Fear not, dear parents
One recent day in New York City, I was walking toward Washington Square Park with my Sunday paper when I was unpleasantly surprised to find the park overflowing with people. They were clustered in hives, talking, laughing and even crying. The sense of excitement, anxiety and sheer terror rising from the whole scene was unmistakable: NYU Orientation.
Only a year ago, I was part of the mayhem unfolding in the park. Now, lounging on a bench, I feel like I am watching a movie and know what will happen to the characters. The scene was identical to my own experience. I felt almost certain that my mother was hidden among the worried parents saying their last goodbyes.
All parents are anxious about their children going away to college. At NYU, parents become hysterical over the thought that they are leaving their child in New York City – not the city portrayed in the television sitcom Friends but the one from 1,100 Law and Order episodes.
The safety panic spares no guardian. Last year, my roommate’s mother would not leave until we each demonstrated that we could use each component of the Independent Woman safety kit. It included a pepper spray, flashlight, whistle and stun gun. She insisted that we carry all items at all times – unless we had locked the doors and were in bed under the covers.
My mother, on the other hand, tried to bribe my dorm security guy so he would call her if I did not come home by 8pm. And on the extreme end, the parents of one of my friends were so terrified by the idea of the big city that they convinced her to go to Boston University instead. Now, I see the same kind of hysteria in the eyes of these parents in Washington Square Park.
Well, dear parents, as an NYU veteran, I can assure you that you’re probably worrying too much about the dangers of college life in the big city.
Despite the stereotypes, safety is hardly an issue with eight million people in New York. Not bumping elbows when walking down the street is a rare luxury. I have gone to the deli at 3am and met three classmates as well as one of my professors jogging with his dog. Not that a city isn’t full of potentially dangerous places, but sensible college students are highly unlikely to find themselves in one.
I know, dear parents, that in your nightmares you see your baby alone in a dark alley, trying to find his or her way back to the dorm. There are a few reasons why this scenario is unrealistic.
First of all, it’s not typical in many big cities to find the all-American college parties where free-flowing alcohol makes its way to minors. Near NYU, the only places that do not require IDs are brightly lit Mexican-Chinese diners where intoxication by the appetizers is more likely than by the miniscule amount of alcohol in the cocktails.
In addition, most freshmen travel in packs. So even if your daughter is attending a party more than two blocks away from her dorm, she will be accompanied by her three suitemates, the guys across the hall, and the girls from upstairs.
Most colleges, even big-city schools such as NYU, are safe communities. Despite the lack of an enclosed campus, security at NYU is ubiquitous and very real. Rest assured that your teenager will not only survive in the city but also fearlessly explore and learn from the cultural metropolis. Dear parents, you are not abandoning your children in any way.
I wanted to share my wisdom with the couple next to me in Washington Square Park, crying silently as their daughter walked toward her dorm. But just as I was about to open my mouth, my phone rang. It was my mother. I barely managed to say hello before she started ranting about my credit card bill. After 20 minutes on the phone, I was wishing for the times she was too worried about my safety to notice my spending sprees. Thanks a lot, Mom.
Bulgarian Veronika Kamenova, a sophomore at NYU, often visits her sister, who resides in Beijing, so she can stock up on Chinese ingredients for cooking, her passion.