Since moving to New York, I’ve received numerous emails asking for NYC recommendations and so last week I began my NYC ‘Tour Guide’ series by sharing My Weekend Favourites; a good one to bookmark or share with friends. I’ll definitely be doing many more posts like this, but in the meantime, I want to address another topic which I’m even more frequently asked about: The in’s & out’s of actually moving to New York. An exciting but also INSANELY daunting experience. I only wish that I had been able to meet with someone before I moved to hear all the ‘insider’ tips & tricks, so for any of you guys that are moving (or thinking about moving) in the near future – I’m hopefully about to make the task that little bit easier. This post is mainly focused on moving to New York, but is definitely applicable to moving anywhere in the US on the 1-year Graduate Visa.
First things first, if you’re not an American citizen, the very first thing you need to look into is getting a visa which allows you to live/work here. The company that I went through to organize this was USIT. I had a very good experience with USIT when I did my Summer J1, so I felt comfortable working with them again. I dealt with the team in the Galway Office (there are also offices in Cork, Dublin, Waterford, Limerick and Athlone). It’s good to pop in and meet with them in person but it can honestly all be dealt with over the phone or through email.
So what does this Visa entail? In Ireland, college graduates have the option of applying for a visa called The Graduate Visa. This is basically a Visa that allows you to work in the US for 1 full-year (with an optional month of travel before & after) and you can avail of this within the first 12 months of graduating. So for example, if you finished college in May 2014 but don’t graduate until October 2014, you will have until October 2015 to obtain the visa. I started looking into applying for my Visa in July and then made the move in September. It’s recommended to allow at least 8 weeks to get everything sorted. Keep in mind though that there are a limited amount of visas released every year so you should try to apply as soon as you decide you want to take part!
There is quite a bit of documentation to get through, so definitely don’t leave it until the last minute. You’ll just stress yourself out and trust me; you won’t want any extra stress at this stage. Once all your documentation goes through, you’ll choose flight dates and will then be invited to the US Embassy in Dublin for your interview. People tend to really stress out about this, but honestly, it couldn’t be more straightforward. USIT will send you a comprehensive list of everything you need for the interview and so long as you’re organized, you’ll have nothing to worry about. You’ll be told there and then if your application has been successful and if so, your visa will be posted out to you a few days later. And this is where all the fun starts!
*I’m just speaking mainly about The Graduate Visa in this post, as that is the only one I’m knowledgeable about at the moment, so if you want more information about other visa options, I’d advise getting directly in touch with USIT. They’ll be able to provide all the information you need.
What you need to organize before moving:
While your visa application is being processed, there are a number of things you can begin to get organized:
- Money: One of the main questions I get asked when people get in touch about moving to New York is ‘how much money do I realistically need?’ The answer? As much as possible. Good ol’ New York is probably one of the most expensive places you will ever live in so I can honestly say that you need to have more money than you think you will need. It just disappears here! The overall cost of the Visa (+ Flights, Insurance, etc.) through USIT is in and around €2500. So once you have that paid, it’s then time to start putting money together for the initial costs you’ll have when you get to New York. The main ones being apartment costs (deposit, at least one month’s rent upfront, a possible broker fee and furnishing costs– more on this later) and also enough money to survive while you look for a job. There genuinely is no exact answer to this question, but to be comfortable, my advice is to have, ideally, between €3000-€5000 saved before you move. It’s probably possible to move here with less, but I just always think it’s important to have that ‘emergency’ fund just incase anything pops up. You just never know what will happen.
- Networking: One of the best pieces of advice I could give you (from my own & my friends’ experiences here) is to network as much as you can and as early as you can before you move. When you get here, there will be a million and one things going on so if you can have interviews set up beforehand, you’ll be one step ahead and a million times less stressed. As mentioned, money goes far too fast, so you’ll definitely want to get working ASAP. A couple of months before your departure date, go online and literally just start goggling all the companies you would ideally like to work with. Go on their careers page, look for a contact and send through an email. You have nothing to lose! This is probably obvious, but LinkedIn is also a fantastic place for getting contacts. As well as this, take one evening, sit down for 20 minutes and write down the name of everyone you (even just kind of know) living in New York and send each of them an email explaining your situation. You never know whom they might know. We all hate to admit it, but it really is all about who you know. Especially in New York City.
- Packing: After personally bring 6 suitcases with me (yes, 6) I’m probably not the best one to give advice about sensible packing -but I’ve definitely learned a thing or two after moving here on 3 separate occasions. Incase you didn’t know, I also spent two Summers here. There’s a 99% chance that your wardrobe (if you even have one) will be absolutely minuscule so unlike me, you’re best bet is to pack as light as possible. Make sure to have a big wardrobe clear out before you leave -see here my top tips for a (cut-throat) wardrobe clear out – and just be really strict about what you bring. If you have time, try to sell some bits and pieces on Depop. You’ll be very glad of that extra money once you arrive in New York.
“They say that in New York, you’re always looking for either an apartment, a job or a boyfriend. ” – Carrie Bradshaw
…and yes, this is very true. So when you move here the usual (this may differ for some ;)) is to start the search for an apartment and a job.
