Sydney: This summer I lived in Ossining, New York. I had a wonderful research internship in White Plains, New York at The Burke-Cornell Medical Research Institute. Ossining is a small town on the Hudson River about an hour north of New York City with a population of 37,000 residents. I found the room I’m staying in on Craigslist the week I moved up (I did try looking at several places earlier, but they all fell through for one reason or another).
Rachel: I’m living in Amherst, Massachusetts, which is a small town in Western Massachusetts, population size 37,000 as well! I am a Research Intern for Verite, a global fair labor NGO, specifically working on a two-year project to address gaps in knowledge on the intersections between forced labor and trafficking in persons (TIP) and international economic activities in sub-Saharan African supply chains. Sydney and I were both living by ourselves for the summer.
S: I was actually excited to live by myself. My internship is 10 weeks long and I’m about 3 hours away from my home in Pennsylvania so I knew I could take the train home on weekends. Before I moved up, I contacted a few ambulance stations in the area to see about volunteering at nights so when I got back from a day of work I wouldn’t just be sitting by myself.
R: I was a little nervous because I knew absolutely no one in the state, much less the town, but I was (and am) very excited for the work I’m doing at Verite. I am pretty independent, so it didn’t phase me that much but I definitely thought about how I would manage if a crisis arose. How does one get to a far-away hospital if you have a non-emergency situation but no car and no connections? Luckily I didn’t have to find the answer to that the hard way, but I think it’s a valid concern, so I had that in mind going in.
S: When I got to Ossining, my first impression was that it was HOT. It’s very very humid and my room doesn’t have AC.
R: I was flustered- the trip up from Florida had not gone smoothly (a trend in my life currently), and I arrived to an apartment without air conditioning. I honestly don’t understand the Northeast. The man who invented the precursor to air conditioning, John Gorrie, is the greatest Caribbean-born immigrant of Scottish descent since Alexander Hamilton. I also got on the wrong bus leaving the grocery store and ended up in the next town waiting outside for twenty minutes for the bus driver to finish eating his sandwich. Besides the heat and the great and terrible bus adventure, I was excited to start my job and for the freedom I felt living alone for the first time.
S: As someone who’s from a small quiet town, I didn’t expect to have any issues living in a small town for the summer. But I realized that it’s much harder to live alone in a small place when you don’t know anyone at all. Moving to college, there are tons of other people our age to become friends with. Or living in a city, you can always just walk outside and explore new things and be surrounded by new people and experiences. All of my former experiences away from home came with a new group of friends that were in a similar situation as me. In New York I worked with wonderful people that were all at least 5 years older than me and there didn’t seem to be many college aged students in Ossining. So instead of being able to walk outside into a city with places to explore, or spend time outside of work with other interns, I had to make myself busy to avoid getting lonely. I started volunteering as an EMT for Sleepy Hollow Ambulance Corp two nights a week which was a wonderful way to really get to know the area I was staying in and meet new people. (I never met the headless horseman though, so I’m slightly disappointed) I also got GRE prep books that I worked on in addition to taking informal online courses. On nice days I would go to different parks after work to study or to a Starbucks if I needed AC. After this summer, I’ll definitely appreciate having the company of 3 roommates (not that I wouldn’t have appreciated them otherwise).
R: Living alone is really nice most of the time- that is until its 10:30 on a Friday night and you’re on your fourth episode of Downton Abbey that night and yet another main character has died (really, who are these people?) and food is your only solace…. I’m enough of an introvert that being alone for the majority of the time I’m not at work isn’t that bad. It can get lonely though, especially on weekends. I work 40 hours a week with eight other interns, so I have enough social interaction to make it through the week. The other interns and I sometimes go on hikes, see movies, etc. on weekends and they give me rides to the grocery store!
Amherst is a cute town with a great local bookstore and excellent ice cream. Those really helped with the loneliness, as did Skype calls, Marvel movies, and rewatching all of Doctor Who. I also had an awesome weekend in Columbus for the coolest thing happening in Ohio this summer- the Dance Marathon Leadership Conference- with two great friends, which was a nice escape to the land of AC. I will be glad to get back to Dallas and have three roommates and a program full of friends though!
S: If I had to give one piece of advice on living alone, it would be to explore your area early. I had a car, but would drive directly home from work each day for the first few weeks. I’d definitely recommend taking side streets and not just keeping to the beaten path. I found some beautiful parks with waterfalls and waterfront views to study in. You don’t gain as much living somewhere new if you don’t get to meet people and know it. I went home on weekends to see my family, but that itself required two trains and two subways in each direction. Do something outside of your comfort zone. I have no crazy stories of ridiculous things I tried, but there were lots of little learning experiences that all add up.
R: My advice is to find out if they have cookie delivery services quickly and utilize that as often as possible. It’s important. In all seriousness, do explore the area, especially if you’re in a city or somewhere with great public transportation like the Northeast. Also, hit up any connections you have in nearby areas to see other parts of the country- I visited a friend in New Haven and am going to visit a friend in New York City, both places I had never been (again, yay for the Northeast and small states)! Be careful traveling, and keep calm in difficult situations like getting stuck in the Chicago airport for seven hours when lightning strikes your plane. Freaking out over situations never does any good, and in the end you grow from those experiences.
S: Aside from the tons of learning through my research internship experience, I’ve definitely grown in independence and self confidence through living alone. I understand more that I need to keep myself busy and that for future study abroads and summers away from campus, I would like to live on a college campus or in a city so I can spend more time meeting people and exploring. I’m now much more experienced and confident with independent travel and interstate mass transit systems. I’m sure I’ll be much better prepared for international travel having tested the waters by myself this summer.
R: I definitely agree with Sydney about the independence and self-confidence. I remember having to leave the house when my parents were throwing a dinner party at home in Gainesville one night and sitting in my car eating a Publix sandwich not wanting to see a movie by myself; now I am comfortable doing everything alone and actually relished the peace for most of the summer. Also, I think small towns are nice for families, but it was hard to be somewhere that didn’t have much for college students under 21 to do during the summer. I have definitely grown in appreciation for the diversity of activities in Dallas and am excited to explore more in the fall!