- by Sophie Cowling
While I am yet to have a rat run over my feet, cry on the subway or steal a cab from someone when hailing on the street (things which officially qualify you for ‘New Yorker’ status) I have now been living in NYC for three months and it has become my home.
I am here as one of only four students from Birmingham doing an internship rather than attending an American/Canadian University. My internship is with British American Business and my role is in Communications – an area I’m looking to work in after graduation. I originally decided to apply for the internship instead of the Universities as I wanted to gain experience in the US work environment whilst also living in arguably the most exciting city in the world.
Knowing only two people in the city (but with family friends relatively nearby in Boston) it was also the biggest and most challenging thing I have ever done.
Visiting New York for a few days on a holiday is one thing, but arriving to live for ten months knowing only a couple of people is definitely overwhelming for the first few weeks. This lasts until you form a new routine and familiarity with your new life when the excitement of living in the city takes back over. Something to bear in mind for those thinking about applying for the internship is that the friend-making process is extremely different than in a University setting. The people you encounter at University are all in a similar situation to you but in a city like New York everybody is at different stages and in different situations. While I have been relatively lucky with the friend situation – I have been introduced to friends of friends and have now got a great group of fun people to socialize and enjoy the city with – it is important to know that it is not an easy initial transition.
New York has been an incredible city to work and play in. My walk to work every day consists of walking up Seventh Avenue (fashion district), through Times Square, past Bryant Park, the beautiful public library (where Carrie almost marries Big!) and towards the Chrysler building to my offices next to Grand Central Terminal. My work networking events have taken place in some incredible locations too, such as a networking breakfast on the 35th floor of a brand new office building overlooking the Empire State building and our Transatlantic Business Awards Dinner was held at the Pierre Hotel on Central Park (where our Christmas luncheon is taking place in a few weeks). I have to keep reminding myself of where I am and how different it is from sitting in the library or walking onto campus every day.
It is crazy how walking out of my building in the morning and seeing the Empire State Building now feels completely normal and familiar.
Some of the great social New York highlights I have had include attending the US Open at the beginning of September, cheering on Andy Murray with a few Brits who happened to be sat next to me in ‘Team GB’ tops. I also went to Fashion’s Night Out, have attended a charity gala at Cipriani’s and last week saw the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. There is so much to do in the city I am barely ever at home – choosing instead to spend my weekends wandering around Soho or the West Village and my favourite Sunday activity of walking through Central Park. The great thing about New York’s location too is the proximity to Boston and Washington DC (both 4 hour bus rides) and I have spent several weekends away here to unwind from NYC for a few days while exploring a new place.
Working for a company rather than attending a University has really thrown me into the ‘real world’ of living in a huge city, on a budget, in my early twenties – working 9 to 5. Unfortunately however it’s not ‘a way to make a living’ as the internship is unpaid. This is an inevitability of interning at this age but it does take a lot to live in such an expensive city for a long period of time unpaid and isn’t a decision you should take too lightly. In spite of not being paid and the huge culture shock of being thrown into a 9-5 work environment rather than University – the experience is invaluable. The skills I have learnt in and out of the workplace will enormously help the transition from graduation to young professional when I finish my fourth year at Birmingham, and the networking I have been exposed to here will (fingers crossed) assist me getting a job in the first place. I am so much more independent and self-sufficient than I was three months ago and am relishing the opportunity to live and work in a place that is so exciting ALL of the time. (For example: I went to the bookstore Barnes and Noble the other day to do some work and there were people lining up around the block because Johnny Depp was there doing a book signing. This is not a normal iLounge occurrence in Brum!)
This week is Thanksgiving which means the office shuts on Wednesday and I can go and have a pre-Christmas feast with my family friends who live in the city. The Christmas build-up is already in full swing here and NY really is the most festive place to be at this time of the year!
Sophie is living and working in New York on her year abroad. She is studying English Literature and American Canadian Studies.