Simply put, New York City is defined by its neighborhoods. To me, one of the biggest differences between the Big Apple and any other city like Boston or Chicago is the versatility of its neighborhoods. One minute you are in trendy Meatpacking District and then the next you are in the grid of Midtown and then you are in Harlem or beautiful Fort George or even the rowdy streets of Chinatown. Manhattan offers you multiple worlds in one small island.
I had always recognized how versatile New York was, but I didn’t really realize it until I took trip to Chinatown. One of my closest friends from high school was staying at Hotel 91, so on Saturday, I decided to walk to visit her. It was funny how one moment I was walking in clean-cut Financial District and the next I was transported into a mini China with outside markets, banks with Chinese lettering on it and everyone in sight was Chinese. Walking in Chinatown was unlike any other neighborhood I had been in in New York. Hell, it didn’t even feel like New York. How could I be in Manhattan and also be walking into an authentic, Asian hotel.
As Bridget and I left Hotel 91, she commented on how her boyfriend thought Chinatown was a dump, and he couldn’t believe they were staying there. But before I could respond, she said “I don’t understand him. Chinatown is a part of what makes New York New York. You don’t get this type of neighborhood anywhere else!” Although I was quick to judge Chinatown as being dirty and rowdy, her comment stuck with me and made me think about why New York is so unique. You don’t have to leave New York to get a taste of the world; everything is here. Even when a co-worker asked me today what I loved about New York, I said the versatility. There is never a dull moment, and there is always so much more to explore.
So if I could give future students on this program any advice, it would be to get out of your neighborhood and get a taste of the multiple worlds that live within Manhattan (and even the outer boroughs). You’ll realize just what makes New York different from everywhere else. And even more you’ll realize why they call it the center of the universe: because you can walk from Asia to Europe in just 10 minutes. Now, tell me, where else can you do that?
– Harriet White