18-year-old going to NYU, moving from California
May 22, 2011 9:51 PM   Subscribe

My sister is going to NYU in the fall, moving from California. What does she need to know/bring/have?

My little sister is 18, and going away to college this fall at NYU to study acting. I'm really proud of her. :)

My parents raised us in a metropolitan area of Southern California and I went to college while living at home, so not only do we not know anything about living in New York, but we also don't really know anything about dorm living.

What sorts of things should we be trying to acquire for her this summer? What makes it easier to survive the freshman year of college away from home? Also, what will she need to accommodate the weather and no-car lifestyle that she'll have back east?

Thank you!
posted by ckk88 to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (28 answers total)
I went to NYU. There is really nothing she will want or need that would be better to buy ahead of time. I recommend just bringing the stuff she already has and really loves, along with the bare minimum of necessities (e.g., a set of sheets and towels. NYU will send you a packing list), and then buying the rest here. You won't be able to get, for example, a decent winter coat in southern California, so she should wait and buy it when she arrives and sees what everyone else is wearing and what she prefers.
posted by decathecting at 10:02 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My daughter went to NYU for her freshman year, also in the drama program, also from SoCal. (I also live in NYC.) Here's what helped her:
- Clothes- she needed a good warm winter coat, and a lighter one for fall/spring. Warm socks and boots were also essential for walking to/from classes. I strongly suggest getting actual winter boots and not UGGs, even though they are popular, because they do not last on NYC streets.
- The dorms at NYU vary depending on which one she gets into. Freshmen are in a handful of dorms; all are walking distance to most classes and the ones that are further away have free shuttle buses. My daughter was in Third North, which is a bit further from the main NYU campus, but closer to her acting classes. She was in a traditional dorm with 3 2-person bedrooms and a shared kitchen area. To be honest, it kind of sucked for her because she got stuck in a dorm with people she didn't like- if your sister can make friends on Facebook with some other incoming freshmen she might be able to request to room with them, which will probably help. (I'd offer to introduce her to my daughter but she transferred to another school this year.) Also, Third North had no communal wi-fi, just wired access in the dorms, so you may need to get her a wireless router and a printer for papers.
- Getting around: for classes, she can walk or take the NYU shuttle. You should budget in a monthly MetroCard so she can take the subway or buses around the city. Since she's studying acting she'll probably want to go check out plays a lot, and there are plenty, but she'll need to travel to get to most of them.
- Living in New York: if she's never lived in a city like NYC, it'll either be totally awesome! or totally scary! I'd recommend going ahead of time and scoping things out if you can. When she comes here, find some good places nearby that take campus cash (tons do) and find good places for groceries (Trader Joes on 3rd and 14th) and essential chocolate fixes (Max Brenner on Broadway and 13th).

If you have any questions, please MeMail me. I live in the area and I can send you a huge set of links to good restaurants and stuff to do.
posted by bedhead at 10:16 PM on May 22, 2011

I went to NYU as well, I can't think of anything you couldn't get here. A smartphone, GPS, or even a map would be useful, I grew up in New York so all my fellow freshman were always asking me directions to Bloomingdales or some other random place.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:16 PM on May 22, 2011

I gave my sororal twin cousins cfl torchieres when they went to college.

She'll also need:
a warm hat that covers her ears, long underwear and a scarf.
posted by brujita at 10:22 PM on May 22, 2011

Best answer: To piggyback a little on bedhead's response, monthly Metrocards are now $104. They're worth it, especially as a student who will have free time and want to be going to all sorts of events. In general, sometimes NYU transportation can be a bit slow, and some students would just take the subway in. I'm not sure if the buses have improved since my graduation, but just throwing this out there.

I didn't live in a dorm. I commuted from home in Brooklyn, but bedhead is right that incoming freshmen usually get a dorm close to campus. A good time budget is roughly 15 minutes of walk time. Most freshman dorms are similarly central to amenities.

One of my favorite activity features was Ticket Central, which is located in the student center. They have all sorts of discounted show tickets and special events. TDF vouchers are amazing too. They're about $9 and get you a ticket to an off-Broadway show at select theaters.

There are also a lot of places that have discounts so it's worth it to check out the doors on local businesses or simply inquire. Trader Joe's on 14th is great for cheap groceries, but the location is a shoebox and the lines can be pretty horrendous. If she can go to the TJ's on 6th Ave between 21st and 22nd, it is much bigger, newer, and nicer.

