Editor’s note: Cassi Niedziela graduated last May as the valedictorian of the Glen Rose High School Class of 2017. She is attending New York University majoring in global public health and sociology, with a minor in social and public policy. She is writing for the Glen Rose Reporter about her experiences. She can be reached at cassiniedziela@gmail.com.

NEW YORK CITY — Before coming to NYU, countless people warned me of the challenges that would arise as a result of the great distance between Glen Rose, Texas and New York City, and people continue to ask me about how it feels to be in such a large city that is so far from home.

Being 1,639 miles from home has been an experience like no other, and I am extremely happy with the choices I have made; however, nothing is always rainbows and butterflies. I get asked a lot if I ever feel lonely in New York, and my response is how could I not? I imagine I feel as lonely as any other person in any other city. Loneliness is not a phenomenon particular of Manhattan.

I must admit that being away from home for holidays and birthdays has been challenging at times, and I miss being able to see my parents and little brothers every day, but I am so thankful for this wonderful opportunity that I have been given. It can be easy to get caught up in all of the things I’m “missing out” on that I forget to focus on the things of which I can actually be a part.

Despite the challenges of not being able to come home and see my family often, I really feel like I have become very independent and confident with myself. I am pursuing my passions without fear of what others may think, I am embracing myself for who I am, and I am learning how to put myself first.

I am currently the Secretary for NYU’s chapter of Amnesty International, which has allowed me to collaborate with others who share a passion for human rights, and it has enabled me to travel to Albany and various places in New York City in order to learn how to lobby and advocate for the rights of others.

I also work at a junior high on the Lower East Side as a math tutor, which has allowed me to learn more about inner city schools and resource allocation within the education system.

Both of these things have strengthened my love for politics and public policy, and I have made wonderful friendships in both places.

I also really enjoy exploring the city by myself. Lately, I have been going for walks by the Hudson River and in Greenwich Village, which has enabled me to rediscover the city in a more intimate way.

I find it very comforting to be alone in a crowded coffee shop or to sit on a park bench and watch the people go by. It is almost effortless to get lost in the rat race of New York that I forget to stop and take a break, so I am working on stopping and smelling the roses, or more precisely, stopping and listening to the subway performers.

The sheer number of people in New York is both overwhelming and comforting. There is always something to do and someone to meet, and because of these features, I have found many communities within NYU and New York City in general.

Despite being in such a large city, I almost always run into someone I know when I’m out and about, and I know that there will always be people I can turn to when I need help.

My friends here are from all over the world, so it is also comforting to be surrounded by people that are going through the same things as me. We may not be able to go home often, but we always have each other to turn to when we’re feeling down. We all share the same passion for New York City, and looking at the city through the eyes of others allows us to fall in love with the city in different ways.

On my first trip to New York, I fell in love with the lights of the city and the electric energy in the streets, but now I have fallen in love with the way the lights twinkle on the Hudson River at night, and the way the familiarity of the cracks in the sidewalk make it feel like home.

Every once in a while, I may miss the wide-open spaces and the all-consuming Texas sky, but all of the idiosyncrasies of Manhattan make it feel like the place I am supposed to be.