Some say New York is a lonely city. The population density, the busy streets – they all hide the kind of strange loneliness that can strike you while somewhere as mundane as the subway. You pause while pausing your iPod and realize that you are alone in a packed Q train car, alone in a borough, alone in a city so crowded with people that you struggle to find an empty street block. New York can be the most profound and persistent example of feeling “alone among many.”
Naturally, NYU’s microcosmic relationship to New York City means that it possesses that same potential for loneliness. And though NYU provides us with many university outlets for events, there is still an undeniable feeling of being “alone” at some point during one’s undergraduate career. We discussed it here on NYU Local, after Maddi Gilje confessed that she was considering transferring out of the university that she once bubbled with excitement for on YouTube. However, many of us are perhaps quiet on the subject for fear that we are not adequately “experiencing” college-life the way that we are supposed to — maybe it’s my fault, we wonder. But one of the most ironic edges to the loneliness debates at NYU — what it means to be alone at this school, and how we could ever solve it — is the sense that NYU is a community of students struggling to feel a sense of community.
Some might blame the campus for this social disposition. Or maybe it’s that we don’t have a fratty nightlife. Maybe it’s our lack of a football team and a genuine “rah-rah,” campus-engulfing spirit (oh wait, we don’t have a campus). Most likely it’s a combination of our unique university life combined with the loneliness often associated with New York as a whole.
I have often wondered what – if any – solutions are available. What are we to do as a school to cultivate a wider sense of community?
Perhaps the answer lies with us, the students. Perhaps in light of the elements of our school that can erode away a sense of community (a lack of campus, etc.) we must take strides to create events that could help bring us together as a university. A student at Columbia mentioned that once a week a bar near their campus hosted “Senior Night,” where Columbia seniors could socialize together. But, if NYU students were to organize a weekly event like this, it wouldn’t include our huge population of underaged students (unless you happen to possess a killer fake). This is where the university could step in and provide larger social events – ones that don’t require sign ups and payment beforehand, ones that don’t cater to a special interest.
Of course there are complications and difficulties that arise with such event planning. The answer will never be simple. In the end, we attend a university that does not hand friendship to us on a silver platter. Oftentimes, one’s social life at NYU requires a level of maintenance that we may not be used to. It’s easy to feel and be isolated in our dorms spread out across lower Manhattan. It’s easy to go from class to class not extending a hand to truly meet one’s peers. It’s easy to not attend events that only seem present on flyers or emails since we don’t have a “campus.” It’s easy to feel alone at NYU because there is almost an inertia to the loneliness, one that we find ourselves going along with as we let the days slip past us each semester.
But us NYU students are of a tougher breed, forced to grow up a little bit faster than other college students. We are not incubated in a campus, we are not spoon-fed our social life by way of raging frat parties and football Saturdays. We advance into adulthood where smaller social circles are of the norm, and for many of us, it’s a hard change to accept. Until we or the university begin to plan events that engage the greater part of the student body, we’ll have to trust ourselves with our social lives and realize that simply being aware of our own loneliness is the first step towards breaking free from it.