My Semester in New York City
Virginia Davis ’25 spent the spring 2023 semester living and learning in the Big Apple through Hamilton’s New York City Program. The psychology and public policy double major shares here some of her favorite adventures and what she learned about city life, her interests, and herself.
During the summer before my sophomore year, I realized I was ready to embrace different opportunities for growth than campus provided, and stumbled upon the New York City Program on Hamilton’s website. Originally, studying abroad my sophomore year wasn’t part of my plan, but the topic planned for the program's spring semester, Labor, Immigration, and Reform in New York City History, was something I felt I couldn’t pass up.
Considering my long-term career goal of going into the non-profit sector, I recognized the program was a great opportunity to get my foot in the door while also living in a city different from anything I’d ever experienced before. I’ve always been interested in visiting New York, but I never expected to find myself living there, and funny enough it ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made.
A New Home
Most people I know at Hamilton (myself included) are used to being busy and consumed with the pressure to “succeed.” Ironically enough, it took me walking into a city where this is all people think about to intentionally slow myself down and be more present.
I started the semester unsure why I was there -- most people wait until junior year to go abroad and I was afraid I made the wrong decision. Over the course of the semester though, I grew academically in ways I hadn’t on campus, I grew close to those on the program, and I had so much time for personal reflection and growth.
Even though I struggled at times, this semester was one of the best experiences of my life. I left knowing none of these things would have been possible if I had stayed in Clinton for the semester.
Exploring Every Day
I was very intentional about going to a new area of the city almost every day. Even when I didn’t “do” anything, I really enjoyed walking around and experiencing as much as I could.
I explored so many new hobbies and things I had never done before: I played pickleball and table tennis, listened to tons of jazz, tried new foods, went to tons of art museums, and so much more.
One person can’t do it all. Especially as my time in the city started to wrap up, I had to prioritize and figure out what I most enjoyed doing. For me, this ended up being lots of live music, spending time with new and old friends, and, most importantly, trying things I’d never done before!
Connection to community is not something every city offers. Before I spent time here I had never felt a particular connection to any community. During my time here I never really felt like I belonged in the city, but I felt connected to those around me in a way I had never experienced.
One thing I ended up not really liking about New York is how fast paced it is and how easy it is to become nonexistent in a city this big. You can so easily blend into the other millions of people that live here, but it is just as easy to make meaningful impacts and connections with the people you meet. I put in the effort to do this, including becoming acquainted with the man who owns the breakfast cart near the apartment. One time, he jokingly threw a banana at me, laughing and claiming I “never ate enough breakfast.” This became an ongoing joke that I always giggle at.
Hamilton offers so many classes relating to inequality, reform, displacement, etc. but academic learning only teaches so much. Anywhere you go, getting to know people who grew up there teaches more than any textbook ever could, and despite talking to so many people, I can’t even claim to have scratched the surface of what there is to learn, but I find that so incredibly beautiful.
The Faculty Connection
As I reflect on my time taking part in the New York City Program, my favorite part of the semester was how close I got with other Hamilton students and our faculty director. Choosing my favorite part was not easy because even though I struggled at times, this semester was one of the best experiences of my life.
Since the program is roughly 15 people, it is so easy to connect with everyone. I got close with all of my roommates, made friends I will keep in touch with even after the program, but also got close to our professor, [Professor of American History] Maurice Isserman. The beauty of the program is that we all spend so much time together that we get to know each other outside academics. Isserman introduced us to his daughter and wife, and to many of his friends and professional acquaintances who he thought would add value to our experience by sharing their expertise and insights with us. They typically came to the director's apartment and shared our weekly meal with us. This was something I will never forget, and all of it was thanks to Professor Isserman.
Similar to life on campus, becoming close with your professor is incredibly easy with small class sizes, but on this program it becomes even easier. Isserman made it a point to get to know each of us personally rather than just academically. Because of that, even though I know I will never take another history class, I still plan to keep in touch with him.
*Virginia’s internship was facilitated by Sara Weinstein ’02, partner at WCPG, who has generously provided opportunities to more than 20 NYC Program participants, as well as Hamilton students and recent graduates for summer internships and entry-level positions.