Freshman Year Findings

By: Lea Ved, First-Year Dancer

Sharing a few discoveries from my first year:

1. The best way to take advantage of the city is simply to… get out!

Okay, so the reality of freshman year is that the dorms and the school are literally only a platform walk away.  Between classes, rehearsals, and meals, remaining cooped up in this one block of Manhattan seems to occupy the majority of the week.  Get out!  Especially on the weekends…even if it’s just a few blocks away to Central Park or the pier (my personal two favorites), I guarantee there’s an experience just waiting to happen.  Because it’s New York! And the potential for marvelous spontaneity lingers around every avenue —whether that be a celebrity encounter with Julia Stiles, the discovery of that underground cafe everyone talks about (Alice’s Tea Cup!), or even as I happened to encounter, the 5th Avenue Greek Independence Day Parade!  The majority of my fun experiences happened to just find me… all I did was walk around a little :)

2. Here at Juilliard, we live in a time-warp

At least as a first-year dancer, I can attest that my weeks have never felt like they pass by so quickly.  So much happens in one week within and between classes and rehearsals that sometimes it feels as if a whole month’s worth of activity and memories could have occurred.  Especially when surrounded by the same people every day, the episodes of each week mesh together and suddenly things that happened just a few days ago—like that midnight run to Duane Reade for ice cream, that particular Monday morning when I woke up to snow, or a mere hello in the hallway to a friend from a different division—all seem as if they happened decades ago.  I frequently hear myself and classmates questioning, “Wow, was that just yesterday?”  Bizarre.

3. People will introduce themselves to you in the elevator.

As everyone comes to know, from the residence hall to the school building, Juilliard students ride a great deal of elevators—and I remember one of my first impressions of Juilliard students was the regularity of elevator introductions!  Even a friend who came to visit from another New York college noted a difference in elevator friendliness.  It sounds a little strange, but, why wouldn’t you introduce yourself to a fellow Juilliard classmate, even if it’s merely inside an elevator?  I mean, it won’t happen every time, but chances are the person in the elevator wants to meet you too.

4. There are so many ways to get involved

Whether your interest is outreach, collaboration, or leadership, students here can make anything happen—I don’t even know where to start.  Some classmates are involved in outrageously awesome outreach projects in New Orleans, Tanzania, Botswana, and of course right here in New York.  Opportunities for leadership positions are endless, from the Residence Hall to the school itself, and they plan a whole lot of fun, social, and educational events (one of my favorite organized events was a Sunday afternoon spent handing out flowers to strangers in Central Park).  There are all sorts of clubs, from the Green Group, to Health and Fitness, to Helping Hands, and even a Global Awareness and News Group started by a couple classmates and I this past year.  The list goes on…possibilities are endless!

5. Spring break is 17 days long

I absolutely adore this statement.  In the middle of second semester, just when it feels as if discipline and concentration can go no further, Juilliard holds your hand, says, “You need a break,” and bestows on all of us a terrifically long, magnificent, spring break—to spend to our heart’s content.  Needless to say, friends from other colleges were definitely envious.  I chose to seek an entirely different atmosphere and went to a quaint town in Florida with a classmate for 5 days, and spent the rest of the time in my hometown.  Some students chose to stay in the residence hall to relax and explore the city, or to make extra money by helping work the auditions!  Which brings me to my next point….

6. Making money in school is possible!

One thing I was grateful for was the opportunity to work for some extra cash through the school.  Work-study jobs are available in pretty much every department, and students pick and choose those that best coincide with their schedules.  For me, I’ve worked for the Concert Office as an usher, the Wig and Makeup Shop, the Costume Shop, (all of which are fabulous to see more performances and even observe backstage!) and a few other side jobs and projects that randomly appear when offices are in need of help.  As hectic as our schedules are, squeezing a couple work hours every week is very doable.  Plus, it’s always nice to receive a paycheck in the mail every two weeks, however big or small.

7.  There are performances everyday.

I’ve especially noticed this fact while serving as an usher—but there are even a million posters and signs all around school informing us about upcoming vocal and instrumental solo performances, senior recitals, collaborative projects, drama shows, dance performances etc. Most are even free and open to the general public!  It adds an element of exhilarating commotion all day, every day…there’s always something going on.

8. Busy schedules make it hard to keep in touch with homefolk.

Okay, so it’s no secret that Juilliard can be overwhelming.  High school was pretty demanding for me, but it’s different being busy when I’m in another state, away from the people I love at home.  Family and friends have commented on the frequency in which I have not been able to answer a phone call.  And while they and I both know it’s because I’m in class or rehearsal or writing a paper, or simply unavailable—emails, phone calls, text messages, etc. take a little more effort to keep track of and return.  But!  I make it work and it’s just important to keep the communication flowing with people who matter.

9. The library is full of MUSIC

Yes!  It’s just one of those pieces of information I had easily overlooked until second semester.  But actually, the upstairs archive is loaded with all the essentials—and can be accessed by everyone.  I really enjoy both jazz and classical music, but there’s so much I don’t know and have yet to appreciate!  I try to go to the library every week to check out some CDs and widen my musical familiarity with composers I’ve never heard of and look more into the artists I already adore.  You can only check out two CDs at a time, but I hope by senior year I’ll have broadened my ability to recognize a few more artists and composers offhand.

10. Every single person you meet is talented.  These people are doing beautiful things.

I know right….duh? But!  Actually, actually.  The many circumstances in which Juilliard students meet each other sometimes has nothing to do with our respective majors, but rather through some social event, dorms, hallways, classes etc.  And I can’t describe how sincerely and pleasantly surprised I still am every time I go to a Juilliard performance, big or small, to find out that the really cool person in my humanities class, or on my floor, or who I met in the elevator, is actually, so wonderfully, TALENTED!  It really is a beautiful discovery each and every time.  I love this school.