Prague: Why Leaving New York Was the Best Thing I’ve Done for My Mental Health



A breath of fresh air is always needed — even if that breath is halfway across the world.

Gabby Brooks, Contributing Writer

One of my favorite songs repeats the lyrics, “New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.” After two and a half semesters in the Big Apple, I have to say I agree.

Don’t get me wrong — I love New York. I’m incredibly lucky and grateful to study at NYU and spend my college years in the city. I love how it’s exciting and enigmatic and inspiring and electric. I dreamt of living there my whole life and once I had the opportunity, I didn’t want to admit to anyone including myself that it wasn’t everything I had hoped.

But sometimes New York swallows you whole and spits you right out. You have those days where half your leg winds up in a puddle of slush and you get claustrophobic on the crowded L-train and sirens keep you up all night. You start to fall out of love with the things that had been so enchanting.

To be fair, the main problem is not the place, but the fact that I started to get in a rut. There were a lot of toxic people in my life and I wasn’t doing anything to improve my situation. I let myself fall further and further down a rabbit hole of self-pity. New York is the perfect place to be if you want to feel bad for yourself.  

It’s easy to shut yourself out in a place known for rude, jaded people. Just put in some headphones and you’ll most likely be left alone. You can sob on the subway and everyone will just awkwardly look away and say nothing. So I shut myself out. I kept my headphones in and when I wasn’t in class, I was probably in my room watching Netflix. I didn’t want to meet anyone new because I convinced myself it was impossible and there was no point.

Everyone always comments about how NYU has no community I don’t fully agree with that it’s more a cluster of lots of small communities. I do think people get caught up in their own worlds and they don’t want to make the effort of meeting new people. This was especially evident last semester when I lived in upperclassmen housing. Everyone lives with their group of friends and spends all their time with them. As much as the RAs try, most people are stuck in their ways. Very few people would ever go to hall and dorm events and most people probably couldn’t name more than a few of their floormates.

When you study abroad, most people are starting over. Maybe a few people go with their best friends, but for the most part, students studying abroad only know a few people, if any. I was terrified to study abroad and didn’t sleep for days leading up to my flight.

Since coming here, I’ve made a group of good friends and we’ve already made plans to travel together around Europe. In general, people so far are more willing to expand their social networks and meet new people.

So yes, going to a new country has shifted my perspective and allowed me to focus on myself and do things that make me happy. But it’s less the fact that I went to a new place and more everything that came with that. Going out of my comfort zone and forcing myself to meet new people and try new things is what finally pushed me out of the rut. It was the shift in my mindset that made a difference, and hopefully will continue to do so when I get back to New York.

It’s not your surroundings that matter, it’s how you respond to them. If you’re in a rut like I was, you don’t need to travel halfway across the world to feel better. Maybe just going out of your comfort zone and trying something new will do the trick.