As for the weather, it's temperate, so yes a coat, a good umbrella, and winter boots. The NYU bookstore is good for themed hoodies. They stock some pretty nice fleece ones that would do nicely as a starter, before the stores really begin to stock the nice winter coats. Things don't often get truly winter coat cold here until late November/ early December, but YMMV.

Definitely get her a nice map ahead of time. Streetwise Manhattan works, because it can slip into a bag easily. Not to say that Google Maps isn't awesome, but sometimes having the whole map at your fingertips really helps, especially to a newcomer. NYU is located partly in the part of town where the streets have names, and she will likely get turned around a few times, but it won't take long to acclimate. Manhattan is mostly gridded, so numbered streets go East-West and avenues go North-South, with some key variations and differences especially notable below 14th St.

Oh, and since she'll probably be doing the walking-subway-bus-walking to class routine, if she's used to driving, she might notice her shoes wearing down much faster or the need for gel insoles if she doesn't already have shoes with good support and shock absorption. We New Yorkers tend to be tough on shoes and picky since we need to be able to walk and travel in them. So having several good pairs is helpful.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:56 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went to NYU. There's nothing too unusual about the place in terms of particular things she'll need.

If you're looking for gifts, consider getting her a gift card to a clothing store where she can buy an appropriate fall/winter jacket. NYC gets cold quickly.

She'll also need a bag appropriate for all of her books and sundries - since she won't have a car, she'll have to carry everything that she would have in her car on her person.

If her dorm won't have air conditioning (e.g. Rubin), then she should get a fan.

She'll need the monthly Metrocard. It would be "penny wise pound foolish" to not get the monthly unlimited card.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:01 PM on May 22, 2011

Not immediately, but eventually: boots for walking around in snow/ice.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:05 PM on May 22, 2011

I also moved from southern California for college, to New England (where, incidentally, it was clarified to me that New York is *not* in New England, but I digress).

Having tried to do a lot of dorm shopping at home and taken stuff with me, I would say that it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to buy stuff in California and ship it to New York. Your sister should take what she has already, eg personal clothing/items, and whatever else, can fit in her two suitcases, but then just buy everything else in New York. You will inevitably have to go shopping in New York when she moves in because it's just hard to furnish a room from 3,000 miles away, and you always think of things when you actually look at the room that you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

In terms of weather, I would strongly suggest waiting and buying winter clothing in New York. Partially because the selection is much better (it is possible to get a good winter coat in southern California, contrary to popular belief: it's just that it's going to be a ski jacket and nothing else!) but also because your sister may want to get a sense of what other people are wearing for what she wants to wear. Or not: but even if fashion isn't a big deal, it's just a lot easier to pick things up there.

I will say that creating a winter wardrobe from scratch can often be a tad on the expensive side -- it doesn't have to be, of course, but it all depends on how much you enjoy looking for bargains -- so whoever is going to be responsible for buying the clothing should be aware. She will end up wanting a good winter coat, winter accessories (hats, scarves, gloves: the importance of this last one should not be underestimated), some wool sweaters to layer underneath, and waterproof and warm boots.

Oh, and two more random points about climate:
- If she's never lived/traveled much outside of southern California, be prepared for rain in the summer! This sounds dumb to the rest of the country, but I was way more surprised than I needed to be that it rained in August and September. Summer does not equal a parade of dry sunny rainless days a la Los Angeles in New York.
- And it doesn't seem obvious in the often disgustingly humid late summer days, but both indoor and outdoor winter air in New York is bone-dry. If your sister's skin starts flaking or some other weird thing, odds are she hasn't contracted an exotic skin condition, but that her skin is just reacting to how dry the air is. It's nothing that lotion/moisturizer can't fix.
posted by andrewesque at 11:21 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I gave each of my kids a "mom kit" when they went off to their dorms. Just a box filled with things that they often turned to me for: tylenol/advil/antihistamine, thermometer, a little sewing kit. Also a small roll of duct tape, safety pins.
Stick on/peel off wall hooks are wonderful and useful
Also, a good, small flashlight.
And warm boots.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:54 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just want to point out that you're getting a lot of California->NYC transplants, which is going to bias your answers. In particular, all the previous posters are way, way overestimating how cold NYC gets and how heavy a winter coat you need to walk around NYC.

