When I’m giving campus tours to prospective students, one of the most frequently asked questions I get (besides “What are you planning on doing with your major?”) is “What do you like most about NYU? What makes it unique?”
Honestly, that’s kind of a loaded question. There are so many ways that question can be answered, and it differs greatly from person to person, but I think the most universal answer is the location. Now, that might seem like a cop out, but I promise it isn’t. Even though it’s really cool to run into celebrities while grabbing a cup of coffee or watch Law and Order: SVU film in Washington Square Park for the umpteenth time, that’s not what I came to NYU for.
NYU’s campus has the unique advantage of being situated right in the heart of the Greenwich Village, the perfect area for a college student when you consider its role in the Beat and Counterculture movements of the 50s and 60s. But the best part about our campus is that even though we’re located in the Village, we are by no means contained to that one spot.
Unlike most college campuses, you’ll be hard pressed to find a gate on our campus, or to even draw a definitive map of it. Because of this, NYU often describes itself as “In and of the City.” While this sounds like a punch catch phrase, it means a lot more than that. What it really means is that NYU really takes advantage of all of the opportunities that New York City has to offer, and does its best to make them accessible to students.
This “In and of the City” attitude has been incorporated into several of my classes during my time at NYU. During my freshman year, I took a seminar called “School and Society of the 1960s.” On the very first day of class, our professor took us on a walking tour of the area, and pointed out monuments and places that were important to the history of the counterculture movement, such as site of the Greenwich Village Townhouse explosion caused by the Weathermen (which is actually only a block away from one of NYU’s first year residence halls), and cafés that were frequented by people such as Bob Dylan. In my History of Western Art class, our professor required us to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters to actually see the art that we spent so much time learning about in the classroom.
Some professors have done the opposite, and brought the city into the classroom. When I took Investigating Journalism, my professor, who was still active in the journalism community, brought in editors from local publications such as the Village Voice and The Guardian, who shared their experiences from the field. This past semester, my Approaches to Gender and Sexuality professor showed us a documentary called Paris is Burning, which discussed the ball and drag scene of 1980s New York, and then brought in prominent figures of the current ball scene into class.
These experiences are not unique to NYU’s New York campus. At NYU Paris, where I’m currently studying, immersion, both in the culture and the language, is a big part of the curriculum. Students taking Art History courses here have classes in museums like the Louvre and L’Orangerie, and even in art studios. In the French language classes that I’m taking, my professors have taken us out into the streets of the city to listen to modern French and learn how to incorporate it into our speech, because it’s very different from the formal language you learn from the textbook.
And that is exactly what I think makes NYU unique. Here, you’re not going to get your education strictly from textbooks, because that would be boring. To be honest, it would be a complete waste of the resources surrounding us. New York City is brimming with unique opportunities, and because of NYU’s initiative to incorporate them into our university experience, it allows its students to truly become “In and of the City” as well.