Admissions Blog

Moving to NYC: An International Perspective

By Shally Baloch '23
Posted Feb 20 2023

In my first “Moving to NYC” blog, I realized I was missing something; at SIPA, there are many international students who had never engaged with NYC housing or even been to America prior to coming here. I spoke with Jackline Okeyo, a second year EMPA student about her experience moving, NYC, and SIPA generally.


What was something unexpected or difficult about moving to New York City?

How much rent costs and how difficult it was to meet the requirements for landlords, particularly given the exchange rates! In most cases, you must be making 3 - 4 times the annual rent as an affordability test and agents wanted a social security number– it did not matter that I was coming to study at a reputable university. It was hard to break out of the requirements. This was one of my hurdles but luckily one of my friends came here with me, so we were able to combine incomes and find accommodation together. We also were not in NYC at the time of our search which was an added barrier but ultimately, using resources such as Zillow, we found a place!

Part of living in NYC is also building independence. Negotiating rental deposits with landlords, sourcing furniture, or sorting out your leaky sink. I do wish there was a network or resource that would help with landlords and finding a neighborhood for students who choose to stay off-campus because if you are not sufficiently ready, it can be very difficult and it can get expensive here too!

What were some unexpected but positive things about moving to New York City?

I was surprised by how integrated all the different socio-economic groups are. For example, mixed-income housing, this type of urban integration is not common in South Africa. This has been very pleasant, getting to experience how communities with people from different backgrounds can be integrated, there are also plenty of outdoor activities to keep New Yorkers engaged. Being interested in urban planning, these are perspectives and experiences that I hope to take home.

I imagine the hustle and bustle of NYC and trying to find your place in it must have been overwhelming? How did you manage?

I had never been to the USA before and now I am living here! I was overwhelmed- starting school, new city, new culture, the costs, everything. I managed that with a friend who helped me transition, it helped me stay grounded. Also, she had her own small network, it was really helpful in the initial days to explore together. Making time to get to know people outside of school helped.

I took it step by step; the fact that I knew I was here to study gave me some structure because there is a lot going on in the city. Being in a class with other people who are going through the same things or had experienced this feeling helped me to feel less alone. We are sharing the same experience. That allowed me to embrace both the negative and positive experiences as part of this new chapter.

Trying to establish a routine where I speak to family regularly and connect with those back home made the transition less overwhelming, while giving me the boost that I needed to stay focused on my journey.

Now that you are a bit more settled, well into your second year in NYC, what do you do for fun?

Recently, I went to a Chamber Concert at Carnegie Hall. I am trying to get out and do more fun things. I used to take walks with friends of mine to explore our neighborhoods. I am also a runner but have not gotten to do too much of that between school and work. It should be borne in mind that entertainment can get very costly in NYC but I enjoy the quintessential NYC things– going to watch a play, enjoying brunch, a cruise on the East River, and really exploring the city!

Did SIPA help with your transition to NYC? In what ways?

SIPA has definitely helped transitioning to a big city in some ways. One of my goals is to build a business and I have been able to develop a network through SIPA professors. Plenty of opportunities have come about, so the grapevine is active. Proximity to school and attending events both on and off campus have helped ground my NYC experience by providing a sense of place, and opened other doors such as part-time work. Being at SIPA helps you access a network but building and nurturing that network is entirely up to you.