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Expanding Myself out of the Library


“GET YOUR GATSBY ON, Roar back to the ‘20s-and the Jazz Age- on Governors Island…. The 1920s come to life at the Jazz Age lawn Party on Governors Island, where folks dance to the Dreamland Orchestra….”  This statement is from an article in New York Post issued on August 6th, 2010 about the Jazz Age Lawn Party.  During this event many New Yorkers came out and enjoyed reliving the 1920s.  The Jazz Age Lawn Party, where people brought 1920s’ fashion, dance, and music, showed the fabulous New York scene.

When it comes to studying in America, many advantages come to mind including studying English, getting a Bachelor or Master Degree, or even getting a job.  Besides these good points, there is another main reason people come to America across the Pacific Ocean.  That reason is to experience American culture and society.  No matter where one goes, learning about a new culture, and meeting new people are interesting prospects. 

Within America, specifically, in New York City (NYC), there exist many special attractions  such as Broadway, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Wall Street, SoHo, Chinatown, Jazz, and many more.  As many people know, this city is full of vibrant life and adventure, hence it is nicknamed ‘the city that never sleeps’.  So in this column what I want to do is to give some useful information by showing what an exchange student of Stony Brook University (SBU) has done to experience the vigorous New York life.

Similar to the Jazz Age Lawn Party, NYC is filled with brisk events and fantastic shows.  It is very common to find people showing and performing their talent on the stage and on the street every day.  Even at this very moment while you are reading this column, there are many fun events taking place in the center of the city right now.  But the problem is how we find the information about those events.  Do we find this information from newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, or the Internet?  I have realized a lot of New Yorkers use some websites to look for fun activities.  Below I add some useful websites that you can use to find events and restaurants in NYC.


Name Adress Purpose
New York Timeout   http://newyork.timeout.com Events & Foods
Gothamist  http://gothamist.com Events
Citysearch  http://newyork.citysearch.com Events
Yelp  http://www.yelp.com/nyc Foods
EATER  http://ny.eater.com/ Foods



The fact that we have many events and people in the city lures musicians and dancers.  Therefore there are a lot of jazz musicians in the city.  NYC can be viewed as a heaven for people who love jazz music.  You can easily find very talented musicians and performers in popular bars, public art centers, on the street, and even on subway platforms all over Manhattan.  Here my hobby of Swing dancing comes into play.  Swing is a type of paired-dancing that originates from New York City in the 1920s that incorporates swing jazz music, a branch of jazz music.  Swing gave me many opportunities not only to make friends with some of the famous musicians and dancers from all over the world, but also to join in many different events such as The Mermaid Parade (http://www.coneyisland.com/mermaid.shtml), Taste of Time Square (http://www.timessquarenyc.org/about_us/events_taste.html), Midsummer Night Swing (http://new.lincolncenter.org/live/index.php/swing-2010), and Jazz Age Lawn Party.

From these kinds of events, I have learned a lot more about how people in NYC find ways to have fun.  Additionally, I started teaching people swing in several places, such as Swing46, Session73 Jazz Club, and Frim Fram Swing Studio, and Dardo Galletto Studio.  Needless to say, teaching people swing in New York City was an amazing experience for me.  Despite the fact that sometimes people would judge me based on my proficiency in English or my ethnicity, they would also quickly reconsider their judgment soon after they have gotten to know me more. 

What I have concluded is if people have something in common, they can always outweigh the difference of language or ethnicity, and become friends.  There are many hobbies such as playing musical instruments, solo dancing, couple dancing, theatrical performances, and many others that could link you with different people all around the world, and help you experience a life free of prejudice.  To me, this is swing.

In every event that I have participated in, I always saw volunteers helping out at the events.  People in NYC are very versatile; on one hand, they value their time very dearly but, on the other hand, they are willing to spend their time and efforts helping out at events and public service-related activities.  I was really impressed with the people’s spontaneous attitude and atmosphere.  Then I decided to join them to see how the volunteering system works in NYC.                                           

There are so many non-profit volunteer organizations; New York Cares: www.newyorkcares.org, Volunteer Match: www.VolunteerMatch.org, NYC Service: www.nycservice.org

On July 2010 I joined the volunteer organization called New York Cares.  To join this organization, people have to participate in an orientation for about an hour.  After that, volunteers search for projects on the website, and find the project they like. The organization manages about 1,000 projects each month that provide a lifeline of support for vulnerable children, adults, and communities.  Each project is led by a volunteer leader and people who have volunteered for a long time and are specially trained. 

Anyone is welcome to be part of them and anyone could apply to be a leader.  The number of team members depends on the project, and the team moves on under the command of the leader.  A lot of people do community service in New York, especially in Manhattan.  Their contribution to the nurturing and development of society has been tremendous.  It can even be said that volunteers’ power is very influential in American society. 

In fact, the scope of this activity is beyond just volunteering.  People normally get together after the task and make their own groups.  Then next time they work together in the same or the other programs.  Volunteering is like a social meeting.  It was a great way to meet various people who I could not meet at school and be able to get used to American culture more through volunteer. 

There are a great number of events to enjoy in NYC.  Even in SBU a lot of events are going on as well.  SBU has about 150 registered clubs, and in total more than 200 clubs including the unregistered ones.  It seems like finding non-existing clubs is more difficult.  Ultimately, it means that we have a lot of opportunities to get involved with many different things.  Recently I have got involved in several clubs at SBU.  I believe that joining the clubs is also a way to explore American culture as well.

Everyone gets  24 hours in a day; it is the same for everybody and we all have only that much time.  As students, some people prefer to use their time for academic things like studying for exams or preparing for classes. 

However, I highly encourage you to try to be more active and experience as much as you can while you have the chance.  And how do you do that, you might ask? Well the first thing to do is to take a step out of the library.  I am sure that you will see the Big Apple to fill your life with fabulous varieties.  I am still hungry for new experiences, so I am now on my way.





Nam Tae-wook  1stnamti@naver.com

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