A new week and a new inspiring story for my Blog Series Expat Story: World Through My Eyes. And this time it´s all about the city of big dreams – New York, New York…
If you can make it there you´ll make it anywhere, right? This girl is on her way to conquering the Big Apple. I´m so happy to introduce to you this amazing, positive and inspiring young lady, who went all alone overseas to pursue her childhood dreams. Lidiia lived and studied in Ukraine, Cyprus and even in Chicago, but in her dreams, she was always a New Yorker. But what does it take to be successful in NYC?
Meet Lidiia: A Ukrainian in New York
Hi, everyone! I´m Lidiia, 23-year-old Ukrainian living in New York. I came to the US on an exchange program from my university two years ago. Since I was a little girl, the States was always one of these places I wanted to see the most. So, even though it was far away from my home and I knew no one there, moving to the US wasn´t a hard decision for me. But it is also true – many things didn’t turn out the way I expected. These two years were the most challenging ones in my life. Nevertheless, they also brought me the most unforgettable and incredible experiences, that have changed me forever.
I would sum up my life in a phrase that I learned from my Latin class 6 years ago: “Per aspera ad astra” (“through hardships to the stars”). It is my motto. Each time when I want to give up, I remind myself that nothing good comes easy and I’ve already made it so far! You have to work hard for everything in life and never forget to hope, believe and love. I’m grateful for every good experience in my life because it made me happier and more appreciative. I’m also grateful for every bad experience because it made me stronger and smarter. And above all, I´m grateful I was able to live all these good and bad experiences in a city like New York.
New York through Ukrainian eyes
New York is a one-of-a-kind city. I would even say that it’s a whole different country in the US. It’s so versatile that you can never be bored here. It is all about hustle hard – there’s no time to gaze around at the scenery, you have to always be present in the moment or the crowd will carry you away. This city is not for everyone, you have to love the fast-paced environment and be ready to work hard 24/7.
I like that people are ambitious here: everyone I meet wants to achieve something in life. But what I like most about NY is that it has literally everything you can imagine! All the best events happen here and every minute something big is going on somewhere. Food is also a separate topic: in New York you can find every cuisine of the world and try the most innovative gastronomic inventions! Moreover, this city never sleeps: it is extremely convenient to have 24/7 access to whatever you may need.
New York has the most multicultural environment I´ve experienced in my life. Almost everyone here comes from somewhere outside NY or even outside the US. People don’t care where you are from as long as you do your job well and behave. I don’t feel left out here.
Reality vs. Expectations
I´ve always had this perfect image of New York that I got from all the Hollywood movies we´ve all grown up with. And yes, when you visit as a tourist you can experience only ‘the movie side’, but living here reveals you many other faces of NYC.
Therefore, choosing the right neighborhood is really important. I currently live on the Upper East Side: safe, calm and beautiful neighborhood. And even though I do like it here, I´d love to move to Greenwich Village one day. And that’s where comes the second issue – money, cause Greenwich Village is simply one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Manhattan. I knew that NY was expensive, but damn, it’s much more expensive than I´ve ever thought! Even though the city offers so many choices, you have to pay a lot for everything.
Another cliché I was warned about by some friends: “New Yorkers are rude!” Well, I haven’t felt this way so far: people I´ve met were generally friendlier to me than, for example, in Ukraine. But it is also true that everyone here is busy and running somewhere. So, if you ask for directions and get no answer – don´t take it personally. I’ve been helped many times, but I see where people are coming from when they say New Yorkers are rude. NY is unpredictable: most of the people are too busy to care and it´s better not to expect anything from anyone.
The best surprise for me here was food. It’s true that there are many fast food options, but if you want to eat healthily – you still can do so. Even more, if I want to eat authentic Ukrainian food, I go to one of the local restaurants and it immediately feels like home. In New York you can find everything. I definitely didn’t expect it to be that diverse in awesome foods.
The NYC Challenges
My life in the States was full of ups and downs. After I´ve graduated from the Kendall College/Chicago with 4.00 GPA, I´ve decided to move to New York. I was full of hopes that my good grades and knowledge of four languages would easily get me a job. I was wrong. Finding a job in NYC was the most challenging thing for me. In general, it’s hard to get a job being an expat in a new city, where you don’t know anyone: in New York it´s even harder. Recently I´ve started working as a Brand Ambassador for an Italian chocolate company. But I still have a long road ahead of me in order to become successful in the Big Apple.
Another major challenge that I had from the very beginning was a language barrier: I was very shy about my accent and thought my English was not good enough. But one way or another, I had to study in college. So I´ve learned to deal with it and worked a lot on improving my language skills.
Even though New York is so multinational, cultural differences could still be an issue here. Generally speaking, the Ukrainian way of seeing things and spending money is closer to the American lifestyle, than to the one in Western Europe. Nevertheless, there were still many things that I had to adapt to. For example, for most Americans sport is like a religion. I really like how people gather in bars to watch sports or go to the games, whether it’s football, baseball or basketball. I think that sports really unite a nation. I don’t have it in my culture, so I had to get used to it.
Finally, the last challenge was the system of measurement. It was a disaster for me! I’m still learning, by the way. So if you’re going to visit the US (especially if you’re coming from Europe), do some research in advance and learn as much as you can about the system of measurement!
My recommendation to anyone moving or traveling to New York – this city is brimming over with life, so don’t miss any minute and go enjoy it to the fullest!
Favorite Story from New York
If you live in NY, you’re going to meet celebrities all the time. Once, I was walking on the 5th Avenue when Amal Clooney passed by. Another day I was invited to the party, and it turned out to be Drake’s album release party, where I also saw Gigi Hadid, Haley Baldwin, Patrick Adams (from “Suits”) and many other celebrities. Recently, I was lucky to get free tickets to MTV VMA and was able to see some A-list celebrities like Beyonce, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian, etc. You never know whom you can meet in NY, don´t forget to look around!
Before and After New York
NY is a unique city. Every day it overwhelms you with new emotions: surprises you, inspires you, disappoints you, challenges you… you never know what’s coming next and that’s what I love the most about my life in the Big Apple.
I feel like this city makes me stronger every day. Sometimes things don’t go as expected and I start questioning myself, whether moving here was a right decision. And yet, at this point in my life, I can´t imagine myself living anywhere else on this planet. In New York you always learn something: living here has made me grow up and become more confident about myself. I’m no longer the same person I was a year before: after New York I’m a better version of myself, both personally and professionally.
As John Steinbeck said: ” Once you have lived in New York and made it your home, no place else is ever good enough…”
Lidiia & Anna 💗
Read more stories from World Through My Eyes Blog Series: