Faces of AWNY – Caroline Heslop

Aussie Caroline Heslop moved to New York City in May 2012, after she took a solo trip to several major cities in the US & Europe scoping out a city for a potential international move. New York stuck in her mind soon and she started making secret plans.  In this Faces of AWNY profile, Caroline tells us how her life in New York has blossomed and her favorite parts of the city and its surrounds.
Where do you live in New York? Why did you choose that area?
In these past 4.5 years I have moved 5 times! I just renewed my lease for another year because I couldn’t bear to move again.  Note: Find a good mover and keep their number on hand. You will inevitably call them again and again. I spent 1.5 years in the West Village, 2 years in Battery Park and over a year now in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Even though Williamsburg is rapidly changing – (Hello Apple & Whole Foods!), you just can’t beat the community feel, restaurant scene, silence, and greenery. 
What do you like/dislike about living in NY?
This is an easy one.  At 5′ 2″ the packed L train commute is my worst nightmare. Especially in the summer.  My face is perfectly at armpit height. However, for all the frustrating things that this city throws your way there is so much to love. I love that Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs have so much to offer. You really can’t run out of things to do, see, explore. I have an excel bucket list that will never end!
Tell us about your ‘only in New York’ moments?
All my ‘only in New York’ moments don’t even surprise me anymore. They are hard to recall. It just becomes the absurdity of living here. Like many I have had some crazy celebrity moments. I recently discovered Winona Ryder lives above me and Chris Rock once crashed a $14 stand up show I was at to practice some SNL material. The subway is always entertaining. Forgive me but I really love “show time”. It always makes me crack a reluctant smile. Hurricane Sandy and snow storm Jonas are both once in a lifetime moments that I will never forget. The city the morning after a large snowfall is always so quiet and beautiful. Witnessing the NYC reaction to the election last November was pretty extraordinary. I once saw a manhole explode as flames and water shot at least 20 feet into the air so now I walk around every single one!
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Any advice for people moving to NY?
I could talk for hours to share everything I have learned the hard way. Here are a couple of my key pieces of advice:
  • Get your finances in order before you leave and learn what a secured credit card is – it will help you build credit SO quickly!
  • Do everything to avoid paying a broker fee- there are plenty of nice apartments out there without one
  • Network, network, network – its likely how you will get your biggest opportunities in this competitive, “hustle” landscape 
  • Spend the  necessary money to buy a good winter coat and short snow boots ( the ones to the knee will tire you ladies!)
  • Please don’t hide up in the city – get out of town! Go explore upstate and I don’t just mean Westchester! Go explore Long Island and I don’t just mean the Hamptons! See the rest of the country! The landscape and climates are so broad and beautiful. I am about 25 states in, and I plan to visit all 50!

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Faces of AWNY: Kate Lee

Aussie Kate Lee moved to New York City 3 years ago settling in Astoria, Queens.  We talk with Kate about what a freelance “cultural entrepreneur” does, her volunteer work with the International Rescue Committee, as well as her favorite NYC spots. 

Tell us why you moved to NYC?
DSC_1561Back in Brisbane, I performed and created performance works and used theater, arts and culture as a tool for development, capacity building and education. In 2012, I joined a workshop with an experimental punk dance theater company from NY. While doing the workshop, I’d pulled out my NYC guidebook (I had a guidebook from my trip back in 2005), mused over the pictures and thought, ‘how am I going to get myself to New York City?’ The next day the director asked me, ‘what are the chances of you being in New York next year to perform with us?’ I said I’d make it happen.

Where are you from?
I grew up in the Blue Mountains, lived on and off in London for years, in Sydney, then Brisbane and did a stint in Tennant Creek before moving to NYC?

Where do you live?
Ditmars, Astoria. I really like Astoria because I feel like I leave the city when I go home, and it’s super diverse, has fantastic food, and has the wonderful Astoria Park and Astoria Park Pool (which is 200 meters long and 50 meters wide).

