Route J-1

Four Months as a New Yorker

Posted on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 at 1:00 pm.

By Nick Hvidtfeldt, J-1 Intern from Denmark

Nick enjoying the fall foliage in New York’s Central Park

During my four months in New York City I made sure to take advantage of all the exciting opportunities this place has to offer. I rarely had a dull moment, and my friends would often ask me, “Are you even interning?!” because of all the cultural activities and traveling I did. I promise I was! But I utilized every second of my free time to go somewhere new and do something fun.

I made it a priority to visit every New York City borough and explore every neighborhood of Manhattan. I found that an excellent way to do this was to go on guided theme tours. You can find all sorts of different ones that suit your interests. I went on a bubbly tour of Greenwich Village with a drag queen, a fascinating historical tour of Harlem, the Sex and the City hotspots tour, a tasty pizza tour in Brooklyn and many more. I was continually surprised by the myriad of stories each place has and how many different ‘flavors’ can be found in this city. And speaking of flavors, the numerous street food markets I visited around town always satisfied my culinary cravings and opened my eyes to levels of deliciousness I never knew existed!

Nick taking a selfie with the Statute of Liberty

I had some truly spectacular moments that made for awesome posts on social media and even better memories. Being the big pop culture nerd I am, I was exhilarated when I got a seat in the audience for the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at the legendary Madison Square Garden. I was lucky enough to attend tapings of iconic TV shows such as Good Morning America and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and through my internship host firm I got the unique chance to participate in a high level meeting at the United Nations headquarters. Since my internship was in the fall, I also enjoyed some seasonal New York traditions such as being wowed by the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and becoming overwhelmed by the giant balloon characters at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Nick taking a Segway tour in Washington, DC

I did not stay in New York the entire time though, as I spent a few weekends traveling to see other parts of the East Coast. There are so many places in the United States filled with rich history and beauty, and even just the scenic views of nature along the way really impressed me. I found it incredibly meaningful to learn more about United States history on these trips and understand how the events of the past shaped present society. Seeing the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and walking the Freedom Trail in Boston were some of the cultural highlights, and rolling past the White House on a Segway is something I can now cross off my bucket list.

However, what stood out to me the most in my exploration of American culture was just strolling down the street, riding the subway, people-watching and talking to real New Yorkers. One of my reasons for staying in the United States for an extended period of time was to experience everyday life, become one of the locals and get to know their points of view. I loved finding out about small cultural differences that I would have never discovered otherwise, and these often gave me a new perspective on how we do things in my home country. The overwhelming amount of options at the grocery store I can get behind, but leaving out the tax on price tags to make for a ‘fun’ surprise at checkout – what’s up with that?!

Nick attending a meeting at the United Nations

I also happened to be in the United States right at the culmination of the 2016 presidential election, so it was a particularly fascinating time to visit as I got to engage in many conversations with colleagues, new acquaintances and complete strangers about the current state of politics. Being in the midst of such an epoch-making event was a once in a lifetime experience and has forever left an imprint on me. Despite the negative impressions one can sometimes get of Americans from the outside, I met a lot of passionate, smart and caring young people who gave me great faith in the future of the country.

Categories: Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.

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