Every year The MV Times asks four recent high school graduates to write about their experiences during their first year after graduation. Danielle Hopkins graduated from MVRHS this spring, and is attending Barnard College in New York City. This is Danielle’s second dispatch.
I have been here for a little over a month, and while the newness of living in New York City has started to wear off, I am reminded every now and then that I really haven’t been here for that long. There are so many places I have yet to go, and every weekend I am disappointed in myself for not going off campus more.
Barnard College and Columbia University are located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Broadway and 116th, which is a beautiful part of the city, but it can often feel like a different world from the rest of New York. I usually try to go somewhere downtown at least once a week, but some weekends there’s no time between schoolwork and clubs to leave. I underestimated how hard balancing everything in college would be. In high school, I participated in a lot of activities, and still managed to do well in school and get a good amount of sleep each night. But now there is always something to do on campus, I am never done with my homework, and we live in one of the best cities in the world, where there is so much to explore. Finding the time to do everything I want to has been a challenge.
I decided to audition for Columbia’s black theater ensemble’s production of “Dreamgirls,” and I was cast as CC, who is one of the main male roles. Another young woman and I are the only freshman to have main roles in the production, and it has been an amazing experience.
When I arrived at college I told myself that I would try not to join too many clubs my first semester. I am only in the play and BOSS (Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters), yet I am still always busy. The play has been helping me to stay balanced in school, though, because it is a good emotional outlet every day when I am feeling stressed out. Rehearsals end up taking up a lot of my time, even when I am not physically there. I have never played a male role before, and I want to make sure that I do this part justice.
This means I end up sacrificing other things I would like to do for the play. For instance, last Saturday was the homecoming game, and even though our athletic field is only a block and a half away, I couldn’t go because I would miss part of rehearsal.
Since the times I have class are not ideal, I am usually not free when my friends have free time. The way my schedule worked out, I have a class at 8:40 am three times a week, a class at 2:40 Monday through Thursday, an astronomy lab from 7 to 10 on Wednesday nights, and a 5:40 class Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. As far as class schedules go, mine is one of the most spread-out I’ve seen here. It’s especially weird for me, because in high school everyone had class at the same time and club activities at the same time. But here some of my friends don’t have class until 2, and other people’s classes end then. I knew college would be a lot different from high school, but I am still shocked sometimes at how different it is. For some of my classes the only grades I have are exams, which are called midterms. In high school, most of our classes were a year long, so we would have a midterm at the end of each semester. The courses at Barnard are semester-based, so I figured midterms would occur once halfway through the semester. However, some of the courses I am taking have multiple “midterms,” or our midterms are after only a month of class. Some of my friends had their midterms two and a half weeks into the course.
All first-years are required to take first-year writing or a seminar to help us develop our writing and discussion skills. During my first semester, I am taking a first-year writing course called “Legacy of the Mediterranean,” where we analyze classics like “The Odyssey,” “The Bacchae,” and Sappho’s poetry. I have really enjoyed taking this class, despite how challenging it’s been. While I did learn a lot in my high school writing class, nothing compares to the intensity of analyzing a text and writing on the college level. When I read these texts, I have to make sure I understand every word and the reason the author chose to include it. I feel like on some levels high school prepared me for college, but in other ways there was absolutely no way to prepare me for this. The professors expect so much out of us, but often they don’t have the time that high school teachers do to work individually with you. Two of my professors don’t even know who I am, because there are more than 200 people in the lectures.
Despite the challenges of going to school and living on my own in New York City, I have really been enjoying my time here, and all the people I have met. My friends are always making fun of me for saying things like “on the Island” and when I talk about “going off-Island.” I forget that not everyone lives on Martha’s Vineyard, because I am constantly seeing people wearing Vineyard Vines. On a serious note, though, adjusting from life on the Island to New York City has been intense and incredibly rewarding. There’s no such thing as busywork here, and that just makes it so much more rewarding when you finish an assignment and know you put your best work into it. There are so many places and people here that have taught me so much outside of the classroom, and every day I am reaffirmed that I made the right decision in attending Barnard College.