It’s the summer before entering college, moving to a new city, and leaving home. The impending feeling of change is both exciting and scary. While getting ready to move, I downplayed how I really felt about leaving home. Although I felt somewhat familiar with the city, I would be lying if I said I knew what I was getting myself into. Growing up, I went on school field trips to Times Square, Broadway shows, or Dave & Buster’s. I knew the NYU experience wasn’t going to be that kind of New York City experience. What I didn’t know was what to really expect or how much enriching culture there really is in this city.

The Hustle and Bustle

New York City gives off an energy you don’t really encounter anywhere else. Unlike the suburbs, it never feels like anyone is taking their time doing something. That energy will rub off on you eventually! You will feel your walking pace speed up to match that of those around you. Before you know it, you will be getting places five minutes faster than Google Maps predicts.

Given the fact that you are moving, you will definitely lose your sense of home for a brief period. While you are adjusting, remember that this city is huge. It is unlikely you’ll encounter a friendly “hello” from the barista at the cafe or a warm smile from the cashier at the grocery store. Most people tend to keep to themselves and leave “sorry” and “thank you” out of their vocabulary, so don’t think it’s you! However large New York City is, it feels shockingly small sometimes. You’ll find yourself constantly bumping into mutual friends and familiar faces. Start building your community from the beginning and you will notice just how quickly New York City will feel like home to you.

Time-lapse video of a New York City sunset.
The Culture

As a soon-to-be New Yorker, it is important to recognize and respect the beautiful culture of the city. You are attending a very diverse university in an incredibly diverse city. NYU is located in ancestral Lenape homelands. With that comes a bit of responsibility to immerse yourself when you can. Gentrification in this city is ever-evolving, causing many people to become displaced from their homes or face rising living costs. Do your best to support small businesses and understand that the city is more than just our neighborhood of Manhattan. Cultural difference means exposure to new things, so try a new food, visit a new neighborhood, and make the most out of your time in this beautiful city.

A person playing piano in Washington Square Park.
Living in the City

Any city will differ from the suburbs. Moving to one raises concerns about safety, transportation, expenses, and the like. Don’t you worry! While it will be an adjustment, your feet and MetroCard will become your best friends. It is normal to feel worried about getting around, but you will get used to your surroundings over time. You’ll navigate by a train line that you will take to get to and from most places (don’t be afraid to use Google Maps!) Getting lost sounds scary, but traveling with a buddy or using directions will keep you on track. Biking is a personal favorite mode of transportation. It can be nerve-racking to bike in a city. It takes caution and practice, but it is a quick, fun, and eco-friendly way to get around!

If you are living in housing, you will be presented with many opportunities to build community in your living space. Do it! It is a great feeling to come home somewhere you feel welcome. Residence halls will hold events that allow you to interact with other residents and explore different parts of the city. Living in the city means you will be in and of the city, especially at a school like NYU that does not have a direct campus. Take advantage of your ability to live centrally, because it is truly one of the things I am most grateful for. Although you may miss living in a suburb for a short while, you will adjust to this new city that you and about eight million other people call home.

New York City subway tracks and platform.

Michelle Alvarado (she/her) is a rising sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Global Public Health with a concentration in Biology and minoring in Social Entrepreneurship. Originally from New Jersey, Michelle came to NYU as a first generation college student aspiring to earn her degree in the city that never sleeps. When she isn’t working on campus as an Office Assistant or Admissions Ambassador, Michelle can be found admiring NYC dogs or studying at her favorite coffee shop near campus. She is a member of a Panhellenic sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Hall Council. Michelle is passionate about helping others and hopes that by sharing her journey, she can inspire others to chase their dreams.