Escaping Suburbia for the Big City

Joanna Adduci

Features Editor

I came to St. John’s from Long Island, land of the picket white fences and driveways showcasing the latest German automobiles. I grew up surrounded with the latest trends- fashion, electronics and even investments. I ventured to St. John’s to escape all of this. I didn’t want my life goals to
include real estate and a mini-van, instead I wanted to explore culture and language, and communicate with people who
challenged themselves. STJ students and staff prided themselves on love, respect, opportunity and a strong dedication to the exploration and appreciation of diversity. As a Journalism major, I couldn’t have chosen a better fit.
Four years later, I can say my life has truly changed. I have spent my time learning to explore numerous cultures and religions, and even instituted some values into my own beliefs. I thought I had seen it all, and experienced the height of diversity… until this week. On my way to Manhattan, I was stranded in a subway car for over an hour.“Train traffic,” the ominous voice from the speakers noted. Everyone in the subway car was equally as “delighted” as I was, if not more so. The first ten minutes were stagnant to say the least, and beady eyes began to explore the crowd housed inside the flock of faces. I was particularly curious about a young girl, no older than seven, who looked around with ease. “This happens sometimes,” she said. “We’ll be moving in no time.”
I sat in shock, as she rocked her head back and forth to the tunes blaring in her IPOD. I learned later that the little girl is in third grade, and has been a member of the subway trek for two years. “My mom has to work, so it’s my job to wake up and get to school. I wanna do good in school, my teacher said I’m gonna make it,” she exclaimed. We chatted for a while, and the woman across from us chimed in. “I’ve been taking the subway for over 20 years, and I’ve seen a lot of things in my day,” she said. Gertrude, 62, had come from Trinidad over 30 years ago, moving to New York for a better life.
“I started in a mail room, and worked my way up,” she said. “You’ll never get anywhere in this life if you don’t work for it.” I suddenly had a realization, I had been a subway rider for over six years, and never once stopped to look around me. I finally opened my eyes, and saw young children riding in their school clothes and backpacks, the “suits” reading their newspapers nodding as they turned the pages, families holding hands, swiftly working their way through the station. “You don’t see this on Long Island, do ya’ sweetie?” Gertrude smirked. I replied with a smile, and she knew it was all new to me.
The man next to me fiddled with his kindle, and decided he’d join in the conversation.
“I came from Peru ten years ago. It’s been hard, but my children are in school. They take the subway every day too, they know if they want a good life, they’re gonna have to work for it,” he said. Jorge, 46, has worked for a bakery in Manhattan since he came to New York, telling me he “loves the
people, and it pays the bills.” I was in awe of these people, who only an hour ago, were complete strangers. They opened their hearts, and shared their stories with me, and for that I am forever grateful.
An hour later, I said my goodbyes and exited the train car. Dumbfounded, I went through the morning over and over again in my mind. Suddenly, I was reminded of the reasons I came to St. John’s, and was overwhelmed with a sense of pride. Students of STJ hail from 99 countries, promoting equality and justice through the core values established over 100 years ago. As STJ students, we should strive to accept, appreciate and learn from everyone around us. Next time you’re passing through campus, or sitting on the subway, take a look around you and appreciate the members of the diverse metropolis crowned New York City.