Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Truly Wonderful City

New York City. I have heard so much about it, and yet, to the surprise of many international students, I have never been there to see it for myself (even though I am an American!). For this reason, the 2 and something hour bus ride seemed a little longer—the suspense was killing me.

When we arrived, we first visited Colombia University. We walked around campus, following an organized tour for part of it, and just soaking in the general atmosphere of the place. I particularly liked the well kept grass fields (complete with sunbathers) and the beautiful statues and fountains. Although the campus was a little small for my taste, I liked its situation surrounded by city streets, but still its own separate campus.
We ate a lovely lunch with Colombia ILC participant Irene Tait, who was taking a break from writing a paper on the acceptable and unacceptable restrictions of freedom of speech. It was very good to catch up with her.
It wasn't until we bussed over to Times Square, though, that we really got a feel for what the streets of New York are like. To be honest, I was not expecting to really enjoy it. I expected New York to be overwhelming and unfriendly, but in fact, the crowds were fairly easy to navigate (as were the numbered streets) and all the flashing lights and billboards were quite mesmerising.
We got a more peaceful view of the city, though, from the top of the Rockefeller Center. The view was breathtaking. After that we stopped at a pizza shop to pick up some dinner, and Coldstone for desert. I can now honestly say that I ♡ NYC, and although I was violently opposed to going to college anywhere near the city before this trip, I now think I would rather enjoy it.
Like any proper Saturday, the day was short, relaxing, and fun. After the tour of the city, the rest of the time was ours and we played a lively game of apple to apples before heading off to bed.

"I Want to Be a Part of It, New York, New York..."

Today’s activities topped everything that we have done thus far on this excursion. Today we took a group trip to New York City. We woke this morning slightly later than usual and got a quick breakfast from Wawa, the 7-11-esque convenience store that is very popular in Philly. It’s actually more like a 7-11 on steroids because it has everything that 7-11 has and more. These stores actually have small deli counters and a significantly large variety of snacks and drinks. After grabbing breakfast, we filed into several busses to begin our journey to NYC. Unfortunately our group was separated and we had to ride in smaller groups. I rode in one bus with Brian and Onur, and we were separated from Julia, Sarah, Abheek, Fred, and Alison. I didn’t mind though, because I was able to just enjoy a relaxing two hour drive listening to music and enjoying the scenery. It was not long (or at least it did not seem like it) before we arrived in NYC.

Our first stop was Columbia University. I was excited because not only would I get to see another Ivy League campus, I got the opportunity to see my friend Milani Lyman, a fellow ILC scholar who is studying Presidential Powers at Columbia. I probably would not have noticed Columbia’s campus if I were just walking or driving down the street. I’m not sure how open other entrances to campuses are, but the one we used was just a gate spanning about twenty feet. This gate gives access to a path edged with tall trees, but you can’t really see much of what is beyond that. This image is deceiving. Beyond that path is an enormous space that looks a lot like a public park, but actually serves as kind of the center of Columbia (or so I gathered). The lawns were beautiful, the buildings were massive, the architecture was grand, and everything seemed so vibrant. Despite the campus being in NYC, I felt like I was in a completely different world. The campus felt isolated from the city beyond the gates. I had ruled out Columbia as a choice for college because of how urban the campus is. But now that I have seen the campus, I have reconsidered. I am interested in researching what Columbia has to offer now. Although we weren’t able to get a tour of the university, we had lunch with Milani and then we talked about our experiences at our respective universities thus far. I really enjoyed talking to Milani because we are close friends and it was good to see a familiar face. As we left Columbia, I found myself wishing we could have spent more time there.

After Columbia, we drove to Times Square. The remainder of our time in NYC would be spent in Times Square. Upon our arrival, our group headed to the Theater District and entered our super tourist modes. We all had our cameras in-hand (except Sarah, who lives in New York) and took hundreds of pictures. We also went to the “top of the rock”, the Rockefeller Building. I cannot imagine a better way to get a view of NYC than to go atop one of the tallest buildings in the city. I had never realized how sprawled out the city actually was. I looked out the first window and my eyes grew wide. There was so much beautiful New York skyline to take in at that one moment. I was blown away by our visit to the Rockefeller Building. We took group pictures, I took a ton of pictures of New York from several angles, and we even got some good souvenirs out of it. One of the RC’s is even going to use a group picture he took of us in the Penn newsletter! Seeing the city from the top of the Rockefeller Building was easily the highlight of the day.

