The Concrete Jungle Everyone Loves, New York City.

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If I could blame one person who should be responsible for starting my New York City fantasies, I would probably point my finger at Kevin McCallister. That’s right, everyone’s favorite kid in the 90s. Going way back around 17 years ago, I remember it was my very first time watching the Home Alone series while eating breakfast cereal with my little brother. We loved it so much that it instantly became our favorite movie at that time. Even though both of the movies were great, the sequel which was shot in New York City, was the one that captivated me the most. From his adventure, Kevin McCallister managed to impress me by showing how magical and amusing the city is, especially during the holiday season. Central Park looking all white covered in snow, the skating rink, the toy store, the magnificent view of Manhattan from the top of Twin Towers, the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, everything seemed wonderful. I was so stunned to the point where I promised myself to visit the city one day no matter what it takes. I fell for New York City ever since.

Before I came here, I’d heard stories that New York is not as pretty as the one you see in the movies. It’s loud, it’s dirty, it’s unsafe, and all sorts of other bad stuff that you could imagine. Well, they are right. I hear sound of sirens everywhere I go, it’s so loud but that’s fine. It’ll probably be gone in 20 seconds or less. There are always piles of trash in the sideways. As a matter of fact, I’m starting to think of it as part of the landmark now. This city can be harsh and mean as well. One day, some guy tried to snatch my phone from my hand when I was walking down the busy 42nd street but hey, I managed to get it back plus a random stranger happened to help me get up and made sure I was ok. So yes, New York City might not be as fantastic as I had envisioned before and I sure did need a little getting used to at first, but today I’m already feeling like at home.

Now that I’ve lived here for several months, I guess it’s neither the tall buildings, the landmarks, nor the fancy little restaurants that fascinates me about the city anymore. It’s the energy that I get from these inspiring New Yorkers everyday. It’s the spirit of creativity and the sense of freedom. New Yorkers are nice, they are genuinely nice and helpful to me no matter where I come from and what my sexual preference is. They make me feel like I belong in the community although I’m a foreigner. I can go on and on about this but eventually, there’s only one thing to say: I can’t help but fall deeper for the city.

Often times I still find it hard to believe that I’m in New York City right now, especially when I realize that I’m actually living here, not just visiting. It feels surreal.

N.

Grad School: Should I or Shouldn’t I?

It’s almost the end of January which means winter break is nearing to an end and it also means that I will have to start school again. For those of you who don’t know, I go to New York University. Not an Ivy League school but still considered as one of the top prestigious schools in the United States of America. Don’t worry, I’m not going to brag about how awesome my school is and how wonderful it is to live in one of the greatest cities in the world. Well maybe later, but definitely not now.

The thought of going back to school again in less than a week makes me want to share my views about grad school in general with examples based on my personal experience. I repeat, based on my personal experience. Ok, first off, why did I decide to quit my job and go to grad school? The answer is pretty simple. Frankly, I got tired of sitting on my office desk 9 to 6 (or even more most of the time) and I felt like there wasn’t any more room for me to grow. Don’t be mistaken, I loved my job. It’s not everyday a recent college graduate get the privilege to start her career in a huge multinational company, which I’m pretty sure a lot of people know and even admire the brand. I was assigned in the Corporate Marketing department, specifically in the Marketing Communication team. Throughout my two and a half-year tenure, I had done various projects which got me deeply interested in marketing. Long story short, grad school seemed attractive to me at that time. I realized I wanted to hone my skill in marketing and I specifically want to learn it in America. Why America? Well, it’s because most of the big successful brands out there are American brands and what better way to learn about brands and marketing other than from the expert itself?

I know it’s only been five months since I started grad school but I feel like I’ve learned so much already. I had no idea how grad school was going to be, I eliminated all the voices that whispered saying how terrifying grad school is and came here with (almost) zero expectation. Surprisingly, for me grad school is almost similar to when I was working for a company. We mostly work in a group and were given real business cases. I have to be honest though, group projects are pain in the ass. Some Professors even invited actual C-level clients on our final presentation. So the pressure and struggle is real, my friends. Working on my final projects last semester forced me to interact professionally with other fellow students in a business setting. From there I’ve learned that there are two groups of people in terms of why they want to go to grad school:

  1. Those who want to learn a new skill set and meet inspiring people who share common interests.
  2. Those who go to grad school merely because they don’t know what they want to do.

The first group, OMG! They are undeniably amazing group of people. As exhausting and as stressful group projects can be, I enjoyed working with them A LOT. They are intelligent, fun, inspiring, passionate and most importantly they are highly motivated. On the other hand, the second group are people who have no clear intention why they are going to grad school. This group usually consists of recent college graduates who lack/have no professional background. I’m not saying these people don’t deserve grad school, it’s just that my patience gets (just a wee bit) tested every time I work with them. Again, based on my experience, they are typically irresponsible, spoilt, lazy and you know what? these people drive me nuts most of the time.

There might be a lot of recent college graduates out there who feel pressured to go to grad school just because their friends are going. My advice is, take a couple of years to figure out what you are mostly interested in, test the water until you are 100% ready to dive deeper. Think of the skills you want to hone, the network you want to build, and the direction you want to go in your career. If grad school is essential to all those things, then consider going. Those who go to grad school just because they don’t know what they want to do don’t end up fulfilled and all they do perhaps, is whine or complain, which by the way, annoyed me a lot. Nobody wants a negative energy in the class room. Am I right or am I right?

Grad school is worth it for anybody who is dedicated to learning and gaining insight. Grad school is hard. It is very time-consuming, draining, and it changes your life completely. There is a tremendous amount of stress and competition. But then again, grad school may offer an incredible opportunity to learn new skills, gain expertise, and build a network, which can increase your ability to make an impact in the areas you care about.

My room-mate, who is amazing by the way, told me the reason she went to grad school is because she wants to be a Professor when she comes back to Indonesia. Studying in the U.S and interacting with her Professors regularly taught her how passionate American educators are when it comes to teaching. She noticed the importance of bringing passion and enthusiasm to the class in order to get students excited during the learning process. According to her, that is something that she found lacking in our country. Passion is contageous. She is determined to use her degree and passion to inspire students for the betterment of Indonesia’s education.

According to a book I once read, before you decide to go to grad school, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will grad school provide me with a new skill set I need to learn or professional opportunities I don’t already have that will help me get closer to my purpose?
  • Will grad school introduce me to a community of people who will inspire me and support me in reaching my potential?
  • Do I have enough work/life experience to make what I’ll learn valuable?
  • Do I really want to go or is another person in my life pressuring me to go to grad school?
  • What sacrifices will I have to make if I go to grad school?

Lastly, don’t ever go to grad school to please anyone. Go because you absolutely have to.

N.