|On the streets, pedestrians rush to reach their destinations amid the traffic crush. Such chaotic scenes intimidate newcomers. File photo|
At this new turning point, I wondered what destiny had in store for me. For the first time in seventeen years of my life, I felt that I was actually living my life on my own in this big city. It was not like those vacation days when I just dropped by for a short while.
New York City sits on an island on the east coast of the United States where crowded elegant hi-rise buildings stand over hectic traffic and people juggling busy schedules. A glimpse at the strange faces on the streets made me wonder whether I would be able to live there.
Some people might think of living in New York City is an ideal, an ideal most likely derived from exposure to too many rolls of Hollywood films in which they have seen only nice scenes and the good life. Life in New York City is not that easy for newcomers. People come from all parts of the world and hold divergent beliefs and ideas.
I was worried about how to fit into such a face-paced environment, about coping with school and classes, finding a place to live, about safety. Finding the answers would prove to be an intriguing experience.
Choosing a school
Schools in New York City are spread throughout the island. The publication U.S. News is a great guide to help you check U.S. school rankings and requirements. Here are a few examples of schools in the area.
Pratt Institute is in Brooklyn which is situated below Manhattan so most students, who’d rather live in Manhattan, learn to commute to and from the school. (??) Pratt offers great programs in typography and graphic arts.
The School of Visual Arts is known as one of the best schools for animation and visual arts. It’s located near the Chelsea area in Manhattan.
New York University, one of the city’s oldest academic institutions, is located right at the center of Washington Square Park. It offers lots of programmes from business, law and medicine to communications, film, music and theater.
Parsons, School of Design from Paris is the only chain school in the United States. It has a lot of great programmes that can be completed within two years. Among the most Interesting design courses are jewelry design and light design.
Where to find a place to sleep?
The majority of foreign students apply for a place in dormitory in their first year. Living in the dorm broadens your perspectives about people and plays a significant role in growing to be an adult. In a dormitory you must learn to share, respect your roommate, behave courteously and take on responsibilities. And, of course, you have to live according to the dormitory’s regulations.
Living on your own in an apartment can be costly depending on the area you choose – if you can find a place, that is. Then, it can take weeks or months to process your application. Normally, the apartment management asks for a guarantor to sign the lease if you are not a New York resident. For most apartments, there’s a broker’s fee ranging from 10 to 20 percent of the annual rent.
For listings, check the Village Voice – a free weekly tabloid which is normally stacked on news stands. Sometimes there are postings on boards in supermarkets or on campus for rent or sublets. The other alternative is to go straight to the apartment buildings you are interested in. By the way, utility fees are not included in the rent.
All apartments in the city are unfurnished, unless the ad reads ‘furnished apartment’’. The best thing to do is buy used furniture from other students. Free stuff? Ok, check out the dumpster sites or back streets, but don’t expect to find them clean or in good shape! Realistically however, you have to get new pieces and assemble them yourself in most cases.
Living with an American family is a good idea if you would like to experience what it’s like to live in a real American home. It can be a memorable time to learn the culture – what the family does on an everyday basis. That way you really find out what ‘trick or treat’ is all about and how the family celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas – all kinds of cultural habits you have never known or experienced yourself. So if you are interested, contact the school’s international student office to see if the option is there.
Adapting into a new environment
Once you are there, find people who share your interests, then get out and explore the city. File photo
A lot of people initially feel disoriented and confused in a major metropolis like New York City. Living in a cultural mix, you have to adapt quickly and act to avoid isolation and alienation. Whether you are an extrovert or naturally an introvert, you need to go out, explore your new place, meet new people and make new friends who share common interests. By the same token, you have to learn to be extremely independent and internalise things fast to blend into this dynamic culture.
Though New York City is much safer than in the old days with the crime rate going down since Mayor Giuliani took charge, you still have to know your way around and where to go.
How’s the transportation system?
The Metro system in the city is one of the most reliable forms of transportation and New Yorkers use it to commute within the city. Subway trains and buses run 24/7 uptown and downtown as well as across from the west to the east side. Subway and bus maps can be obtained from the booth or conductors at the station. At present, one- way fare is $1.50 (65Bt). For unlimited rides, there’s a weekly card sold for $17 (738Bt).Grand Central Station is right on 42nd Street and Broadway where Greyhound buses and trains converge. Both can take you to other cities of New York state or other states. Fares vary depending on the routes and destinations. Students with valid student ID can get a lower rate when travelling.
In a hurry? You can hail a yellow cab with a starting fee of $3.35 (145Bt). Warning: Make sure you know your way around the streets if you don’t want to be ripped off.
