Faces of AWNY: Erin Van Der Meer

img_2866Erin Van Der Meer moved to New York City nine months ago. Previously working as a women’s lifestyle & entertainment journalist in Sydney, Erin decided it was time for a change. We chatted with her about on her journey to arriving in NYC, what she loves, and what she misses most about home.

Tell us why you moved to NYC?

After seven years as a women’s lifestyle/ entertainment journalist in Sydney, I was ready to shake things up. So I went freelance and headed off to Central and South America to travel, with the vague plan of ending up in New York (I’ve always wanted to live here and I’m not sure why – quite possibly from growing up watching Sex and The City. Man, how misleading that show was!). Surprisingly I did eventually have enough of eating tacos and drinking cervezas on the beach and I arrived in New York in March 2016.

What do you do for work?

I’m a freelance writer, and I write mostly about travel. I’m not sure if that makes me A Travel Writer, Indiana Jones-style hat on my head, leather-bound notebook in hand and all. Travel writing always seemed like an impossible dream, mainly because whenever travel writers are interviewed about their careers they talk about how hard it is to break into. I made the transition by traveling full-time for seven months so I had a wealth of material to work with and then just pitched relentlessly to the contacts I’d built up throughout my career until they published my travel stories.

Where do you live and why did you choose that area?

Crown Heights in Brooklyn. It’s a great neighborhood with loads of restaurants and bars, and it’s right near Prospect Park – the Central Park of Brooklyn. Franklin Avenue is a great spot to spend an afternoon or night. The stretch between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue is packed with so many cozy little places where you’re guaranteed to have a good meal: Barboncino has pizza that could make an Italian weep with joy, Chavela’s and Mayfield are fantastic. Crown Heights is also a convenient location, I can be in Midtown in 30-minutes on the 2,3,4 or 5.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about NYC?

That it can take a long time for things to fall in place – whether it’s getting a job, finding an apartment or making friends – so be patient and enjoy the ride. When I told someone not long after I got here that my living situation was ‘just temporary’, they said “Everything is in New York”. It made me realize that things may never be as stable and comfortable as they were at home in Australia, and I need to be okay with that. Certainty is just an illusion anyway. Or something.

What was your biggest win this week?

Going to a great media event at a rooftop bar that looked right onto the Empire State Building, with the champagne flowing. It was one of those moments when New York lived up to those ridiculously high, Sex and The City-inspired expectations.

Any advice for people moving to NY?

I recommend staying in different parts of the city before you settle down to see which neighborhood you like the best. Housesitting using a website like Trusted Housesitters or Airbnb is a great way to do it. Separately, don’t be shy about networking. I used to cringe at the idea of it, thinking it meant wearing a name tag and bragging about yourself to strangers. More often than not involves wine and it’s essential to make connections in such a big city, especially when you’re new in town.

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Faces of AWNY: Bridget Callaghan

Bridget Callaghan moved to New York over two years ago to pursue post-doctoral research at Columbia University as a neuroscientist. We caught up with Bridget to learn more about what she does, and see how she spends her time in New York when she isn’t studying the brain, winning fellowships or organizing AWNY’s charity efforts as Charity Co-Lead.

What brought you to New York?

I moved to New York with my husband, Beau, in August 2014. We moved for my work as I had landed a position as a post-doctoral researcher in the Developmental Affective Neuroscience Lab in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University.

callaghan_headshot_aaa_whitebackgroundCan you tell us more about your work?

I study how the brain develops normally in children and adolescents, and how it develops following stress. For example, we study youths who have been internationally adopted following institutional/orphanage care abroad (which is a very stressful situation for infants and children). I am interested in how early experiences like these influence how children think and feel. In addition, I study how the internal environment (i.e., gut bacteria) influences brain and emotion development – in other words, I analyze poop. We are actively recruiting, so if you have kids (between 4-17 years) send them our way!

How did you get into your job in New York?

I met my lab head (Dr. Nim Tottenham) at a conference. She was doing amazing work in humans and my rodent research at the time was converging with some of her findings. We started talking and kept in contact. When I finished my Ph.D. I contacted her and said I was interested in working with her and she invited me to come to New York.

You recently received a fellowship from the American Australian Association – congratulations! Can you tell us more about what you won and how you are going to use it?

I was really honored to receive a Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship from the American Australian Association this year, which will support my postdoc at Columbia University. As I mentioned earlier, my research there focuses on the developing memory system as a potential pathway leading from early stress to anxiety. Despite how central memory is for our everyday lives, and it being consistently disrupted in anxiety, we still don’t know much about how memory neurobiology is affected by early adversity. Having the AAA recognize the importance of the work through the fellowship is really an amazing experience

Where do you live and why did you choose that area?

When we first arrived we lived in Fort Greene. We absolutely loved that area, but it was quite a trek to Columbia (the G was a nightmare) so, after a month, we settled in Park Slope and we haven’t moved since. We were initially drawn in by the prettiness of Park Slope, all the brownstones, tree-lined streets, dogs, Prospect Park. After we spent some time here we fell more and more in love – the people are friendly, the restaurants and bars are awesome, the gym is close, the public transport is great (2/3 and B/Q are two blocks away), and all of our other favorite places in Brooklyn (Crown Heights, Boerum Hill, Red Hook are close by). It helped that we accidentally managed to land a rent-controlled apartment!

What are some of your likes and dislikes about living in New York?

I love everything about living in New York. I feel like there is always something to do and somewhere to explore, the people are great, and it feels like you are really in the center of it all. The work opportunities for me are amazing – there are so many brilliant scientists living and working in New York, so it is really academically stimulating. My husband has also gotten a band together here (The Voms) and they have played some shows, which is a bit of a ‘pinch-yourself’ moment for me.

Can you tell us about an ‘only in New York’ moment?

