New York is an acquired taste. It’s kind of like coffee; you either love it or you hate it, but once you try it, it’s addictive. For a large part of the world, New York is this giant, ugly, intriguing, hectic, magical city, but for me it’s home, and I get immense pride from telling people I’m born and raised. I love everything about New York, from the fountain at Lincoln Center to the musicians in Washington Square Park. I love the 2.2 million people of Queens representing almost every ethnic group on the planet, and the alphabetical avenues of Brooklyn. New York is perfect, and anybody who doesn’t think so should take a tour from me. Coming home reminds me exactly why I love this city. While some of these reasons are predictable, I love New York for all of its quirks, so I’ve concocted a list of what exactly makes New York so special to me.
The transit system: Rats, hobos, and all. I think it’s just a part of the aesthetic. As a resident of eastern Queens (literally as east as you can go without being Nassau county), public transportation saves me. Whether it be the Q30, the LIRR, or the good old subway, the New York City transit system is one of the oldest public transportation systems in the country, but also one of the most effective. How else could you get from 34th and 7th to 65th and Amsterdam in fewer than ten minutes? Not by car, that’s for sure.
Cuisine: Since Queens was named one of the top travel destinations for 2015, I thought it would only be fit to recognize the availability of incredible cuisine here. My family has been living in Queens for over fourteen years, and we didn’t realize that we had one of the most heavily trafficked Indian sweet shops just down the block from our local supermarket. This place sells gulab jamun for $7.00 a pound and bread chat by the piece. (Google those things and then find a place that sells them, you won’t regret it.) I’ve been trekking to Jackson Heights and Manhattan to eat this stuff when my favorite things have been just under my nose all of this time. There are always new things to discover here, no matter how much of a resident New Yorker you may think you are.
Concrete and Skyscrapers: I love concrete. It’s flat, it’s serious, and it gets the job done. You can walk two miles and feel like it’s nothing, because it feels so natural. The entire island of Manhattan is accessible because it’s literally at your feet. Anything you could possibly want or need is within walking distance because everything is built up, not out. Manhattan is condensed into twenty three square miles of skyscrapers on skyscrapers, and you can get a world class view from any one of them.
People: My people. My wacky, rude, fast-paced, eccentric, lovable friends and family. Almost everybody I’ve ever known is from New York. There is no textbook New Yorker — somebody who fits the stereotype perfectly — because New York is this giant conglomeration of people, stories, and experiences. Above that, my family is here, so I suppose I’m a little biased.
The wonderful thing about going to a school where people come from across the country and the world is that everyone has this instinctual pride for the place where they grew up. I went in to Hopkins telling myself not to be the kid who was always talking up their hometown, but here I am, publishing it for the whole Internet to see. Still, I don’t hesitate about my choice of college for half a second. If not for Hopkins, I would probably never meet people from California, Virginia, Vermont, Alabama, Taiwan, and Abu Dhabi. We all come together at Hopkins but we go back to our respective homes when the dorms close for the holidays, bringing shared experiences back to our own places. I’ve gone back home with a strong love and respect for my “rough and tumble” city, but an even stronger confidence in having left for college. It’s strange to have two homes, but when I go back to school, I’m going home, and when I leave for break, I’m going home too. Isn’t that a nice thought?