Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New to New York? 5 Ways to Adjust Easily

Hey there, fellow Edsters!

Next week marks the halfway point for my internship, and it’s amazing how fast time has gone. It’s hard to believe just a month ago I was sitting on my front porch, looking out at my suburban neighborhood and just trying to imagine what New York and my internship would be like. It’s been such a journey, and there’s so much more to go.

When I look back, however, I see this experience as more than just conquering the work day. I’ve learned so much at work, but I’ve learned even more about myself as a person and my ability to adapt in new environments from living on my own in New York.

I won’t sugarcoat it and say adjustment is easy, especially when you’re living in a new place is as big, exciting and intimidating as New York. I’ve grown to love the city, but it wasn’t always like that. There were tears over bad directions, frustration over the complicated subway and heartbreak over leaving behind all my friends, family and the familiar.

I had an advantage from the start: I had gotten to know a big city before — D.C. — and I had visited New York a couple times. Settling into urban life versus suburban or rural wasn’t an issue for me. And for directions? I had my iPhone, whose map application has been a lifesaver when it comes to the subway and what line to take. Seriously, since being here, the greatest nightmare I can imagine would be losing my phone while traveling; I’ve become that reliant.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me, however, was finding a group of people to be with. While there were some people from my college up here, scattered around the city, there was really no cohesive group of people I was close to. I’m a little younger than most people from my college here so I didn’t know them that well, and my friends at home were all, well, home or working in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area. I was essentially on my own.

But I wasn’t the only one. After talking to other interns at Ed’s intern party (a great way to meet people and set the foundation for summer friendships), I was surprised to find we were all kind of lost and lonely. We spent our weekends on our own, exploring the city and doing things by ourselves. Some people were lucky to have big groups here; but just as many were working on building circles of friends. We were all a little desperate for company.

It definitely takes time to really find a group and comfortable groove (I’m still working on it and suspect I will continue until the end of the summer). It’s important to remember though, that at the end of the day it’s OK to feel a little lonely. It’s OK not to be a fish in water here in New York because many people aren’t. With time, everything gets better. Just have a good attitude and keep your spirits up — it’ll help you get through the rough patch.

Working here has really shown me interning in a new place is more than just getting used to working a new job — it’s about getting to know the place too, and both are equal adjustments. The following are five tips that have really hit home for me this summer — hopefully they will help you, too:

1. Use your resources. It’s OK to have the subway map out. It’s OK to rely on your phone. Don’t fear looking like a tourist when you really don’t get it. Don’t feel stupid turning around because you walked up the wrong avenue (it has happened to me so many times!). And most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for directions from the natives around you. People are always happy to help. Your sense of navigation will get better. But it doesn’t start perfect, and people understand that.

2. Reach out to everyone. Despite its population, New York can be a lonely city. Make a point to introduce yourself to the other interns you work with. Know someone from your school up here that you’re not really close to? Ask them if they want to get dinner with you. Ask alumni from your college working up here if they want to get a lunch or coffee with you for an informational interview. Essentially, use every link you’ve got to develop friendships and companionship. When you’re around people who have lived in New York longer too, don’t be afraid to ask for their recommendations or picks on things to do. As residents, they know the city best.

3. Explore. Get to know your neighborhood and those around it. Don’t be afraid to take an afternoon just to walk around by yourself. Exploring is the best way to settle in: once you know the area around you better, you’ll feel much more comfortable hanging around it (and can show other people and friends around when they come to see you). New York has so much character. Don’t waste your time off — your precious weekends — indoors when you can be out discovering it. And keep your eyes open while exploring. It might just give you inspiration for work and article ideas, too.

4. Keep busy. The best way to combat homesickness is by staying distracted, especially the first couple weeks. On days you’re alone (and there will be those days), plan a date with yourself and go to a museum or somewhere else you’d like to see. Read in the park. Call family or friends at home. Keep yourself occupied and know it’s just as important to take some time to unwind and recharge for the next work week as it is to connect with the people around you.

5. Feeling alone is natural, and it’s perfectly OK. You’re not the only person who’s on your own: interns are everywhere, and we’re just trying to build a group and to get to know New York. So don’t hesitate to reach out. Invite other people to join you when you go out. Research restaurants and plan a dinner or special outing for your fellow interns weekly — chances are they’ll appreciate the invitation and company just as much as you will. And the best part about these outings? Not only will you develop amazing friendships and memories that will last you for years to come, but you’ll also get to know the industry’s future: you know, someday when your fellow interns are editors here, too!

So how’s your adjustment been, Edsters? What tips do you have for thriving in a new city? And what are some of your favorite New York finds?

Women’s Mag Intern

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