Hi! My name is Colman! Nice to meet you. I’m a student enrolled at the University of Oregon, but I’m taking classes at Queens College through a program called the National Student Exchange. I’ve met so many new people here, and many of those first encounters have developed into friendships that I’m confident will outlast this experience. When I meet someone from the area, and they figure out I’m from Oregon, I’ll often get the response “What made you choose Queens?”
Those words by themselves sound pretty neutral, but imagine them being said in a more cynical tone. That’s the sentiment I perceive when people ask me that question – that there’s something depreciative about living in Queens.
My answer to that question doesn’t help. I usually say something along the lines of, “I just wanted to be as close to NYC as I could, so I chose Queens College.” That is accurate to a certain extent, and it unfortunately implies that I didn’t choose Queens for the college, but rather for its location.
I didn’t research Queens extensively before making the choice to come here. I did however look up the demographics of the student body. This place is so much more diverse than Eugene, Oregon, and I found that appealing when I was making my decision.
So an answer I could give in the future is that I chose Queens College because it’s urban and ethno-culturally diverse. But, I think an even better answer would be that I chose Queens College simply because it’s different from my suburban and homogenous background. I really just wanted something different. I certainly got what I wanted.
The day I checked into the Summit apartments on campus, I immediately began exploring the surrounding area. I walked down Main Street in search of food and I instantly recognized how everyone was wearing kippot, skull caps worn in public by Orthodox Jewish men or during prayer by some other Jewish men. I felt compelled to call my parents and tell them all about how different it was.
Later, my roommate and I had to buy supplies for our apartment. We looked at Google maps, and saw that there was a Target in downtown Flushing. So we walked to Skyview mall from campus, and as we walked, the crowds grew larger and the individuals became increasingly Chinese.
Eventually, Chinese characters were more common than English writing, and the sidewalks were packed. I’m sure many of you reading this are familiar with what I’m talking about, but to someone with an outsider’s perspective, it’s an incredible and unique experience to find out that our campus was sandwiched between a large Jewish community on one side and a large Asian community on the other.
I was also astounded by how many different things one can do around here. The cultural diversity brings in a lot of different, high-quality food. There are so many different parks and natural spaces like Fort Totten and the Botanical Gardens. There’s a lot of history represented in the local museums and the former world fair grounds. And, I don’t think I’ve even come close to exhausting the list of activities.
I understand that when someone lives in a place for a while, it can become mundane. The way a lot of students feel about Queens relative to other places, is how I often feel about Eugene. I’ve even talked about it in the same depreciative manner. But, I want to remind anyone reading this, that Queens is one of the most diverse and exciting places in the U.S. and that it should be celebrated.