What do you like/dislike about living in NY?
I love how the culture challenges my own: having to be more forward, confident, fight my own battles. And the diversity is all its forms. I dislike when distance gets in the way of relationships.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?
Riding my bike at ten at night in the middle of winter, with snow all around, to the YMCA, going for a swim and having the pool to myself, having a piping hot sauna afterwards, then riding my bike back home through the snow. And, learning salsa New York Style is better (the ‘two’ means you step on the second beat instead of the first)

Any advice for people moving to NY?
It’s good to have something to come to – a course, a workshop. Just to meet people and get orientated. This city is full of immigrants – you’re not alone.

What do you do for work?
I freelance in what I recently titled ‘Cultural Entrepreneur’ – that is being involved with products and processes that use culture as a catalyst for education, development and diplomacy. I recently finished an MBA in innovation and leadership and am currently collaborating with scientists who work on Mtb (tuberculosis).

I also volunteer at the International Rescue Committee doing cultural orientation for newly arrived refugees. It continually proves to be a profound experience, encountering people who have had to leave their country and are now calling New York home.

I also volunteer with AWNY as the Events co-lead. The first AWNY event I came to was Susie Lang’s ‘Emotional Transition of Living in New York.’ It was the nurturing experience that I needed. Especially being alone in this city. And I realized that some of the ticks I have aren’t because I’m a pain the butt, they’re cultural. I was a revelation and gave me some space to relax a little in this big city. So, when I was at the GM meeting earlier this year, I wasn’t too surprised when found myself volunteering to be part of the team.

How did you get into your job in NYC?
I was on a J visa and I sent an email to every person I’d made a connection with, explaining I wanted to stay and wanted to get an E3 visa, and I asked if they knew of anything. A friend responded and got me into her organization.

As a professional working in NYC what are the differences to working in Australia?
Back home work would come to me. It was a shock, coming here, how much I had to hustle. Also, the wage difference in the non-profit sector is astounding. It’s very low.

Any advice for other Professionals working in NYC?
Networking is key and building relationships are key. Here, more than anywhere I’ve been, skills and qualifications aside, people really go on their gut instinct and trust. There is so much competition, so if you click on a one-to-one basis, that’s what counts. And it’s the same way vise-versa, while you have to be discerning, trust is super important.

What’s your favorite New York spot?
Astoria Park Pool and the different parks along the water in Astoria. The pool overlooks the river and the Triborough bridge, and the parks are full of families and kids and BBQ’s. I even saw a game of cricket being played (proper stumps and all).

What do you like about being part of AWNY?
The comfort of all the familiar cultural markers and the warm support I feel from the group.

What was your biggest win this week?
I found out my overall mark for my masters, a high distinction!

What’s the biggest challenge or road block you’ve been faced with since being in NYC and how do you overcome it?
I wanted to shift my career from its focus on arts and culture to something that had broader application. Doing an MBA was part of this shift, and networking and doing informational interviews have been key to understanding more about the industries I’m interested in and how they work in NYC.

Who are some Aussie ladies doing awesome things in NYC who are currently on your radar?
Katie Walker. She’s heading up the Institute of Medical Simulation and Advanced Learning.

Contact Kate
Get in touch with Kate through her website and blog – Unsealed Roads.

Faces of AWNY: Jennifer Nason

jennifer-nasonJennifer Nason moved to New York City 29 years ago with J.P. Morgan. We caught up with her on role as the first female Chairman of the American Australian Association, tips for professionals working in the City and her favorite brunch spot.

What brought you to New York City?
I was born in Adelaide and went to Melbourne University. I came to New York in 1987 with JP Morgan and have basically been here ever since, now working in technology investment banking.

Tell us about your role as Chairman of the American Australian Association and being the first Australian and the first woman as Chairman?
Well it feels very overdue, but I have been in the role for a year now and we are making many exciting changes. John Berry, the former US Ambassador has just joined as President. We are going to expand our mandate – stay tuned!

As a successful woman in the banking and finance industries in NYC, who is also the Chairman of the AAA, what are your top 3 career tips for other AWNY members?

  1. Play the long game and learn how to persevere through the tough times. I enjoy my job more today than at any other point.
  2. Appreciate and enjoy the great things that happen every day. I keep a mental “Top 10 Highlights” of funny, exciting, crazy, unique moments to remind myself of what a great ride I am having.
  3. Don’t be frightened, take chances and push your way into things.

Where do you live?
I live on the Upper East Side today, but have also lived in the West Village and Upper West Side.

What’s your ‘only in New York’ moment/s?
Shopping at a grocery store one evening and another shopper just started giving an impassioned speech in front of the fruit & vegetable about the poor quality of the produce. We all applauded!

What are your top 3 tips for friends visiting NYC?
See Hamilton, eat brunch at Beauty & Essex in the East Village, and see a concert or a game at the Garden.

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice?
Well, it used to be the Four Seasons Bar at the Four Seasons Restaurant on 52nd Street and Park Avenue, now it is the Baccarat Bar on 53rd Street.

What do you like and dislike about living in NY?
Love the diversity and everything there is to do. I love Central Park, I love working in the city, I love that you can get anything you want delivered at any time. I don’t like the traffic and the fact that it is hard to have a car.

Anything you miss about Australia?
Lots of things – mainly the food and that Aussie sarcasm.

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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: Hannah Collins

Hannah Collins shares her experiences of living and working and New York. She is currently working as a Marketing and Communications Associate at Community Resource Exchange, non profit consulting firm that helps build sustainable organizations and drive social change in urban communities.

Tell us why you moved to NYC?

I came to New York for a month long holiday in October / November in 2015. I loved it so much that by the start of December I had booked my ticket back here and started planning a move for April. My friends will tell you that I’ve always talked about moving to New York, but I am not sure if that’s true. My favorite shows growing up were Friends, Sex and The City, and Seinfeld, so maybe they influenced me more than I know!

Where in Australia are you from?

I’ve lived the last 11 years in Adelaide, but before that grew up on a farm outside of a tiny town of 3,000 people that was eight hours drive from Adelaide … a far cry from the cramped apartments and people filled streets of NYC!

Favorite NYC brunch spot

Juliette’s in Williamsburg or Jane on West Houston both have great food at affordable prices in nice settings. If you are looking for a great value bottomless brunch (and don’t mind if the food is a little basic) then Williams and Bailey in Williamsburg has $15 bottomless mimosas and bloody mary’s between 12 and 4 every Saturday.

Favorite NYC cocktail spot & cocktail of choice

I can’t go past Night of Joy for delish and cheap ($6 between 4 and 8) and the rooftop is really cute. A new bar opened up in Battery Park near where I work, a cuban inspired prohibition-era themed cocktail space upstairs at Pier A and their stuff is amazing. Plus they mail a postcard anywhere in the world for you as part of the experience. I tend to go for anything light and citrusy as a cocktail of choice.

How did you get into your job in NYC?

I work in a communications role for a nonprofit consulting firm in FiDi, Community Resource Exchange, or CRE. I worked in the nonprofit sector in Australia, so a lot of the communication roles I was applying for were in the nonprofit sector here, which I think helped to get me a job really quickly. I hit the ground running and started applying for jobs literally less than 24 hours after landing, which I also think helped. And I paid a designer friend to make me a custom resume template, which I think was the kicker to helping me find a job! I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who had a job before I came over, but just figured I’d be able to get one. That blind stubbornness has seen me through.

What do you like about being part of AWNY?

I love the events they hold – they aren’t repetitive or your normal networking experience – and you always meet someone new. I like the online community it fosters; you can always find an answer or learn something new from their social media.

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