Signing off 2016 had to be special. Going back to grad school, moving continents away from family — 2016 was a year of life-changing decisions for me, and it was all quite overwhelming. Winter break couldn’t have been more welcome! I took the chance to reconnect with my closest family in this country and enjoy a wintry sojourn on the East Coast.
I had been well warned about the harshness of the East Coast winter before I landed at Newark. And for the next 10 days, I experienced it firsthand. I got used to the constant weight of the winter layers on me as I navigated through the perpetual cold, like every other New Yorker.
The first day I walked around New York City, I instantly fell in love with it. There is something indescribably beautiful about the city that can only be felt if you walk the myriad streets. Every corner you turn, there are chances you’ll stumble upon a famous street, a monument, a museum, a towering skyscraper or a well known landmark that has witnessed a history waiting to be shared. It might seem all too familiar, with the landscape in the background in one too many films. But still, the novelty of it arrests you when you become a part of it.
Treated to a 360 degree panoramic view of the NYC Skyline from atop the Freedom tower, I soaked in the enormity of New York’s footprint on the map. Walking over the famous Brooklyn Bridge, vainly trying to shield myself from the chilly breeze from the East river, while the decades old steel-wires stood unfazed, I realized how small we seemed in comparison to what we built ourselves! While debating whether to join the giggling crowd of tourists waiting to get a chance to grab a “little something” of the Wall Street Bull for luck, I reasoned that every custom, no matter how stupid or irrational, adds to the beautiful culture of a place. Strolling along the famous streets of the city bustling with the Christmas crowd, I was lost in awe as every other nook and corner delighted me with its extravagant and pompous display of colors and lights. As I stood in Times Square, taking in the dazzling show of Billboards, bustling with people from all corners of the globe, I understood why people saw it as the crossroads of the world.
On board the ferry to Liberty Island, I held my breath as the famous Statue of Liberty finally loomed into focus against the magnificent backdrop made by the New York City Skyline. Listening to the captivating stories of millions of immigrants from all over the world, documented at Ellis Island, I wondered about the history of this country that welcomed them all, the people that arrived here and made it their home. Walking across the sprawling Central Park on a rainy morning, trying to desperately hold on to my umbrella, I was distracted by the still, pure serenity of the wilderness. Getting lost amidst the endless array of art collections at The Met, I took to the museum map to point me to the “must-not-miss” sections and returned having contented myself with the works of Monet, Van Gogh and other special exhibits. Trying to make my way through the flood of people to catch my train at the famous Penn Station gave me that quintessential New York feeling that only the locals seem to chase.
And finally, I bid adieu to 2016, at home with cousins and family, watching the ball drop and wondering what new things the upcoming year has in store for me. Now back home in L.A., as the spring semester is ready to unroll, I am happy I took the break to quell the longing of family connection and slake my wanderlust. Another semester of messed-up routines and crazy schedules, but this time, I feel better equipped, ’cause I’ve learned to be a Trojan and to do things the Trojan way – Fight On!
Shruthi Hiriyuru is a graduate student majoring in computer science. Her column, Trojan Postcards, runs every other week on Thursday.