in my academic and professional career (and it has). However, I was not thinking about switching from a campus of 1,000 students to that of 60,000 students. I was not thinking about leaving my friends, clubs, and activities. I was not thinking about all the things I would miss: yummy PLC cookies, holidays on the Hill, the Hilltop Monitor.
New York City casts a kind of magic unique unto itself. It is both a paradise and a hellhole. I don’t wish to paint some romantic ideal of a small town girl finding her way in the big city, but I also don’t want to make the administration concerned about my well being (I’m totally fine). New York is special. New York is my home (for now).
Classes at NYU are not unlike those at Jewell. My professors obsess over their subjects and speak with conviction about the deep love held for their craft. It is charming and fascinating watching them geek out over certain concepts and to share the excitement that comes with slowly understanding one of their lectures. I sit in small-ish rooms with 12 to 20 other people and we go back and forth about capitalism, appropriation, environmentalism and various forms of music making. I get to consider how different religions interact with our environment, how art activism is leading revolutions in Iran, how failure in music isn’t always a bad thing, and how music in Africa is not at all how we romanticize it. Though there is no PLC to run to after class or a twin bed to nap on, there is a Korean supermarket with delicious ice cream and a study floor with student artwork on display that is unpopulated and perfect for paper writing. I feel fully immersed in academia at NYU, enjoying a specificity and quirkiness that Jewell lacks.
NYU offers a wide array of programs, and because of that they also have a wide range of classes. When I sit in my African Music course, I wish I could invite the entire Jewell music department to dance with the guest Senegalese musicians and myself, laughing and singing praise music in the djéli/griot tradition. I imagine the looks on everyone’s faces as they open themselves up to new, non-western styles and the context behind them. It cannot happen at Jewell, with a program of fewer than 40 students and 10 professors. It can happen at NYU, with dozens of professors and programs like Africana, music and other individualized studies that number more than the entire population of Jewell. I feel lucky to experience the obscure but vital studies I cannot get at Jewell, but I still recognize the wonderful and rich tutorials I had with professors who cared deeply about my studies.
Jewell specializes in creating super-humans capable of being in six clubs, Greek life, three choirs, a leadership program and acting as a Resident Assistant. I don’t think anyone means to stretch themselves that thin, but Jewell makes it seem possible. NYU has three times the number of organizations but one third of the participation. There is not a real sense of community in a population so vast. Clubs are made to make the massive campus smaller. Therefore, most people are only in one or two activities outside of the academic sphere. I have to admit the break from social responsibility has felt incredible. Do you know what I have to do on Monday nights? Make myself dinner and read articles for my Tuesday class. It is marvelous. I watch Netflix with my dog! I can have a dog! However, I do miss late nights talking in the PLC with Pryor Fellows and the excitement on Friday mornings when the Monitor goes live on the website. I miss Jewell’s community. It is so special and real. If you glean anything from this article, please understand that no college does community like William Jewell.
What NYU may lack in student life it more than makes up for with the sheer amount of activity that happens on and around campus. This may be a shock to some of you, but New York City is more exciting than Liberty, Mo. I say this with a lot of love for Seva and the Retro Bowl: NYC is the coolest place on earth. At any given moment, there is live music happening, an art gallery opening, a new show playing, a free screening of a film; the list goes on and on. Since moving here I have partied with the mean girl from “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (Jenna Leigh Green), participated in AfroBeat concerts at Le Poisson Rouge with Orlando Julius and dog sat for a Tony Award nominee. I have the opportunity to see shows on Broadway, visit famous museums for free and sit in the nicest parks just to watch the leaves change and see dogs go by. The opportunity here is vast, ready for someone to come along and take it all in.
I miss Jewell every day. There is always a moment when I wish I had my best friend to talk to late at night while watching Netflix, or a craving for a peach green tea right around 10:15 a.m., a hall event making shakes or to be able to see the Lighting of the Quad. I’ve had to make new traditions, but I cannot wait to see my friends again in January and hold them tight and tell them all about the time I walked across the street with Anderson Cooper and his beautiful blue eyes.