Chloe – Semester Exchange to St John’s University in New York, USA
When I stepped off the plane at JFK it didn’t matter how badly I was jetlagged, the moment that New York air conditioning hit my face I felt invigorated and ready to take on the city. Looking at myself now, and with what knowledge I have acquired in my first few weeks here, I would have looked so naïve and innocent, not knowing what to expect, and honestly expecting Americans to be like most Australians – laid back and casual.
I laugh at that notion now, for Americans, or should I specify New Yorkers have a little bit of a different approach to the general public. They are busy and opinionated (debates do often arise on the subway, where you will be able to identify the tourists as they become increasingly interested in their fingernails or their iPhone – New Yorkers on the other hand will jump in whole-heartedly and launch their opinions across the carriage). As I made my way to the carousel to collect my bags businessmen barged past me, beautiful women draped in an outfit more expensive than my tuition clutched their Louis Vuitton bags with their miniature dogs in tow as I stepped aside for them and the working class would move past me and offer a sympathetic smile as they saw my try and keep my sophisticated sense of direction, even if I hadn’t slept in 30 hours.
Whilst darting through the crowds I apologized to everyone that I accidentally shouldered, as I would back home which was received with a raised eyebrow and some unfamiliarity. People were stepping on my toes, knocking over my bags and didn’t stop to turn back yet here I was still offering a polite acknowledgement for something which was inevitable.
I asked an airport employee where my other bag was, to which he responded with his thick New Yorker accent “I’m sorry – whaddya want?” “
I repeated my query.
“Whaaat? I’m sorry I caaan’t undaastand a word you’re sayyyin, go tawlk to the girl in dat booth over dere”
Turns out my bags were still in Los Angeles (good ol’ American airlines!), but I didn’t let it dampen my spirts. They would be delivered to me tomorrow and I had my more important bag anyway.
My entry and exit to JFK reminded me of when I was a child and I went into a whirl pool and was thrown around in a frenzy until my brother yanked me out, only my brother in this scene was a taxi driver helping my bags into the car and jotting down my destination.
From there I looked around and although there wasn’t a great deal happening on the streets being 1.30am in suburbia, it was everything I imagined it would be. New York makes you honestly feel like you are in a movie, its setting is seductive and pulls you in. The aroma of food trucks serving gyros filled my nostrils and urged my stomach to growl. The lights, the advertisements, the cars, the music that is freely played throughout Queens is energizing. Queen’s is such a diverse (and underrated) part of New York, and although you don’t have the encapsulating sky scrapers and 200 story buildings in every line of vision, you see a very different side to the city. You see the struggling artists, the cultures, the working class, the street art, the appreciation for music, cheap shopping, and most importantly – friendly faces.
New York gives you this fierce sense on independence, and hardens your exterior in a nurturing way. Now when I take on the streets of Manhattan, I keep my head up (and screwed on tight), appreciate the smaller things like patting hundreds of dogs each day, a gust of cool wind on these hot summer days and the cheap $3 cups of frozen yoghurt, topped with fresh blueberries.
It is now I know those busy men, or elegant women and everyone in between probably aren’t bad people, their just New Yorkers, to which now when I am faced with that situation, we exchange an acknowledging glance and carry on our way – after all, it is New York and people do have places to be!