I have this moment all the time and it is when I see people putting themselves out there, with seemingly little concern for what others think. Whether that is singing loudly while walking down the street, busting a move listening to a band in the subway, or doing stand up “just because”. People just do it here and I love that!

As a professional working in New York, what differences have you noticed to working in Australia?

This is so hard to answer – sometimes nothing, sometimes everything. Mostly I think I worry about how people see me and that makes me self-conscious, but in reality I think most people are far too busy to really notice anything beyond a fun accent.

What’s your favorite New York spot?

Red Hook – my husband and I love riding our bikes around that part of town. Feels like we stepped back into the ‘Old Brooklyn’.

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Event Review: Bicycle Tour from Brooklyn to Manhattan

Written by Belinda Jackson, AWNY President

On a spectacularly sunny September day AWNY members and friends met under the Williamsburg Bridge to prepare for a bicycle tour of Brooklyn and Manhattan with our friends at Loudest Yeller, specialists in historic and cultural-based bicycle tours.

First thing was to get kitted out with our bikes and helmets. As there were 25 of us we split into two groups with our trusty leaders Adam and Jerome. We then headed off to Toby’s Estate for a kick-off coffee. Once we had a full tank of caffeine we left the Borough of Brooklyn by climbing the Williamsburg Bridge, rode down the East River and headed to Wall Street to hear about the start of the United States (yes, there really was a wall there), viewing the Stock Exchange and Trinity Church en route.

Back on our bikes, City Hall was next and then a tour through Chinatown and Little Italy, where the San Gennaro Festival was in full throng (this required dismounting and walking to get through the crowds). Through Soho to the West Village we went to stock up on supplies for a picnic lunch under the trees at Washington Square Park (you can always pick the Aussies – we’re the ones who head straight for the shade). Once fed and watered, we headed back via the Billyburg Bridge and home.

Despite three flat tyres, Adam Benedetto kept a cool head and he and tour co-guide Jerome provided us with an incredibly entertaining and educational experience in NYC.

I love how they came up with the name Loudest Yeller – from a Woody Guthrie song: I ain’t the world’s best writer nor the world’s best speller, but when I believe in something I’m the loudest yeller.

Many thanks to the team at  Loudest Yeller – Adam Benedetto and Jerome as well as our two fabulous event co-ordinators, Katarina Filopovic and Carmen Cavallaro.

Check out our FB photos here.


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AWNY Mums & Dads October update: Trick or Treat NYC style

Written by Anita Davison

Last October I wrote a well received post about ‘Dressing Kids for Winter‘, and although it feels like I wrote the piece just yesterday, it seems we have come around full circle. The funny thing is, I wrote it based on my experience in the winters of 2013/2014 & 2014/2015 which hit New Yorkers hard, fast and quite frankly a little too brutal for my warm climate accustomed derrière. Of course I thought I was being so very clever in giving you that information, preparing you all for the winter of 2015/2016, which was neither hard, fast or brutal compared to its predecessor. Well this year we seem to be back to ‘normal’. I can hear the collective groans amongst you, but alas, you can find yourself well prepared for what’s to come by clicking back into last years piece and giving it another look – all the info is still as relevant as it was then. And for those of you that are here for your first NYC winter; you are welcome! Click here to be enlightened…

October 31 brings us the, oh so American, tradition of All Hallows Eve: better know as Halloween! Trick or treaters can delight with a list of some of the best streets in New York to get your Trick or Treat on, as well as some great places to pick up costumes for the kids, pets and adults too. Just a note though, like every person has their favorite brunch spot/coffee shop/neighborhood, you too may know of other great places to take the kids in your ‘hood. If so, please share your wisdom in the comments section or on our Mums & Dads Facebook page!

Trick or Treat in New York by Neighborhood

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Event: Bicycle Tour from Brooklyn to Manhattan, September 17, 2016

AWNY Bicycle Tour Manhattan to Brooklyn NYC Sept 17, 2016

Join AWNY for a bicycle tour of Brooklyn and Manhattan with our friends at Loudest Yeller, specialists in historic and cultural-based bicycle tours. This will be a very fun day out for both new-New Yorker’s and long-time New Yorker’s alike.

Event Details

Date: Saturday, September 17, 2016
Time: 10:15am
Location: Start and end point for the tour is 141 S. 5th Street, Office West #2, Brooklyn NY, 11211
Tour Length: 4.5 hours start to finish
Cost: $30.59 special price for AWNY members (this is $20 off the usual tour price)
Register online here, select the Sept 17/AWNY tour on the calendar and enter code VUZRVNY1 to redeem your discount

Bike Tour Video

A taste of what you can look forward to:

Loudest Yeller Bike Tours NYC from Ned Phillips on Vimeo.

About the Bicycle Tour Route

The relaxed route follows many bike paths through neighborhoods, including Williamsburg, Alphabet City, Little Italy, China Town, City Hall, Tompkins Square Park, and Wall Street. The Loudest Yeller tour guides are a tonne of fun and will provide commentary and stories on iconic landmarks and famous New Yorkers along the way. First tucker stop will be Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn, and we’ll picnic for lunch in Washington Square Park. You can BYO lunch or pick up great bread, meats and cheeses when we stop at Murray’s Cheese Shop.

If it’s raining we may go to a local West Village restaurant for lunch (note: food isn’t included in the tour price).


  • What about bikes and helmets?  Grrrl, we have you covered! Cute bikes and even cuter helmets are provided, but feel free byo helmet if you prefer.
  • Can my boyfriend, girlfriend, non-Aussie friend come? YES! Everyone is welcome, as long as they buy their ticket (see below)


Reserve your place today
Register Online

(don’t forget to select Sept 17 on the calendar and enter code VUZRVNY1 to redeem your discount)