This past semester at NYUDC has been my third experience studying outside of the NYU New York campus and I find that no matter where you are, each semester moves faster than the previous one. With one semester to go before I graduate, and many trials until I get there, I wonder what lessons will become clear when I get back to New York City. For now, I can recognize what misconceptions I brought with me here and what I have learned so far.
One thing you cannot begin to understand until you get to NYUDC is how small the campus actually is. Everyone lives in the same building, including the full-time Resident Life Assistants and some of the programming staff. There are a little over 100 students residing in this building and you see everyone, everywhere, all the time. This was my biggest issue during the first few weeks, as I began to tire quickly of those around me, especially since I felt that I could not ever get away from anyone in the building. I missed my friends and that feeling was somehow magnified by the fact that there were always people around me, wanting to talk and hang out, but none of them were friends I felt close to yet; every interaction felt fake and I could not escape. An even more stressful fact about living here is that you know and are friends with all of your neighbors, meaning they may care or at least know when you leave and when you come home. In New York, I enjoyed the liberty of no one caring or noticing when I came and went, even though I was not doing anything bad or suspicious. Here, I feel like I am under a magnifying glass at all times. This has been the most traditionally “college” experience I have had to this day, or what I imagine “college” to be. After time, I have gotten used to this feeling of always being watched or noticed, but I still prefer the anonymity of the New York campus and its cold neighbors.
To prepare for your time in D.C., I would recommend finding an internship. Most people who attend this campus do so for the diversity of internships that can be taken advantage of while in this political powerhouse of a city. Take advantage of think tanks, start ups, and political internships that cannot be found in New York. Even if you were not originally planning on having an internship, a lot of classes will meet at night because most of the campus will have internships, and in order to avoid feeling bored or like you are wasting your time, an internship may be a good opportunity to consider. For this, the application process begins early in November and is highly competitive, so start early. A lot of people in your future cohort will be vying for the same internships as you, so do not be surprised if you meet someone here that took the internship you interviewed for but were not offered. Also do not be worried if you come into the semester not having a position yet. The staff here are very helpful and will work hard until you have found something. I was one of the students that came into the semester without an internship and as stressful as it was for the first few weeks, eventually I was able to secure a position that I enjoy.
I might make it seem like NYUDC is all bad, but that is not true. I came to love the closeness I developed with my friends, especially as I went through rough patches in my personal life. I appreciated the extensive programming that the site provides, taking students to embassy galas and hockey games. I liked that the site promoted student-created/run path groups that could also make and execute programs. Overall, I appreciated the NYUDC Alumni mentorship program that introduced me to my amazing mentor and has helped me build on my professional skills. NYUDC is a unique site because of its close-knit community and access to many opportunities not offered anywhere else.