If you are anything like me, you grew up with one thought and one thought only: one day you will live in New York City. You don’t know how, but you know it will happen. So you started dreaming, but soon realized that dreams without a plan are like a rap song featuring Miley Cyrus: not real…and never will be!
I began plotting as soon as I knew that New York was what I wanted, basically since I first heard a Nas song and watched a Woody Allen movie – yes, the obsession started early! For years, I considered every possible option but they all seemed out of reach. I thought of College, but education in the USA was nowhere near affordable. Or maybe I could graduate in France and work in New York, but how would I find a job and a visa with no connections?
As I looked into French Grad Schools, I realized that many of them had International Programs, so this became my motivation. When the moment finally arrived to pick between studying or interning abroad for six months, I decided it was time to Party in the USA – see Miley, I am okay with you as long as you stick to pop music! After convincing the exchange organization that I will be just fine in New York and won’t regret declining a Mid-West campus, my master plan finally unfolded!
Spending a semester at The City College of New York turned out to be the experience of a lifetime for me. If you are obsessed with the idea of moving to the Big Apple, studying here is the way to go and the perfect introduction to the City. From students to professors, I met incredible New Yorkers who eventually became my support system for years to come. I know what you are thinking: New York college life ain’t cheap! But think of this as an investment for the future. All you really need is a little bit of time here to feel the pace and prepare for bigger things.
For students coming from abroad, transferring to the City shouldn’t cost anything if your school has partnerships with New York Colleges, and a lot of European Universities offer financial support through scholarships. Combined with a babysitting job or a side hustle, you can make enough money to survive in the concrete jungle. Sure, you will still need to learn the art of getting free drinks…but I’ll get to that later!
If you don’t qualify for an exchange program, there are still public and community Colleges with affordable tuition. CCNY is definitely one of them and I recommend it for its down to earth people from all boroughs and nationalities, and the beautiful campus in the heart of Harlem.
The bottom line is, if New York is what you want…work the system to get it! Columbia or NYU may be dream schools on paper, but in the end, you can only count on yourself to turn a studying abroad program into a career opportunity. Be open to everyone you meet on campus, but also while out sipping $5 Frozen Margaritas! You’d be shocked to see how total strangers are willing to give free advice in New York.
If you are on a student visa, don’t forget that you can stay in the US for another month after it expires. Use that time wisely to network your butt off! I randomly found an internship once the semester ended, which turned out to be an amazing experience, not to mention that my boss was the one and only Travelin’ Girl. If it wasn’t for interning with her, I would probably still be looking for a job now. And if it wasn’t for being an exchange student, I simply wouldn’t have been in the right place at the right time to jump on the opportunity.
Studying in New York is more than going to class three days a week and hanging out at Blockheads. It’s about getting your foot in the door and keeping it open until you are ready to apply for a real job. They say it’s up to you…