Faces of AWNY: Zohara Nguyen

Zohara Nguyen is a speech pathologist by day and an embroidery artist by night fueled by inspiration from her homeland, Australia. We get to know how she came to live in New York and why she chose NoLita as her stomping ground.

Zohara Nguyen. Photo credit: Supplied.

👋 Hi Zohara, what’s your background and how did you get to New York?
I grew up in the Hills District of Sydney and was living in Surry Hills before the big move to
NYC. My husband’s company relocated their Sydney office to NYC and I was ready to
explore the world, so we packed our bags and embraced a new life in the US. We have now
lived in NYC for 3.5 years!

Where do you live? Why did you choose that area?
My husband and I live in NoLita and we know it’s a bit of an Aussie cliché. My husband’s office was downtown so we wanted to live close to that and we love the feel of NoLita. It’s
central to so many other great neighbourhoods, close to train lines, it has plenty of trees,
and many cafes and restaurants within walking distance.

Tell us some things you like or dislike about living in NY?
I love the lively energy that NYC breathes and in turn inspires those who live here. The
people I have met here are optimistic, creative, full of passion. There’s this magic in NYC
that grants you opportunities and encourages you to blossom your potential. I love being a
part of a city that so many songs, stories, and films are about. The one thing I dislike in NYC is that it is not an eco-conscious city. The amount of disposable waste with plastic cutlery, plates etc shocks me. I had to search high and low for a cafe that had mugs you could drink from or would allow you to BYO cup. Now with hygiene concerns and COVID, disposable waste is everywhere.

Do you have some ‘only in New York’ moments you could share with us?
This has happened so many times. Some of my favourite ‘only in New York’ moments include:

  1. Street photographer The Sartorialist took my picture on the street.
  2. I was embroidering at a cafe and a woman approached me and asked if I would like
    to teach embroidery classes at a space she had in Midtown. Within a week I
    was teaching a class and did so for an entire year! (see pic below)
  3. I met a man at my local butcher who invited me to visit his art studio. It turned out he
    is a famous artist whose work is displayed at the Guggenheim and top museums
    all around the world.
  4. I met Owen Wilson at the lobby of my apartment building when he needed directions
    to the closest ATM.
  5. A Halloween party at The House of Yes was like being in a Baz Luhrmann film,
    surrounded by people in incredible costumes and there were acrobats dressed as
    dinosaurs, dancing in cages suspended from the ceiling.
Zohara Nguyen at one of her embroidery workshops. Photo credit: Supplied.

Any advice for people moving to NY?
Get to know the people in your local small businesses such as cafes, butchers, and
bodegas. You will quickly feel part of a neighbourhood and it’s uplifting to see familiar faces
in this busy city.

What do you do (for work)?
I am a speech pathologist and am currently using that background as a course instructor
with Neo-Health Services. We train speech and dental professionals in a specialty field
called Orofacial Myology. A colleague/friend of mine recommended me as I was somewhat a “jack of all trades” who had a speech pathology background. I worked in various roles with the company until I eventually became a course instructor and speech pathology representative. When I moved here and was in the process of transferring my speech pathology credentials over, I took up embroidery as a hobby. I host embroidery classes and created monthly Australian-themed classes that were extremely fun and allowed me to meet other Aussies in the community here.

Zohara Nguyen. Photo credit: Supplied.

As a Professional working in NYC what are the differences to working in Australia?
I feel there are more professional opportunities for me to grow here and the culture is
different. I have not experienced Tall Poppy Syndrome here. The professionals in NY and
the US nurture and celebrate others’ success. I feel respected by professionals here who
otherwise in Australia would be higher up in the hierarchy. These wonderful professionals
who I look up to have reached out to me for networking and shadowing opportunities. I
cannot imagine that happening at home due to the difference in professional culture. A challenge has been having my speech pathology credentials recognized in the US. The licensing process is totally different to Australia where once you are licensed, it is nation-wide. Here you must go through a certification process with an Association and then become licensed on a state-by-state basis. It’s a lengthy process that I’m still going through to let me provide therapy as a speech-language pathologist in NY.

What do you miss most about Australia?
I miss seeing the beautiful Aussie birds and hearing them sing. I also miss Aussie biscuits
and lollies!

Some of Zohara Nguyen’s Australiana embroidery art. Photo credit: Supplied.

What’s your favourite New York spot?
All-year round my favorite spot is Urban Backyard for coffee. Otherwise in the warmer
weather I love Elizabeth Street Garden. It’s a little oasis in the middle of this huge city!

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?

  • Wander along the High Line.
  • Visit a rooftop bar where you can get a good view. I like A.R.T Nomad (previous
    The Heights Bar), Mr Purple, Last Light, or City Vineyard along the Hudson River.
  • Karaoke at Baby Grand for an unforgettable great night where you become friends
    with the entire bar.

Favorite NYC brunch spot
High Collar for omurice and soft Japanese pancakes and Shoo Shoo in Nolita is also an all-round favorite.

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice
Peppi’s Cellar in Nolita was my favourite cocktail spot where I would get whiskey with fresh
apple juice, but unfortunately it has now closed. My favourite cocktail at the moment is
Shadowplay from (Aussie-owned) Chinese Tuxedo.

What do you like about being part of AWNY?
I like being part of a community that supports other women and celebrates their successes.
It’s nice to have a sisterhood rather than to feel that we are all competing with one another.

Zohara Nguyen. Photo credit: Supplied.

What was your biggest win this week?
I’ve been invited to be interviewed for a professional podcast (listen to that here) as well as being interviewed for this AWNY profile!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about living or working in NYC?
When people here present opportunities, say “yes” right away and follow-up quickly if you
know that you want it. If you give yourself “time to think”, they often have already moved on
to the person who does say “yes” quickly. New York does not wait!

Who are some Aussie/Kiwi ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your
radar?

Juliana O’Brien is a fellow Sydneysider in NYC who has started a personalised gift website,
hula (sendhula.com) and she has been featured on Thrive Global as a “Trailblazing Womxn
to Watch in 2021”.

Connect with Zohara

On Instagram @betterthreadthandead or check out her latest work on zoharanguyen.com

Author: Tarley Jordan

Tarley has been an AWNY volunteer since 2012. She is award-winning marketer from Sydney (with stops in Brisbane and Rockhampton), who moved to New York after meeting her husband in a typical New York chance encounter. Find her on Instagram: @tarleyj

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