Ryan Ho, '14, stands at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where he watched his first NBA game.

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Ryan Ho, ’14, surprised by difficulty of NYU

Ryan Ho, ‘14, is attending New York University. He is majoring in biology and is in a seven-year joint program with the College of Dentistry.

Q: What’s it like being in that joint program?

A: It’s funny because I don’t feel like I’m in a special program or anything. I’m just taking all the classes that a pre-med or a pre-dental would take. Everyone in the program met once as a group with our dental adviser. Other than that, we are not unified in any way. But it’s pretty cool—not many people even realize that this program exists, and I think it’s pretty competitive to get in.

Q: What’s your schedule like?

A: Our schedule is all planned, basically. There’s a list of classes you have to take. I had AP credits, so I tested out of foreign language and math, so I had more wiggle room. We are not encouraged to do minors. When I brought it up with my adviser, he gave me a look like “What would you need a minor for?”

Ryan Ho, '14, walks around Central Park on St. Patrick's Day.
Photo used with permission by Ryan Ho
Ryan Ho, ’14, explores Central Park on St. Patrick’s Day.

Q: What about extracurriculars?

A: My adviser said, “In this program we do not expect you to do extracurriculars.” We are just encouraged to keep up our GPA during the school year. When I went back to ask him what extracurriculars I should do, he was like “Remember what I told you.” Which is the opposite of what everyone else tells me. However, he does encourage us to do those over the summer.

Q: Does everyone from the program automatically get into dental school?
A: It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get in. You are guaranteed an interview. They will make sure your application is read and considered. Whether you make it or not is up to them. The minimum requirements, such as GPA, test scores, are not impossible to achieve, however, and he did say around 90 percent make it. When he said that, we looked around the table like, “Nine out of ten, hmm. Who is going to be the person that doesn’t make it?”

Q: What are your classes like?
A: My classes are the opposite of Country Day classes. My Bio 2 class has 700 kids and is held in the school amphitheatre. And on the first day, when people actually showed up to class, it was incredibly crowded. There were no desks—we were a plastic board instead. It was like going to the movies, and the professor is way out there. I didn’t realize the class was going to be that big. Some classes aren’t as big, though. My Writing the Essay class is capped at 15 people.

Q: Are the classes hard?
A: They are definitely challenging, and I guess in the back of my mind I wasn’t expecting them to be as challenging as they are. I had to work really hard in many of my classes. It’s been a very humbling experience. You need to put in the effort. The pre-med track is not a joke. It’s a lot of reading. And reading takes time. I’m a slow reader, so that’s a double whammy.

Q: Any classes that stood out to you? 

A: First semester I took a class that focused on political economy. Let me tell you this: I only picked the class because on “Rate my Professor” this professor was rated really high, and I did not not consider the fact that I knew nothing about the class. I struggled. I struggled hard.

It was really interesting, but I’m not taking a class like that again. There were a lot of seniors and juniors with political majors who knew what they were talking about.

During recitation I would never raise my hand because I didn’t know what (the students) were talking about – like the Greek crisis and current events.

Participation is very important. I got a C for participation because I didn’t know I had to participate.

Q: How is your rooming situation?
A: NYU has the best rooming situation ever. It’s really expensive. That’s the only downfall. We have the biggest triple on our floor. We have our own bathroom, so it’s just three people sharing a bathroom. It doesn’t feel like a dorm at all. It feels like an apartment. The floor is wood, not carpet, and we have huge windows. I live right across the street from the church. My mom describes the window as a painting.

Our dorm is supposed to be haunted. I think Al Pacino lived in the penthouse of our building before it was made into a dorm. It used to be a hotel. The whole setting looks like a speakeasy. You can actually go behind a wall if you open the door.

Q: How are your roommates?

A: I feel like we are such a diverse group. One is from Ohio. He’s white. I have another roommate. He’s from New Delhi, India. We clicked really well. I feel fortunate to have them. We are really respectful of each other. I heard about Troy’s (Hoddick, ‘14) rooming situation, and I feel really lucky. No fights or anything. And our RA is totally cool with everything.

Q: Have you been able to adjust to the weather?
A: It has been terrible. Absolutely terrible for a person who doesn’t like the cold.

I came mentally prepared, but I was not physically prepared. I used to not like gloves. They are an absolute must.

I have conformed to beanies and gloves. At the very least, waterproof boots. I waited until the streets were slushy and flooding until I bought waterproof boots.

They aren’t kidding when they say they have a lot of puddles. I didn’t believe them, and that was a very bad mistake. On this corner where I had to cross there was a puddle. I was like, “I’m not walking through this, I’ll walk down.” But there were more puddles. I couldn’t change my shoes until afternoon. It was cold and wet, and my shoes were sticking.

The snow is very cool, but you get tired of it after like three days. And then it starts flying into your face, and you’re like “Stop it.”

I feel really dumb saying this, but I didn’t know what people did when it snows. So I went with my umbrella. And I realized when it snows my umbrella is actually dry! I guess the snow bounces off or something.

Q: What’s it like going to the school in the city?
A: It’s just been a very interesting experience. I think it would be a harder adjustment for people who have been living in the suburbs. I grew up in Taiwan where the city is like this. I know how to walk through cars and stuff.

But I remember the first day when I got to New York. I was here alone. At midnight I took a cab to my dorm to move in. It was then that I realized I was in New York City. As the cab drove up Third Avenue, it hit me. It’s like the movies.

Q: Have you run into any problems?
A: Swiping the metrocard in the subway is difficult. In Taiwan or other places you just tap it or do something really easy.

The metrocard is flimsy. You have to swipe in the correct orientation and at the correct speed. I have failed so many times. I have had to have people do it for me. I have had people get annoyed with me because I was holding up the line.

Q: Any advice for incoming college freshmen?

A: It’s okay if you don’t find friends immediately. I’m sort of an introvert, so I’m not making a lot of friends as quickly as other people are. It’s okay to eat alone and go new places alone. That’s an opportunity to meet people. Don’t feel the need to do weird things to get friends. It takes time. Camille Getz (‘11, also a student at NYU) gave me the same advice. I didn’t really believe her until I got here.

Oh, also you need to find a study buddy who is a friend but also a good academic partner who will push you to do well and takes the same classes.

Definitely come into college with an open mind. How much you enjoy your college experience is based on how much you appreciate the opportunity that you have to experience all this. If you don’t like the cold or don’t like the city, you might go into college thinking that. It will have an adverse effect on your college life. You have to find ways to adapt and enjoy what you have.

Q: Any advice for the class of 2016?

A: Take AP Euro with Mr. Neukom. That class has so much relevance to so many things that I’m learning in my core classes. AP Euro is great.

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