Girl on Fire: How NYC and Princeton compare to Iowa
[As seen in Creston News Advertiser, November 5, 2015]
I walked out of the glass doors onto a large piece of triangle pavement and a sudden wave of the smell of garbage, grime and pollution slammed into me. The smell, however, was accompanied by a view of stories-tall buildings with lights flashing and painted words on the walls.
Unfortunately, my first minute of New York City wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences, but that only made the rest of the trip that much more amazing.
I had the opportunity to travel to New York City, New York, and Princeton, New Jersey, from Friday to Sunday to see my cousin play football and to be a tourist. It was an amazing experience I wouldn’t have been able to have without the help of my parents, Craig and Karen.
I attended my EMT class in Corning Thursday until 10 p.m., drove home to shower and feed the cat and then drove up to Des Moines. I got several hours of sleep before it was time to wake up and catch our flight to Newark, New Jersey.
That first day we spent several hours in NYC mostly walking around with awed expressions on our faces, the typical look of a tourist, I imagine, and saw Times Square and Rockefeller Plaza.
That night we went to dinner at the house of a Princeton professor who is friends with my aunt and uncle, Rhonda and Tim Arends. It was probably some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. The following day Rhonda gave us a tour of the Princeton University campus, which, according to a Huffington Post article citing the Princeton Review, is ranked ninth in the nation for most beautiful college campus by college students. My favorite building was the chapel, which had two stories of stained glass windows.
After the tour we hit up a high-class tailgate complete with Grey Goose and a Cajun-style seafood boil. It was the smallest tailgate I’ve ever been to, yet just as fun as a Hawkeyes tailgate thanks to great company in the form of my family. Then came the football game, where my cousin Matt Arends and his team of Tigers pummeled the Cornell football players, followed by great food at an eating club (one of many campus buildings similar to a fraternity for students) and drinks with family at a sit-down bar in Princeton Proper.
Sunday was spent back in the loud, sparkling place that is NYC. During those few hours we wandered the streets of Chinatown and Little Italy, and we caught a tourist bus around the downtown loop with one stop at the sacred 9/11 memorial. We also saw the Statue of Liberty from an extreme distance before beating the clock and barely catching our plane back to Des Moines at 8 p.m.
The constant movement in New York and the New England charm in Princeton really made me realize just how much I actually enjoy Iowa. NYC had so much to offer and I want to plan a trip back very soon, but the number of people was overwhelming, as were the continuous waves of vehicles, animals and people all over the streets.
Princeton was a quiet city in comparison, with charm not unlike that of Iowa City in my mind, but I felt extremely out of place around people who thought where I went to college impacted how I ranked in the hierarchy.
When I woke up Monday, with the warm yellow sunshine filtering through my window and a light breeze blowing, I realized these are my people. This is the type of place I want to fit in, where we get along despite our educational background or what we do for a living. We get along because we all fit together, and diversity doesn’t hold us back.