My first week as a junior at Juilliard!
The first week of school is filled with unforeseen challenges, and simple joys. I am always surprised at the force with which a new year at Juilliard hits me. Campus is abuzz with the knowledge and energy which students have gained over a summer of study and adventure. Exciting change is in the air, and a semester of projects, promises, and hard work glimmers on the horizon.
However, getting used to a new year of school isn't only about getting back into the swing of Juilliard, its also about easing oneself into the grind of NYC. After a summer of dancing in the wilderness of Beckett, MA, and studying in the scenic city of Vancouver, I was frankly a little weary of returning to the extreme hustle and bustle of NYC. I can say that my first week presented quite a few challenges in the department of conquering NYC.
Many students live in the residence hall and have a meal plan, but for those who live off campus and have to do their grocery shopping themselves, there is one thing that should be well learned and respected: never go shopping on a Sunday afternoon. At said time, all of NYC simultaneously realizes that it is Sunday and that an entire week of late nights in the studios, and meetings, and taking the kids to soccer practice are once again upon them. Thus the grocery aisles slow to a crawl, and Trader Joe’s starts to look more like Times Square. When I finally exited the bustle of the grocery store, I found myself with a malfunctioning grocery cart and a subway ride ahead of me. I decided on taking a bus up to my apartment. Yet another Sunday no no. I spent my commute home navigating walkers and disgruntled regular riders as I tried to maneuver the cart full of my precious cargo. By the time I got home, I felt like a bulldozer had slowly driven over me. Yet in all of the chaos of my pedestrian task I found a light at the end of the tunnel. Although this city is often unpredictable and overwhelming, it also houses a riveting balance of citizens driven by daring ambition and the verge of a nervous breakdown. Thus my first week of school got off to a rocky start, but was quickly remedied by one of my favorite Juilliard traditions: the annual cruise trip around the skyline of NYC.
I hurried down the streets of 10th Avenue, dodging under awnings to escape the rain and simultaneously helping my friend and classmate Sean hold his dinner as he ate on the road. By third year, one would have thought that I could gage the walk from Juilliard to the Circle Line cruise, but alas there I was running the last four blocks of the trip. Never the less this is my favorite moment of the first week of school - this bizarre commute that I make once a year on the first day of a new adventure.
This walk gives me a strange sense of déjà vu. My first year, the first years traveled together in big clumps all over the city. We floated through Hell’s Kitchen to the pier where the annual first day of school cruise boat was anchored. Everyone looked transformed outside of the hectic environment of practice rooms and dance studios, I almost did not recognize the well manicured mass of new students making their way towards the dock. I got caught in a clump of new faces, and ended up having a long conversation with a violinist. Our feet tapped the same rhythm to the dock, the city sliding easily past us, each crosswalk revealing a new avenue of conversation. My second year was much the same, except this time I had an overconfidence to leave even later for the cruise. I walked amiably next to my classmate Mio, listening to her stories of her travels home to Japan and her hopes for the new school year. Sophomore year is a bit of a ruse, because you think you have it all figured out after the first year of adapting to the Juilliard lifestyle. But sophomore year has its own bag of challenges and joys to be had. I remember going from a steady pace and ample time at 54th street, to a full out run at 42nd and 9th avenue. One thing never changes: the exorbitant length of avenues, and the way people throw a startled glance at two dancers running like fawns towards the harbor. Needless to say a waft of past conversations, and also memories of how I began each year at Juilliard, came back to me as I walked into my Junior year of college. A tradition of gathering together and watching the New York skyline glide past offers a way to reconvene after a summer of discovery and recuperation. A ritual of slowing down (that is if you leave in time) and walking with a good friend or meeting someone new, offers a time to reflect on experiences you had in past years, and helps you realize how far you have come.
By Moscelyne PH