Apartment Hunting: Probably the trickiest task of them all. Before I made the move, I spent a week or so searching through Craigslist and set up some viewings. I arrived to New York on a Thursday at 3pm and signed a lease on an apartment on Friday at 7pm. It was the 11th apartment I had viewed in that short space of time and I honestly don’t know how I got so lucky. If you put your mind to it, you can get it sorted very quickly. I recently did a more detailed blog post all about My NYC Apartment so feel free to check it out for more details. Here is a breakdown of my advice on how to find an apartment in NYC:
1.Decide on the area you want to live in.
This will more often than not be determined by budget. For a decent bedroom in Manhattan (and by decent I mean tiny but manageable) rent will usually be, at a very minimum, $1000+/month. Of course, this may vary and will definitely be cheaper if you’re sharing – but I just want to give you a rough estimate. I remember looking at a 2-bedroom apartment in the East Village (with no sink in the bathroom & absolutely tiny bedrooms), which was $3000 a month. Insane – I know! There are definitely pros and cons to living in Manhattan, so if it’s not at the top of your list of priorities, my advice is to start looking in Brooklyn, Queens and Hoboken. Areas such as Astoria, Woodside & Sunnyside in Queens are very popular and are definitely a lot more inexpensive
2.Start looking online.
I used Craigslist -which is a site you have to EXTREMELY wary of. It is full to the brim of scams but if you’re smart, there are some gems to be found. It’s where I found my apartment (which I got for a steal). Another popular site is Street Easy. Next step is to decide whether you want to go through a broker or not. This is something that is really popular in New York and it basically means that a broker is someone who acts as middleman between you and the apartment owner and in return you pay the broker a fee. This fee is usually one months rent. There are definitely pros and cons to doing it this way but if you can avoid it, I would. There really is enough expense already
3. Set up viewings and learn to be very decisive.
I’m a big believer in the fact that ‘if you know, you know’. When you find an apartment you like in New York, you literally have to take it there and then because if it’s good, it will be snapped up within hours. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but some landlords/brokers will ask you for the deposit straight away in order to secure it. So if you really like the look of a place before you view it, consider having the deposit ready to go.
4.Have your finances in order.
In most cases, you will have to pay a pretty big sum of money upfront. This usually includes first month’s rent (in some cases 2 months), a deposit that is usually a month’s rent and then a broker fee (another months rent) if you decide to use one. See what I mean now about saving LOTS of money before you move!! Also, don’t forget that most New York apartments come completely unfurnished so you must factor in the cost of a bed, wardrobe, etc.
I know it all sounds a bit daunting, but once you have your savings and a lot of determination during your first week here – everything will be totally fine. Everyone gets through it.
Job Hunting: Once you have found your apartment (or while you’re still looking) get stuck into your job-search. Hopefully you’ll have already set up some interviews, but if not, bring yourself and your laptop to the nearest cafe and get looking! With The Graduate Visa, you have 90 days to secure a job. It may seem like a long time but it honestly just flies by. So get stuck in ASAP. The job/internship has to be related to what you studied in college and once you’re offered a position, you won’t be able to start until USIT/CIEE have approved it. This usually takes 1-2 weeks, so be sure to factor this into your budget. Below are the sources I found most useful:
- Contacts: As mentioned before, get in touch with anybody you (even slightly) know and explain your situation.
- Websites: The two job hunting websites I found most useful were Indeed & Fashionista Careers.
- Recruiters: I actually found my current job through a recruiter – who was amazing. It can be a tricky process finding a suitable recruiter but it’s definitely worth looking into. There are loads of agencies here in New York, so just get on Google and start getting in touch.
The job-hunting process in New York is testing, to say the very least. I spent a year after graduating working full-time on my blog and doing short courses specializing in digital marketing and I really believe that this year has stood to me 1000%. You’re going to be up against A LOT of competition from all over the world here, so the more experience you have behind you, the better.
General Advice about living in NYC:
As you’ve probably guessed by now, there is quite a lot involved in moving to New York – or anywhere for that matter. But trust me when I say, you won’t even remember the stress once you’re settled in. This city is just amazing! I really could be here all day writing under this section, but I’ve more or less summed it up in two previous posts Here & Here. Between the two posts, I’ve described 20 lessons I’ve learned since moving to New York.
Recap of my experience so far:
After 7 months of living here on The Graduate Visa, I’d be totally lying if I didn’t admit that there has definitely been a mix of ups and downs. Moving so far away from home without friends and family is never going to be easy. Throw in the stress of looking for apartments, jobs and just generally having to deal with the annoying parts of adult life (if you’re still in college – ENJOY EVERY SECOND) and it’s safe to say that the odd breakdown or two will be common. But once you’re prepared for this, you don’t have a single thing to worry about.
After spending two Summers here, I already knew how much I loved this city. But moving here on a more permanent basis has been an experience I will never forget. Who wouldn’t want to be a ‘local’ in New York City!? It can be a little tricky getting set up but I must say that I owe a big thank you to my representatives at USIT. Whenever I had a problem, I just picked up the phone and they did whatever they could to help me.
I really hope you found this helpful and I would just love if you shared it with friends:)