How New York City Has Surprised Me

How New York City Has Surprised Me

It's not always the glitzy metropolis you see in the movies.

When I decided to go to school in New York City, my coworker told me I was going to experience culture shock. At the time, I didn’t believe her. Despite having lived in the suburbs my entire life, I had this idea of New York that I thought couldn’t be changed. To me, New York was the backdrop of a rom-com. It was picturesque family-owned bookstores, and ice skating in Rockefeller Center. It was the fountain in Washington Square Park and weekends spent at the Met. I half expected to end up with a designated booth at the local coffee shop, a laugh track playing in the background as my friends and I exchanged anecdotes about our exciting lives in the city.

The first night that I spent here, my roommate and I sat on our window sill, looking out at the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan. It was breathtaking. Looking at the lit up windows, it was hard to believe that we were actually there. For the first week of school, I walked through the streets with my neck craned backward. I liked to think about the people behind the windows of the skyscrapers I passed. It was hard to fathom that so many people could be going about their daily lives, unaware of each others’ problems. It was exciting to be surrounded by so much human activity. I felt like I was in a place where I could never run out of inspiration. I felt like I was home.

But my feelings swiftly changed that following weekend, when my friends and I found ourselves in the depths of Brooklyn, walking down a street lined with police cars and potholes. The lit-up skies so often associated with the city were far behind us. Now, I was trudging along in my too-tight heels. The road smelled like trash and broken pieces of glass bottles sat in the crabgrass that grew out of the sidewalk. We’d taken a forty-minute subway ride for this? I had pictured Great Gatsby parties in large hotels and bars lit up by flashing, neon lights. I hadn’t pictured stumbling through the cool, smoggy air for a frat party.

Next to me, a girl stumbled where the sidewalk crumbled into the road. I helped her up as her pepper spray rolled in the street. The others debated whether or not we should move forward, or turn back now before we got lost in the labyrinth that was a city unknown. The verdict, in the end, was that we go back home to the safety of the financial district. We took the J train home and, despite the fact that it went over the water, and we got a beautiful view of the skyline, I spent the majority of the ride preoccupied with my aching feet, and my diminishing idea of a perfect city.

After that night, and several more weekends spent walking through the city streets with the subway rats and roaches, it became clear that the city wasn’t the place I had thought New York would be. I became accustomed to the grime, and even began to appreciate it. After all, for all of the nights that my friends and I found ourselves in cute restaurants and model-strewn bars, we spent twice as many roaming through streets that smelt like cigarettes and urine. There was something about it that felt natural. The city wasn’t all glitz and glamour; it was the home of eight million people. It was only natural that sometimes it would stink.

As time went on, I became fascinated with the culture of the city, the way people dressed and spoke. I got a nose piercing, and a tattoo (something I would never have done living in the suburbs), and I found myself sitting on the stoop of the school watching the people that passed by, thinking about how different it all was from what I knew at home. I think that moving anywhere new kind of challenges your sense of belonging.

Suddenly, I felt like I had to choose between the home I’d grown up with and the home I’d chosen. When I came back to the suburbs, there were times where I felt almost disheartened by the cleanly-cut lawns and silent suburban streets. I had gotten used to the grimy, loud, busy cacophony that was New York, and I felt like, after months of assimilating to that culture, I couldn’t be a part of my hometown anymore.

When my friends from home visited the city, they crinkled their noses when the AC vents dripped on them and looked at me through startled eyes when we took the squealing, dirty subway instead of taxi cabs. I was surprised that they didn’t understand. Couldn’t they see? Couldn’t they understand the city was so much more than their romanticized dream?

But of course, it was silly for me to expect this. I had had the same premonitions about the city before living there, and why shouldn’t they be disgusted by the trash piled up on the side of Chipotle on a Wednesday night? Eventually, my infatuation with the city began to fade. There were days when the buildings just felt grey and overbearing. People were no longer stories that needed to be told, they were just people, walking with their shoulders hunched against the rain. It was times like these where I missed the place I’d come from. Living in the city makes you realize- trees are underrated.

So perhaps, I’d think to myself, on days when the city’s horns echoed especially loudly through the narrow streets, my coworker was right. New York has given me a culture shock. Perhaps I’d be better off living in the suburbs, maybe that’s what I was built for. But every time I felt this way, something would happen that would remind me of why I fell in love with New York in the first place. Sometimes it was the sunset at Battery Park, other times it was street fairs, or strangers helping one another out on the train. Sometimes it was people dancing in the middle of Washington Square Park, and other times it was helping a friend lug furniture into their tiny apartment in Brooklyn.

