Ashley Argota talks about her semester at NYU and gives valuable advice to those starting out in college in this interview with Hollywood Teen Zine.
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Nickelodeon star Ashley Argota left her hometown of Los Angeles and moved 3,000 miles away from her friends and family to attend the prestigous NYU in New York City. We caught up with Ashley as she shared her experience moving away from home, living in a dorm and the challenges she faced taking college level classes. Keep reading to find out all about Ashley’s first semester at NYU!
NYU was your first choice college, how did you celebrate when you got the acceptance letter? I was actually getting ready to go to rehearsals for interviewing people on the orange carpet for Kids Choice Awards that year. I got the email in the morning before I left my house, and it said I had gotten in. I screamed SO loud, I was way too excited. And when I got to rehearsals I literally told everyone there! It was fun to share the news with everyone and celebrate the day with them. After rehearsals, mom and I went to my favorite crepe restaurant and got strawberry and nutella crepes. I had been dreaming about going to NYU since I was 10, it felt so surreal that I actually got accepted.
Was it hard leaving your family behind in Los Angeles to move to New York City by yourself for a semester? YES! It wasn’t that bad when I first got to New York– I was obviously excited and ready to start a new chapter in my life. But after a couple days, I already missed home! Being on your own is fun but it comes with a lot of responsibility. I was in charge of my whole schedule, I had to get myself meals (mom wasn’t there to cook!), and I did my own laundry (mom wasn’t there for laundry either– WOMP WOMP). It made me miss home. I think a lot of people take for granted the things their parents do for them until they’re not there anymore to make meals and help with laundry. When I came home and mom cooked for me, I was so excited! There really is no place like home.
How did you prepare for the move? I tried to only take necessities with me. I lived in a dorm and I knew it was going to be small, so I couldn’t take my entire closet with me. I honestly only brought clothes with me, then bought everything for my dorm when I got to the city! I came with four luggages, each with a paper inside and a diagram telling me what was inside each suitcase and where everything was. I tried to be very organized.
What were some of the necessities that you packed to take with you? People are going to think I’m crazy for this, but here it goes: I took pepper spray and a stun gun with me to college. The world is a very scary place, and it was my first time being on my own, so mom took me to the spy store and bought me things to defend myself if something ever happened to me. Thankfully, I never had to use any of them, but it always made me feel safer walking around, knowing that I had pepper spray if anyone tried to harm me in any way! The stun gun was pretty scary though– I don’t think I ever took it out of the box. But I kept it in the drawer closest to my bed, just in case!
You decided to get the full college experience by moving into the freshman dorms, what made you choose to live in a dorm instead of getting your own apartment in the city? I didn’t get the full high school experience because I was working on my music for the first couple years of high school, then I was on True Jackson for the last two years of high school! I was home schooled starting in 7th grade. I didn’t get to go to a real prom– I didn’t stuff my books in my locker and walk to class with my friends. I had a desk, a computer, and my curriculum online, and that was really the only school I knew for five years. When it came down to choosing a dorm over an apartment, I just felt like a dorm was a right of passage at college. I wanted to make sure I got the full college experience. A lot of people I talked to said it was a great way to make friends since I’d be constantly surrounded by students. I’m really glad I ended up choosing the dorm. It was small but I loved being in such a “college” environment!
Were you nervous meeting your roommates? EXTREMELY NERVOUS. I was so concerned that I wasn’t going to get along with them! But I could not be more wrong. I roomed with two other girls, Amna and Amy, and we became instant friends. They had my back from day one. The first day I got there, I met someone on my floor and she recognized me, and when I left to go to the store she told my roommate she wanted to see inside the room so she could see the pictures I had up, but my roommate said no because she didn’t want anyone to invade my space. And when I came home, that girl told our entire floor about me and they were all sitting outside of my room waiting for me! It was insane. But what I loved about my roommates was that they weren’t like the rest of the people on my floor. They didn’t treat me any differently because I was on a TV show, they treated me (and continue to treat me) like a normal person, which I love. It’s easy to be myself around them. We have fun. We also don’t like going to parties or doing anything crazy, so a lot of times we would just hang out and go to dinner or to the movies or something. It was super easy to live with them. Those girls are two of my best friends– I got really lucky.
What is your declared major and how did you choose it? I’m in the College of Nursing at NYU. I wanted something that wasn’t acting, just so I had a backup plan in life. Show business is so unpredictable. What if, in ten years, I can’t get an acting job? Having a second plan is really important to me. Medicine has always been something I’ve been interested in. When I was little I used to watch trauma shows and surgeries on TV. And my mom is a nurse, so I guess medicine sort of runs in the family. I wanted to go to school to be a surgeon, but med school will take forever if I’m gonna try working while going to school! I’ll finish school for nursing first and then if I decide to go on to be a surgeon, then it’ll take me less time because I’ll have a lot of pre-requisites out of the way.
