Things I learned while living by the Hudson River.

11 Things I Learned While Living In The Second Most Densely Populated City In The United States

How many people can say their high school's football stadium was on the roof?

I grew up in Florida; quaint, suburban Florida. I moved to Union City, New Jersey during the summer before my freshman year of high school. The culture shock was INTENSE, but I am so happy I got to live there, before moving back to Florida.

I have compiled a list of 11 things that I learned from living in the second most densely populated city in the United States. In the 2010 census, there were 60,455 people within 1.007 square miles in Union City. Guttenberg, NJ is number 1, which is a city right next to UC, so it all kinda counts as one right?

Here we go!

1. If you run out of room to build, BUILD UP!

My high school's football field was on the roof of the enormous four-story building. I like to watch people's reaction when I tell them that I attended football games and sometimes had gym class on the roof of my school. This is not a common thing in most schools. People, especially fellow Floridians who have never lived in a city, are usually shocked to hear about UCHS's odd placement of a field and are very impressed when they actually see it. Roosevelt stadium can fit up to 18,000 people, which is greatly needed in such a populated place! It is pristine, has the school logo and mascot engraved on the grass, and has a view of the Manhattan skyline.

2. How to walk (Part 2)

I believe that you take your first steps twice in life. Once when you are a tiny toddler getting ready to venture out into your living room for the first time, and once more when you walk on a snowy/icy sidewalk for the first time. I had never seen snow before I moved to UC. I remember the first day it snowed during my freshman year. I was in the cafeteria with my friends getting ready to step out of the AEA (Academy for Enrichment and Advancement) building to walk one block across to the main high school for my geometry class. I stepped out with them and immediately resembled Bambi trying to walk on ice. I tried my best not to slip, which meant I had to walk much slower than all my friends, who were very amused by my inability to walk on the slushy white snow.

3. To appreciate the SUN

Living in Florida my whole life caused me to take the sun for granted. I grew up thinking the sun was out most of the time everywhere else in the world. Once winter fell upon UC, the sun went on vacation. The skies matched the color of the snow, and often stayed that way for days, weeks, even months, until spring came around and the skies were finally blue, and my body could absorb vitamin D again.

4. How to walk everywhere without getting tired

In UC, my step count would almost always surpass 15,000 steps. No, not because I was a fitness guru during my time in the city, but because I was an average citizen. I walked everywhere. I walked to school and up and down the million flights of stairs in school, I walked to the store, I walked to the movies, and to visit friends. The only times I can remember riding in the car were when my friends or family and I would go to the mall, which was a city over. I took buses to NYC and walked nearly everywhere else. My legs were extremely toned and I could walk for miles without complaining. Now that I'm back in Florida, driving is the norm. Kids here get their licenses when they are freshman or sophomores and drive everywhere. My friends and I did not learn how to drive until senior year (some still haven't learned) and that is okay because it is not vital up there. Now, I walk a mile and want to cry. I took my fitness for granted.

5. How to dress for the seasons

Let's face it Florida, we have no seasons. Yes, northern Florida gets slight seasons, but nothing can compare to living in the north and having to face mother nature at her extremes. I had never owned or worn a winter coat before moving. I never wore boots or scarves, or gloves. Once I was up there, I bought all these things and created outfits for each season. In the fall, I would wear light jackets because it was always breezy, but never too cold. In the winter, I would BUNDLE UP, because bronchitis is not cute. I would wear multiple layers and a cute pair of boots.

Once the sun began to peak through the sky in the spring, I would watch everyone at school basically rip off their winter apparel and wear light cardigans and jackets again, because spring mornings are pretty cold, but spring afternoons are blazing hot. In the summer, I learned that you will burn if you wear anything more than shorts and a tank top and forget sun-block. Summers in Jersey get HOT, not humid hot like Florida gets, but HOT; blazing, and unforgivingly HOT. I sat outside for 10 minutes once and got a sun-burn on my legs. Never again.

