Dana, 22, Researcher, New York City, NY, USA

“Once you really understand this city, nothing becomes good enough for you.”

Koshpendiler: Hi, Dana! Please tell us about yourself.

Dana: Hi! I am Dana, 22 years old. I’ve recently graduated from Brown University with a Master’s in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship Engineering. At the moment, I am an associate at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

I have a very ambitious, focused and enterprising personality. But I am also a very easy-going person – I love adventures! Couple months ago I went skydiving with my friends – it was the most exciting and mind-blowing experience in my life.

In my spare time, I play guitar and write songs, dance (I have been dancing professionally for many years), and take oil painting and cooking classes. I also love exploring new places with my friends. I am determined to visit every art gallery in New York – I love modern art! And just like every girl, inspired by Carrie Bradshaw, I never miss an opportunity to dress up and party.

Koshpendiler: Where do you come from in Kazakhstan?

Dana: I grew up in Almaty and try to visit my family there at least twice a year. Almaty has a special place in my heart – I don’t think you can get that mix of rich history, great nature, diversity and comfort anywhere in the world. And also I like Almaty weather more than NYC, especially in the summer.

Koshpendiler: So, now you’re living in NYC?

Dana: Yes, I live in New York City and I love everything about it – I love biking along Hudson River, gallery hopping in Chelsea, the bohemian chic of Soho and late night runs to pizza shops…

Seeing New York life on TV and living it are two polar opposites. This city has a unique vibe and energy – the totally boring and utterly absurd coexist here in harmony. There is a quote by John Steinbeck, which fully depicts my thoughts about New York:

“New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous.
But there is one thing about it – once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.” 

However, it’s a total hit-or-miss: I think it has to be love at first sight, because not everyone can withstand the crazy engrossing energy of this place – I have seen people who moved away after spending less than a year here. But I can honestly tell you – once you really understand this city, nothing becomes good enough for you.

Koshpendiler: How long have you been gone and what were your first impressions of NYC?

Dana: I have dreamt about living in New York for as long as I can remember, so 5 years ago, after graduating from high school, I came here for studies.

I remember my first day – I was in a taxi heading to my school dorm and the first thing that popped into my head was “WHAT HAVE I DONE?!”. I was 17, nervous and eager to fit it, trying my best to figure out how the subway works. But like I said, for me it was love at first sight – I knew I just needed some time to settle down and then I would be ready to take the city by storm. There are so many unprecedented opportunities here, you just have to be brave and have that go-getter attitude.

Koshpendiler: Cool! So what do you do? Can you describe a typical day in your life?

Dana: I currently work in the Capacity Building Branch of the United Nations Division for Public Administration and Development Management. I conduct research in the areas of institutional and human resource development in the public sector and assist with information management and database population. I usually work from 9AM to 5PM and in the evening I try to spend time with my friends. Even after living here for so many years, I still find new places to explore – New York never ceases to amaze me.

Koshpendiler: What are the peculiarities of living in NYC? How can one become a local? What’s is the cost of living there?

Dana: People say that New Yorkers are cold and aloof, but in reality, we just mind our own business and defend personal space. Here in NYC, we pass by thousands of people every minute of our day; we have places to be, trains to catch and people to meet – we literally don’t have the time to engage in every little conversation and pay attention to every little thing happening around us. I think you just have to be open-minded in order to adapt to and succeed in the new environment.

I had a very easy social integration, partly because there were so many international students in my school and we shared common adaptation experience. During my first couple of years in New York I didn’t have any friends from Kazakhstan or any of the FSU countries. But I got to meet people from all over the world, from Australia to Senegal, and I still keep in touch with most of them. I not only became more culturally enriched, but found new interests and hobbies, gained appreciation for different traditions and cuisines – all because of the enormous cultural diversity of New York. I have this one rule for myself – get out of your comfort zone – meet more people, try new things, put yourself out there.

As far as cost of living, just like everything else in New York – it is very controversial. The cost of living in NYC is believed to be at least 60% higher than the national average – rent, healthcare, pretty much everything is more expensive here. But at the same time, there are so many bargains and tricks that can help you save up. For example, smart traveling – take a subway, commute on a bike, take UberPool… the possibilities are endless.

Koshpendiler: So you know now some Kazakhs in NYC? Do you follow any Kazakh traditions together? What is one thing from home you miss most?

Dana: Now I know lots of people from Kazakhstan who reside in NYC and I try to be involved in all social media groups and keep track of local events. My friends and I celebrate major national holidays together and try to get our hands on Rakhat chocolate and kazy in any way we can!

There are tons of forums and social media groups for our fellow compatriots who live in the US. They not only share useful tips and information, but often organize events, parties and gatherings – honestly, there is no better feeling than coming to “Kazakh party” and getting that feeling of “home away from home” in a posh bar in the middle of Manhattan.

Koshpendiler: What are your tips for newcomers?

Dana: My top three main tips for newbies in NYC:

  1. Take advice from the locals – you will learn much more from a native New Yorker than from any online guidebook or Yelp.
  2. Take advantage of all cultural and entertainment perks – you can see world-class musicians, exhibitions and stand-up comics for as little as $15. Keep exploring.
  3. Do not EVER get into an empty subway cart – it’s empty for a reason.

Koshpendiler: How and for what purpose our readers can contact you?

Dana: I am always open to making new friends and giving advice so people can find me on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much every social media out there (Dana Kaumenova); or shoot me an email.


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