This University is the Ivy League of continuing education.

Tuition is free at NYSU (The New York Streets University), but you pay big bucks for room and board. NYSU doesn’t require a minimum GPA, conducts no exams, and awards no degrees. But attendance is mandatory because there are no online classes at NYSU. Here are some life lessons I learned as a first-year student at NYSU.

The only constant in life is change: I was excited to watch my first July 4th fireworks by just going downstairs. The street was packed with people who had come in early to get to the vantage points. But once the fireworks finally started, a strange phenomenon unfolded. A mass exodus of these very people, walking away, barely looking at the skies. New Yorkers are always in a rush to get to the next happening place.  

Stereotyping can be tricky: Sadly, you see many mentally challenged rambling people on the NYSU campus, and the other students stay clear of them. Once I saw them scurrying away from a young, agitated man who was asking something. He was getting angrier as people ignored him. Soon it was my turn. He asked, “Ma’am, can you please tell me where the nearest pizza shop is?” He was not angry, just hangry. Ashamed of my stereotyping, the next time, I gave the benefit of the doubt to a well-dressed but rambling six-foot man and stayed on the same street. Then, he suddenly lunged at a young girl who luckily ran away like a gazelle. I stumbled across the street too.     

Always mind your own business: I once saw a man sitting on the steps of a church with a trickle emerging from beneath him. By the time I reached him, the trickle had begun flowing across the street. We locked eyes, and he seemed to say, I’m minding my business; you mind yours. So I stepped over the trickle and went my way. 

The downside of smiling at strangers: I recently smiled warmly at a well-dressed bearded Indian man, and he asked me to stop. He said he was a psychic and could predict my future by looking at my face, and things didn’t look good. He wouldn’t let me go and began making all kinds of predictions. Then, just as my patience was running out, he took a small notebook from his pocket and asked me to place a hundred dollars in it. There was a sinister glint in his eye, so I gave him a tenner and ran for life.  

NYPD is more than just a police force: Once, it took all my courage to walk past two heavily armed cops mansplaining the entire street. As I squeezed past them, I overheard one cop telling the other,” I always cook the meat and vegetables separately; it doesn’t get soggy that way.”  

911 ain’t quick enough: As I was waiting for the light to change to cross the street, a man standing there asked me if I would call 911 for him. He seemed okay, so I asked him if he was serious. He said, “yes, I was just assaulted,” As I reached for my phone from my bag, he said never mind and ran away. I saw him chatting with another passer-by on the next street. 

Elegance is an attitude: The Longines slogan is true. During my morning walks, I pass by the UN and see a man sleeping on the streets. I have never seen his face because his blanket is always drawn over him. But he has clean sheets, a pillow, a thin mattress, and even a large umbrella to ward off the morning sun from hitting his face.  And there is always a thick book and a journal with a pen by his bedside. An NYSU senior, perhaps?   

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