Friday, July 1, 2016

A Bite of the Big Apple

The day started bright and early again today. We had to be down in the lobby by 5:30 in order to make our bus, which was a tall order from five people who are already fatigued. I went to sleep dreading this morning, but it was actually pretty easy to make myself get up. We were all down in the lobby on time, and walked several blocks down to the bus stop. We were taking Megabus, which is a service that provides transportation to several major east coast cities for cheap. The Megabus was a big, blue, double decker vehicle. We found four seats on the top of the bus (Mr. Hillyer had to sit apart from us), and settled in for the two hour drive.

We spent the bus ride chatting and, some of us, sleeping. The ride basically consisted of driving through New Jersey, and there wasn't much to look at until the New York City skyline emerged in the distance. The view was spectacular, and it woke us up. None of us besides our chaperone had been to New York City before, so it was a big deal for all of us as we got closer and closer. Finally, we made it through the Lincoln Tunnel, and we had arrived.

The bus dropped us off on a downtown city block, at around 8 AM. Our tour of Columbia University didn't start until 10 AM, but we decided to take the subway uptown in order to get some breakfast. Mr. Hillyer talked to us about how Manhattan was organized. Basically, there are 12 avenues that run parallel to the Hudson River, and 220 streets that cut across the avenues like rungs on a ladder. I never realized before how huge New York City is, and that's only one of five burrows!

I had heard some not-so-great things about New York City's subway system in the past, which made me a little bit wary as we went underground. The stations were a little run down, but they were nowhere near as bad as I've heard. I like the fact that the subway stops so frequently, making it very easy to get around.

We ate breakfast at Kitchenette Uptown, a charming restaurant near Columbia's campus. After we had finished, we walked down to 116th street for our tour. As we passed through the gates that marked the entrance to Columbia University, I was struck by how beautiful the campus was. It is very compact, but the architecture and the greenery took my breath away. You could hardly tell that you were in Manhattan.
Lowe Library was also the first building built on Columbia's Morningside Heights campus
Butler library is one of 22 libraries on Columbia's campus
Check in took place at Lowe Library, which actually isn't a library at all. It was originally intended to be, but it turned out to be too small, so they built Butler Library across the way. Now, Lowe Library serves administrative purposes. We got our name tags and took in the decor on the inside, which was just as beautiful as the outside, while we waited for the information session to begin.

The information session took place in Lerner Hall, which was more modern than some of the surrounding buildings. While we waited for the admissions officer to arrive, two Columbia students welcomed us and spent some time speaking to us about their favorite and least favorite parts about going to school there. One said that she enjoyed that she had been forced to challenge and reshape what she believed while at Columbia, which she also admitted could be a bit frustrating at times. Her counterpart said that the diversity and the affordability of Columbia were what he enjoyed the most.

When the admissions officer of the day entered the room, he began the hour long information session. Throughout the session, he talked about the history of Columbia, the Core Curriculum that they have, the type of learning that they facilitate, their location in New York City, and admissions and financial aid. Some things that really stood out to me was the fact that Columbia strives to create well rounded students through the Core Curriculum, which is unique to their school, and that most of their majors are not based on what profession one may want to pursue, but on building knowledge and skills that are important for a given subject area and the workforce in general. I like this approach, because it does not limit the student. Columbia also seems to really encourage students to incorporate New York City into their learning experience by taking advantage of the resources that are available there, such as internships and the arts.

Next we went on our tour, which was less of a positive experience than the information session. Our tour guide was very fast paced and aggressive, and while she was saying great things about the school, she wasn't giving off a good vibe. However, after the tour, we went to the admissions office to introduce ourselves to the officer of the day, James Ramseur, who eased some of my worries. Talking to him and having him answer some more of my questions gave me a better feel for the type of institution that Columbia is. I was looking into applying early decision before, but now I'm almost certain that that is what I want to do.

One of  Central Park's several lakes was home to a lot of  wildlife
The next stop was Columbia's bookstore, where I picked up a shirt and a souvenir for my mom. Then, we cut across Central Park. I think that it was a very smart idea to insert some greenery into the middle of such an urban environment, because it was really refreshing to see all of the trees and lakes and grass. Central Park was beautiful, and I'm sure that it's a great place for New Yorkers to come if they ever feel like they need to experience some nature.

The path through Central Park spit us out on the Upper East side, but we ended up taking the subway back downtown to the Greenwich Village area. There, we took a look at Strand, a massive bookstore with 18 miles of shelves inside. We all explored on our own inside the store, and I ended up taking a look at a book called Humans of New York, which features portraits of New Yorkers from all walks of life and excerpts of their conversation with the author. I found this fascinating, as it was funny, touching, sad, scary, and weird all at the same time. When I met up with Chris, we went up to the rare books section of the store, where they have first editions of some of the most important pieces of literature in the world for sale. The most expensive book we saw was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, coming in at $8,500.

Across the street from Strand, we noticed a Hummus and Company, which Mr. Hillyer encouraged us to try. I had never had a pita before, and I was a bit confused about how to order, but I eventually figured it out and got a gyro hummus. This was very delicious, and I'll definitely be wanting to try it again in the future!

Once we were all through with our lunch, we strolled through the NYU campus nearby. While I do like the city, I found it disconcerting that NYU blended in so much. There was no sense of connection between the different buildings, and I think it would be difficult to build a sense of community there. For me, a campus like Columbia's is a much better option. However, NYU's campus is home to the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which I learned about in APUSH this past year. It was cool to make that connection, and Mr. Hillyer, as a history teacher himself, was very knowledgable about the subject.

We walked through Washington Square Park to yet another subway station, which we rode to the
The Freedom Tower is currently the tallest
building in New York C
World Trade Center. We saw the Freedom Tower, which was very impressive, and the 9/11 memorial. Although I don't remember 9/11, I recognize what a huge tragedy it was, and I was glad that I got to pay my respects to the victims. I didn't realize that the area around where the Twin Towers once stood was still being rebuilt. This surprised me a little bit, but it makes sense considering that most of the attention was devoted to completing the Freedom Tower as quickly as possible.

It was around this time that it started to rain. It wasn't so bad, however, as the rain was on and off and it was only really coming down about once for five minutes. We got on the subway for the last time, headed for Times Square. I was excited to see this iconic area of New York City, and I was not disappointed. Although it was crowded, the lights from the different billboards were stunning, especially against the backdrop of the cloudy sky. We turned onto Broadway, which was also very beautiful, and then stopped inside of a store that sold New York City merchandise. Here, I purchased another souvenir for a different family member.

Time was still remaining before we had to be back to catch our bus, so we walked two blocks down to see the place where Hamilton is performed. Outside, there were fans singing some of the songs from the show, some of them dressed thematically. Although I'll doubt I'll ever see Hamilton (I could never justify spending thousands of dollars for a musical), I'm a big fan of the soundtrack, so it was cool to catch a glimpse of the marquee.

It was around time to head back, and we had a bit of a trek to where the Megabus would be picking us up. At this point, we were all aching and tired, but we made it. Unfortunately, the buses were running late, so we had to wait until around 7:30 before we could get on what was supposed to be the 7:05. Although we packed a lot into these past 24 hours, I'm glad we did it, because we made the most of our time. From what I saw, I really love New York City, and it's a place that I could potentially see myself living for four years in college. If it wasn't for the Ivy League Connection, I probably would have never known this, because I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see the city before I started applying to schools. Needless to say, today made me very grateful for having been selected!

No comments:

Post a Comment