“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” They say that New York City is the place for dreamers, artists, and anyone out to make a difference in the world. It’s all true. Nine other MSJ students and I (as part of the Honors U.N. course), had the distinct pleasure of immersing ourselves in the diverse culture, delicious foods, phenomenal transportation, rich history and all of the allure that comes with New York City. We had the opportunity to experience the city and all that it has to offer while we learned about and experienced the ways in which the city has been taking steps toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. From riding the subway to experiencing my first Broadway show, and every step in-between, New York City captured my heart with each passing day.
My first view of New York came when I stepped off the tracks and into Penn Station, in a setting kin to that of a public restroom. All the glamour of the train station had been stripped away, unlike its magnificent counterpart: Grand Central Station. While the former had a tiled style due to previous renovations, the latter was lavishly decorated with a ceiling to mirror the constellations of the night sky. This station was the gathering place of many different people and acted as a microcosmic United States as people of different cultures, languages, and creeds flocked there for the same purpose of transportation.
New York City best demonstrates the human experience by epitomizing the notion of human interconnectedness. This very idea was introduced to us through the various cultural cuisines and establishments where we ate, each one located in a building with more personality and history than many of the people who walked past it. Another example of this history could be found in the pursuit of the arts and the bustling city’s inclination toward it. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we were exposed to art from across the globe and time. Art is often considered to be a universal language, and this trip painted a picture of the beauty of which humanity is capable through acceptance.
Our encounter with the city, although it spanned a brief five days, gave us an immeasurable amount of culture. We had the opportunity to visit the major staples of the city: The United Nations, the 9/11 Memorial, Liberty Island, Ellis Island, Wall Street, Rockefeller Center, The New York Public Library and Time Square. Through our “tour guides”, Professors Jim Bodle and Buffy Barkley, we had the opportunity to experience the aspects of the city’s lesser known, yet incredible features such as the site of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s house, a non-profit organization known as Madre, an 18-mile long bookstore known as The Strand, and every establishment where we ate.
This trip was the experience of a lifetime and there are no words to truly describe the ways in which it has changed, shaped, cultured, and educated me. The biggest lesson that I learned from this trip is that it is imperative to travel. Travel as much and as often as you can. Immerse yourself in the culture and leave a piece of your heart in every place that you visit. There is no better way to learn or experience all the world has to offer other than to travel. Experiential learning, in my opinion, is far more beneficial and life-changing than learning from class alone.