How To: Find where you fit into New York City

via flickr.com

Saying that adjusting to NYU was hard for me is an understatement. I was alienated, lost and foreign to every portion of the experience when I arrived — the food, the language, the culture and the weather.

You could say that I’ve forced myself to love it here. But freshman year, when everyone else seemed to have an unabashed obsession with the city, nothing in particular about New York attracted me. I was here for NYU, for the classes. But fitting in, finally feeling comfortable living in this city meant overcoming a few hurdles, including my fondness for home.

Hailing from Miami, my high school was 98 percent Latino, one percent Asian, one percent other. The wonderful pastiche of warm culture there invited interaction with strangers. The bag lady at Publix, our local version of Gristedes, offers life advice in her heavy Cuban accent as she puts your eggs under the gallon of milk.

In New York, I found the forced silence in the elevator upsetting. The expectation of distance irked me. But as an Argentine  familiar with close interaction — we kiss other men when saying hello — I was able to adjust. I missed home, the freedom of speaking Spanish to the person next to me and picking up a cheap arepa at a gas station at 4 a.m. The closest thing I have found to arepa vendors are the halal trucks that line the streets in front of Palladium food court — not exactly the same, but it would do.

Half of my day’s thoughts are related to the weather as I brace for the city’s chilling winds. At home in Florida, an area in a constant state of tropical bliss, this was never a problem. With that mindset going into last September at the beginning of my first fall in New York, I did not take the weather seriously.

I had heard that it got cold “for real” in November, but having lived in 80 degree Novembers for the last 12 years, that sounded improbable.

Then came the snow. I still did not have a winter jacket, and I froze over. So if you’re from the South or the always-sunny California, be prepared and take it seriously. I know fall and winter are elegant and you’re supposed to buy a peacoat to be a real New Yorker, but I would opt for a thick wool that will actually keep you warm rather than a puffy Moncler.

As strong as the longing for home might be, there are little ways to bridge the gap.

It takes time to adjust. I guess I faked it until I finally made it. But it feels natural now. The easiest way out is to look for friends in familiar places. For me, it was sports. If you like soccer, head to Pier 40. All it takes is asking to hang out. It’s corny, but the smallest similarity in interests means great bonds can bud.

— Francisco Navas