6. To love soft serve ice cream

Ice cream trucks were always stationed around the city during the spring and summer months. I remember buying chocolate and vanilla ice creams and being so satisfied with such basic flavours, because of the soft, creamy texture they had. I have yet to find a place here that sells ice cream like the ones sold in those trucks. My little brother mentions the ice cream on occasion. He vividly remembers our summer days eating the cones even though he was very young at the time. The ice cream was a trademark of the city that I miss every time I am craving ice cream on a hot day (nearly every day in Florida.)

7. The beauty of SNOW DAYS!

Hurricane days are common down here, and they're okay. You get time off school and work, but you also have to deal with the possibility of having your city destroyed (not fun at all.) Snow days are not scary. No one is getting in fights at the grocery store to get the last gallon of water. Snow days are very relaxing. You get to stay at home, watching the flakes fall outside your window as you drink hot chocolate and catch up on homework. They happen on occasion from December-April and are always a nice surprise. Yes, going out in the snow the next day is awful. I will never enjoy the snow in UC because the streets get even more crowded and the snow turns dark, but the snow days (pre-snow trek) are always enjoyable.

8. How to manage my time and how to study

I had a love-hate relationship with the academics in UC. They were rigorous. It seemed like I always had work to do. I never really had a second to sit back and feel completely relaxed, because the workload was intense every year, and only got worse as the school years went by. The amount of work I had to do led me to learn how to manage my time. I learned how to efficiently get my work done and have time for clubs like Mock Trial, which took up as much time as my school work did most days. The difficulty of the subject matter led me to learn how to study.

This is such an important skill to have for college and is a skill that I've seen many of my friends from here struggle to attain. I know that a lot of schools here had blocked schedules, meaning the students would not have every class every day, so they had more time to complete each assignment. My school ran on a 9-period schedule all day every day. My work had to be done for each class the very next day. After a while, you learn to handle it. It was not easy but it was worth it because I am better for it now and know how to study and complete my coursework.

9. To appreciate architecture

The Manhattan skyline is extremely aesthetic. I could see it from the top floors of my school, from the stadium on the roof, from a park called, Boulevard East, and down the street from Carlo's Bakery (home of TLC's Cake Boss) in Hoboken. I marveled at the picturesque sight of that many buildings being sustained alongside each other. There are so so many. They are all magnificent. I remember how incredulous I was when we first drove up to the area and I began to see the faint shadows of the city. It is a designer skyline that looks majestic during the day and glows brightly at night. I had never really appreciated architecture before living here. After seeing the endless amount of buildings across the Hudson River, and seeing such historic ones like the Empire state building lighting up in different colors on each holiday, I felt insignificant and awestruck.

10. That cultures vary everywhere

Florida is a state where nearly everyone drives. There are not many places where you can go and just walk around a city. UC is a city where everyone walks, and I guess this causes people to be more friendly, even though life is a lot faster paced. I walked around the city with my dad a lot of times and he would just start talking to people, and they wouldn't look at him like he had 3 heads, like people often do here if you randomly start conversing with them in the street. There is a much more people friendly atmosphere in this city. I learned that not all places are like Florida and got to experience just how different they can be. New Jersey does not have Publix stores, but Shop Rite has a large gluten-free food section and Rite Aid is my now my favorite pharmacy.

11. That even though things are different, they can be good

I was nervous to start a new school in a place I had never been to and knew nothing about. I was scared to venture out into a city that was so crowded by people I believed I had nothing in common with. It was daunting to leave the sheltered suburbia I was used to. I was wary but years down the line, I got to have some of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. I met incredible people, became best friends with some gems, got to be a part of a team and do something that I ended up loving (mock trial), was taught by selfless, well educated teachers and coaches, changed my outlook on many aspects of life, and can now say I have lived in the second most densely populated city in the United States.

Cover Image Credit: Claudia Cartaya

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The Truth About Young Marriage

Different doesn't mean wrong.

When I was a kid, I had an exact picture in my mind of what my life was going to look like. I was definitely not the kind of girl who would get married young, before the age of 25, at least.

And let me tell you, I was just as judgmental as that sentence sounds.

I could not wrap my head around people making life-long commitments before they even had an established life. It’s not my fault that I thought this way, because the majority opinion about young marriage in today’s society is not a supportive one. Over the years, it has become the norm to put off marriage until you have an education and an established career. Basically, this means you put off marriage until you learn how to be an adult, instead of using marriage as a foundation to launch into adulthood.

