Even though I was born in Manhattan and tell people I’m a New Yorker, I’m not really a city person. I moved to New Hampshire when I was 14 months old. I have always felt that city life was taken away from me, which is why I was excited to move to Boston for college. I was also a little nervous about this college transition. I’d always idolized city life from afar, but what would it look like up close?
As it turned out, I had an amazing time living in the city. I found that even though Boston is much larger than my hometown, I still managed to create a small neighborhood for myself around my dorm downtown. There was the Thinking Cup, a hectic and elegant cafe where the baristas knew my name. After getting a cup of coffee, I often walked to the cobblestone streets of the posh Beacon Hill, where I’d try and pick out my dream apartment. I became a near constant presence at Second Time Around, the vintage clothing chain on Newbury Street. Establishing myself as a regular in some of these places helped me escape the anonymity of the city, and it made me feel like Boston was manageable after all.
At the same time, cities are amazing places for exploration. The fear of getting lost is a reasonable one, but I think it’s always worth the adventure, as long as you are safe. One memorable night, some friends and I decided that we were craving baked goods… at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday. We looked up the directions to a 24-hour bakery and walked there. It was a great adventure and all it took was some friends, Google Maps, and a sweet tooth.
Another city hurdle I feel I’ve mastered is public transportation. When I first arrived in Boston, the complicated lines of the subway system (affectionately known as the T) worried me. I avoided looking at the wall map because I didn’t want to look like a tourist. But after getting lost a few too many times, I realized that it was worth it to look a little dorky and stare confusedly at the subway map for a while, as long as I could get a clear idea of where I was going. I’ve also found that transit police and city-dwellers can be very nice about giving directions. In addition to learning the ins and outs of the T, I’ve also realized that if you are worried about looking like a city person all the time, you’re not one.
So, if you’re like me, a small town boy or girl moving to the city for college, here’s my advice: find a nice small “neighborhood” within the big city, but don’t be afraid to explore outside of it. The more you venture out of your comfort zone, the more your new city neighborhood will begin to feel like home, and the easier your college transition will be.
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