Anybody who has ever spoken to me knows that my favorite part of going to Juilliard is living in New York City.
Before I started college, I wasn’t sure I’d like living here, but I have happily made this noisy, vibrant, chaotic city my home. I grew up in a small town, so moving to such a massive city was, to say the least, shocking. It took a while to get adjusted, but while it’s tempting to stay cooped up inside the Juilliard building practicing and working all the time, I have found that I have learned just as much within the city as I have within school. There is so much to see and learn, even just by walking around, and I have discovered so much that I never would have if I had just stayed on a school campus for four years.
Hands down, the best part of NYC is the food—and it’s EVERYWHERE. If I’m craving anything—from Indian to Korean to Egyptian to Peruvian—chances are there’s a restaurant within a short walk or train ride away that serves it. Nearly every hype food has a home here; I’m talking rainbow bagels, crazy-topping milkshakes, ramen burgers, and tons more. There are street markets, food festivals, and entire districts dedicated to food: New York is no place to be on a diet. Before I moved here, I had never even tried Thai food, but now I have a mission to never repeat a restaurant and to try as many new foods as I can. And I’ve learned so much about different cultures through food, noticing the time and care that goes into perfecting a curry or the dexterity and skill required for hand-pulled noodles. Even in the most New York of foods, I enjoy the odd sense of community formed waiting in line for a bagel or a slice of pizza!
The next best thing is the culture. The city is packed to the brim with museums, galleries, concert halls, and theaters, but a performance can happen anywhere. There are buskers in subway stations, projections on the piers, outdoor movies playing in parks, stand-up routines in restaurants, and parades for nearly every holiday (much to the chagrin of anybody unfortunate enough to get caught in parade traffic). With student discounts, rush tickets, and the occasional comp ticket offered by the school or a lucky friend, it’s both easy and affordable to see a concert at Carnegie Hall or an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. Yet some of the best experiences I’ve had are the ones I’ve essentially stumbled upon—the mariachi group that occasionally ends up in my subway car on my morning commute, the spray-paint artist selling paintings by Central Park, even the guitarists strumming to an audience of pigeons in Washington Square Park. Where else can you see the world’s best singers at the Met Opera and a breakdancer by the Brooklyn Bridge in one day?
Juggling the chaos of living in such a crazy city with the never-ending work of an intense conservatory like Juilliard is by no means easy. It’s something I never expected to get used to, but now I can’t imagine a different undergraduate experience. With so many different cultures and ways of living all packed into just a few square miles, every day offers a unique learning experience. I’m lucky to be here while I’m still an energetic and curious student (let’s hope that doesn’t go away any time soon!), and I know my time in New York City still holds many lessons and unforgettable college experiences.