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I Just Moved to New York by myself as a 21-year-old. Now what?

It looks like I’m in my Jessica Parker era. But in reality, I’m still figuring it out.


Photo taken at the Brooklyn Promenade, a five-minute walk from my apartment. All photos by Ilyssa Mann.

I am shamelessly Gainesville’s number-one fan. This town has a unique personality between the arts, music, and creative scenes downtown. Although, after nearly four years of being in the town almost every semester, I was ready for a change.

So, I applied to the College of Journalism and Communications immersive New York City program taking place this fall. (Keep an eye on those departmental emails, kiddos!)

Summer transitions into fall, and I’m strategically packing all of my most fabulous outfits for my move to the big city! Fast forward to the beginning of September, and I’ve been here for nearly two weeks.

Mouth-watering pizza! I guarantee every pizza place you walk into in New York will have pizza better than anything you can get in Florida.

What am I doing here?

Although I briefly touched on this, I wanted to explain more thoroughly why I will spend my semester in New York. For the first time, the CJC x NYC program has extended its curriculum from a week-long endeavor to an entire semester.

Professor Natalie Asorey, who has crafted the experience to the unique interests of each student in the program, is leading the three-credit immersive class. I briefly mentioned in a conversation that I love live music, and Asorey took the initiative to plan a public relations project for us to work on with Amazon Music and therefore indulging my inner music junkie.

My fellow students and I will work on a public relations project with a new organization every few weeks. The organizations include but are not limited to public relations firms and extend to non-profits, politics, and business. Additionally, Asorey is pairing each student with a carefully picked UF alumni mentor located in the city to further enrich our experience.

My first project is with F.Y. EYE, a nonprofit that provides PR for other nonprofits. Every Wednesday, I’ll collaborate with Andrea Wilson, the creative director at F.Y. EYE. The organization focuses on social issues that deserve to have their voices amplified and uses a network of local artists to create messages that resonate.

Andrea Wilson, in the middle, is the founder of UF Rowdy Magazine! Now, she is making an impact, providing a creative microphone to nonprofits and social issues.

She is a lot of fun to work with, and I'm looking forward to making a difference with her.

Pictured on the left is my classmate and co-worker on the F.Y. EYE project, Tamara Ashley.

What are my initial thoughts?

The program is slowly starting with resume and career workshops to prepare the group to hit the New York scene.

Regarding the city, I’m very pleased, overwhelmed, and grateful for this unique experience. Picking up my things and moving to the city by myself was scary. However, I did the same thing when I went to study abroad in Italy by myself, and I survived and, in fact, thrived. Therefore, I can surely do this if I can handle a foreign country without knowledge of the language.

View from the Time Out Market rooftop, a 15-minute walk from my apartment. Besides having a beautiful rooftop view, the market features miniature versions of New York Times-recognized restaurants in the city! I highly recommend this treasure.

It’s not as easy to meet people as I expected it to be.

The insane amount of activities, art, cafes, and more will keep you busy and probably overwhelmed. I’ve learned to listen to myself when I wake up each morning. I lay out all my options after going down a Google search of “cheap and affordable things to do in the city.” I sit with the information for a minute and feel which activity I am drawn towards the most, and there is my answer for what I will do that day!

I’ve really come to enjoy my own company and feel completely comfortable exploring the city alone. In fact, I really enjoy it because I always get to do what I want to do and don’t have to compromise for those around me (hmm, maybe I should bring this up in my next therapy session). However, as independent as I am, it gets lonely sometimes.

When it comes to Gen Z, we mostly keep to ourselves. As I walk through the city or cramp in a tight elevator with other people my age, everyone has their headphones in and their heads in their phones. It’s like a sign that people put up that says, “I don’t want to be talked to.”

As someone who is happy to have conversations with people but is too shy to initiate said conversation, I realize this semester may be my chance to work on this skill. If I can work up the courage to start more conversations, knowing that I can make friends with almost anyone, then maybe, just maybe, I’ll open that door a little wider.

View from my apartment window in Brooklyn Heights!

My piece of advice to you.

Given that this is my second semester spent doing an excursion outside of Gainesville, I have become familiar with the intense pressure to make every moment epic while in a new city. While you should push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try new things, it is just as important to remember that you are human!

Moving to a new city is a huge shift for your body and mind to adjust. Therefore, I offer the advice to be kind to yourself and listen to what your mind and body really want. Maybe this weekend, you just want to sleep in and spend the afternoons at the park reading. Or, maybe you want to go to a rave! The options are limitless, but the experience will only be enjoyed to the fullest if you can connect to the moment because you WANT to be there. Not just because you feel the pressure to be doing something epic.

Although, there is a balance to be struck here. I would recommend trying to say yes to plans whenever you can. Your friend texts you to see if you’re interested in attending a comedy show in an hour. Say yes, no matter how quirky the situation is.

My last piece of advice is while you step outside of your comfort zone and try new things and activities, listen to when something really clicks for you. When I studied abroad in Italy, I found that the moments I was the most fond of were the small activities rather than the epic moments that checked a box on a long checklist of touristy things to do. One thing defines these small moments in particular: community. These small activities draw people together from all walks of life but with a certain interest in common. Lean into these experiences and discover a new community waiting there for you!

For example, I went to a free women’s self-defense boxing workout this week, and after feeling so empowered, I decided to sign up for the rest of the month. I plan to frequent this gym twice a week and get to know this community of strong, independent women.

Weekly free yoga at Bryant Park in Manhattan.

This photo only shows about half the people there, as I was in the middle of the lawn. The entire lawn was filled with yogis from the front to the back! It’s amazing how many free workout class opportunities there are in New York. I recommend looking on Eventbrite and through the New York Library system for free workout classes!

Looking forward…

As my time in the city is just starting, I’m excited to see where it will go. A lot of stuff is lined up for me in the near future, like a project with the F.Y. EYE organization, volunteering for the New York Latino Film Festival and the Institute for Public Relations, and visits to Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, and more.

Keep an eye out for my future articles with more updates as I figure my way through the city that never sleeps!


Ilyssa Mann is an online writer for Rowdy Magazine.

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