During my summer this year, I interned abroad in New York City and it was my first time visiting, working and living in America. Asides from the extreme dependency on freezing cold AC and ice water, here are a couple of things I learned about being a New Yorker along the way!
1. It’s possible to live a life outside of your 9 to 5
This is different to having an actual job as opposed to interning, where your free time will likely be taken up by work. But here, I mean in the sense of not going home, lying on the couch and sticking Netflix on. I only had 8 weeks in New York City to explore and see as much as I could, so I planned my evenings (roughly) through the day. I used Time Out Magazine to find out if there was anything on, and kept note of recommendations made by people in the office! Your 9-5 is what you make of it – I didn’t put any pressure on myself to try to see everything, as NYC is mahoosive – if there was something I wanted to see, I’d go that evening, and sometimes I’d just take a different subway home and get off at a new stop!
2. It’s also possible to not be broke all the time
When I first arrived in New York City, I was shocked that buying vegetables to cook a meal at home ended up costing what I’d pay for a meal out! For example, I remember popping into a market near my subway stop in Chelsea, thinking I could pick up a couple of greens for $5-6. I left with broccoli, having spent $7 on ONE HEAD OF IT. So naturally, I had to pick up some tips and tricks:
- Trader Joe’s is a LIFE SAVER and a foodie heaven! I bulk bought oats, dried fruit, PB and the like for breakfast (smoothies, overnight oats) and pre-cooked/frozen chicken and rice for lunches or dinners, which can be microwaved in 5 mins – great for meal prep
- Chinatown is great for cheap produce!
- Living with others, it was handy that we could buy things and split the cost – sometimes cooking together makes meals cheaper, and the same applied to cleaning products, kitchen utensils and the like
- Groupon was also great for random but handy deals!
- Make the most of snacks and drink provided by your work
By meal prepping, there would be weeks where my meals for the week costed $20 max, at less than $4 per meal including snacks.
Asides from food, I limited how much cash I would take out with me. Habits from uni helped too, like drinking before going to a bar (cocktails were steep but the rooftops were worth it). The first point – planning what I wanted to do each day – also helped me to gauge how much spending money I’d need. There’s a recurring theme here – preparation is key!
3. It’s really important to understand your office
This one’s important in any professional situation. When I walked into my host company’s office on my first day, I was actually surprised to see an open plan office. The VP of Finance and Operations and the Head of Legal Counsel were in and amongst everybody in the chain of command, senior and junior. I was seated in Operations, across from my mentor – the senior accountant. I was thrown into having to speak up and take part in the general chatter and discussion throughout the day – and being an (extroverted) introvert, I was nervous during the first few days! I had to speak loud enough for the whole floor to hear me at times – and I actually had to talk! But this brings me to the point of this point – understanding the personality of the office is so important to work as a team. Making jokes, complaints and raising important points should feel easy! Personally, I was lucky that everybody in the office were on the same wavelength regardless of age, life experiences and department – it made for easy lunchtime chatter!
Another point I should make is that you should also understand the culture of the office in terms of working habits. During the first couple of weeks I was confused as to why everybody would ‘ping’ each other on the IM system instead of just speaking, after all we were working in open space with the ability to speak to anyone. Then I was reminded – I was working in New York City, the city that never sleeps. You would ping someone with a query so they can do what they’re currently doing without having to come over to your desk, i.e. multitask! Saving time = more time to spend on different activities = efficiency.
4. Work hard no matter the task
Partly due to my personality, I won’t stop with something until I think it’s been done thoroughly and is kinda perfect. So even when I was given small tasks, I always made sure they were accurate and I had done my absolute best on it before having it reviewed or handing it back in. At times this did mean I was pressuring myself unnecessarily, but this is a good habit to keep up, and it’s a habit that will not go unnoticed in the future.
5. There are never any stupid questions
So this really just relates to having a bit of confidence. For me, I had an unusual request for one of my line managers (involving a future post here!) and it took me a good week to build up the confidence to ask! But in my office, I could have asked for anything – had I wanted to shadow someone for the day, sit in on meetings I thought would benefit me, it was all doable. Don’t just sit there, do what you’re told and leave. If you have some personal (professional) goals or requests, ask – there’s no harm in doing so. I asked so many questions and subsequently learnt a lot! These would be about abbreviations I wasn’t familiar with or software I couldn’t figure out – of course I did attempt to find the solution to my problems at first, but when you need help, ask!
Whilst I learnt a lot more working in NYC (keep your eyes peeled for future posts!) these are my main giveaways for now, and I hope this post was interesting!
Hope you enjoyed reading,