First of all, the walking will warm you up, and if you're not walking (or riding a bike) you'll be someplace heated (subway, bus, taxi).

Secondly, Google "layering." One thing I've noticed going to school in Chicago is that the Californians tended to go from T-shirt to massive down jacket, skipping all the intermediate steps like sweaters, undershirts, and long sleeves. A sweater, a light jacket (like a rain-proof shell with a cotton lining) and an undershirt will do for all but one or two days out of the year, and a second sweater will get you through those days just fine.

If you're really worried, you can get some long underwear. Nowadays people call them "base layers" but they're really just close-fitting undershirts and tights. There are some high-tech synthetic fabrics, or you can go for flannel. I've also heard great things about silk. (I can't vouch for any of this personally because I've always been fine with a T-shirt under my shirt.)

Do get a scarf, gloves, and hat, though. I've seen girls with wonderful gloves that go up to their elbows, which I envy because men's gloves always leave a little strip of skin exposed on your wrists.
posted by d. z. wang at 1:34 AM on May 23, 2011

Honestly, as a New Yorker, an especially as an NYU student, your sister is going to have incredible access in terms of lectures, awesome school programs, libraries, etc.

If there was one thing I would say she needed, it would be that she needs to recognize and take advantage of the incredible opportunity she has while she has it. If she's interested in a particular area of study, I would strongly recommend that she become acquainted with that department and attend their events early and often.

I also think she needs to explore the city outside of the NYU controlled section of downtown. There's so much to see and do here, both in manhattan and the outer boroughs, she should really take some day trips to places like The Cloisters, the Brooklyn Notanic Garden, DIA Beacon, the Storm King Art Center.

(and congratulations to her! I love living on New York!)
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:42 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I also went to NYU for acting and I agree with everyone who said some version of "she can buy whatever she needs here." The main difference from CA that comes to mind, obviously, is that she'll need clothes for cold/snowy weather, but there will be plenty of time to buy those.

Off the top of my head, some things she might need and find annoying to shop for as soon as school starts:

-Good walking shoes. My studio was about a 30 minute walk from my dorm each way, not convenient to subway/bus routes, and I had to go there three times a week at least.

-A good bag/backpack. I had to carry an ass-load of books, both for acting days and regular class days. (Unless that's all e-reader-ized now.) She'll probably have to be carrying around changes of clothes, props, etc. a lot of the time too.

-Clothes she likes for movement classes. Yes, you can get dance/yoga/lounge clothes all over NYC, but she will be spending a fair amount of time in them (with little time to do laundry) from day 1, and if it matters to her that she look cute in them, she might want to bring a selection.

I'll post again if I remember anything else.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 5:31 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Be sure she knows that there are beaches in NYC and she can get to them by subway!
posted by mareli at 5:42 AM on May 23, 2011

Seconding andrewesque on buying the winter gear in the NY area. (Downside is that she won't be buying during sale season for coats, but you've already missed that this year, anyway.) The thing about coats you buy in warm-weather parts of the country is that even if they look the same, they're usually lighter weight. Mail order is also an option, especially for things like silk long johns (get these if she has to spend a lot of time sitting still while it's cold).

As for transplants overestimating how cold it gets in winter, well, yeah, they feel it more. You get used to it after a few years, but you'll want to be dressed a little more warmly than the native norm until then. For laughs, I recommend that those used to northeast winters visit southern CA during what natives consider cold winter weather. It's hilarious to see 'em all bundled up in their warmest when you're in short sleeves.

A humidifier (dunno if these'd be OK in the dorms) or a neti pot may help her deal with the lack of humidity in winter. These are easy enough to pick up as she needs them, too.

The stuff she'll really want in advance are the good shoes and good bag (maybe have her look through the innumerable bag/backpack threads here?)
posted by asperity at 6:21 AM on May 23, 2011

Definitely good walking shoes, a good laptop case, if she's bringing a laptop, snow boots (can be bought here), nice gloves.

NYU may have some kind of deal for students to get discounted MetroCards.

