Life in the Big Apple

Shuyao Kong ’13
Staff Writer

“What are you doing after college?” I asked.

“I am going to New York City,” my friend responded.

“Cool, I love the city. What are you doing there?” I asked.

“I don’t know…”

It is approaching the time of the year for college graduates to move to big cities in the hopes of starting their careers and post-grad lives. For many Smithies, two ideal locations are Boston and New York City. Compared to the gentle waves of the Charles River in Boston, New York City seems to be more like a melting pot, a mini version of the United States of America. For its residents, New York City is a place to live. Yet for newcomers like recent college graduates, the city is mixed with good and bad. Opportunity is definitely the biggest advantage of it, yet in thinking about the dirty streets, high living expenses and crowded subways, a person used to living in Noho might experience a new form of cultural shock, and the average New Yorker certainly does not care about your shock at the least bit. As a senior who is graduating in a month, I cannot help wondering whether I will be able to survive in NYC and how Smith College has prepared me for the Big Apple … if I were to move there at all.

First, housing. Most newcomers have to go through the hardship of finding a place to live. Compared to the princess-like “castle” dorms on Smith campus, apartments in NYC can be different in an uncomfortable way. I might end up squeezing in the same room with another person without any privacy. I might end up living in Brooklyn and spending two hours commuting to Manhattan. I might end up staying in a hostel simply because finding an apartment is impossible. There are many possibilities and none of them seem to be ideal.

Second, jobs. Everyone moves to NYC for jobs. Yet, where are the jobs? Where is the place to utilize the knowledge I learned in the Smith classroom? I surely cannot get into Wall Street because I do not have that background. But a PR company would not pay me enough to afford living in the city.

Third, friends. There are 22 million people in New York City, but where do I find people with whom I can share my thoughts and concerns? At Smith, socializing is a part of life. Eating in the dining hall together, studying in the living room of Albright house and running into friends at the Campus Center … conversations and social interactions are everywhere. But I might not be able to find someone to talk to when I have a bad day at work, let alone having an intellectual talk about women’s rights.

Fourth, cooking, subways, crossing the streets…

Listing all these foreseeable difficulties, I cannot help admitting that I have been spoiled by the Smith bubble, the very bubble I used to criticize as too exclusive and extreme. But I never realized how comfortable I am living in this bubble.

On the other hand, I am confident that all my fellow seniors who are moving to the city will soon overcome all these difficulties. We might not be able to use any knowledge from the classroom to live a happily ever after life in a crowded city. But we can use the experience, the thinking and the networks accumulated in the last four years to perceive the difficulties as positive challenges – challenges that will allow us to grow out of the Smith bubble, making a new bubble out of the Big Apple that will hopefully be stronger and more lasting.

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