Taryn Silver has lived in New York twice: first as an exchange student while she studied classical voice as a soprano, and now as a graduate student in communications at Columbia University. Taryn is a member of the AWNY Committee and is spending her summer break as an intern at the
Environmental Defense Fund, doing communications for sustainable agriculture. We spoke to Taryn about being accepted into Columbia, moving to New York and enjoying life as a student in the Big Apple.
What made you decide to move to New York?
I’m from Melbourne, and I moved to New York last August for graduate study in communications at Columbia University. I originally came to New York as an exchange student from the Conservatorium of Music at Melbourne University, where I was studying classical voice (as a soprano). During my exchange I studied at Barnard College and fell in love with the city!
What did the admissions process involve for Columbia?
I got into Columbia after a very long application process, involving two essays, three recommendation letters, the GRE test, having all my academic transcripts from Australia converted to the American grading system and an interview! My advice to other aspiring Columbia students is: if you can show that you’ve worked hard and have interest or experience in the field that’s always a good place to start.
Are you obtaining work experience while you study?
I’m currently interning at the Environmental Defense Fund, doing communications for sustainable agriculture in our ecosystems department! And I love it!
What are some of the differences you have noticed between studying in the USA vs in Australia?
Semesters are longer in the USA – I’m so tired at the moment! And there are more assignments, homework and interaction with your professors. But on the flip side, I feel like American professors mark a lot more easily than in Australia.
Where do you live and why did you choose that area?
I live on the Upper West Side, in the 90s, with two roommates. I chose to live close to the University, but I didn’t want to live directly on top of campus. I love the feeling of the Upper West Side, it’s not too busy and not too loud. Plus, I love being so close to Central Park and Riverside Park. The very first time I came to New York I stayed in Midtown and I found it really overwhelming.
What are some of your likes and dislikes about living in New York?
I love being in the center of everything. I studied music as an undergraduate, specializing in opera. So I love being able to go to the Metropolitan Opera and grab student rush tickets (when I’m not studying!) I sometimes dislike the pace of New York and I have to get away from the city on occasion, but thankfully I have family outside of the city in New Jersey, so I can run away! I’m hoping to explore more this summer – I love hiking and there are so many meet-up groups for doing this kind of thing.
What’s the biggest challenge or roadblock you’ve faced since being in New York and how did you overcome it?
Homesickness was a problem I had as an exchange student. I overcame it by becoming a lot more social. When I was out with friends and pursuing hobbies I didn’t have time to think about how much I missed home. For example, I sing in two choirs: the Barnard Columbia Chamber Choir and Zamir Noded, a Jewish youth choir. I also made a new friend at Bluestone Lane Café recently!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living and working in NYC?
Network, network, network! One of the great things about studying at Columbia is that we have a dedicated career counsellor, which I didn’t really have back home, so I’ve learned how important it is to just get out there. Just yesterday I reached out to someone on Facebook that I found through AWNY. I feel like using your Aussies connection is a great place to start.
What advice do you have for people moving to New York?
Be prepared for a lifestyle like no other, but also remember to make time for things that are important to you. For me its doing yoga every week. It’s easy to get swept up in the intensity of the city.
What are your top tips for friends visiting New York?
Be prepared to walk, so bring the right shoes. If you’re coming in spring or fall bring your gumboots (or rain boots as they call them here!), I’ve had shoes ruined when I was caught in the rain. I’m sure you will want to book lots of shows, but keep a day free just to wander around and discover something new.
Can you tell us about an ‘only in New York’ moment?
There have been so many! But once I was coming out of Grand Central station and this man in a beautiful suit stopped me. I thought he was going to ask me for the time, but instead he asked me, “Excuse me, do you think I’m good looking?” I wasn’t sure what to say!
What is your favorite New York brunch spot?
At the moment it’s Bluestone Lane – it’s where I go to reconnect with my Aussie identity. I actually made a new friend when I was last there!
What is your favorite New York nightspot?
Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?
I read about Paul Keating’s daughter, Alex Keating. She’s doing some really exciting work for her startup, DWNLD a service that lets anyone with a website create a personal app.
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