See New York City through the perspectives of two students…
Each year, the Emory & Henry College Honors Program takes a group of rising sophomores to experience New York City as part of the Transitions II course that students take Spring of their freshmen year. The topic of exploration varies year–to–year allowing each rising sophomore cohort to learn about New York City from a different light. The topics range from wilderness to water to energy to this year’s alienation/assimilation.
DAY 1: THE CENTER OF IT ALL
There were people everywhere when we got off the Amtrak train at Penn Station. This was only my second trip to New York ever, and I remembered immediately why I hated the city when I stood in the subway. Lots of people, lots of smells, and lots of noise was not my idea of a good time. We were told to break up into four groups and navigate the subway to get to 103rd and Amsterdam, which was the location of our hostel. Everyone had their own idea on how to get there, and it only added to the stress and noise. The point of this exercise was to teach us all how to navigate the subway and work together, but it was fun because it was set up like the Amazing Race. Our group arrived at the hostel without any trouble but in third place.
We stayed at Hostelling International, a historical landmark that used to be a shelter for women who were affluent but had been reduced to poverty in the early to mid–1800s. Furthermore, the owners of the shelter provided donations to aid the widows of the War of 1812. After throwing our luggage down, we all walked to Central Park.
Now I remembered why I loved New York. Central Park was its own world right in the center of one of the largest cities in America. We were in the northern side of the park where I had not been to before. Not only did the hustle and bustle of the city seem to stop, but the air felt cleaner. After walking past some turtles in the lake, Dr. Clary gave us the mission to go and find food. One group went to 72nd Street Bagels, while my group went to the world famous Zabar’s to get an assortment of meats, cheeses, and fruits.
For dinner, we brought all of the food we had bought back to Central Park to have a picnic. I enjoyed a cinnamon sugar bagel topped with roast beef, goat cheese, and guacamole. Others relished the pickled salmon or the ham. Everyone created their own distinctive sandwiches and the possibilities were endless.
Later that night, we ventured to Times Square. I enjoyed the 99 cent pizza and just walking around the city. However, my favorite store that we visited was Midtown Comics. The walls of the store were lined with my favorite super heroes and some others that I had never even seen before. While my group marveled at the “fan boy” memorabilia, others took advantage of the shopping experience at stores such as Disney, H&M, Nike, and many more. Still, others just fell in love with the nightlife in the Big Apple.
— JAKE CAUDILL ‘18
DAY 2: MUSEUMS AND A DAY OF LAUGHS
For our first full day in New York City, we divided into groups. One group went to Chinatown and the Museum of Chinese in America, one went to the Frick and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), and a smaller group went to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the live taping of The View. My group went to the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
This was the first time I had been to the Natural History Museum in New York. I really didn’t expect it to be the same caliber as the Smithsonian in DC; however, I was shocked. We spent about two hours in the museum, and we weren’t even close to seeing half of the collections. This was a fascinating experience, and I didn’t think the day could get much better after this considering we were going to an art museum.
Before we got to the MoMA, Dr. Bremner took us to a local tea shop. Again, I was amazed. I didn’t expect much from the small shop, but I walked out with a full, satisfied stomach and an eagerness to visit the shop again.
I’m not much of an art guy, so I wasn’t really looking forward to the MoMA. However, after going through three floors of paintings and sculptures that I didn’t understand, I saw it! In the back corner of the fourth floor in all its majesty…the Pac–man Machine. I spent the rest of my time in the art museum fighting off Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde; while others wandered around and enjoyed the other six floors of “art.”
When my group joined up with Dr. Clary’s, I was able to hear about their experiences at the MET. While at the MET, they had a chance to see the breathtaking New York City skyline from the museum's secluded rooftop garden. They also went to the Frick where they saw a personal art collection.
A majority of us wanted to do something different that evening that was more laid back, so we chose The Dangerfield Comedy Club, which is the oldest running comedy club in New York City. Everyone had a great time, and I felt like it brought our cohort even closer together. I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the week held.
— JAKE CAUDILL ‘18
DAY 3: IMMIGRATION AND THE DAY THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
I woke up Wednesday morning feeling great! The day was going to be wonderful, but we were already behind on our schedule. Our ferry was to leave in an hour, and we still had an hour subway ride down to the southern tip of Manhattan. Our separate groups rushed out of the subway towards the ferry, and while we barely made it, we all were there. The next stop was Ellis Island.
I had been to Ellis Island before, but this time it was even better because we learned about the various immigration procedures that immigrants endured during the process. The history behind Ellis Island was fascinating and allowed many of us to explore our roots and learn about how some of our ancestors came into this country. Personally, my great– grandmother came over from Italy right after WWII with my great-grandfather who was in the U.S. Army. It was truly remarkable to be standing in the same room where my great-grandmother stood over sixty years ago.
