Hiya! I’m Niamh, I study History of Art, and I’m on currently on a year abroad studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City! Unbelievably, I’m already half-way through my first semester – time flies when you’re having fun! Read on to hear more about my experiences so far!
Arriving in New York City
What better way to arrive at the dorms of my university in New York City than in a cliché yellow taxi! As I gazed out the window during my journey, I was amused at the quaint houses, with their star and stripe flags swaying in the summer breeze. I was nervous, and a tad exhausted after a long flight. But I was also excited and curious to see the city I’d be living in for the next year.
The constant wail of sirens, busy crowds, and immense height of the buildings was overwhelming at first. I still stop every once in a while to just take in how dazzling this city is. But after a few weeks, it started to feel strangely normal. Not homely like the cosy cobbled streets of York, but I was beginning to get my bearings at last. The rush and stress of the city is not so overpowering anymore. I now know to avoid areas like Penn Station and Times Square during rush hour!
Getting settled in my new home
I think how quickly I’ve settled in is largely due to the amazing friends I’ve made here. They come from all over! Some are from England like me, but others come from the small towns of up-state New York, Texas, Milwaukee, to the more local Brooklyn and the Bronx. Generally, the accommodation is catered at my university, so I eat most of my meals in a dining hall with other students. I love eating with friends after classes. It’s fun exchanging anecdotes and receiving confused glances when I describe someone as ‘mardy’ or say ‘crisps!’
On Thursdays, when I have no classes, I enjoy exploring the city via the subway. At first, I found it so confusing, sitting on the train with no idea if I was going in the right direction. But I think I’ve got the hang of it now, just don’t ask me to explain how it all works! My favourite areas I’ve explored have been the thrift shops in Bushwick and Brooklyn, the fashionable streets of Soho, and the characterful sights of Harlem.
How studying here compares to the UK
Classes here are quite different to the UK. They are three hours long, with a lecture and then a discussion in the same session, rather than a lecture and a separate seminar. Trying to stay focused for three hours has been a challenge, but when I return to York next year, I’ll find one hour lectures a breeze! My classes make use of all the amazing museums and galleries in New York City. We’ve been to the Highline, the Met, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture. Seeing the art we’re discussing in class first-hand is an amazing experience.
Being from the north of England, I’ve got a slightly different accent to what many Americans may expect. So sadly, I’ve not received as many ‘I love your accent!’ comments as I’d hoped! When attempting to tell people where I’m from, I’m met with blank faces. It seems that people think everyone in England lives in London! I’ve been asked more than once, ‘What’s life like in London?’ even though I’m not remotely from there!
Being a foreigner in a new country is vividly eye-opening for me. It’s both scary and wonderful at the same time. The things I’ve seen, from the lavish clothes adorning wealthy New Yorkers in the Upper East Side, to the severe homelessness problem on nearly every street, is mind-altering.
The American way of doing things is also very different (tipping and splitting bills in restaurants is an interesting bonding experience with friends…) and there is a general sense of everyone for themselves here in New York. But on the upside, I no longer succumb to the British urge to apologise relentlessly. I still like to open doors for others, which usually receives a muffled thank you, or maybe nothing at all, but that’s okay, it’s just New York.