NOW YOU’RE IN NEW YORK, NEW YORK, NEW YORK

By Erdoo Yongo (North Carolina State University, USA)

As I stated in my first post, before heading off to my exchange university, North Carolina State University, I went to New York. On New Year’s Day I boarded the plane from London Gatwick, not knowing what to expect from the USA – especially New York, but still feeling excited. The best thing about a late flight was that as the plane was landing all you could see were lights. Flashing lights… I guess I should not have been surprised as New York is the city that never sleeps!

After an eight hour flight, my tiredness outweighed the excitement that I was previously feeling. Following the tedious process of waiting for my luggage, going through immigration and a thirty minute taxi ride to my hotel in Manhattan (Pod 51 which was fairly decent and reasonably priced – http://www.thepodhotel.com/ ), in my bed I was able to appreciate the events of the day, comprehending that I was finally in the USA.

Another student from the University of Manchester going to NCSU also decided to spend a couple of days in New York, so I was not alone (we stayed at the same hotel). I was thankful to have a familiar face around (who could read a map much better than I can!).

Since London is five hours ahead, my first night was not the best, but my excitement to see New York had me up at 7am. As I walked out of the hotel, the first thing that I noticed was how big everything – buildings and streets – was compared to London or the UK in general. Our first (planned) stop was Central Park. However we took directions that allowed us to go through Fifth Avenue. I was so excited by all the shops. I, of course had to go into MAC Cosmetics and get a few necessities.

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After lots of window shopping on Fifth Avenue, we headed to Central Park. It was amazing. Seeing it just seemed to help me realise how massive the park was – I did so much walking but did not even walk through half of it. From Central Park, we then went to the Natural History Museum, which is the biggest museum I have ever seen in my life. We then navigated our way to Juilliard School. It was so strange to be at a place that I always associated to movies such as Step Up.

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The most memorable part of the day was going to the Empire State Building and Times Square. Before going up to the 92nd floor of the Empire State Building, we had to queue for 1 hour and 30 minutes. But once we got to the 92nd floor, it was like a dream; I could see all of New York – Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan and The Statue of Liberty. I honestly felt as though I was in a movie.
One thing that I did not expect was for it to be so cold at the top, but I had waited 1 hour and 30 minutes… I was on top of the Empire State Building – nothing was going to ruin it!

Prior to my trip to New York, I was advised to visit Time Square when it was dark “as you get the best views and pictures”. Of course my sister was right! All the flashing lights in Times Square made it seems as if it was still daylight. Time Square is a must-see – the scale and magnificence of it cannot be explained!

Sorry I haven’t been up-to-date with my posts. I have been drowned in work, but I will try and post more! Also, if you want more photos head over to my personal blog – http://www.oteol.com

Getting started in the USA

By Hamish Russell (University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA).

Before I even left the UK I ran into some travelling difficulties… I knew I might have a troublesome experience at Heathrow when my passport was scanned at the check-in desk, only for the desk to erupt with flashing red lights. It turned out that the US State Department had put me on their high-security list to make sure that I didn’t have anything in my bags (I didn’t) to suggest I was planning on violating the terms of my J-1 visa – so be careful when packing would be my advice to any future visa holders. New York was brilliant, as always, despite a few patches of Manchester-style weather and a rather loud New Yorker complaining to me that there were too many tourists in the city. I was guided round the city by some family friends, one of whom had studied at Amherst College (which is as close to UMass Amherst as the name suggests), meaning that I learned about Amherst as well as New York during my brief stay. A lot of the usual tourist items were on my New York agenda, but the local knowledge of my friends gave me a whole new perspective on life in the city and made the experience much more rounded and fun than following any guidebook can do. Also, the view from my bedroom over the East River was brilliant, a great place to watch the city rush by.

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I then took a bus from the New York to UMass, meeting fellow University of Manchester students on the way, as well as international students from countries as far afield as Australia and South Africa. Getting introduced to a lot of people so early on made life so much easier on arrival at UMass, with big group trips to buy bedding and other things for our rooms taking place about 45 minutes after we arrived at the university. One of the biggest differences that I’ve noticed between British and American universities is the school spirit – you can’t avoid the sheer volume of UMass apparel. The support given by the students to their sports teams is also incredible, with the 9,000 capacity Mullins Centre used for ice hockey and basketball games – the atmosphere is always incredible, there’s even a brass band playing at every home basketball game.

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The weather here is one thing that I’m still adjusting to, with snowstorms making the occasional appearance and making the freezing temperatures (somewhat) worthwhile. The coldest day that I’ve had was about -18 degrees Celsius, with the wind chill taking it down even further to -26. On that note, the university has closed today due to an overnight snowstorm, so I’m going to wrap this up and go sledging!

Until next time.

Two Nights in New York

By Helen Sheldon (Stony Brook University, New York, USA).

I currently have a couple of hours to spare before I take the train from New York Penn Station to Stony Brook University, so I thought it is prime time to write an update on my journey here to NY and my two nights staying in Times Square itself!

I arrived into New York’s JFK airport Monday lunch time, and I had to travel an hour on the train and subway to the center of New York.. I could have taken a cab, but being a student again means I must save money where I can! The journey was rather painful because my suitcase, which came in at just under the 23kg mark, is not the most agile of cases to travel with! Luckily I made some Irish friends on the plane who were taking the same journey as me to Times Square so I wasn’t travelling alone. This proved to be very useful as when me and my suitcase got stuck (I mean completely stuck – it was horrendous) in a turnstile when entering the Subway and I had to be rescued by three men (no joke), I could laugh it off instead of dying of embarrassment as I held up hundreds of NY lunch time travelers..

When I finally arrived at 42nd Street Subway, I left the building to be greeted by the bright lights and bustling crowds of Times Square, but tiredness and desire to let go of my suitcase meant I headed straight for my hotel after bidding goodbye to my Irish friends.

Here is a picture of the amazing view of the Empire State Building from the bedroom window!

View from the room!
Room with a view!

That Monday evening I wandered around the typical tourist sights in and around Times Square, however admittedly this isn’t really my cup of tea. It is nearly impossible to walk on the pavements as they are packed with tourists taking hundreds of photos, people are constantly trying to sell you mini Statues of Liberty and every other imaginable gimic, and sadly there are a few dodgy characters around who aren’t afraid to come up and talk to you, which unfortunately ruins the initial NY magic for me. However, aside from the overcrowded tourist destinations, it is very east to find some lovely areas of Manhattan. There are plenty of small parks dotted around which are lit up with fairy lights in the evenings, lots of beautiful old architecture which stands out against the shiny new sky scrapers, and of course, there are plenty of amazing shops! Sadly though I have had to refrain from buying much as I don’t think my suitcase can hold any more! The shops think of literally everything – they even provide outdoor seating areas for the husbands who are tired from shopping!

For the men who can't cope with any more shopping..
For the men who can’t cope with any more shopping..

Despite the not-so-pleasant trip around Times Square the day before, the day after on Tuesday I took a trip over to New Jersey, which has the most beautiful sights, immaculate buildings, and a fantastic view of the Statue of Liberty herself! I took a short ride on the subway to get there, and took the ferry back over to Manhattan. This is the view that you are greeted with as soon as you leave the subway exit – one of my favourite so far.

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I am soon to leave the hotel and meet Edgar, another University of Manchester student who will be studying at Stony Brook University, at the train station where we will travel to the University together. The excitement is beginning to build at settling in to my new home! It is now time to close up my suitcase again and start the next leg of my journey!

I will be in touch again shortly!

Helen