For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Aug 03 2017
by Lily Brickman

The 10 Best Things About Growing Up in NYC

By Lily Brickman - Aug 03 2017

As my senior year of high school comes to a close and my summer vacation comes to an end, I've begun to envision myself in California more and more. Spending so much time thinking about how much my life will change at USC in Los Angeles in the next four years has also gotten me thinking about my last 18 years and where I'm from. There is a plethora of things that New York City and Los Angeles share simply because they're large, major cities, but nonetheless, here are 10 things I love most about where I grew up, and that I might find myself missing in college.

1. Having all four seasons.

As much as I love warm weather and cannot stand temperatures under 30 degrees, having four seasons makes me all the more excited for summer and lets me switch up my wardrobe a bit. I'll definitely miss waking up to snow in December or ice skating outdoors and having a cup of hot chocolate warm my entire body. Fall in New York is also one of the most beautiful times of the year, and no one is ever too old to go sledding in winter.

2. The MTA.

As disorganized, hot and dirty as the New York City subway system can be, it (usually, at some point) gets you where you need to be. I have the MTA to thank for making me more independent in my early teen years as well. For $2.75, I can go two stops away or to the end of another borough, at 5 a.m. or at 11 p.m. When I say I have a love-hate relationship with the MTA, I'm sure all New Yorkers can agree — there's nothing I haven't seen in the busy underground tunnels, but at the end of the day, you really don't need a car in the city because of it. 

3. The multiculturalism.

The number of languages spoken in New York is just over 200, and it's no surprise if you spend a day walking around the city. Having such a diverse population means having authentic traditional food from a ton of different cultures and vibrant neighborhoods such as Flushing, Little India and Little Italy. But more importantly, it meant growing up around people who didn't look like me, who spoke other languages and whose cultures I was not familiar with. It made me open-minded and even interested, and in many ways shaped who I am today.

4. Always having something to do.

Although I can sometimes be caught typing some variation of "free things to do in NYC today" into my Google search bar, I know there's always something to do in a city as big as New York. Between strolling around Central Park, trying out cool food, hopping around art galleries in Chelsea or making day trips up the Hudson River, I somehow feel I've never exhausted it. There's also a pretty good chance that a recent Insider video featuring an awesome new ice cream place is somewhere downtown, or that the free events scattered all over my news feed are somewhere in New York.

5. $1 pizza, $3 ice cream, $6 gyros.

When I'm broke (or close) and only have cash, these are my go-to food choices. All over Manhattan are $1 pizza slices and $3 Mr. Softee ice cream cones (although when I was growing up, they were $2), as well as halal carts with some of the best food around. These never disappoint as the lines are usually fast and the food is usually pretty good.

6. The fact that being from NYC is an automatic conversation-starter with people abroad.

The amount of "oh wow"s and "that's awesome"s I've gotten on my trips to Europe is staggering. People often see New York as somewhat of a fairytale land, too busy and overwhelming to actually inhabit. It's a great icebreaker, and even if the person themselves hasn't visited, their cousin's son's fish probably has, so voilá.

7. 24-hour restaurants.

Sometimes, nothing is more comforting than seeing a fluorescent "24/7" sign plastered on a deli or diner window. I can always find a post-midnight meal somewhere, but if not, Seamless will satisfy my 2 a.m. craving for pancakes. A part of me always feels a pang of sympathy for the person working the overnight shift, but New York isn't called "the city that never sleeps" for nothing.

8. Walking, walking, walking.

Growing up in New York has made me a walker (or speed-walker), often even walking as an alternative to bad train service. There's a good chance I'm walking quickly even if I'm going nowhere, and I've found that walking over 40 city blocks is pretty bearable with a pair of headphones and an OK pair of shoes. I'll sometimes walk a few miles a day until my feet hurt, or walk a bit further to save the $2.75 train fee.

9. Recognizing places in the backgrounds of movies and TV shows.

Besides Gossip Girl of course, there are a ton of movies and shows filmed all over the city. It's pretty cool to watch a movie and be able to identify almost exactly where some of the filming was done, or even walking by closed-off streets to see "filming" posters on the nearest poles. It reinforces the feeling that I grew up in an awesome city.

10. Developing thick skin.

On a more serious note, living in New York City means I've seen it all. From catcalling to public nudity and just plain rudeness, it's helped me grow a thick skin and remind myself not to take things too seriously. I'll sometimes (usually during the daytime, and with other people around) have the courage to call out a catcaller, but it's important to remember my safety and sometimes just keep my head down and walk forward. The impatient and rude person on the train may have had a really bad day, and maybe the guy I bought my coffee from really hates his job. Living here has reminded me that however isolated New Yorkers may seem from each other, there's still a sense of unity and support.

Growing up, there was a certain charm about going away for weekend trips to the suburbs or visiting family friends in other states. But as much as I loved fireplaces and backyards, I knew a big city was where I would always want to live. I have New York City to thank for my ability to navigate such a complicated train system, my relatively calm composure walking through thousands of people during rush hour anywhere in the city, the diversity I grew up with and the people I grew up alongside. 

Lead Image Credit: Pixabay

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Lily Brickman - University of Southern California

Lily Brickman is a freshman at the University of Southern California majoring in communication and minoring in linguistics. At her high school, she was on the soccer team and in the French club, and also taught German at the German Language School in NYC. She loves photography, traveling, playing guitar and writing. Follow her on Instagram @lilybrickman!

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