This is my fourth year living in New York City. My experience has been amazing so far, and I am completely in love with the Big Apple. However, there are a few things that I wish I had known before that August day in 2010.
1. Not speaking English like an American is totally fine.
I remember one of the things holding me back from talking to people when I moved to the city was the fear that language would be a barrier. Once I realized that, though I had a thick Spanish accent, people always understood me and I had no problem understanding them, I was able to relax and make a lot of friends. Moreover, I found out that it’s normal to hear about a thousand different accents in New York every day!
2. Housing costs, fees and requirements.
Housing is one of the biggest costs in a city like New York. When I first arrived I didn’t know what the average rental costs were, what fees were involved, and many other things. If I had been better prepared I could have saved a few thousand dollars lost on bad decisions. I recommend doing research online about prices, neighborhoods, and types of housing arrangements (roommates, studios, student dorms, etc.) However, even more, I would recommend visiting the apartments or rooms in-person once you are in the city to avoid scams. If possible, it is a good idea to stay at a friend’s place or a student dorm for the first few weeks.
3. There are many ways to save money.
Being on a student’s budget in the Big Apple can be complicated. I wish someone had told me about all the ways I could save money before I started seeing my dollars fly away. Now, I have learned how to take advantage of promotions and online deals, how to avoid contractual fees with phones and club memberships, and even where is best to buy my groceries. I save hundreds of dollars every month! I recommend usingGroupon to find great deals on anything from food to fun activities. I also use reward cards at my favorite restaurants in order to get free meals and discounts from time to time.
4. Internships are very important, start as early as possible!
I was lucky that my school constantly emphasized the importance of doing an internship and even required one for graduation. There are many companies in New York City, and doing internships is a great opportunity to get a foot in the industry you’re interested in. The earlier you start, the more opportunities you will have to try different companies and positions.
5. Time seems to go faster in NYC than anywhere else, use it wisely.
When I first arrived, I felt like I had all the time in the world. I would have four years ahead of me to do all the things I always dreamt of doing in New York. Now that I’m in my fourth year, I realize that the time went by extremely fast and I should have taken advantage of things like workshops, trips, and other activities earlier. For students, I recommend participating in the activities that your school organizes. I met a lot of people when I started at Berkeley College thanks to the events that the international club organized. I also participated in the United Nations club at my school, and through that I got to represent a country at the Model UN event that was held at NYC’s UN headquarters. I will never forget that experience! It is a great idea to contact and get plugged in to local clubs and organizations.
6. There are healthy options for food, don’t risk your health at the burger place!
When I first arrived, my diet was very poor. I made really bad decisions when it came to where to eat or buy food. After a while, I figured out that eating healthy in the city is just as easy as eating junk food if you just know where to look. For example, I like buying fresh food at farmers’ markets; there are great markets several times a week at Union Square. I also use the Urban Spoon and Yelp apps to look for restaurants that serve fresh food with local ingredients.
7. It takes a while to get used to public transportation in NYC.
I can’t recall how many times I jumped in an express train when I was supposed to take a local, missed stops, or took the train going in the wrong direction. Figuring out how to ride New York City’s subways takes a while. However, even if it looks scary at first, I have to say it is a great way to move around. As a matter of fact, many people take a cab when they’re in a rush. That’s a huge mistake! The subway is much more effective, cheap, and won’t get stuck in traffic. If you need to take it at least a couple times a day during the weekdays, then you may want to consider purchasing an unlimited monthly MetroCard for a little over $100.
8. There are incredible places to see beyond the city.
In these four years, I can probably count with my fingers the times I have left the borough of Manhattan. A few months ago I started exploring places to visit that are fairly close to the city, like the Adirondack Mountains. Now I feel like I don’t have enough time to visit all the places I’ve been reading about that are around New York! I recommend using your breaks to get away from the hustle and bustle and discover new areas.
9. It is normal to go through different adaptation stages.
It takes a while to fully acclimate to a new country, even if you like it a lot. At the beginning of my adventure I felt incredibly excited about everything I was experiencing. However, after a few months I started to feel different and went through stages of adapting to living abroad. I eventually got used to life in NYC and I can’t picture myself living anywhere else right now. Schools usually have counseling services and great networks of international students that can support each other through this stage. Sometimes just talking to somebody who can understand what you’re going through will make you feel a lot better. It is also helpful to find others from your country who are in NYC. In my case, I met a lot of people on Facebook groups dedicated to Spaniards living in New York; it was as easy as typing “Spanish people living in New York” in the search bar!
10. Meeting people is ridiculously easy if you’re open to it.
I moved here by myself and I didn’t know anyone in the city when I first arrived. I was afraid I would find it tough to make new friends, since everyone seemed to know each other already and I was worried about my language skills getting in the way. However, after a few days I already had a great group of people around. People in the city are very friendly, and it shouldn’t be on your list of worries when you’re planning to move to New York. Staying at a student dorm, hanging out in student lounges, and just talking to neighbors are great ways to meet people. Four years later, I am still very close with the friends I made at my dorm, and some of them even feel like family to me.