About a month ago, I was accepted into my top-choice college, New York University. Overcome with a tremendous wave of excitement, I accepted my admission, completed my housing forms, and shared the momentous news with my closest friends and family. In the span of just a few days, I went from being completely unsure of my future to planning out a fresh start in New York City.

While initially the knowledge of my acceptance was exhilarating, the realization of how intense the change would be suddenly dawned on me a few days later. Living strictly in the Midwest for my entire life, I’ve only experienced NYC’s energetic, almost overwhelming atmosphere in short, controlled bursts. However, by the time August rolls around, I’ll be parting ways with Minnesota’s agrestic charm and adjusting to a fast-paced, animated environment.

With that in mind, I began thinking about the various ways my life would change. I’ll be exposed to vastly unfamiliar surroundings, living with a roommate instead of my parents, and becoming more independent by the day. While it’s a lot to take in, I figured I’d adjust at least within the first month. However, I stumbled upon something important that I hadn’t given much thought before.

As I was scrolling through my college’s subreddit the other day, I came across a post asking about which types of self defense devices are allowed in the city. Looking through the comments, I read about people’s (mostly women's) experiences carrying pepper spray, various sharp objects, and even tasers. Diving deeper, I explored the safety section of NYU’s website and found some alarmingly specific information I had never considered before:

“Even if you are lost, don’t let it show. Walk with confidence like you know where you are going and less attention will be paid to you by passersby,” and “If a person is making you uncomfortable, make eye contact with them to let them know you are aware of their presence.”

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While I understand unfortunate events can occur anywhere, they’ll naturally take place more frequently in places with a higher population or density. So, even though the NYU campus is one of the safest places in New York, it’s rather distressing to scroll through safety tip after safety tip, especially as a woman.

Though I won’t let fear overpower my excitement of experiencing a new, exhilarating life in the city, the level of carefulness and awareness recommended to stay safe certainly changes my perception a bit. Now, I plan to take self defense classes over the summer, make sure I understand the city and transportation systems well, and possibly carry pepper spray with me, just in case.

While it’s remarkably unfortunate that, as women, we need to take so much into consideration, there is no way around it at this point. So, in order to make my college experience most fulfilling, I need to be aware of my surroundings, use my instincts, and be careful enough to remain safe.

Grace Sprecher is a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, jpieters@postbulletin.com.