After Ellis Island, we went to the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. The tranquility surrounding the memorial was the most powerful experience of our entire trip. This was my second time seeing the truly breathtaking and thought–provoking memorial. I assumed we were going to go straight to the memorial museum after we sat at the memorial for forty minutes. However, following the observation of the memorial we separated into groups again. A little disappointed because I thought we were going inside the museum, myself and others were able to convince the professors to allow a group to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
As soon as we were inside, I went straight to the end of the museum, because the last time I was there, I was rushed through and was unable to see it all. “But not today,” I kept telling myself. Despite going straight to the end of the museum, I still wasn’t able to see all I had missed last time. There were just so much to take in at the 9/11 Memorial Museum that made it hard to pass over something quickly. Additionally, it is extremely difficult to describe the museum with words because it is unlike anything I have experienced. I feel that this was the best museum and memorial I’ve ever been to and recommend it to all who travel to New York. While at first I was frustrated because we were rushed through the Memorial Museum again, it just means I will have to go back.
Later that evening we met up on Broadway to see Kinky Boots. This Tony-Award-winning play gave us a spectacular Broadway experience that displayed an incredibly intricate stage production and fantastic actors. It was an amusing play despite the controversial subject. I thought it was magnificent and was so glad I got to experience my first Broadway play with a great group of people. Nevertheless, I would be content if that was the last Broadway play I ever saw. There is something about a small, simple, local theater that is even more special to me. Overall the day was marvelous!
— JAKE CAUDILL ‘18
DAY 4: A DAY OF SERVICE AND THE HIGH LINE
I got off the subway and set foot into Brooklyn on the day of my service project. I immediately noticed the drastic differences between this neighborhood and the neighborhoods we had been to in Manhattan. There was a specific kind of air surrounding the shelter that was sad but hopeful at the same time. Despite this, I was excited to be there and help out with the project at hand. Dr. Clary and I weeded, removed several stubborn plants, and built a brick retaining wall to maintain the integrity of the footpath through the garden while other students were building trellises and weeding.
While I was doing this, I could see the numbers in the garden increasing as more and more women came out either to help us or just talk with new people. It was a very eye–opening experience because I had performed service projects before but never at a women’s shelter. The stories they had to tell made me all the more thankful for what I have. All of their faces looked to be very worn which gave their stories a powerful depth that made you want to help them even more, and I found myself glad to be there doing what I could.
After the service project ended, I ventured deeper into Brooklyn to walk around the Williamsburg neighborhood and got a chance to go into several different Indie record stores. I experienced first hand the growing underground music scene that is developing in that neighborhood. We also made a stop at an open–air coffee shop. The originality of the coffee shop was unreal; everything from the hardwood decorations to the espresso infused aromas paired with the musical stylings of the STROKES set a unique atmosphere that could only be found on the streets of New York.
Later that evening, I got the chance to eat with Emory & Henry alumni at Chelsea Market and explored the High Line Park. The park was a former abandoned railway that was then converted into a 1.45–mile long linear park that stretches throughout Manhattan and ends with a beautiful view looking out over the Hudson. I really enjoyed the originality and character of the park. No other park would allow us to walk shoulder to shoulder with the high–rises of the city. This quickly became the most interesting park I had ever been to. The experience for me is impossible to recreate. Nothing can accurately describe being able to walk through the New York City skyline surrounded by your friends and end with a view of the sunset going down over the river.
— Michael LoGrande ‘18
DAY 5: A ‘GROUNDED’ DAY AT THE TENEMENT MUSEUM
On our last day in New York City, we visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This museum was a housing block that has been preserved to look just as it did when it housed hundreds upon hundreds of immigrants in the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s. When we entered, you could feel the history all around you. There was a distinct scent that pervaded the entire building. I also got a chance to look at old photographs and records of the immigrants who lived in each apartment to get a feel for how they lived. We were shown how the square footage slowly decreased because of the numerous layers of wallpaper that were constantly being applied after each of the tenants moved out. This was a unique experience for me because my great–grandmother grew up in that neighborhood in apartments like the one we were visiting.
After this, I went to Washington Square Park to enjoy the various people and culture that is indicative of any New York City park. The park’s culture was incredibly unique; from the street performers to the jazz musicians, there didn’t seem to be a single dull moment in the park. It was lacking the calm of Central Park, but that lack added to the charm. I loved being able to take in the sounds, smells, and experience of everything that was going around me.
After leaving the park, I went back to the hostel to regroup before I went to see the play Grounded
at The Public Theatre. The theatre that we were in to see the play was incredibly intimate. My seat was around 15 feet away from where Anne Hathaway was performing. I myself am not a very big fan of theatrical productions, but I was absolutely captivated by the play. The subject matter was extremely interesting, and the acting was like nothing I had ever seen. This was my first time seeing a one–person performance on stage, and it could not have been executed any better. I watched people leave the theatre in shock and in awe of what they had just seen.
After the play, I went back to the hostel to decompress for an hour before then leaving again to see the midnight showing of the original 1978 movie Mad Max. This was an incredible experience for me because I had never seen the original film and had never been to the IFC (Independent Film Center); being the movie fan that I am, I couldn’t have been more excited. It was a perfect way to end our last day of the trip.
— MICHAEL LOGRANDE ‘18
Banner Photo Description: Kaeleigh, Jackson, Alex, Buck, and Eli (left to right) on the ferry heading to Ellis Island.