Moving to New York City: A College Student’s Take on Living in the Big City

Today, a guest post. Introducing my fun-loving cousin Katie – a noob to the big city who has a lot to say about how to adjust to such a beast of a place. Katie is just a girl, in front of a city…asking it to love her. A history major at Columbia and revered speed-talker, enjoy her take and maybe even learn something from it! (PS – all pics are hers).

I come from the opposite of New York City: Southeastern Ohio— coal country—right on the border of West Virginia. It’s quiet there. We just got a Chipotle. Friday night football games and promising high school athletes are the headlines in the paper all year. Unlike most students in my town, and I can’t exactly pinpoint why, perhaps it was a product of previous vacations or perhaps just a product of my own eccentric brain, I had no desire to stay in or around Ohio for college. I viewed far-off universities as fantastic escapes from my quiet life. What I wanted was something different, drastic, lively. What I got—and what I still believe to be a complete stroke of luck—was Columbia University in New York City.

college in new york

When I first came to the city, I wasn’t bold enough to start exploring on my own. Yeah, I had wanted change, but yeah, I had come from essentially the middle of nowhere and knew nothing about NYC beyond Times Square. So, I started with Columbia’s campus.

Step one was making friends: during my first semester, I joined clubs, participated in on-campus events, and socialized with as many humans on campus possible. My talkative nature plus the fact that I was an eager freshman equaled intense friendliness.

columbia university

Step two was becoming comfortable with “going out” on campus: i.e. entering a frat party. It took some time, confidence, and occasionally shame, but I eventually got through the door. Making it in meant a loud, sweaty dancing mob in a minimally-spacious brownstone—NYC college life at its finest.

My friends and I started venturing into the city more frequently towards the second semester of my freshman year. Consequently, I started to discover my favorite spots and once I became aware of where I liked to go and the increasingly fantastic things I could do, exploring sort of exploded.  Now I was thrift shopping (attempting New York Fashion on a college kid’s budget takes one to some interesting haunts in various boroughs), going to galleries in SoHo, and watching guitar players shred solos at intimate concert venues. I’ve got to say, of all experiences in the city thus far, I have enjoyed nothing more than witnessing many of the random bands I follow on Spotify perform at hole-in-the-wall venues for a mere $12 (who says NYC can’t be budget-friendly?)

college in nyc

Now I am two years deep. I’m twenty: a rising junior. During the school year, I spend approximately 30% of my time sleeping, 40% my time studying or in class, and the last 30% existing otherwise. I’ve created a family of friends, made Columbia my home, and begun to grasp exactly what kind of beast this city is. So, my advice to other college students coming to NYC for the first time:

  1. Take it easy. Explore your campus first and secure friends, join clubs, and be an active member of your on-campus community. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s worth it to build a security blanket around you—especially if you’re coming to city like I did knowing few people.
  2. Eventually step out of your comfort zone. Do random things that might not sound appealing to you because they might become appealing to you once you TRY them. For me, this was galleries. I had never been to an art gallery, and often I still go and am wildly confused by the alien items in front of me. But now I enjoy the confusion. You don’t have to be artistic to enjoy art, so ditch the notion that certain things are for certain people and take full advantage of what the city offers.
  3. Get out of the city occasionally. If you’re like me and seriously love being outside, sometimes Central Park just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes I need mountains, and fresh air, and wildlife that isn’t just pigeons. That’s where the Metro-North comes in. This summer I’m staying in the city for an internship, and last Saturday, I went hiking near Cold Spring, New York. it was totally incredible. It was like a bit of old home (Ohio) in my new home (New York).

So, that’s it my friends. Send me good vibes as junior year approaches, and if you need any help or have any questions DM my Instagram @sprinklesprinkledonut, or get in touch with Mary at


  1. This is great! Not only for college students, but it’s awesome advice for anyone moving to New York or to a new place in general. It’s so hard, especially for introverts like me, to explore new places on my own and to get out of my comfort zone, but it’s so important for personal growth and to make friends. I loved this post, I hope we get more guest posts from you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Heidi, Yes NYC is all about getting out of that comfort zone. We always have to remember that everyone is in the same boat – we’re all just trying to make friends and have fun. We’ll definitely get Katie to post again on her experience!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. as a high school student whose dream school is columbia, do you have any tips on getting in? also, as a person who’s generally a little shy in general, do you think it’d be harder to make friends in college?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anri, here is Katie’s response: “Being unique is so important! Obviously the classic test scores and good grades are needed, but since almost everyone applying has those stats you have to stand out. Find a unique passion and pursue it, write about it in your application, and talk about it in your interview. Also, make sure you know WHY you want to go to Columbia: they ask about it on the Common App and you need a legitimate response beyond “it’s a good school.” As for being shy, there are plenty of other shy people, but you will have to go a bit out of your comfort zone to meet those people! Orientation is the best place to do that as everyone else is looking for friends…So, no you will not have a hard time making friends, but you WILL need to be prepared to extend your comfort zone.”


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