It had been a pretty average day. Tying up the laces of my trainer, ready for an evening run I received an email on my phone. At around 8PM I assumed it was probably another pointless message from some brand I had unwittingly subscribed to, and as my finger poised to sweep it into the virtual rubbish bin; I saw the title "NYU Admissions Decision".
Despite the trepidation I had felt at submitting my application in December, months had slipped away in the blink of an eye, and that initial anxiety had been buried under the blur of later emerging concerns. Thus, the email was a shock. Having opened several important letters over the years, I was well acquainted with the black hole at the bottom of my stomach, accompanied by that feeling of being suspended at the top of a rollercoaster.
Thankfully, this email contained the words "Congratulations!" pretty early on.
Eyes blurred by amazement, I managed to bumble on to the words "I could not be more excited to welcome you to NYU". It was truly shocking, I, the girl who lives in the middle of the countryside and has fields for neighbours was accepted to a university in New York City. Indeed, the storyline of a small town girl moving to a big city rivals many a rom-com, and it was one that I had joked about in my Common Application essay, but the realisation of such an idea was nonetheless shocking. My mind and voice unable to comprehend the words in my hand, I passed the phone to my unassuming parents, who too became speechless. In this void of sound, we found celebration and delight at the thought of this dream.
However, a dream is always belied by the fear of reality. Will my expectations create a bar that is too high? Have I given the idea of NYU too much importance? Thus, on the 24th of August, the day of moving in, my excitement was tempered by the fears of what NYU would truly be like. I worried about the size of the room - had I brought too much? I worried about my roommate, would we get along? And perhaps most of all, I worried about the inevitable moment I would say goodbye to my mum, only for her to disappear until December. Even after my acceptance, New York had seemed such a remote possibility that I hadn't truly comprehended the distance from my family, and now that the thought of the Atlantic Ocean was looming, I wondered whether it was all too much.
I imagine that all freshmen face similar fears at the beginning of their college careers; a combination which swathes move-in day with a frenetic nervous energy. Mum and I arrived outside my dorm in the morning, suitcases in hand. Arriving in my room to find my roommate had already moved her belongings in and had left, we had the opportunity to nosey around. The room was an average size and had plenty of storage space - for a girl with too many clothes; a huge relief. My room was smaller than the one I had left behind in England, but it was homely, and I could see myself living there. The relief that washed over me made it clear that my qualms about my accommodation had been closely tied to my expectations of university as a whole, I had subconsciously expected one to be a mirror of the other, and my anxiety that my worry that my bed would be too small was simply an excuse for the deeper fear that perhaps NYU was not the right place for me.
This happiness with my room assuaged other niggling fears, and so giggling about my irrationality, mum and I began to unpack. Halfway through, my roommate arrived, and having hugged and made small talk, it was clear that we would both get along just fine. Mum stayed just long enough to make my bed and hang my clothes, before having to dash off to catch her flight. In the courtyard of this strange concrete building I would now call home, I hugged her goodbye and promised to be in constant contact. A little heartbroken, I wandered up to my room and continued unpacking and organising. Time flew amongst the general chatter between roommates and suitemates, and within what felt like minutes it was time for dinner at the dining hall downstairs and for a floor meeting in the courtyard. Nervously introducing ourselves, we all sat in circle and looked around at the strangers we would be living with, and I wondered how long it would take for the ice to be broken. Fortunately, the dorm social that night proved to be the solution. The too-loud music and the relatively small space gave way to awkward mingling and a formulaic opening conversation, but it also relaxed tensions and allowed easier socialising. A group of us inspired by being in Manhattan, left during the night to walk among the bright lights to Washington Square Park, NYU's hallowed grounds, and bask in the magic of New York in the dark. The park was alive with performers, artists and students alike, and I felt the buzz of being in the middle of the something.
It's said the first night of college can often be the hardest, but for me, it was simply surreal. Here I was, lying in an alien bed, in an alien country, feeling as if I was starring in a film. Sure, I still worried about the week to come, the friends I hoped to make, the classes I was to begin, but the assuaged fears of move-in day assured me that it was an experience not to waste time anticipating, rather, just to live.