Ok, so it wasn’t actually a fairytale… but spending winter break with New York City as my playground was just as magical.
Before even starting my year abroad at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I knew that I probably wouldn’t come home for Christmas; specifically, the fact that there is so much of America to explore and so little time to do so.
Unlike a lot of my other friends studying abroad in North America, my winter break was only 2 weeks long and this solidified the idea that travelling home for Christmas wasn’t really worth it (the expensive plane ticket didn’t help either) Fortunately, my persuasiveness and the lure of one of the most exciting cities in the world helped convince my parents to come visit me for a week instead, so I managed to get the best of both worlds!
Pittsburgh in general is a pretty cool city, so I don’t really get that “homesick” although it was really nice to see my folks again, even for a short time and just to hear the northern accent. But even if I had not, the magic of FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts etc means that its easy to stay in contact with your people back home, once you get used to the time difference.
I stayed in the Chelsea part of Manhattan with my parents, which was about a 5 minute walk from Times Square, and I remember being completely awestruck the first night we arrived. The unbelievable brightness of the advertisements against the night made the 8 and a half hour bus ride worth it (also, shout out to Megabus for sorting me out with cheeeeap travel since I’ve been here… $10 bus ticket from Philly to Pitt? yes please)
As you can imagine, there is just SO much to do in New York City and it was crazy warm too. I gave up on my ‘White NYC Christmas’ dream after about 3 days there; it was around 18 degrees C and I was walking around in tshirts…
(Just to note, it is now -8 degrees in Pittsburgh and most definitely NOT tshirt weather!)
After my parents left, I shared an Airbnb apartment in Brookyln with Chloe, another exchange student at Pitt, my Chem Eng friend James and his friend Annie who were also studying abroad at Western University, Canada.
We planned it relatively quickly, and it was actually so lovely to see a homely face have someone to talk about Chemical Engineering things with again (we’re cool, promise). Another thing about studying abroad is that most of the exchange students, and even some of the home students, are super keen to travel around so if you want to go to a specific place and dont want to go alone, there are people who will go with you and they probably don’t want to travel alone either!
Everyone thinks that New York is expensive, and of course it is a major city, but there are always cheap/free things to do; my favourite was walking around Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge at sunset. Airbnb is also great if you’re sharing with a group of friends, want cheap accommodation and are not too bothered about much else apart from a bed and a roof (basically #studentproblems dream) but as I’m also in receipt of a University of Sheffield Alumni Study Abroad Scholarship, that meant I could actually afford to spend my new years in NYC and that’s something I’ll probably never get to experience again.
My time in New York went so fast but I’m incredibly fortunate to have been able to experience running around the subways (literally) with my sunglasses on, latte in hand, pretending that my life is Gossip Girl. Also, I was made aware of the wonderful creation that is $1 pizza that may have changed my life forever.
Christmas and New Years in NYC was a perfect end to 2015 and my first semester studying abroad and I’m super excited to plan where in North America I will travel to next during my last semester at Pitt (arrrgghhhhh!)