Before I got here, there were a million things about NYU that I couldn’t wait for. How exciting & event-filled the city would be around the clock, amazing food on every corner, incredible professional opportunities, intellectually stimulating classes, celebrity sightings, free Broadway shows—the list goes on. However, the things that nobody told me about beforehand have ended up becoming some of my favorite parts of my college experience. Who doesn’t love a good surprise?

1. NYU does have a campus—and it really feels like a college community!

a man and two women hug while dancing

As everyone knows, NYU is in and of the city, and as such, I worried about how easy it might be to get lost in the mix. However, I quickly learned that our lack of walls does not mean that we don’t have a campus. The Washington Square Park area (and beyond) is unofficially-yet-pretty-much-officially NYU territory, through and through. Walking to class, you are bound to see dozens of people that you know every single day. Through clubs, classes, jobs, and events, you organically build a sense of community and college spirit—New York City just happens to be the backdrop.

2. Dogs. Dogs. So many dogs.

James Franco struggles to hold 4 puppies

I used to think that raising a dog in the city was unheard of, but evidently, I stand corrected. Simply by roaming the streets, I have had the honor of interacting with more dogs than I could possibly count, and I’ve made it my personal mission to pet as many of them as possible. Dachshunds, beagles, and corgis fill the streets and I couldn’t be happier. During midterms and finals seasons, there is a puppy playpen in Kimmel for the sole purpose of destressing. Plus, when my friends and I got free tickets to see the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, it happened to be the day that James Franco was on with a whole slew of puppies (pictured above).

3. Professors lead the coolest lives.

Gif of older woman petting an owl

I will never forget when my music criticism professor casually mentioned that she would be postponing class one day because she was “going fishing with Michael Fassbender.” Many NYU professors are actively working in the fields that they teach, and as such, they have unique, hands-on advice to impart and the best stories to share. From jazz journalists at The New Yorker to executives at Sony Music to New York Times bestsellers, NYU professors are truly inspirational.

4. Professors can become your friends!

Gif of a man saying

I follow some of my teachers on Instagram and vice-versa, and sometimes, I’ll even grab coffee with them to catch up! I was surprised to see how easy it is to form personal bonds with teachers—you can really engage with them beyond academics.

5. My addiction to thrift shopping....

three people dance in the middle of a thrift store

Brooklyn-hipster culture seemed completely foreign to me until I got to the city. With vintage stores adorning virtually every block, it’s hard not to stumble into these culturally rich hubs and make exciting purchases. One of my most cherished clothing items is a bright red jacket from the 80s that I snagged for under $20. Thrift stores have absolutely made a huge influence on my style and the style of many others around me. Just take a look around on campus; you’ll see worn out flannels and graphic tees as far as the eye can see.

6. Greenery on campus and in the city!?

a large grassy field

Okay, listen. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that NYC is some sort of rural, lush garden—but Manhattan used to be a marsh, and some evidence of that past remains. I expected it to be a concrete jungle and nothing more, but the city has its fair share of natural sites. Highlights include gorgeous city parks, the garden atop the Kimmel Center, nurseries in the East Village, the stunning Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and seasonal trees on the streets of Greenwich Village.

7. Becoming friends with upperclassmen!

Animated Gif of Andy from The Office saying Sorry I annoyed you with my friendship

In high school, I was accustomed to getting to know people in my grade and my grade alone. But in college, there is so much flexibility to interact with people of all ages. For one, my a cappella choir is filled with upperclassmen and even a handful of graduate students. Furthermore, I am the only sophomore in my creative nonfiction class, whereas everyone else is older. Through clubs and classes, you are encouraged to get to know anyone and everyone, starting from your first year. It’s been fantastic to meet people outside of my grade itself to engage with different perspectives. I’ll just definitely be heartbroken when they graduate before me.

8. How skilled I've become at jaywalking......

a man in an elf costume hops across the street

No, really. All the rules of physics and road safety point to the fact that I shouldn’t be alive right now. I interpret 1 second crosslight warnings as an invitation to calmly stroll along until yellow-cab drivers start to honk. At least I’m always on time!

9. City folks are actually really nice (usually)?

Animated Gif of Stan from South Park saying

I had mentally prepared myself for a city brimming with rude, unhelpful, and aggressive people, but in my experience, citizens of New York tend to stand up for each other! On campus, everyone is cooperative and friendly, which was no surprise—but even beyond that, I have mostly good things to say. Any time that I’ve asked for directions or help from strangers, I have been pleasantly surprised with their responses. As long as you watch where you’re going, respect other people’s personal spaces, refrain from taking touristy pictures in traffic-heavy situations and go with the flow, you can seamlessly avoid issues with almost everyone. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but I believe that they are few and far between.

10. Almost every positive NYC stereotype is true.

gif of a woman saying

I was sure that much of what I’ve heard about New York was too good to be true. How great could it possibly be? There’s no way each and every individual person could possibly have a specialized and unique relationship with the city, right?  How wrong I was. By now, the streets and skyscrapers feel like familiar friends that I understand in a singular way. Everyone’s New York is different from the next person’s, and that’s what makes it so special! I had to live and learn here before I could truly realize that, and you will too.

If you’re coming to NYU, you are probably aware of how much you have to look forward to—but it's the things that you don’t expect that might end up meaning the most to you.