How would you describe the class room setting in college? It’s very different than what I’m used to. The last time I went to public school was in elementary school! My English class was more of an intimate setting– a smaller class, and we got into a lot of discussions about the different topics we learned about every progression. Chemistry class was a much bigger class, where our professor would write a lot on the chalkboard and we would take notes and study them when we get home. We also had lab, where I had a partner and an outline of our lab assignment– we got to mix chemicals and observe how they reacted to each other. It was so much fun! At one point, I got to light a match and extinguish the flame with a gas that we created from different chemicals.
What were some of your studying methods? I would sit on my bed and just keep reading what we went over in class. For English, there was a lot of research involved when I did my essays, so I spent a lot of time on Google! Towards the middle of the school year, I started going to the library every once in a while, just so I wouldn’t get distracted. I had to force myself to turn off things like Facebook and Twitter so I wouldn’t spend all day on social networks! There were a few instances actually where I completely turned off my phone so I could concentrate. I would call my mom and tell her my phone would be off for the day, and I’d tell my roommates “I’m going to the library and my phone will be off, I’ll be back in three hours. If I’m not back, call for help!”
What was the hardest class you took? I think English was my most difficult class.Chemistry is hard, but it was mostly just things like memorizing formulas and names of compounds! But English was something I constantly had to think about. It wasn’t like reading a book and writing a report on it– there was so much critical thinking involved and there was always more to the assignments that met the eye. Our teacher would always challenge us to find the meanings hidden in the pieces we read. I would read an essay and see the superficial meaning, but I really had to work harder and find little It took up a lot of my time, but it was worth it. I learned a lot from that class.
Can you tell us what a typical day in school was like, start to finish? Days when I went to chemistry class were the most hectic. My class started at 9 and lasted for 3 hours, usually with a short 10 minute break in between to stretch our legs or have a snack. Then I’d have a lunch break for a couple of hours, and I would normally eat and then take a nap because I was always so tired! Lab lasted anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, depending on how difficult our lab assignment was that week. Sometimes it would be mixing easy compounds, other times we would have to use a centrifuge to separate the liquids and salts in the compounds that we mixed. After lab I’d go home and organize my notes, then study for a few hours!
What were some of your favorite spots to hang out on campus? The library was huge– definitely one of my favorite places to study. There was also the Kimmel Center where a lot of different events were held. I got the judge the Asian American Idol at Kimmel one night with the President of NYU, John Sexton! Honestly the campus is spread throughout the city, there’s no boundaries to the campus.
What were some of your favorite spots to hang out off campus? I loved going to Union Square! I mostly stayed at my dorm, though. There were a lot of places to eat around there, so my roommates and I would hang out and grab dinner all the time.
Did you adapt to the transportation system easily? I did! There’s this miracle called the iPhone and HopStop app, and I would have been so lost without it. I basically typed in where I wanted to go and it showed me which trains to take! I love taking the subway, it’s one of the best parts of NYC.
Did you ever accidently get on the wrong train? I never got on the wrong train, but I did get confused exiting the subway once. I was at Wall Street for a meeting and I got out at the wrong exit, so I had to walk double the distance to get to my destination. AND I was wearing really high heels!
Tell us one thing that you took away from that experience? It was really interesting having to live on my own for a few months. Mom wasn’t there to cook or do laundry! I was in charge of everything– my schedule, waking up in the morning, getting ready for class, then having to rush and get ready for an event right after… It was very stressful, but I really learned a lot of responsibility. It was also a good test of self-discipline. I don’t drink or smoke, and I’ve never been the kind of person who liked going to parties. A lot of people here in California thought that by me being alone in New York City, I could forget everything I was taught here and become a wild child. But I know what I believe and I have very strong values, and I didn’t let anyone influence me in any way I thought was harmful or not right for me. I went to one party with my roommate, and we left about ten minutes later because there was underage drinking. We decided to go to dinner together instead. There were instances where the people on our floor at the dorm would invite us to go out and party and drink during school days, but I always said no. I went to school to get an education, not to party.
Are there any tips that you would like to share with our readers who are preparing for their freshman year at college? DON’T PROCRASTINATE WHEN YOU’RE IN SCHOOL! You’ll think you have so much time to hang out because your professors will tell you that assignments are due in 6 weeks, but do it ahead of time!! By the time the due date comes up, you don’t want to be stressing because you wasted your time and didn’t do your work. Focus on school, and not on the fact that you have “freedom”. Make friends and have fun, but don’t forget that you’re paying a lot of money to get an education, and that’s exactly what you should do.
Credit: Hollywood Teen Zine