Hoopin’ with a Friend

In The Art of Travel, 12. Strangers, Sydney by Nicolas2 Comments

Growing up in the suburbs of NJ, I could always find sports and recreational activities never more than a few steps from my door. Besides playing on soccer, baseball and basketball teams throughout the year, staying active was also possible through nature walks, hikes and other outdoor activities.  However, after moving into New York for my freshman year, I was soon worried that I simply would not have the same opportunities to enjoy the sports I had been playing all my life.  In a city with limited space, but seemingly unlimited occupants, finding openings where you can enjoy sports while simultaneously meeting people can often be both costly and difficult to locate.  Luckily, Palladium at NYU, which houses the only open NYU basketball court, quickly became a place that I visited daily. I went from playing CYO basketball once a week during the winter season, to visiting Palladium everyday and meeting up with friends to play pickup.   Since there is only one court, I quickly formed strong relationships with those who also made the effort to go on a regular basis.

Naturally, after two full semesters of playing basketball nearly every day in New York, I came to Sydney hoping that there would be ample opportunity to continue playing regularly.  Much to my luck, our housing accommodations are located 5 minutes away from the largest pickup basketball location in all of Sydney.  Prince Alfred Park has two and a half full sized basketball courts and during the peak hours, it is constantly packed, with 5 pickup games (half court per game) constantly occuring.

Although Prince Alfred can be an intimidating place, with music blasting and the ‘regulars’ who are eager to beat any new competition that come ready to play, much like at Palladium, I have met some amazing Sydney locals who have become my friends.   One of these locals is James, a uni student who I have consistently played with since I met him at Prince Alfred during my second week in Sydney.  Both in soccer and basketball, the two sports that I currently still play, it’s amazing to see the difference in enjoyment and overall success when a certain chemistry exists between the players on your team.  James and I both play a very similar style of basketball, and therefore gel and complement one another while playing on the same team.   Coincidentally, we are also both around the same height (between 6’4” and 6’5”) and have been told that we look quite a lot alike.   Although I have met and formed relationships with a variety of people at Prince Alfred, I can always depend on James to both let me know when he is going to the park to play, and also introduce me to his friends who enjoy playing pickup.  Given the scale and hustle and bustle that Sydney exudes, getting to know and forming a relationship with James was important to the early stages of branching out socially in Sydney. Over the course of time, James has become a strong contact point within Sydney, and more importantly, a local that I can trust, relate to, and ultimately enjoy one of my favorite sports with.

Sydney, much like New York, can be an intimidating place to exist in; the constant stop and go of every day life, combined with the concrete walls surrounding you, are not always the most comforting or reassuring elements when considering one’s ability to thrive in a space in the long term.  Often times, the people we meet who are actively involved with similar every day routines or circumstances, are the ones who work to shape and positively affect our lives in the long run.   Next time a foreigner comes to the NYU basketball courts, I will make sure to put forth my best effort to ensure he feels at home on the court and in New York.

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Comments

  1. Hey Nicolas,

    As a fellow New Jersian, I appreciated the shout out to all of our available recreational facilities. The lack of open fields and courts is definitely something I struggled with when I first moved to New York and honestly still struggle with in Berlin, so for the sake of your physical and mental health, I’m really happy you found a space to play basketball in Sydney. I know how valuable it can be. The fact that you made such a great friend there makes it all the better.

    I found the ending of your piece to be insightful, and rather moving. While we cannot always change the physical, built environment we find ourselves in, we can change the intangible, perceived one through the way we act towards others. I think it is so important to take more than just a souvenir back to New York; taking a new mindset, a fresh perspective back home with you is what studying abroad is all about.

  2. Hey Nicolas!

    It’s really amazing that you’ve gotten to befriend a local from Sydney! I never got the chance to do so in Prague and find it difficult to branch out of the NYU bubble in Shanghai. Though I haven’t met many non-NYU Chinese friends, talking to the Chinese nationals and portal students with their years of navigating this city have been super helpful for me during my stay here. I like when you say, “Often times, the people we meet who are actively involved with similar every day routines or circumstances, are the ones who work to shape and positively affect our lives in the long run.” This is so true, especially as university students who all pretty much run on the same schedules and midterm cycles. I feel like the camaraderie between my classmates is pretty much due to this! I hope I can take a page out of your book and branch out myself too!

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