Community & Culture, RU Abroad

A Reading Week Love Letter to NYC

New York City skyline of the empire state building and many buildings surrounding it

New York City. The city of blinding lights. The concrete jungle where dreams are made of. The place that will always bring back memories of a very special reading week during my third year at Ryerson. 

I’ve usually spent my reading week doing what it requires, which means I’m usually spent caged up in my room studying and writing essays with masses amount of coffee and trying to stay afloat while drowning in schoolwork. This year I needed something different. I had put so much effort into the half of the semester and decided to award myself with a mental health break, which I think is exactly what every student needs after the first few weeks of school. The decision to go to New York was very last minute and I felt guilty about leaving my responsibilities behind, but sometimes spontaneity and adventure is exactly what you need when the pressure gets too much. I had never seen New York City before or taken a bus ride that lasted anywhere close to 10 hours which I was a little hesitant about, but it actually turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the trip. There’s something about driving through America in the Fall with good friends and good music which makes the world seem a little more magical, and it was a great way to bond with the other Ryerson students as we embarked on this crazy wild adventure together. I was lucky enough to meet a girl named Nicole Cregg who also happens to be an incredibly talented photographer, who documented our NYC trip beautifully. All photos in this blog post belong to her. 

As you read about my NYC adventures, hit play on my NYC Spotify playlist below.

When we arrived in New York City it was nighttime so seeing the skyline for very first time made it seem as though the entire world was lit up. As we arrived in Times Square I remember thinking how incredibly large everything seemed, and even though I’ve been to a lot of cities in my life I had never experienced anywhere like this. The hustle and bustle of the crowds and the blinding lights made everything seem so magical, so overwhelming and so alive. One of my favourite things about the RSU trip is that they fit so many attractions into such a limited amount of time, so by the first night we had seen Theatre District, Times Square, the MTV Studios, Carnegie Hall, the Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Saks Fifth Avenue, the NBC Studios, Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center just to name a few. I was surprised at how close all these attractions were since we walked everywhere. One minute we were at the fountain that inspired the Friends opening credits and the next we were at the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Centre. This was particularly amazing because it reminded me of my favourite Christmas movies such as Elf and Home Alone 2. 

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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg

The next morning we did a walking tour of Central Park which is my absolute favourite part of the city. It’s crazy to find that such a peaceful and serene place exists in such a hectic city. There were several horse drawn carriages lined up outside which made it feel like I was stepping into a fairytale, and it reassured me to know how well looked after the horses are. We first walked through the Strawberry Fields as a street performer played the Beatles on guitar. I found every aspect of Central Park so enchanting, from the turtles swimming in the ponds and the gorgeous shades of red and yellows on the trees, to the Alice in Wonderland sculptures that reminded me of my childhood. As we wandered through the park, we watched a gay couple get married outside Belvedere Castle and I remember thinking how it would not have been legal just over a year ago. In light of the recent US election, looking back on this moment now brings so many mixed emotions. I remember how incredibly happy it made me to see the progress in America, and to see this couple profess their love for each other so proudly and fearlessly which is how love should always be. To know that these freedoms are under threat absolutely breaks my heart. I can only hope that the future of America resembles what I saw in Central Park that day which was a stunning celebration of equality and love. 

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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg

No matter where you go in New York City, you’re bound to stumble upon inspiration. We explored the Chelsea Market, the Financial District, and went shopping in Soho and Tribeca (I didn’t see Taylor Swift’s apartment but I hear that you can sometimes see her cat Meredith sitting at her window). We went to Wall Street where we saw the famous Trump building. Fun fact – there are concrete blocks in front of the building to prevent anyone from driving their car through it. In fact the security in front of all Trump buildings was absolutely insane, and I can’t even imagine what it must be like now that’s it post-election. We stopped by the Brooklyn Bridge which was beautiful, danced to live music on the streets of Little Italy and wandered through Chinatown. It seemed that an adventure was ready for us in every corner of the city we explore:

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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg

As we stopped by the National September 11 Memorial, Thriving Ivory’s “Angels on the Moon” lyrics came to mind;

‘This is to one last day in the shadows
And to know a brother’s love
This is to New York City angels
And the rivers of our blood
This is to all of us.’

It was such a profound moment, to stand in the site of such tragedy. The memorial is so stunning and so beautifully honours the victims of 9/11, as where the two buildings once stood are now the two largest man-made waterfalls in the United States. The names of the victims are inscribed around each waterfall, and a white rose is placed in each person’s name whose birthday it was on that particular day. I thought this to be a stunning sentiment but it also triggered so much sadness in me to see how many names had roses placed in them, and to see how many names there were in general. Another lyric from the song also came to mind, which is “Do you know, that every day’s the first Of the rest of your life?” Being in a place of such tragedy reminded me how precious and fragile life is, and how we must live it to the full and cherish every experience for the people that are no longer able to. It was in that moment that I felt so grateful that I took the time to go on this adventure and to live my life purposefully and fully.

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Photo by Nicole Cregg
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Photo by Nicole Cregg

Other adventures the city included getting lost on the way to the Empire State Building, ending up in an Irish pub and and making friends with rich New Yorkers who we asked directions from and who insisted that they show us the way themselves. They were especially excited that we were from ‘the six six six’ and that we had a prime minister that they claim is ‘hotter than Justin Bieber.’ For two days straight we only ate Shake Shack which is one of the best burger joints I’ve ever been to, and thinking back on it now is making me crave it so much. But the best part about this trip was experiencing it with Ryerson students that I had never met before. Most of us were from different programs and embarked on the trip for different reasons but we all created such a close bond through the experience. When I look back on the trip now, I realize the adventures we go on are only as good as the people we share them with.

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Now that I’m back from my spontaneous trip to The Big Apple I’m trying desperately to catch up all my work, but even though I abandoned a lot of my responsibilities during reading week I still feel that it was incredibly worth it. Sometimes as students we get so wrapped up in assignments, which of course are important, but it’s also important to take a mental health break and embark on an adventure every once in awhile. The RSU usually have these great deals on different places such as New York and Montreal during reading week, but whether it’s a road trip out of town with close friends or a trip to a strange city with people you’ve never met, take some time next reading week – or even the weekend – and invest in yourself.

If you got up to any awesome adventures over reading week or lately, please let us know @RUStudentLife!

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Sunita Singh Hans

4th year RTA Media Production student from Northern Ireland who loves travelling, blogging, sharing stories and obsessing over TV shows.