An athlete, student leader, and molder of young minds. I sat down in Palladium’s Dining Hall with Maya Polashenski to discuss her four years at NYU to see if she had any words of wisdom for the following generations of NYU Students:
VA: Why did you choose NYU?
MP: I went to a very small high school and graduated in a class of 180, everyone knew each other since kindergarten, and I knew I wanted to go to a big school. We looked at Cornell, Syracuse, NYU, and the idea of having confinement of a campus without a car was a bit troubling for me. When I visited NYU, I liked how accessible everything was; I thought a big city would be a really great place to grow. I was scared, I was coming from a tiny town but it was a really good decision for personal growth.
VA: Is there something you can tell me about your freshmen year that won’t get you fired as an RA?
MP: I definitely had my party days. But I can’t get fired for this right? I ran from an RA once but I didn’t get caught. I won’t expose what hall it was in. It was my first week of college, I hid in a closet and then I ran. And I haven’t partied in the halls since.
VA: What was the thought going through your head while you were hiding in the closet?
MP: My roommate actually got caught hiding in a closet, so I was like “they already caught her, if she looks in this closet I’m screwed.” But I was hidden pretty well.
VA: Beyond that one incident, how were you academic wise?
MP: I was a total studier freshmen year. All the time; weekends, days, nights. I wasn’t as efficient a studier as I am now. I definitely learned a lot from taking Pre-Med classes like how to manage your time cause there isn’t enough time to study as much as you want, you have to pick and choose. You need to study as well as you can in a certain amount of time. Sophomore year I really got into my groove and started doing well academically.
VA: What would you say has changed about you from your first two years of college to now?
MP: I used to be so homesick when I first got here. I completely recognize that. It’s okay to miss home, family, and to be scared by being here and this big transition. I used to be terrified of what people thought of me and of them knowing that, so I kept it secret for a long time. Now I don’t care. I talk about how hard of a time I had my first year and that’s why I became an RA and why I want to help people. I talk about myself and my flaws now. I’ve become really open. That’s the biggest change since coming to college; loving myself despite what flaws I may have had.
VA: What advice would you give to freshmen, sophomores, and prospective students?
MP: To be honest, utilize the Wellness Center. I did, I’m a huge proponent of the Wellness Center. Realize that your friends will love you as much as you love them. I’m able to have conversations with them that I might not have had freshmen year.
VA: You’re a triathlon captain and the The Meaning of Food RA. What led you to seek out the activities and leadership roles you have on campus?
MP: For sports, I wanted to be active. I was a swimmer all throughout my childhood and high-school; and no, I did NOT want to swim. So I decided the next step was something that involved swimming so clearly triathlon was the next stop. As far as leadership roles, I’m kind of a bossy person and I like to do things my way, in the nicest way possible. I love collaborating but I really love to be in charge. I have a passion for food, especially cooking it, but how it fuels our bodies and for our fitness. As far leadership on the triathlon team, that was a surprise to me. I fell into that but I’m really happy I did.
VA: You’re going to be shipping out to Belize for the Peace Corps soon. How did you learn you wanted to pursue this and what do you have to say to the humanitarians out there?
MP: I really wanted to study abroad sophomore year but when it came time to apply freshmen year, I couldn’t imagine going anywhere further because I was still settling into New York. I regret that decision because I think having a semester abroad really would’ve rounded out my college experience. But once I became an RA, I knew I wanted to stay an RA instead of going abroad. I was looking at post-college abroad options and the Peace Corps fit everything I was looking for: language components, education, health work, helping people in lower-resource countries who need the help; it’s a strong foundation which has a good rapport with the countries they’re in. I don’t want to go somewhere and not make a difference. For people looking for a humanitarian mission, research the programs you want to go into, make sure they’re as good of a project as they seem to be. NGOs and non-profits are great too.
VA: I’m gonna finish this off with some rapid fire questions. What was your favorite protest you’ve ever walked into?
MP: I had no idea that there was like a May Day wages/human rights thing that happens on May 1st for unions. When I was a freshmen, all of a sudden, Broadway was just lined with cops and I was walking to class with people demanding equal wages and fair union treatment.
VA: How did the night you most forget, begin?
MP: It always starts with me saying “I’m gonna take it easy tonight, I’ll just have a beer.”
VA: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever seen in Washington Square Park?
MP: I was in the park on a nice Spring May day last year and this woman was doing a nude body art painting thing. It was so cool. She had stripped down and was just wearing underwear with a painted chest, painted face, and was just laying on a paper. It was really cool with the way that her body formed on the paper and she was just walking around doing these dances with other people while running in a circle. She was just talking about Free The Nipple which is probably one of my favorite things so I was a full supporter.
VA: What’s the one thing you never thought you’d be doing?
MP: I’m currently working at a garden. Who would’ve thought I’d move to New York City to work at a garden. I grew up in a place with lots of land and my dad’s a huge gardener; the bane of my existence was having to weed that garden. And here I am, volunteering hours of every week weeding gardens. Full circle. Full circle.