The 5 Greatest Lessons I Learned During My Semester in NYC
Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid of the new and unknown; it’s not as scary as it seems.
When I first arrived in NYC, I was afraid to leave my room because I thought I would never find my way back. The city was overwhelming, and the streets all looked the same. I began the first week of the semester, embarking on the route to work I memorized after practicing over the weekend. I took the 6 downtown to 59th street, at which point I had to switch to the NQR towards Brooklyn. I followed the bustling crowd downstairs, as practiced, and stood waiting on the platform for the train. Of course, in all of the advice shared with me, no one had mentioned that the tracks on each side go to different places (clearly it isn’t obvious to everyone). I ended up on the express train to Queens—I stepped out to the outdoor platform and recognized nothing, but it wasn’t so bad! I looked around for a little, and I somehow found my way to the uptown train and ultimately made it to work on time.
Lesson #2: Always be (extra) prepared for any and every situation.
Shortly after my unexpected trip to Queens, I was able master the route from our Upper East Side home to the Young & Rubicam office in Columbus Circle, then to class at the Fisher Center, and then back home. I was on top of my work, cooking meals and saving leftovers, and planning my outfits ahead of time. Then, on a warm, sunny Wednesday morning, I was walking to work when my sandal strap snapped, and the shoe was hanging around my ankle. It was a slow, shameful walk back to the dorm. From then on, I never left home without an extra pair of shoes again. Photographic evidence below:
Lesson #3: Be friendly to everyone because you never know who he is, or who he may know.
At Young & Rubicam, my team sat on the 10th floor, providing ample amounts of time to socialize while waiting for the elevators, as well as during the actual rides. During one of the waits, an man started joking with me about trying to catch the elevator—it was somewhat playful, amusing chitchat, and it continued all the way down to the lobby. I left thinking, “That guy was funny—must be visiting the office and trying to befriend everyone.” It turns out that the quirky guy from the elevator is a global chief executive!
Lesson #4: The best way to network, and to make the most of professional contacts, is to build real, personal connections.
During orientation, Cheryl conducted a “Becoming a New Yorker” panel, featuring young Newhouse alumni. They shared their post-graduation experiences, as well as tips for how to maximize our time in the city. The speakers introduced themselves saying where they’re from, their area of study and what they’re up to now. Then one alumna, Naomi Ratner, said she was from Newton, MA, and the whole group turned to look at me. “I’m from there too!” I said. Naomi stayed after the panel to chat with me and it turned out that we had a lot in common. We kept in touch, got dinner together, and I even visited her at her office (Thank you, Naomi)!
Lesson #5: NYC is a totally unique place, with the most interesting, eccentric people—embrace it all!
One of the most interesting people I’ve met while in the city is Alex the cab driver. It was a Friday morning, and I was leaving from the Upper East Side to LaGuardia airport, so we had ample time to talk about our lives, as I do with most cab drivers. I asked where he was from, and he told me he came from Russia. He went on to explain that he was a doctor at home, and came to the United States to study more medicine. Of course, with my curiosity and need to kill time, I asked what kind of doctor he was. He replied, “A gynecologist—a lady doctor.” Needless to say, the conversation did not go any further.