Every fall, over 26,000 undergraduate students migrate to New York City from all across the globe all to attend New York University and reap the opportunities that come from living in New York. But Covid-19 hit New York harder than any other U.S. city, yet some freshmen happily decided to move to New York and attend a few blended classes in a ghost town.
“I always tell my friends that I am blessed, we are blessed to be here right now,” said Juan Diego Becerra, 18, of Irvine, California. “It’s New York. It’s the capital of the world. Even though there’s not as much to do as there was before, I know that there’s so many things still to do, so many people to meet. I love New York, right now, as it is.”
Becerra was unsure if he was going to be able to study in New York this semester. All the travel restrictions stopped many NYU students from returning to campus.
“At the time, I was living in Colombia, and so many of the airports were closed,” said Becerra. But after much effort to leave Colombia, Becerra is now in New York, and has been since August.
“It was totally worth it for me to come to the city,” said Becerra. “I met friends, got a chance to hang out with new people, and even go to in-person classes for a bit. Also, the rooftops!”
Becerra has not lost faith in the city.
“New York is going to recover, but it’s going to take time,” said Becerra. “People have left, so that means not many people are spending money, hurting the economy. I think recovery will take a while, at least one year, but it will definitely recover.”
Riley Griem, 18, came to New York starstruck, having grown up in the small town of Exoder, New Hampshire.
“After Covid, I didn’t expect to come here at all, so I am actually really thankful we got to come to campus,” said Griem. “But obviously everything is still shut down.”
Griem’s New York is one of masked pedestrians and shuttered businesses.
“Seeing New York like this, it’s never going to happen again, where it’s so dead at night,” said Griem.
But she finds wonder in the quiet of the city.
“You can go to Times Square and there’s no one there,” she said. “It is kind of eerie, but it is also beautiful because you can take in the city for what it is.”
Griem’s love for the city has lasted since her childhood dreams to one day live in New York. And now that she’s here, she is not taking any opportunity for granted.
“To describe pre-Covid New York in three words, I would say lively, diverse, and full of opportunities,” said Griem. “New York during Covid is barren, but still opportunistic and still beautiful.”
The ability to recognize the everlasting beauty and resiliency of New York is not something many people can do. Griem has seen beyond the restrictions to appreciate everything New York has to offer.
“Either way, even with the shutdowns, the opportunities are still there, and I know that hopefully soon everything will clear up,” said Griem. “Just being here in general, going down to the promenade and looking at Manhattan and just thinking ‘I live here,’ like that’s insane. It’s a hub for literally everything. Just because things are online doesn’t mean everything is gone.”
Students coming from far away may still find beauty in the new, quiet New York, but native New Yorkers are struggling.
Matias Fernandez Sasso, 18, of Manhattan spent his whole life in the city. But the transition from the New York he has known to one stricken by the coronavirus was difficult for him to adjust to.
“I had alway thought that going to college in New York would be the same as living here,” said Sasso.
But the New York of today is very different to that of Sasso’s childhood.
“One of New York’s selling points is that everything is open late, always, said Sasso. “While things are opening up again, it is still pretty bad.”
However, he sees some advantages to the new calm.
“It’s actually kind of nice to see the city empty,” said Sasso. “You can go to Times Square and it’s not packed. You can explore all the touristy areas and they’re empty. It’s a huge change.”