From the moment I graduated high school, and my father took me to New York to celebrate, I was determined: I want to live in New York City. After waiting two years for the world to slowly open up again, that dream came true a month ago: I moved to New York for a year to live here and do a traineeship.

As I type this story, the tune from Sex and the City is playing somewhere in the back of my head, because oh what a lot of content I sifted through before setting foot in the LaGuardia airport. In this first blog, I would like to take you through my first month with a matching first headline title:

Dream come true or am I digging my own grave?

The days before departure felt like I was planning my own funeral. My family was in tears on a daily basis, and one by one I was saying goodbye to friends who were going on adventures of their own. Stories were circulating about all the bad happenings in the city; the skyrocketing and ever-rising prices, the increasing crime due to all the homeless, or the damage left behind by the pandemic. Even though I didn’t want to believe it, certainly not everything was looking good.

I was paying full price for this funeral of my own. A few weeks before leaving, I had a conversation with my mother who asked the justifiably concerned question, “Yeah, but what if you die there? To which I replied that I would then have a beautiful death. But according to my mother I thought too easily about that, before you want to die in the United States all kinds of things have to be arranged with insurance. If you only want them to pick you up off the ground you have to have basic insurance. There was a certain moment when I forgot for a moment that this was my biggest dream I was fulfilling.

The most horrible flight

On October 8, 2022, the time had come: with two fully packed suitcases, I was about to leave for the United States for a year. I gave my parents and dog a big hug and then went through customs alone for the first time, alone on a plane, alone to the other side of the world. That fear was overcome very quickly. 

The plan was to fly from Brussels, via New York to Miami. The company I was going to work for organizes events all over America and that weekend they were in Miami. But a flight that was supposed to take 9 hours, took a total of 18 hours. In fact, due to delays, I went via New York, to Atlanta, to Miami where I then arrived at 2 a.m. in my winter coat with two suitcases in a very tropical climate. 

My first event in Miami: one big jetlag

The next morning I felt a little better and was ready to meet my colleagues for the first time. The company I’m doing a traineeship for is called Influence Group, they organize networking events for different industries across America. This first event I attended was Hotel Spaces which took place in a beautiful hotel in Miami Beach. The event lasted three days in total and was filled with fun activities, one-on-one meetings between companies, presentations, lots of food and the absolute highlight: an 80’s party!

The first dinner I had after my miserable flight and a full day of the event went a little differently than planned. After half a margarita, I didn’t know if I was having a panic attack or just hugely tipsy after three sips. Okay, now I know what jet lag feels like. I decided to go to bed because I had two more days to go. 

I had a great time and loved meeting all my colleagues. The highlight was the 80’s party where -while I was screaming my lungs out – all I could think was ‘how cool is it that I am just partying here on Miami Beach’. This experience alone reminded me again that I was definitely not planning my own funeral, at least not yet. 

Arriving in New York: hell

I used to play a game on the Ipad where I would drive a car through alleys, causing traffic jams and sometimes hitting passersby. The game was called GTA Chinatown Wars. I never dreamed this game would come to life for me, but yes, the moment I walk out of the Flushing Avenue subway station in Williamsburg, I find myself face to face with the game I used to play so often. The junk, homeless, run-down stores, chains dating back to the 1970s. I didn’t even dare enter the McDonalds at first.

The moment I, fortunately together with Jochem who has been living in the city for two years, entered my apartment for the first time, everything was disappointing. My roommate had switched our rooms so she was in my room, which we luckily ended up switching after three days. We had no wifi, no hot water, no gas, and the doors couldn’t be locked. Nice start to the life I had so romanticized. 

Luckily, things resolved themselves one by one and I soon met my five roommates who are all super sweet. I also discovered that if I walked two blocks away, I was back in the Williamsburg I had fallen in love with when I was there with my dad six years ago. 

Living in New York

There are many people who regularly ask me “what’s it like there?”. My answer: overwhelming. Huge getting used to. The rats shooting at your feet, the sky-high prices, the difference in culture, having to take care of yourself (falls hardest on me), sky-high prices, the 9-5 work life, the many homeless since the pandemic and inflation, and did I mention the sky-high prices?

In an effort to save money I signed up for a year-round bicycle subscription for $180. And wow I could dedicate an entire blog to cycling in New York. The positives but mostly the negatives. The constant honking of cars, the fact that I almost biked onto the freeway because I had my Google Maps set to the auto route, the bridges that are a terrible workout that Google even looks up and says, “look out tremendously steep incline”. But the views are phenomenal.

Another problem that you can safely call a luxury problem I’m running into is the constant FOMO I’m experiencing here. Not to the Netherlands, not yet, but to see if I haven’t missed a free pop-up or cool event somewhere. There is so much to do here that after a month I already have the feeling that I have missed everything. So too during what I thought would be my favorite holiday in New York:

Halloween in New York

Halloween has flown by. And in my opinion, I didn’t get to experience it fully. Then again, I’m a huge maximizer. For me, the fall season is only successful when I’ve seen every single colored tree in Central Park up close. Fortunately, I did have a tremendously fun last-minute house party at which, by the way, one of the Americans at the party asked me “do Europeans have Iphones?”.

About my Halloween costume I didn’t hesitate for long. You can tell by the quality that I bought it at my local supermarket because the lines for the Halloween stores were really too long, but I had to be Dorothy and would be Dorothy. Just before I left for the United States, I opened our costume box at home looking for something for an 80s party, but there I came across something else: my little Dorothy dress that I had chosen to wear as a little girl during carnival in the Netherlands. I grew up with the movie and I notice now that the moment I type this I am also wearing a Wizard of Oz shirt. Coincidentally. 

Conclusion: living in New York is overwhelming but the best choice ever

That pretty much says it all. Little by little, I am getting used to this city that I get to call my home for the next few months. I’ve read that while the highs are high, those lows are also tremendously deep. I can’t wait. 

On my Instagram and TikTok I share my adventures, if you like to see more. A word of warning though: it does look a little rosier there than it actually is, for the real deal you still need to come back to my blog. 

@fabienvlems Reis van 8 uur veranderde in een reis van 18 uur 😭 #newyorkcity #movingabroad #internshipabroad #movingtonyc #stagebuitenland ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show

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