The Cornell semester abroad in New York City is often a college highlight for AAP students fortunate enough to attend. While it is traditionally unconventional to study ‘abroad’ as a sophomore (or even junior), the formal and informal lessons derived from such an experience is far beyond well worth it. After conducting a series of discussions with fellow B.F.A. students of AAP NYC Spring 2019 (otherwise known as Studio 6), here are a few things we wish we knew before making the big move to the big city.
- The Unpredictability Epidemic of New York City.
It’s true what they say – the only thing predictable about New York is its unpredictability. One of the preeminent things to quickly learn about living in the city is the importance of always being prepared: for your day, for the weather, and for all that is un-predicted. Adaptability and optimism are significant virtues to uphold while living here, but they can only take you so far in change of plans; physically being prepared for whatever the city might throw at you is the best way to tackle New York’s unpredictability epidemic. Lauren Park ‘21, emphasizes the importance of planning ahead. “Plan enough ahead of time when going absolutely anywhere in New York,” she says. “Trust me, having spent most of my time growing up in the city, there will always be traffic, or a subway incident, or a missed train, or just some random unexpected circumstance that can cause a delay from five minutes to an hour. I suggest planning by adding on double the time you’ll need to get somewhere.” This also means to plan ahead in terms of packing; it doesn’t hurt to carry around a phone charger, a portable charger, headphones, a reusable water bottle, and your MetroCard.
- To MetroCard and Beyond.
As a student in New York, your primary mode of transportation will be through the infamous five-borough MTA subway system. Running 24 hours a day, the trains are the most efficient way of maneuvering through the city. Before arriving to New York, Ji Weon Chung, class of 2021, had not expected public transportation to be his main source of movement. Taxis, Ubers, Lyfts, and other ride hail services are occasionally helpful, but can be expensive and slow. Combining your commute to classes, galleries, internships, and other miscellaneous trips, the most effective and efficient move is to purchase an unlimited monthly MetroCard. You will surpass a card paid for solely with individual rides if you ride the subway (or bus) more than 46 times per month. While it is financially wise, you also can relax not having to worry about refilling your card’s value and be able to take advantage of unpredictable adventures you may find yourself in while exploring the city during your free time.
- Internships Are A Lot of Work.
A huge drawing point to the semester in New York City is the real-life experience you can gain outside of your classes while working at an internship. The typical weekday schedule for a B.F.A. in New York looks like this: Monday, two classes; Tuesday, free; Wednesday, free; Thursday, two classes; Friday, one class. The two free days a week in the class schedule are designated for students to participate in an internship. The seemingly-daunting process of finding a suitable internship for your own personal strengths and interests begins in Ithaca the semester before arriving in New York, meeting with NYC Professional Practice professor/New York City art-world icon Linda Norden, who assists you in applications and finding a perfect placement. While internships are an incredible opportunity to have my first steps of my professional career be at some of the most significant museums/galleries/establishments, in one of the most connected cities in the world. New York is fantastic because of the diverse range of opportunities it offers and an internship can assist a B.F.A. student in broadening their network, getting “real-life” practice, utilizing access to professionals to observe/learn from, as well as both growing and developing a personal palette of skills and interests through experience. However, typical internships run the average 8-hour workday and can be a tiring addition to your workload. By enrolling in an internship, you must be confident in your ability to balance the requirements of your classes as well as this additional responsibility. A full week of work, classes, and homework can be tiring; however, the additional effort is well worth it for the experience, knowledge, connections, and memories made.
- Embrace the AAP NYC Lifestyle, but Don’t Let it Get to You.
For B.F.A.’s coming from Ithaca, having just completed all six 2000-level studios, it will be a fairly large adjustment to the lifestyle that AAP NYC exudes. The Fine Arts major in Ithaca is notably intense, particularly the first year and a half as B.F.A.s complete the compulsory Introductory courses, which tend to have more strict requirements and assignments. The AAP NYC Studio, led by Professor and distinguished artist Beverly Semmes, introduces student to a new approach related to personal process, project inspiration, and assignment grading, guided by the notion that each student has the experience and skills to liberally decide what they desire their final work to embody. Professor Semmes’ tremendously creative, wildly generous assignment prompts can be interpreted and finalized in a million different ways, all acceptable to be tailored to each student’s personal conceptual and material interests. While this freedom is a physical exhale from the more rigid assignment structures of Ithaca, don’t let it overwhelm you; Sarah Zhang, class of 2020, says “It’s nice to have so much freedom, but it can be intimidating coming from the 2000-level studios. Make sure you focus on what you truly want to explore while you’re in New York and you’ll be happier with the outcome of your work.”
- The Stereotypes are True but don’t be Intimidated – You Will Love It All.
It’s true what they say – New Yorkers can be unfriendly. Ariel Noh, class of 2021, was expecting a degree of the stereotypes to be true but was taken aback by the “realness” of it all. “I’m from California, a big city, where everybody is laid-back and friendly, so the group personality of New York – it’s unexpected. The group collectively agreed that while the big move to New York City after living in Ithaca can be intimidating, it is easily one of the best decisions you can make as a B.F.A. in AAP. “You’ll grow to love the city, and its rich history,” says Lauren Park ’20. “You’ll think it is overwhelming but as you explore, it’s not as bad as you think.” The AAP NYC B.F.A.’s of Spring 2019, known as Studio 6, communally established that confidence is key. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,” says Abhika Pawha ’21, “New York City is really a home for everybody.”