Now I Know, New York.

Everything is scary until you do it.
New York is kind of a scary concept. Millions of people in a small amount of space. Crowded streets, crowded buildings, crowded subways. There isn’t crime around every corner waiting for you. But you do need to pay attention to your surroundings. The sheer number of people means there will be more poverty and homelessness, dirtier streets, more germs. It also means there will be loud, opinionated people. Or sometimes there will be loud, mentally unstable people sitting next to you on the Subway talking to themselves or yelling “You’re all going to wish you were dead!” at you and a friend in the street (yes, that actually happened).
There are a lot of unsettling things about New York. But, having just left, I can say I felt an overwhelming sense of security and like I was truly at home in New York.

Central Park

This summer, I did something I’d always wanted to do. A friend of mine asked me if I had known about my internship before I decided I wanted to live in the city. Basically, what came first: my job or the city? And my answer was the city. The city always came first. If anyone ever asked where I wanted to live most or where I wanted to visit, that was the first place to come to mind. I was just too afraid to really ever do it or say I was going to do it. Personally, I thank God for the courage and good timing to do it.

When I came to New York in middle school with my mom and a friend, I really saw it through rose-colored glasses. This idealistic view of the city continued as I grew up and obsessively watched Sex and the City and Gossip Girl. I viewed NYC as this glamorous oasis with constant excitement, lights, fame, love, beauty and opportunity. And that is absolutely part of the multi-layered cake that is New York. But only part.
Now I know so much more about this place than I ever did.

Now I know Times Square is not the coolest part of the city and it’s actually a death trap full of tourists and guys with comedy show tickets waiting to rip you off.

Now I know that the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and 5th Avenue are beautiful, clean, and well-deservedly famous but some of the coolest, most chic people and places in the city can be found in SoHo, the West Village and Chelsea. That goes for the most expensive apartments too.

My favorite street in SoHo
My favorite street in SoHo

Now I know that having a rooftop with a view is an unbeatable perk to look for, whether in an apartment, club or a restaurant. But I also know it’s impressive to find an apartment with a dishwasher and laundry in the building.

Now I know the other boroughs have tons to offer, you just have to be willing to look.

Now I know that, yes, there are 1.5 million Starbucks in Manhattan but to find the best coffee, you have to go looking. And coffee is always necessary. Always.

Now I know that you fold your pizza when you eat it. That’s really the only way to do it.

Now I know that black and white never go out of style. If you ever want to push your fashion boundaries there is no better place than New York to try.

Now I know that New York has some of the best bakeries and desserts you’ll ever find. Items like the Cronut and the Cookie Shot at Dominique Ansel’s are truly an experience just to get your hands on. But sometimes all you need is a classic black and white cookie, a dessert that I now know New York loves.

The Cronut
The Cronut

Now I know that anywhere unlimited sushi and sake is offered is guaranteed to be two things: 1) loud and 2) incredibly fun.

Now I know that you don’t really have to wait for a walk sign to cross the street. In fact, doing that is kind of weird.

Now I know that it might be worth looking like a weird newbie checking the street before you walk in order to not be pummeled by the bikers that fly by without stopping for pedestrians.

Now I know that you should never really feel lost in New York because no matter where you are, there’s something incredible to see and someone else equally lost to see it with.

Wings

Now I know that people don’t talk on the Subway. Ever.

Now I know that making a plan is overrated. I spent more days than not just wandering around my favorite neighborhoods with no specific destination in mind and that is when I enjoyed myself the most and when I found the coolest spots.

Now I know that the best things come when you’re least expecting it or looking for it. Seeing celebrities, for example, always happened at the most random times in the most random places. New York will always surprise you.

Now I know that if I made it in New York starting from scratch, I really can make it anywhere (Jay Z knew what he was talking about). New York challenges you and pushes you to be tougher and ready for anything.

Street Art 2

Now I know that if you don’t know what to do after college and you find yourself getting an internship offer in New York City and you see no possible way it could work out and you don’t really know what you’ll do after, there is only one thing you should do: make it work. Don’t even think twice.

Now I know that everything is scary until you do it. Then it’s just part of life you’ll look back on and always love that you did it.

A friend I met in New York shared a quote with me that I think perfectly describes the effect the city has on its explorers: “Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.” – John Steinbeck 

Now I know.

Brooklyn Bridge

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Life in Trastevere

I’ve been living in Rome for three weeks now and it is unbelievable how fast time has gone. I’ve had a chance to really explore Rome, but somehow have managed to not see some of the most typical attractions yet. Shockingly, I haven’t explored Vatican City yet or gone inside the Colosseum – two of the things people do in their first few days here. I guess I’ve just been trying to wait until I had a day with absolutely nothing to do so I won’t feel rushed. Those days are hard to come by when you have class in the middle of the day. 

My friends on the trip and I have fallen in love with Trastevere. There is a fountain right next to the church Santa Maria in Trastevere where we go to sit, talk, and meet people. We’ve found a small stop for pizza that stays open late at night – for when we’re coming home at 3 a.m., which has happened probably too often. We’ve even found the cheapest beer we could possibly find  (a real Italian has pretty much cringed when I mentioned it to him, if that tells you anything) and became obsessed with it. 

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Santa Maria in Trastevere
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Where Michelangelo died.

I’ve memorized the walk to our school, which takes about 30 minutes. I’ve actually been getting around pretty well without getting lost, so that’s a plus! School, thankfully, has been pretty relaxed. Both of my classes center around culture and art of Roman life, from ancient times to present day. They both also involve trips to sites every class period. Yesterday, we went to Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, a private art collection located in a palace in central Rome with works by Caravaggio and other famous artists. We also saw the monastery where Michelangelo died in Rome (though his body was later taken and buried in Florence). Then we saw the church in which St. James and St. Phillip were buried. That’s a lot of amazing history for just one day of class. 

All in all, though, I’ve learned the most about Italian culture by simply living in it. Experiencing the “riposo” time during the day when shops close and people take a break. Seeing families and children playing at the park right outside of our apartment. Watching Italian couples start dinner at 8 and sit there for three hours, just enjoying each other’s company and not feeling a rush to go anywhere. Then having an entirely different feeling when you walk into the center of Rome and feel the rush and energy of the busy city. The way Italians walk, drive (scary), speak and interact with one another is all so different from what I am used to. But I have grown accustomed to it somewhat, and have begun to appreciate their get-straight-to-the-point attitude. 

This past weekend, I went on a weekend trip with 7 other friends down south to Sorrento, where we stayed (unexpectedly) in two trailers right by the Italian coastline. These trailers weren’t exactly what we were expecting (we were expecting typical hostels), but they turned out to be a great surprise. We were practically camping out at the beach, just like an Italian family “getting away” and going to the beach in their RV for the weekend. There was no cell service, no wifi, and very few places to get food or drinks. It was a true escape from the city and barely felt like we were in the same country. We took a day trip on a ferry to the island of Capri, where we each pitched in and got a boat to take us around the island. We stopped at various cliffs and caves, which were all beautiful. We got to jump in and go swimming in the caves with goggles and water so clear you could see for days. It was probably my favorite day in Italy so far. If you ever go to Capri, get a boat – it is a must. 

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Tomorrow, I plan on going to the Vatican super early in the morning with my friend Amy to see the Pope address the public and then to go to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum. I am extremely excited to see this place full of so much history and significance.

I have begun to feel like Rome is a home away from home. It feels familiar yet still manages to surprise me everyday. Ciao for now!