The author standing in a New York City street.

New York City

These streets will make you feel brand new.

If you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere.

The city that never sleeps. A universe of dreams fit perfectly into five boroughs. The beginning and end of the world. A place I have called home for the past year since I came to New York University.

Packing up my belongings at 18 years old and coming to NYU was a dream come true. Upon beginning my first year, the Kimmel stairs seemed like a grand red carpet that I would get to walk every day. Washington Square Park was the hub of music and art and everything beautiful. Weinstein Jamba Juice tasted heavenly. The opportunities at NYU and beyond it in New York City seemed like they were waiting for me to grab them and make them my own.

My first year at NYU was a transformative experience that shaped me in a variety of ways. The University was different than what I expected and allowed me to grow as an individual. Of course, everyone’s first year is different, and no two students will have the same experience. However, this is what makes NYU so exciting. 


Rida in Washington Square Park.
A picture of me on my first day at NYU!
Involvement on Campus

So much has changed since the moment I moved into Rubin Hall to start my first year.

I’ve explored Manhattan, fallen in and out of love with so many things, and realized what it means to be a student at NYU and in New York City. Walking into my first year, I was so afraid of not knowing who I was or what I wanted to do. Little did I know, every first-year student has this same fear. And that is the best part about NYU—it allows you to explore and find out what it is you truly love. You will fall down and get up more times than you can count.

I had the opportunity to get involved in the Muslim Students Association, and now I am a part of the board as a sophomore. I submitted creative writing pieces, which were published in a university literary magazine. This pushed me to be more comfortable with sharing the art that I create. In the fall, I interned at the United Nations and attended conferences among diplomats from all around the world.

Being at NYU truly gave me experiences I would not have gotten anywhere else. I took classes that sparked my interest in my current major, Global Liberal Studies, like Legal and Ethical Approaches to Islam, Leadership with No Regrets, and Elementary Arabic. I was given the chance to work with immensely knowledgeable and experienced professors and curate my passions. Following my first semester, I embarked on an unforgettable trip with my best friends led by a chaplain within the Office of Global Spiritual Life. The University has allowed me to experiment with different majors, classes, and fields of study all while being a first-year student.

NYU Admissions Ambassadors with balloons.
My best friends and me overlooking New York City from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Growing as a Person

Academics aside, being an 18-year-old in New York City is one of the most beautiful feelings in the world.

The city truly makes you laugh and cry and feel everything in between. I have learned so much about myself and others around me simply by living here. I have interacted with people who have changed my life and influenced who I am as a person. New York City and NYU are full of leaders and people who get up every morning in search of a dream they wish to attain. No matter how hard life gets or how dark a night may seem, the very next morning Manhattan will be bustling with people who get up and try again.

Living in the city has taught me resilience and the ability to keep moving forward. It won’t be easy, and I know things will get hard sometimes. But I have also realized that I am strong enough to deal with whatever challenges may be thrown at me. And after all, nothing can ever be that bad—I am in the best city in the world!

Rida at NYU in SoHo.
Rida walking at NYU.

After One Year

I can confidently say I am more sure about who I am and what I want to do in life. Getting involved on campus and interacting with all the talented individuals pushed me to figure out what it is that I love and how I can pursue it. Being an Admissions Ambassador, a leadership fellow, and holding positions on campus have made me ask myself what I value. It also makes me ask what kind of impact I want to make on those around me.

Although every student experience is different, I feel as though NYU pushes each individual to be the best version of themselves. And even though I am only a sophomore and don’t know exactly what I want to do yet, I know that I’m in the right place to find out. I am excited to see what NYU and New York City hold for me in the future and cannot wait to have an unforgettable sophomore year.

Rida Ali packed up her dreams and moved from the suburbs of Northern Virginia to New York City to join the class of 2022 at New York University. Majoring in GLS, Rida is concentrating in Politics, Rights, & Development and hopes to pursue a minor in the Wagner School of Public Policy. When she’s not out Instagramming and exploring Manhattan, you can find her doing spoken word performances, volunteering at the Islamic Center at NYU or giving a tour in Washington Square Park whilst working as an admissions ambassador. Rida loves shopping in SoHo, trying new food, and activism on campus.