As a newcomer, someone who’s never even set foot in the Land of the Free before,. I have only ever seen the bright lights of New York from a TV screen or in the movies. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The first look I got of the Big Apple was from the plane window, looking out at the bright lights of the city. The light pollution lit up the sky, while the cabin lights dimmed into a soft rainbow of colours that danced with the concrete jungle below.
Security was an experience in itself; I expecting to be greeted by a large muscular man holding an AK-47. Instead, a middle age man with a fatherly smile pointed me to a friendly (if not slightly intimidating) customs officer that made the process easy and stress free.
The grid system that the streets sat on made getting around the vast city relatively easy. Once I was able to get a lay of the land, I felt quite comfortable walking around without the fear of getting lost. From the hostel I was staying at, I was able to find my way to both of the nearest subway stations, Times Square and most importantly to the Starbucks that served me and my friend Katie well each morning for breakfast.
New Yorkers are great. Warmer than Londoners, they are willing to talk and help out no matter what. The lady that served us each morning in Starbucks was always cheerful and asked us how we were, and strangers would openly talk to each other.
On our first full day in the city, Katie and I took a trip to the Museum of the Dog in Midtown Manhattan. Before we knew it, we were sat around a children’s colouring table with a group of women about our age, discussing dogs. It was one of the weirdest yet best moments of the trip.
But unfortunately, not everyone found New York as easy as I did.
“When we arrived, I was overwhelmed.” Ella Jones, fellow student, told me on one of the last days of the trip.
“We went to Times Square and this guy started to chat us up and putting CDs in our hands, asking where we are from. Another guy came along, starting to ask for a donation. Then there were about four of them around the two of us.
“I pulled out a one dollar bill, and this guy said “no one gives us one dollar”. When [my friend] did the same thing, they were looking in her purse, took a five dollar bill out of her hand, and walked off with it.”
“It was really scary,” she said, talking about her feelings after the experience. “You have your bag open, your pockets open, feeling really exposed. You just don’t know who is around you.”
New York is a large city and people will experience it differently. I feel like I was lucky, because everyone I spoke to was lovely. I would definitely recommend going, but I would say to always be aware of your surroundings and don’t make yourself a target.