City Life – The Spectator
Note: “Life in the City” is an ongoing column in which freelance writer Ta’Leah Van Sistine will write about her semester in New York through the National Student Exchange.
Just five miles from LaGuardia Airport, I constantly hear and see planes flying over the Queens College campus.
Hundreds of planes packed with people come and go every day, and I still can’t believe it’s been four weeks since I was on one of these planes, landing in New York for the very first time.
New York has always been a dream for me, as it has for many. Once I realized when I was 14 that I wanted to be a writer, it didn’t take long for me to discover New York and the attraction many designers have there.
My dream became even more tangible when I discovered the National student exchange as an Incoming Blugold – a program that allows students to attend another institution in the United States for a semester or year while paying tuition at UW-Eau Claire.
And so, for this fall semester, I’ll be here at Queens College, sharing my transition from Wisconsin to city life in this column every two weeks.
I will also provide an overview of what a trip to New York is like during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the differences between the Midwest and the East Coast.
I found out pretty quickly that public transportation isn’t the only thing I’m going to be trying to navigate this semester, but New York lingo as well.
“We’re going to town today,” I heard several people say during my first few days here.
“Are we not already in ‘the city’? I said to myself.
After all, NYC is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. But no, for those living in the outskirts, “the city” is Manhattan – the neighborhood that is home to many famous attractions, including the Empire State Building and Times Square.
Another line from the New Yorker: “I’m going to have a regulah,” my friend said in her Long Island accent when we had pizza in Manhattan one day.
Translation: a slice of cheese pizza.
I also found out that there is a list of items that you always need to get around New York:
- Fully charged phone set to power saving mode: Apple and Google Maps outline the buses and trains you need to take to get to your destination, so if your phone dies it becomes much harder to navigate the city. Unless you have memorized the routes, leaving with your phone 100% is always a good idea.
- Bottle of water: Water is expensive, so it’s best to bring your own.
- MetroCard: Have either a MetroCard or a credit or debit card with the tap-to-pay symbol, is the easiest way to pay for bus and metro journeys, in particular compared to paying the fare in neighborhoods.
- Reusable bag: Most businesses charge five cents for the need for a disposable bag at the checkout.
- Vaccination card: Many businesses, restaurants and attractions in New York City require evidence COVID-19 vaccination. Typically, you can show the physical map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or a digital copy uploaded to one of New York’s COVID-19 apps, such as NYC COVID Safe.
There is never a dull moment here. A simple metro ride can turn into a concert with a band performing “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire; a stroll on the Upper East Side might mean you see actor Sebastian Stan having dinner – all of this is amazing to me, but for New Yorkers, it’s okay.
New York is constantly fictionalized in movies and novels, often in a way that distorts the reality of life here.
But this city is incredibly unique. NYC is a paradise for people of all professions and a city that embraces and welcomes absolutely everyone, including a Wisconsinite.
Van Sixtine can be reached at [email protected].