As for the cold issue, I was born and raised here, and I STILL found this winter to be completely awful. But once it's about 40, I go outside in short sleeves without a coat.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:38 AM on May 23, 2011

Yeah, I wanted to second asperity on the whole transplant business. I think that it's not really biasing our answers so much as framing it from the perspective of others who have made the same change. 40 degrees in October really feels different to somebody from Los Angeles than to somebody from Duluth, and while you do adjust (either quickly or slowly), there's no reason to be unnecessarily cold while you do so.
posted by andrewesque at 6:53 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

CA --> NYC transplant here - after nearly a decade it continues to be colder every year than I am prepared for, and the winter always lasts much longer than I expect.

I was a broke student when I moved here and if someone had given me these Plush fleece-lined tights that I was too stingy to spend buy for myself, I would have been really grateful.

Also, it's taken me years to figure out that having a backup pair of gloves at home is going to save my ass at least once a winter and that keeping the humidifier by my bed all winter is simply non-negotiable.
posted by sestaaak at 7:23 AM on May 23, 2011

A REAL winter coat (think long, puffy, and ugly) and REAL winter boots. The worst thing is to be unprepared for the brutal winters- because she will be walking alot.
posted by duddes02 at 8:20 AM on May 23, 2011

Best answer: You can make a personalized map ("my map") in Google maps where you put down pins in locations that are meaningful to you. Create a map for her that plots out her dorm, classes, local grocery, great coffee and bagel places, best cheap sushi joint, etc. Use Yelp to research anything and everything in the NYU vicinity. Knowing in advance the names and locations of a few destinations will make those first few days of exploring a bit less bewildering.
posted by cymru_j at 8:57 AM on May 23, 2011

Oh, and she might want to look at some local magazines, like Time Out New York, to get an idea of arts, culture, and entertainment stuff in the city.
posted by cymru_j at 9:02 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Two things I haven't seen yet...
My NYU daughters asked for Smartwool socks as it got colder.

Show her the HopStop website. They have a smartphone app too. You put in your location and destination and it tells you which bus/subway will get you there.

Also, have her start walking 2-5 miles per day. Every time I visit my girls my feet hurt for the first few days since I'm not used to the amount of walking.
posted by CathyG at 10:43 AM on May 23, 2011

I moved back to Chicago after being in southern California and central Texas for years and had totally forgotten how to dress for walking around a city in the winter, where it is cold and messy and you stand on the corner in the wind waiting for a bus. Your sister is better off buying her winter stuff once she gets to NYC and can buy it from a local shop where it will be climate-appropriate or buying it on-line. I like Ibex, Smartwool, Icebreaker and Nau for making warm, non-athletic-gym-clothing out of merino wool, which is incredibly warm, but not at all hot in over-heated buildings and train cars. Smartwool tights and socks are the best and often available for cheap at Sierra Trading Post!

Here are a couple old ask.me's about dressing in cold: Staying Fashionable in Winter and Help me Be Warm at College in Massachusetts when I'm from Texas.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:58 AM on May 23, 2011

NYC ... acting ...

One thing I found interesting about living in NYC was seeing it for real after seeing many of the fine films shot there that show it off. Everything from The French Connection to ... Saturday Night Fever.

How about a stack/queue of the 30 quintessential NYC films? (That would be a pretty good question in itself.)
posted by coffeefilter at 11:23 AM on May 23, 2011

one of my favorite things about downtown in the fall is seeing all the new nyu freshmen who clearly went shopping right BEFORE moving to the city—i can always tell they just arrived because they're wearing clothes, shoes and makeup that were cool for high school kids where they came from, but not so much on college kids in new york. it takes about two weeks for them to disappear, which is to say that so many of them end up replacing their wardrobes once they realize they stick out.

so: don't take her shopping in california. have her bring some clothes and things she likes and give her gift cards or a budget to spend when she gets here. you can buy pretty much anything you need to live from clothes to food to necessities within a few blocks of every nyu building or dorm. h&m and uniqlo are half a mile (ten minute walk!) down broadway from nyu; they're cheap and awesome.

the suggestions of an unlimited monthly metrocard are sweet but unnecessary if she's living in a dorm because she'll either be able to walk to class or take the nyu trolley for free. good for the first month or if she does internships, but probably overkill after that.
posted by lia at 2:06 PM on May 23, 2011

Best answer: NYU is full of freshmen from all over the country, even all over the world. There will be lots of Californians, lots of suburbanites, even lots of kids from the absolute sticks*. She will have plenty of friends who are in exactly her situation, learning what it means to live in a world class city.


