On March 10, 2015, I was accepted by Columbia University for their graduate program in journalism. I had hoped to do this since high school, so I was beyond thrilled! There were major bumps along the way, but I finally accepted the offer. I moved to New York City!
Hello, there! I am Aditi Sangal and you can call me Adi (Addie?) if it helps you ease your pronunciation difficulties. I am twenty-two and I moved to New York two years ago.
I write a blog where I honestly document life in New York City along with my deep observations and quirky thoughts.
I’m usually very weird (and proud about it), which was probably why my parents thought I “cannot live alone independently” AND that is why I lived with them all twenty years of my life, including college.
But look at me now. I graduated Columbia Journalism School with a Master’s degree, relocated for work to Washington D.C. and then back to New York, and now I live here. I mostly make it work just fine.
When I accepted my admission offer, I needed to know what others did to save and sustain. I fired up Google to obsess ‘research’ about what New York will be like and how should I prepare myself for it. Then, I tried to look for an Indian perspective and that’s where things blew my mind.
There wasn’t a comprehensive record of how it feels or what the experiences are when an Indian move to New York, or the rest of the USA.
That’s mind-boggling considering the crazy number of Indians who move to the USA for study or work. There is a lot of writing and blogging on the expat experience in India but none from our end. I decided I would change that.
So I launched my blog so that someone coming with the same background as me had pieces of advice to follow from someone they can identify with more closely. So far, it’s been a fun, learning experience.
What I’ve learned about America in Two Years
Americans are very friendly people. Every conversation with any stranger you speak to will feel like you’re friends already like they want to hang out with you more and so on. But it’s important to remember, as I later learned, that being friendly is different from being friends. Americans are very polite and friendly people but like everywhere else, making friends takes time. In other cultures, like mine, people are reserved and more formal during first conversations because they’re sussing each other out that way.
Americans also hardly give feedback hard and straight. They will never say “you’re wrong” or “this is bad.” They will instead say “If I were you, I’d do it this way.” It’s all in the vein of politeness. I’m so used to it now that direct questions throw me off at first now.
America is also super into paperwork and documentation. It’s a good thing, but it’s a pain for someone who’s never really done intense record keeping before. Plus, it’s always easy to pick up if you were lagging or lacking on paperwork. Here, everything is stepwise. So it’s like a game you play. The next level won’t be unlocked without completing everything that precedes it.
There are so many parks here. I guess so much space does come in handy. People really make time in the park a part of their lifestyle and it’s great because I’ve realized that I do like to go on picnics.
America also has massive portions of food. I often have to get half of my plate packed and I also often get full with just appetizers. Thanks to GM food, there’s also surprisingly big fruits and vegetable available. It’s hard to find small fruits and vegetables for a one-time meal for one person. But then again, it comes in handy when you realize there are no power cuts or fluctuations so you can cook food for a whole week and freeze it or refrigerate it. If I weren’t as lazy as I am, I would do it too. I obviously face consequences when I have to make sure I cook regularly for the week. But then I get fresh food.
Food is probably what I miss most about home. I can’t fully complain because being in New York, I mostly find everything I like to eat. But I miss my gol gappas done well, and my aaloo parantha stuffed generously and spiced just right with salt and red chilli powder. Mostly, I think my mom just makes better food. And who can fight that?
Have I changed?
My friends and family can probably tell better, but of course you change as you adapt to a different culture.
Sometimes I think hard and think back, and I can tell how far I’ve come. That’s a different conversation for a different post, but I hope you will ride along and read what I have to say about this place and how it goes from here at my personal blog.