Thinking of having a car? It’s really not necessary to have one and if you do, it will cost you a lot to maintain. One major problem is the garage space. Most apartments charge you about $200 per month (8682Bt) for parking. Parking on the street can be worse. You will likely have to insert one quarter (25 cents 11Bt) every half an hour. Besides, cars are parked bumper to bumper. What about parking in a parking lot? Hmm, let’s say that most private parking lots charge you $7(304Bt) an hour!
Classes in the States
In US classes, students are encouraged to interact and participate in class instead of just sitting back and taking notes. This way, students learn more about each other to lessen their differences. Listening to others’ opinions will broaden your perspectives and help you blend into the class and feel more comfortable. In addition, speaking up and expressing your opinion count toward your final grade since this reflects your comprehension in your lessons.
Attendance is not taken in lot of classes. Professors will not tell you to show up in class. You are treated like adults — you have to take responsibility for your own actions and devise your own system for earning grades. You must learn to be completely independent.
Students often have to do extensive research for both individual and group projects. This way, students learn to find information on their own. Fortunately, most school libraries are open 24 hours.
When materials are not available at your school library, check the public library. The public library is one of the most valuable facilities in the city. It is located in a huge building right off of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street. There you have access to a huge variety of resources: newspapers, books, slides, periodicals and even computer stations with free Internet access.
What to do on a day without classes
|Radio City on 6th Avenue in midtown Manhattan is a good place to catch a free concert. File photo|
There are things you can do in the city with or without money! There are public parks, Central Park for example, where you can sit and read your books under one of those big trees. From time to time there’s a free concert held at the Music Hall you can attend
Chinatown is in the lower part of the city known as lower Manhattan. There, on Canal Street, are fresh markets carrying seafood, vegetables and fruits. On one side of a street further into the center of Chinatown, you can find shops carrying goodies imported from other countries. So if you wish to find Thai products or ingredients, you absolutely won’t be disappointed here. To cut living expenses, it’s a good idea to shop here and cook at home.
Near Chinatown is the SoHo area where a lot of artists and art students often put their artwork up for sale along the sides of the streets. From time to time, you will find artists showcasing their masterpieces in galleries. If you spend time there, you might see Hollywood divas buying extraordinarily unique paintings right off the wall, hoping the artists will become famous. Visit museums and private exhibitions to see art done in various mediums — water, oil and acrylic paintings; sculptures and installation art.
The Village is the most popular area for students to venture after or between classes. It is fun just to walk around and to look at different displays of vintage clothing. Often rare items — collectible stuff, leather jacket, shoes, records — from the 60’s or 70’s are for sale at the flea markets there.
For filmgoers, independent foreign movies play at Angels Theater on Bleecker Street and on Broadway. Student discounts are available at the box office. Just present your valid student ID. And for those who love plays, there are theater and musicals. Some plays are hard to get tickets for, Lion King, for example, so reserve in advance. If you have a passion for plays, you won’t regret the expense.
Why study in New York?
New York City is a perfect place for building life and education experiences at the same time. You experience how different people from varied origins live together in the same community like a melting pot, yet at the same time maintain their own distinctive cultures.
"One of the advantages of studying in this dynamic culture," says Kuo Hao Lee, an economics major alumnus at NYU, "is the opportunity to see things from different perspectives which is an important stage in growing up,"
Lots of people, like Kulthep Narula, find many things rewarding. He says, "It was exciting to study in New York City. It’s certainly a dynamic society. I know people from different worlds and cultures. At the same time, I was right at the hub of the business center where I was exposed to the practical world,"
In the city, a lot of bookstores are located next to coffee shops. People often spend time in bookstores reading, studying or just browsing through books on the shelves. On the streets in New York City, there are always things to do and see.
"I enjoyed my student life there, comments Chotiya Ahuja, a master graduate in writing from Columbia University. "A bookstore I often went to is around my apartment and school. I could grab a coffee if I’d like and sat down to read or study. I loved going to Central Park, museums, or to see a free concert at the music hall. It was a totally different lifestyle."
In New York City it is common to see people from all cultures trying to make a living on the sidewalks or in the subway station. File photo
From time to time, you will see unknown musicians playing their instruments at no charge, but hoping for small change.
New York City is a city of all kinds of opportunities. Many international students intern in their third or fourth year to experience real work life. Hae-Jin Lee, a Korean multimedia student at NYU said, "I love this city. It really is a city of possibilities. My graphic works were published in How magazine, and they’ve become my major portfolio."
"I had a chance to do my internship at Morgan Stanley where I could utilise my computer skills and experience work life at the same time," Phiroen Phihakendr, a computer science student at NYU adds.
The Last word
Life in New York City is not that hard, yet not so simple. Open your mind to this unique life experience and you’ll certainly fall for this Big Apple. New York City has a lot to offer. Despite its chaotic environment, it is a place of opportunity. Will New York City be the next stop for you to pursue your education? That is the question you will have to answer for yourself.