One thing that might be interesting if you want to give her a gift or expose her to something that will prepare her would be help her get immersed in East Coast culture.

Introduce her to Thai, Japanese, Indian, Tapas, and Israeli/Greek/Mediterranean cuisine if you have access to it (and if she hasn't already been exposed, of course). Get her primed to try cuisines like Filipino, Puerto Rican/Dominican, and Caribbean, which aren't widely available outside of the city.

Watch quintessential New York movies - especially since she's going to study acting. A huge percentage of her classmates are going to have seen Annie Hall, Mean Streets, All That Jazz, and other New York movies that weren't made in the 70's that I am clearly not thinking of right now.

Maybe try streaming radio stations like Z100 (pop, but with a regional bent - they're much more likely to play Gaga and hiphop-tinged stuff than Justin Bieber), WFMU ("freeform", which I think means lots of world music, jam-bands, and super esoteric stuff), WFUV (indie rock and folk), WNYC (the local NPR affiliate), etc, depending on her taste?

Sign her up for the Nonsense List.

I found when I moved to the northeast that the stuff people were into was totally different, which meant that I lacked the cultural capital to make friends easily in a time of life when so much depends on liking the right things. It also didn't help that I was studying theatre and didn't have the right references - I blew every audition in the first semester because I'd mix up John Hughes and John Waters, or show up and do a monologue from Steel Magnolias.

Unless, of course, your sister is an extremely socially self-assured rock star who can just do her own thing and charm the pants off everyone anyway. Even so, New Yorkers tend to be chauvinistic about this sort of thing, and it doesn't hurt to at least be aware of people like Lenny Bruce, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Martin Scorsese, Patti Smith, and Andy Warhol.

On a more practical note - a Trader Joe's gift card. There's a TJ's in the same building as one of the bigger NYU dorms, and within five blocks of another.

*I remember going to Emerson, which has a similar student base to NYU, and feeling like a total country mouse even compared to the kids who grew up in places like western Mass or rural Washington state. Your sister will probably seem incredibly sophisticated to a lot of her classmates, even if she feels less sophisticated than the Upper West Siders or the international students from Tokyo and Dubai.
posted by Sara C. at 6:42 PM on May 23, 2011

What sorts of things should we be trying to acquire for her this summer?


What makes it easier to survive the freshman year of college away from home?

Also, what will she need to accommodate the weather and no-car lifestyle that she'll have back east?Money for shoes.

She doesn't need a Metrocard as much as she needs a sense of scale of the city. I went to NYU and my freshman year dorm was right on Washington Square Park. My classes were on the other side of the park. I remember I once took the subway to 8th Avenue and 14th St, which is 1 stop. Another time I walked to Union Square and thought it was far. But in my sophomore year I lived in Chinatown and then I realized that New York is walkable and 25 minutes isn't a long walk when the scenery is interesting and you do things along the way.
posted by oreofuchi at 9:36 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you so much guys! My family's been reading through the answers, and they are all really helpful.

This is what we've learned thus far: She needs to buy her clothing there, take full advantage of all opportunities available, and be prepared to deal with the cold.

Any recommendations for dorms at NYU? She's in the Alder school.
posted by ckk88 at 5:50 PM on May 27, 2011

I'm not sure how Tisch's studio system works in terms of how often students commute to the studios themselves (vs. whether studio classes meet on the NYU campus proper? or how often studio classes even meet?). But if she will have to get over to the Adler studio several times a week, actually this is the one situation where an NYU student might need a metrocard! Because according to google the Adler studio is on Broadway in the upper 20's.

If I were a Tisch student who'd been placed in the Adler studio, I'd probably opt for the NYU dorm that is on 14th street just east of Union Square. Though I'm not familiar with NYU's campus housing, who typically gets placed into which dorms, etc. College housing I'm familiar with tends to take this sort of thing into account when placing students, as well as tending to place students with their classmates (so there might be one dorm that the bulk of first year Tisch kids end up in, vs. others that are typically open only to upperclassmen). Anyway, assuming she has her pick of dorms and is only choosing based on location, that one on 14th just east of Union Square is probably the most optimal for getting to Adler. It's a 20 minute walk away, or two subway stops. It's also very convenient to the Tisch building where she'll likely have a lot of other classes.
posted by Sara C. at 6:05 PM on May 27, 2011

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