For Thanksgiving Break, I, unfortunately, was not able to go back to my home in Hong Kong but rather I was able to go visit New York City for the first time. The transition from being in Burlington exclusively for 4 months and then traveling to a big city like New York City for an entire week was drastic. The feeling of being in a city again was weird almost foreign to me. I was able to hear an abundance of languages that I have not heard since I have come to UVM such as Cantonese, a language I used to hear every day in Hong Kong. But as the week went on the chaos that the city created became like home to me again. The buildings and skyscrapers that Burlington lacks with the reduced amount of “natural areas” that Vermont has an abundance of became natural to me again and I was no longer overwhelmed. During my time there, I was able to see and experience different parts of New York. I stayed in Soho near Times Square Central Park but I also was able to travel to Brooklyn and the Bronx which are very different from each other even though they are all right next to each other. The idea that even though they are in the same city but have different ambiances may seem weird but to me that just makes sense.
The city is very artificial in its structure with all its buildings and in its infrastructure. The subway line especially, which was my main form of transportation during my time in New York City was definitely the part of the city that I connected the most to. Since I was only a visitor for a short time trying to experience as much as I can, a majority of my time was spent in the city’s underground, in its subway and in a way I was able to experience the true “New York experience”. The sounds of trains passing, the conversations happening around me in English, French, Mandarin, Spanish, even Russian and German, and even the grime that encompasses the old underground tunnels and trains proving that there was history in the places that I was in even though I had never been there at all, all combined into my experience there. It was almost like I was coming back home towards the end of my trip. But that did not come without changes in my thinking towards cities. Central Park, prior to UVM, was a prime example of a large natural area but I no longer think of it as one. Walking through Central Park all I could think about was its structure and how the paths, the roads, and even the shape of the lake just seemed artificial to me. To me, the only reason for Central Park being right in the middle of the city was due to pure aesthetics and to attract more people into the city. Before this, however, I would’ve taken the naturalistic perspective and taken it as almost like a nature reserve in the middle of the city.
As of right now, I’m slowly developing a new sense of place towards cities. I still consider them my home and where I belong but the comfort I have towards them has changed. I feel almost overwhelmed and nervous when the thought of going back to the city comes up but I’m excited at the same time. If this what I feel after just the first semester of living here I’m almost scared to think about what will happen in the future. I have always placed myself in the mindset of someone from a large city but I’m also slowly integrating the mindset of a person from a suburb or even a small rural area. I’m beginning to enjoy seeing nature everywhere I go and I hope that sight never goes away.