There’s a heartbeat in this city, and I feel it even when my head is tucked against the cold, and steam from the subway grate is crawling up my nose. I try to remind myself to look up at least once a day and take in the buildings that surround me. Just for a moment, I take in the immensity of them and the people that are working away behind those windows, unaware that I ever thought of them or even gave them a second glance.

When I look up at these windows I’m brought back to the first week of school, and I feel inspired and at peace just like I did then. So many things have changed since I started living in the city three years ago, but it still surprises me with its’ beauty. Three years later, I am still happy to call this place my second home.

Cover Image Credit: via Flickr

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50 One-Liners College Girls Swap With Their Roomies As Much As They Swap Clothes

"What would I do without you guys???"

1. "Can I wear your shirt out tonight?"

2. "Does my hair look greasy?"

3. "We should probably clean tomorrow..."

4. "What should I caption this??"

5. "Is it bad if I text ____ first??"

6. "Should we order pizza?"

7. *Roommate tells an entire story* "Wait, what?"

8. "How is it already 3 AM?"

9. "I need a drink."

10. "McDonalds? McDonalds."


12. "Okay like, for real, I need to study."

13. "Why is there so much hair on our floor?"

14. "I think I'm broke."

15. "What do I respond to this?"

16. "Let's have a movie night."

17. "Why are we so weird?"

18. "Do you think people will notice if I wear this 2 days in a row?"

19. "That guy is so stupid."

20. "Do I look fat in this?"

21. "Can I borrow your phone charger?

22. "Wanna go to the lib tonight?"

23. "OK, we really need to go to the gym soon."

24. "I kinda want some taco bell."

25. "Let's go out tonight."

26. "I wonder what other people on this floor think of us."

27. "Let's go to the mall."

28. "Can I use your straightener?"

29. "I need coffee."

30. "I'm bored, come back to the room."

31. "Should we go home this weekend?"

32. "We should probably do laundry soon."

33. "Can you see through these pants?"

34. "Sometimes I feel like our room is a frat house..."

35. "Guys I swear I don't like him anymore."

36."Can I borrow a pencil?"

37. "I need to get my life together...."

38. "So who's buying the Uber tonight?"

39. "Let's walk to class together."

40. "Are we really pulling an all-nighter tonight?"

41. "Who's taking out the trash?"

42. "What happened last night?"

43. "Can you help me do my hair?"

44. "What should I wear tonight?"

45. "You're not allowed to talk to him tonight."

46. "OMG, my phone is at 1 percent."

47. "Should we skip class?"

48. "What should we be for Halloween?"

49. "I love our room."

50. "What would I do without you guys???"

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Gabaldon

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4 Things My Brother Taught me Before he turned 4

4 of many lessons my beloved sibling has brought to my attention in the last four years


On July 19, my sweet baby brother is turning four years old. And while to many that doesn't sound like a milestone or a big deal, it is. My sibling and I had a love-hate relationship from the start, as anyone would expect from an only child for 15 glorious years. That love-hate relationship quickly turned into all love, laughter and life lessons.

1. Have Fun

Quite obviously shown above in the photo, my baby brother and I have fun with each other all the time. He may just be my best friend, with his comforting words when he knows I'm sad- or just stubbed my toe- or his tickles that make me giggle like no other. I can always count on my best friend to make me laugh and have fun with me.

2. Manners Manners Manners

Having a younger sibling that follows you around and acts like a mocking bird, helps you to quickly reevaluate your actions and sayings. Having my brother, Brody, around helped me to freshen up on my mannerisms. I would frankly be embarrassed if we were to go out and he didn't say thank you or please when necessary. My father, however, took manners to the next level, the boyfriend material level... all before the age of four. When I venture out of our home with Brody or our dad and Brody, Brody always holds the door for me and anyone else coming up. There is something to be said for a child with manners.

3. Patience

Young children are always a test to your patience, no matter who they may be. Little brothers especially have a way to make sure they get on their sisters nerves. And although he may( definitely does) get on my nerves, he has taught me to take a moment and think about my own feelings and how easily or quickly I am getting annoyed and reevaluating my emotions to better myself and Brody. I have learned patience beyond my wildest dreams and hope to put them to use one day with my own curtain climbers.

4. Most Importantly... Love

Have you ever seen a child go crazy just at the fact they get to sleep in your bed. Or, when their eyes light up at the word "ice-cream" You better understand and appreciate love when you have someone there to experience everything for the first time and fall in love with every new experience all over again. Children have a great capacity to love and care for one another and my baby brother has taught me that sometimes we get what we don't think we needed and gain a lot from the experience.

To the brother I know and love, I hope your lessons to me can be a reminder or lesson to someone else. Happy fourth "Bird day!" Your sister loves you like no one else!

Cover Image Credit:


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