Balancing The City

Screeching metal wheels, passing footsteps, and foreign languages flood your senses when walking down the average New York City street. For myself and many others who didn’t grow up in the hustle and bustle of the city, it can be quite an adjustment. Exploring and understanding your new college environment is a challenge on its own, but I believe it’s important to venture beyond campus walls and appreciate the city that is at your fingertips. Even if you’re moving into the city with an open mindset, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. While my time in New York has been limited so far, I’ve picked up on a few tips that might be helpful to the average New York City freshman. 

First things first, it’s very important to understand your immediate surrounding area. New York City is gigantic, complex, and diverse. With a population that speaks over 200 languages, includes over three million foreign born residents, and houses the most ethnic enclaves in the country, there’s certainly a lot to discover. Even though there’s a whole city to explore, it’s best to start with a home base. Get familiar with your surrounding community! The best way to accomplish this is to walk around, which is convenient, since NYC is one of the most walkable cities in the U.S! As a student at Columbia University, I took it upon myself to become aware of the surrounding Harlem area. I remember walking to so many places that seemed interesting to me during my first few months of college. From cafes, to barbershops, to parks, I was intentionally exploring all my immediate area had to offer me. Ultimately I found success and satisfaction in doing so! One of my favorite cafes in the city is just a 15 minute walk from campus, and my barber is only 10 minutes. Google Maps can be really helpful when it comes to finding destinations. Virtually scanning for nearby restaurants or cafes is a great way to mentally plan out your excursions. Granted, it’s important to do your research on the safety of your given area. Use your best judgment, especially when traveling alone. No matter what region or borough your school is located in, I believe that exploring on foot is one of the best ways to go.

My current google maps view, showcasing all transit lines and saved locations.

Depending on your area, you might be able to get familiar with your surroundings within the first month of college. When you feel comfortable enough, you should take your ventures out past the university area. Seeing as college campuses typically alter the culture of their immediate surrounding area, it can be refreshing to explore the city outside of the “university bubble”. While your immediate neighborhood is the most accessible, it’s worth it to take the extra step to experience a more authentic side of New York. For destinations outside of walking distance, public transit is your best friend. New York’s subway system is incredibly extensive, boasting 472 subway stations and 3.6 million daily riders. Thankfully, the system is always accessible and can whisk you from one side of the city to the next with ease. One tip that helped me when it came to exploring the city was setting my Google Maps to transit mode. This allowed me to not only see the subway lines that I would be taking, but also get used to the layout of the system over time. It’s important to have some idea of where you’re going before you get on the subway. Since phone service can get shaky in between stops, I try to carry a paper map with me whenever I can. You can get a portable map for free by simply asking the worker at the booth near the turnstile. In my experience, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Most important of all, it’s important to find a balance during your time at college. While life at university might feel suffocating at some points, it can be strenuous (physically and financially!) to go out on the town every night as well! Scheduling at least one outing with friends per week was what worked best for me. It gave me something to look forward to during the school week. I suggest trying out what schedule works best for you. Asking questions like “can I afford a $6 matcha five days a week?” or “is it smart to leave campus so late?” can help formulate a plan that makes sense. Finding this balance between campus life and exploring the city is what really makes going to college in New York City worthwhile. So whenever you make the time, I encourage you to get out there and explore all that the city has to offer!

By Thomas Stewart

Thomas currently attends Columbia University and plans to double major in creative writing and human rights. At Columbia Thomas is a staff writer for the City News section of the Columbia Daily Spectator, where he publishes articles that concern the West Harlem community. In his free time, you can find him practicing music or trying new vegetarian recipes

If you’re like me and love looking for new acai bowls, use code PYGCK at Tropical Berry Cafe for 40% off.

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.


Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.