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An Honors Program Tradition: Fall Break in The Big Apple

Pictured left to right: Hunter Brown, Patrick Finkbiner, Charlie Pletzke, and Kanv Khare stand together at the top of the Empire State Building.
Pictured left to right: Hunter Brown, Patrick Finkbiner, Charlie Pletzke, and Kanv Khare stand together at the top of the Empire State Building

This fall, the University Honors Program (UHP) sent 42 curious students to New York City (NYC) to participate in holistic fall break programming. These students had the opportunity to apply their curiosities in cultural settings while participating in what is a UHP fall break tradition of 22 years. 

This trip was originally led by the University Scholars Program’s Scholars Council, a program which merged with the original University Honors Program in 2022 to form today’s UHP. Having become a beloved tradition for the program, visiting NYC is a rite of passage for many UHP students. 

The UHP specializes in encouraging students to seek experiences outside of their comfort zone. This allows for the expansion of worldviews, personal development and enhanced professional competency. 

Lily Mersel saw this trip as an opportunity to explore diverse perspectives in the Big Apple, saying, “I felt like I was able to gain multiple perspectives on life through the different areas we visited. I examined how they look and operate in their own unique ways: the hustle of Times Square, the calmness of Greenwich Village, and the sense of community in Chinatown just to name a few.”

Learning to immerse themselves in various cultural settings allowed UHP students to develop a broader sense of global community. Globalization was a cornerstone of this year’s trip, with students having the opportunity to see two world-renowned art and history museums, the MOMA and the Met. These museums gave students the ability to personally interact with the history of international cultures.

Tia Meredith was moved by these experiences, saying, “The art and history museums [MOMA and The Met] expanded my knowledge on Egyptian civilization, and the continents of China and India. The Egyptian temple, evening Broadway shows, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Chinatown and the Top of the Rock captivated me the most.”

Meredith’s reflection demonstrates the inherent thrill associated with NYC. From enriching museums to mind-boggling skylines, the Big Apple continually amazes. 

For some, NYC exposed them to new and exciting ways of life. Sarah Emrich reflected on her changed perspective, saying, “I really enjoyed exploring the different cultures within Little Italy and Chinatown and the city atmosphere of New York. I feel like my perspective of the city has changed completely; it was much more exciting than I previously expected since I’d never been to a big city before.”

Sarah Emrich and Riya Kannan stand in front of a brightly lit NYC skyline.

By continuing to take UHP students to NYC, the program is ensuring that students have the ability and experiences to challenge their former worldviews and develop increasingly flexible growth mindsets. 

Thusna Gardiyehewa found herself immersed in a city that supports many diverse cultures, and described her experiences engaging with these cultures with enthusiasm, “It was amazing to be in NYC, to have the chance to try authentic foods and be immersed in culture from other parts of the world. I am still thinking about how I would love to live there… It is really inspiring.”

While many UHP students had the opportunity to learn about others, some felt that they were seen and appreciated in new ways while in NYC. This introspection is best demonstrated by RJ Taylor, who shared,I’m still thinking about the Broadway performance of Kimberly Akimbo because I felt recognized for my own struggles and the message was empowering.”

Broadway shows are a pinnacle of the UHP’s annual NYC trip, with students in the program this year having the opportunity to see three shows, including “Kimberly Akimbo,” “The Play that Goes Wrong” and “Purlie Victorious.” These performances made lasting impressions on many of the travelers. 

For Alivia Dickenson, they were a highlight of her trip. She shared, “I enjoyed this trip so much and am so grateful for the opportunity to have gone. I really enjoyed the Broadway shows and cannot get over how funny Kimberly Akimbo and The Play That Goes Wrong were.”

There is no doubt that this staple trip is transformative and impactful for many UHP students. Benjamin Grizio reflects, “The biggest thing that I learned was the fact that there are so many different individuals and lifestyles and that as you grow up you begin to build your life and experiences.”