Monday, March 05, 2007

I go to school in New York

Naming the place you go to school rather than the school itself is the classic affectation of those who go to Harvard or Yale (with Princeton being located, well, in Princeton). But in my case, I really do feel that I go to school in New York far more than I have any sense of which school exactly I attend. Sure, I'm quite aware of both of my departments, not to mention the library, but I'm still not sure what makes NYU NYU. Aside from a special fondness for leggings as pants among the women and a thankful lack of preppiness overall, I don't yet have a real sense of the undergraduate population--presumably once I start teaching, this will change. But it's more than that--UChicago has an overarching, all-encompassing reputation for a certain way of thinking, acting, and dressing, which, for better or worse, extends from the most precocious 17-year-old first-year up to the senior members of the Committee on Social Thought. I'm sure part of my sense comes from being a grad student at NYU and thus missing something of the personality as seen by undergrads, but, I mean, who are the undergrads? They blend in so well with local high school seniors, tourists, and other college kids home for break that I have little sense which ones belong to the university and which do not.

From what I can tell, what holds NYU together is almost entirely its location. While the city itself is not the main draw for, say, the law school or many of the graduate programs, including the one I'm in, it's the most salient one for the university overall.

From what I understand, the idea that a university should have a personality, and better yet, one that, as the result of a delicate and arduous College Process, mirrors your own, is a very American one. Chicago and I may well be similar creatures, but I'm getting to like the NYU way of doing whatever it is you do without an implied approach or aesthetic.


Anonymous said...

The Princeton version of this affectation was (is?): "I go to a small college in New Jersey." And once upon a time, NYU's main campus was in the Bronx. Not the same panache. -- JM

Sarah said...

Very interesting to read. I'm a high school senior considering NYU and Indiana U for next year. I found your blog through some other Jewish-related one, but I'm very interested in French and Francophone culture too...and of course, the interesection of those two interests, so yeah..

Pete said...

Incidentally, I've heard the same thing from folks at MIT and Duke. The MIT alumna explained that she'd said she went to school "in Boston" because "saying I went to school in Cambridge would be pretentious."