First of all, happy holidays! 2017 has certainly been an interesting year for our nation and our world, and I wish everyone a joyous and prosperous new year!

I was not able to come back to Texas this Thanksgiving, but I had the privilege of staying in one of my new best friend’s homes in Summit, New Jersey! 

The leaves on the trees were so beautiful in Jersey, and when I came back to New York, the leaves had changed colors in the city as well. Summit is a very nice town, and my friend’s family was so welcoming. We made a massive amount of food for Thanksgiving, and we even had teriyaki tofu! I also went Black Friday shopping for the first time this year!

After coming back from New Jersey, final exam season was rapidly approaching, but my friends and I made time to attend Flurry, NYU’s annual event that involves free ice skating in Central Park! We took a double decker bus from campus to Central Park, and were then able to skate around Wollman Rink with hundreds of other NYU students. 

It was very fun, and my friends and I learned the hard way that we are absolutely horrendous ice skaters.

After burning quite a substantial number of calories from repetitively slipping at the ice rink, we decided to walk to the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center. Hunger overcame, and we made a brief detour to the oh-so-authentic Olive Garden in Times Square, and then we walked to M&M World across the street. 

After dinner, we walked back to Rockefeller Plaza and saw all of the classic New York holiday spots including the giant ornaments across from Radio City Music Hall and holiday window displays on Fifth Avenue. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was absolutely dazzling and every bit as iconic as the movies make it out to be.

Typically, during the holiday season, a Christmas tree is erected under the arch in Washington Square Park, which my dorm overlooks, but this year, an art installation by Ai Weiwei took its place. 

The artwork is ironically titled “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” and is meant to showcase the global migration and refugee crisis, as well as the rising sense of nationalism around the world. As a result of the art installation, the Christmas tree was moved further in front of the arch, and on Dec. 6, there was a tree lighting ceremony. 

The lights on the tree were absolutely beautiful, especially when viewed at an angle that showcased the tree, the arch, and the Empire State Building. Washington Square Park also features a giant menorah for Hanukkah.

On Dec. 9, it snowed for the first time, and New York City in the snow is truly like a real-life winter wonderland. The park was covered in a blanket of freshly-fallen snow, the air was filled with flurries and excitement, and my friends and I were filled with joy. However, I must admit that New York is all fun and games until you’re blindly walking down the street while snow is blowing into your face, and you can no longer feel your toes. It was certainly a character-building experience, as well as an experience that immediately prompted me to purchase proper snow boots and more scarves. 

It snowed several more times before the end of the semester, and looking out my window to see sheets of ice and snow was a wonderful break from studying for my final exams.

I am very thankful for the opportunity to live and study in New York City. In January, I will be taking a class about politics and public policy at NYU’s campus in Washington, D.C.! 

I look forward to another great semester, but for now, I am very happy to be able to spend time with my wonderful family and friends for the holidays!

Cassi Niedziela can be reached at cassiniedziela@gmail.com.