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5 Things All International Students Should Know about Studying in NYC

By Yanjun Li

Hi! I’m Yanjun Li, and I’m an international student from China who has spent the past semester studying in New York City. It has been a great semester and a valuable experience for me to be a part of the Newhouse NYC program. The practical experience definitely helps a person grow faster. In four short months, I not only put what I learned from school into real-life practice, but I also learned how to deal with challenges on my own. Here are five tips I would give to the incoming international students:

1. Subway? Not a problem!

The subway is always the best way to go everywhere. However, the New York City subway is confusing. The signs and the instructions are not clear enough for an “outlander.” For me, it probably took two weeks to get used to the lines and directions. Don’t panic—I think this is a process that everyone needs to go through.

Google Maps app quickly became my best friend, and it will be yours, too. From the directions, you can see which line to take, whether to go uptown or downtown, how many stops you need to go, and which stop you get off. At the beginning of the semester, I did ask a fellow commuter for directions, but just once—so that’s always a good last resort. But the more you ride the train, the more you’ll get the sense and skills of how to go anywhere. If you are too tired to get somewhere, I used Lyft and Uber, which are safe and fast. If you want the cheapest way of commuting, though, the subway is the best way.

 

2. Eat, live, eat

Some people say New York City never sleeps, and I would say New York City is never hungry. There are massive restaurants in the city; I feel like I’ll never be able to try them all. If you want Japanese food, my favorite is Cha-An in the East Village. If you want authentic Chinese food, Chinatown and Flushing (in Queens—a little bit far) are the best places to go. My favorite restaurant in Chinatown is West New Malaysia. It serves Southeast Asian food, but the food there is even better than the original dishes. For example, I ordered a dish that originally comes from Singapore. The taste was even better here than it was in Singapore! So I highly recommend you go. Also, I suggest trying different countries’ food because you can find every type of cuisine in the Big Apple.

 

3. Get the right clothes for the job

New York City is shopping paradise, and Soho is my favorite place to go. There are a variety of clothes for different styles and needs. Since we are here for internships, I would recommend ZARA for business casual clothes that are good quality and an affordable price. Clothing shops are everywhere in New York City, so sometimes when I was out with my friends, we would randomly go into a store. It’s always worth a try.

 

4. Stay healthy—and have some fun

If you choose not to live in the dorm, your apartment may or may not have a fitness room. There was no fitness room in my apartment, so I signed up for a yoga class nearby. Different than normal yoga classes, this type of yoga was called Aerial Yoga, in which you “fly” on a hammock. I enjoyed it! Remember to use Groupon to find discounts on classes.

If you are sick, you don’t have to go to the hospital (unless it’s an emergency); there are many urgent care clinics in the city. You can use Google Maps or Yelp to find the nearest one. I went to an urgent care clinic near my apartment that was quick, inexpensive, and efficient.

 

5. Take away life lessons from your internship

I worked in a small PR agency this semester, and I learned a lot. I think for international students, confidence is the most important thing. When you want to do something, or you find a project you’re interested in, you should always ask your supervisor if there’s an opportunity to help.

If you feel you need feedback or have any questions, don’t be afraid to schedule time with your supervisor to talk about your concerns. I benefited a lot from talking with my supervisor and learning about my strengths and weaknesses at work. For example, I learned that if you’re stuck on a task, sometimes it’s good to put it away for a while and come back to it. This may help you come up with a better idea.

 

Remember, New York is a magical city. There are so many places, events, and activities to explore while you are here. I know your semester in NYC will be an unforgettable experience in your life, as it has been for me.

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