After the Rockefeller Building, we walked around the Theater District a little bit more and then had dinner at a small pizzeria/deli. We then headed to a tourist shop and I was able to buy an official “I <3 NY” hoodie. Due to time, we had to return to the busses after that. On the busride back I was able to reflect a bit on our trip today. I finally realized what everyone meant about NYC being a fast-moving city. I was only there for a few hours, but I could definitely tell that the pace was different than that of home, and even Penn. I also thought more about Columbia and remembered Georgetown’s 3-2 Program. After seeing Columbia, this program seems even more appealing. I cannot wait to resume my college research so I can see if Columbia would really be a good fit for my needs.

Upon our return home, we decided to cool off and recap our favorite parts of the day out on the quad. We also played Frisbee and after that we hung out in the small lounge on our dorm floor for a while. Today was truly relaxing, but exciting at the same time. I will never forget my first time in NYC with my new friends. We had a great time and I plan to ask Mr. Miranda if the four of us can return one Sunday so we can explore a little bit more. I will certainly return one day though, if not within the next couple of weeks.
New York from the Rockefeller Building
They truly are skyscrapers...
Milani and Fred
One of the many libraries at Columbia
Mt favorite of the older cars at the Simeone Musuem
An Aston Martin DB1...just wow...

A Small Bite of the Big Apple

Today was my first weekend day while staying on the UPenn campus. We went to the nearby WaWa store, and I purchased two bagels for breakfast. A few minutes later, I boarded a bus along with Alex and another friend, Onur. To entertain myself on the bus, I turned to the novel that I had brought along with me. I read for about an hour and a half, and then decided to talk with people and enjoy the views from the bus. I had never been to New York City before, and although I’ve seen lots of large cities before, I was still amazed by the New York skyline that I’ve seen in so many movies.

Once we arrived in New York City, our first stop was Columbia University. Because we had two hours allotted to look around, we first strolled around the campus to get a feel of it’s size and layout. The first thing that struck me was that Columbia has a much more compact campus than other campuses I have seen. I liked this because in the words of my friend Onur, “It felt like a campus and not a bunch of scattered buildings”. I absolutely agree with what he said, and I also thought that the campus was gorgeous. After a bit of time in front of the library, we headed to lunch in the Student Center. Because there are ILC students staying at Columbia that we know, we invited them to lunch with us. We were joined by Irene Tait, who goes to El Cerrito High School with me and Julia, and Milani Lyman who goes to Pinole Valley High School with Alex. We had a relaxed lunch at the sandwich place inside of the student center, and after lunch we walked around for a little while.

We hopped on the bus again and headed for downtown New York. This time, we disembarked a few blocks away from Times Square, and we were given four hours to explore the city. I went with a group of about 7 others to Times Square. We headed straight for the M&M store, and spent a while looking around there. Soon enough, it was time to meet for our scheduled trip to the top of the Rockefeller Center. After a short walk, we arrived at the Center, and after a brief wait we were inside. The inside was adorned with a massive glass chandelier. We took the fast elevator ride up to the top, and I was soon enjoying one of the most amazing views I have ever seen. We took in the view on one side for a while, and then looked over the other side towards Central Park. After this side trip, we had a couple of hours remaining, so we went back towards Times Square. While the rest of our time in New York went by like a blur, it was a very enjoyable blur, and I definitely plan to visit again someday soon.

After the bus ride home, I enjoyed some rare downtime. I played Frisbee with some friends, and then walked around for a while by myself to relax. I enjoyed our visit to New York a lot, but I think that I’m currently leaning towards a medium-sized college city rather than a huge one like New York City. Wherever I end up going to college, I am very appreciative of the exposure I am getting to all of these different colleges so that I can figure out what kind of environment and make the best choice of where I want to go to college.

As a small after note, I would like to briefly wish the best of luck to Japan, as it has been hit by yet another smaller but still large aftershock of the devastating March earthquake.