When young couples get married, people will assume that you are having a baby, and they will say that you’re throwing your life away — it’s inevitable.

It’s safe to say that my perspective changed once I signed my marriage certificate at the age of 18. Although marriage is not always easy and getting married at such a young age definitely sets you up for some extra challenges, there is something to be said about entering into marriage and adulthood at the same time.

SEE ALSO: Finding A Husband In College

Getting married young does not mean giving up your dreams. It means having someone dream your dreams with you. When you get lost along the way, and your dreams and goals seem out of reach, it’s having someone there to point you in the right direction and show you the way back. Despite what people are going to tell you, it definitely doesn’t mean that you are going to miss out on all the experiences life has to offer. It simply means that you get to share all of these great adventures with the person you love most in the world.

And trust me, there is nothing better than that. It doesn’t mean that you are already grown up, it means that you have someone to grow with.

You have someone to stick with you through anything from college classes and changing bodies to negative bank account balances.

You have someone to sit on your used furniture with and talk about what you want to do and who you want to be someday.

Then, when someday comes, you get to look back on all of that and realize what a blessing it is to watch someone grow. Even after just one year of marriage, I look back and I am incredibly proud of my husband. I’m proud of the person he has become, and I’m proud of what we have accomplished together. I can’t wait to see what the rest of our lives have in store for us.

“You can drive at 16, go to war at 18, drink at 21, and retire at 65. So who can say what age you have to be to find your one true love?" — One Tree Hill
Cover Image Credit: Sara Donnelli Photography

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Why You Should Bring Your Close Friend As Your Formal Date

Before asking that cute girl to formal think about asking a friend


Every year since I was a junior in high school I have always looked forward to homecoming or prom. When I got to college I began to look forward to my fraternity formal. I was never concerned with what to wear or the expense of formal but rather who I was going to ask. It can be difficult to make a decision. If you ask anyone friends with me they will tell you how I am one of the most indecisive people out there. There are so many people I am friendly with or have a close relationship that it can feel difficult to make a decision. But let's look at that phrase again. You might think why does he want to bring someone who is his friend to his fraternity formal rather than someone he likes or is dating. To answer this question, some of the girls I have liked I have not been able to be the true me around and that also applies to the girls I have dated as well. I am different around my friends and I want someone to know the real me rather than me just having to pretend.

Maybe I am still experiencing the effects of a fun weekend but I have noticed that every formal or prom that I have brought a date with not only was a fun formal but interacted and connected well with my friends. That is the main thing I look for in a formal date, they need to be liked by my friends and many of them are still pretty friendly after the formal. You are spending the weekend with them and the drive down for you formal. There will be a lot of time spent with your date so it is important to bring someone you know you will have fun with. I am not saying that there isn't anything wrong with bringing someone else but I always found it best to bring a friend if you are not dating someone.

Think about the people you know you will always have fun with. This can be an indication of who you should bring and why but you should also think about the positives in this situation. Your fun and the time spent with the people should be prioritized before anything else. This event is about you and you should have someone with you that you know is fun to be around and someone you can enjoy yourself around along with your friends. Friends know you as well as you know yourself so there is not an idea of having to pretend to be someone else. The good thing about friends is that you do not run out of things to talk about and there is always something new to learn. Take your formal as a trip that you get to experience with the people closest to you. That is my take.

The key for me is to know that I will have fun with my date at formal. The drive to formal can be long and you are sharing a hotel room with your date along with spending time with them during the trip. I talk a lot. I want someone I know who I can carry a conversation with and will not just respond with words such as Yeah or Sounds good. I have always been able to remember not only my formals but specific parts of it as well. I think this is possible because of who I have brought and the memories I made with them.

Formals are important to everyone so think about who you want to spend that moment with. There is nothing wrong with bringing someone who you like but there also is nothing wrong with bringing a friend. Some people might bring someone they are dating but you should not have to compare yourself to other people. Do what makes you happy but remember this weekend is about you and you deserve to bring someone you will have fun with.

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