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From Bama to the Big Apple

Published on August 4, 2017, at 10:11 a.m.
by Dalton Kerby.

“What are your plans for after graduation?” is a common question that you’ll be posed during your time in college attaining your degree. You’ll spend somewhere around four years answering this question, and probably giving several different answers over that timeframe. For some, a diploma is the first step toward an agency career. Others may plan to pursue graduate coursework. Either way, graduation for many means that it is time to choose whether to move or to stay.

“Breaking from previous generations’ ideals, this group’s [millenials] ‘American Dream’ is transitioning from the white picket fence in the suburbs to the historic brownstone stoop in the heart of the city.” “Millenials Prefer Cities to Suburbs, Subways to Driveways”  is a research article from Nielsen that states that 40 percent of this 77 million group report that they desire an urban life at some point in the future.

This is a desire that requires a lot of forethought, however.

Many public relations graduates will decide to move to a big city such as Chicago or Atlanta upon completing their degrees in hopes of finding employment opportunities unavailable at home or in their university’s geographic area. Jada Culver and Sarah Dougherty are two recent University of Alabama graduates who embarked on a journey from the Heart of Dixie to the Big Apple itself.

Culver and Dougherty, a PR intern at Brunswick Group and a client staff assistant at Burson-Marstellar, respectively, both chose to pursue a career in New York City after graduation to push themselves out of their comfort zones. They both saw the opportunities afforded there, and knew that they wouldn’t always be able to make such a big move.

“I knew that if I didn’t do it now, I never would,” Dougherty said. “I would have always wondered what if?”

Culver was not a huge New York fan before the move, but knew that the transition would propel her to new experiences and education.

“It excited me to be going to a big city that was going to challenge me but also allow me to chase whatever dream I wanted for myself,” she said.

Both women knew, to an extent, that a journey like this one would require its fair share of sacrifices. The South and Northeast are obviously very different from each other, just as college is from a career. Both Culver and Dougherty knew that the tradition of “Southern hospitality” would look different, as would practical things like transportation and air conditioning. New York City has a much higher cost of living, which initially shocked both of the young PR practitioners.

“I wish would’ve been smarter with my money in college,” Dougherty said. “I didn’t think as much about the upfront costs of getting settled into a new city or apartment as I should have.”

While she did admit that it has been tough to adjust to changes in pace, traffic noise and even air quality, Culver also says that New York City, the “beast that spares no one” as she calls it, is a place of unrivaled opportunity. For her, the sacrifices have been well worth it in the end.

“I can accomplish whatever I want to, because there’s a way because it’s New York City!” Culver said.

After graduation, students are faced with the big question of “Where next?”

Furthermore, the two emphasized that urban locations like the Big Apple differ from college towns in that relationships require more action to initiate. While on campus, Culver and Dougherty were surrounded by 30,000 likeminded students who seemed far more approachable. They agreed that one has to persevere in the hard times of seeming isolation in NYC because the city doesn’t automatically reveal everyone’s “place.” According to Culver, you have to “really work at how you will fit into NYC and not how you will let NYC tell you to be.”

Their advice for those considering making a similar transition after college? Go for it.

“I honestly don’t think you are ever prepared to live in New York City,” Dougherty admitted. “You just have to dive in head first and hope for the best.”

This perspective may seem discouraging at first, but Dougherty believes it is what unites the city. She says that she can rest assured knowing that everyone around her has experienced what she has, the confusion, difficulties, all of it. She knows that when it gets hard, she can look around and see thousands of individuals who dove into the concrete jungle and emerged victorious on the other side.

Yet, Dougherty admits that the move isn’t for everyone. She knows that the sacrifices that one is willing to make varies on an individual level, and encourages anyone looking at a move to a New York-esque city to seriously consider what they are and are not willing to give up.

“I sacrificed comfort in a few different ways, but with great reward — the days here are long, and they can be overwhelming,” she said. “But each week I look back and think about how much I have been learning along the way, about the clients, the profession and myself.”

According to Culver, you should always push your limits when you’re scared, because that is what develops you as a person. Consider the pros and cons, but nothing beats giving whatever “it” is a try. She boils down her advice to three simple tasks:

1. Decide to do it.
2. Find a place to live.
3. Start the journey.

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