Tanner Christensen (he/they) - Stanford in New York
Minors: Human Rights, Spanish
College year while abroad: Sophomore
About the photo: During my study away in New York, I took every opportunity to be a full-on tourist; and part of this role meant that I took photos everywhere (especially in the very “Instagrammable” areas)! This photo was taken inside of the Oculus Transportation Hub, which is part of the World Trade Center complex. My internship was located near the World Trade Center, so this was actually my stop on the train! So many people travel to visit the World Trade Center and I would fortuitously walk through it daily – such a WILD opportunity.
Why did you choose to study off campus in New York?
The real question is who would not want to study in New York? Without a doubt, NYC has always been a dream of mine. The media constantly portrays the Big Apple as the hotspot for just about everything: dance, theater, fashion, business, politics… the list goes on and on. Getting the chance to live, work, and study in New York provided me with a concrete understanding of what my life would be like after college – although intimidating, it is extremely exciting! My experience was beyond what I was expecting.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in New York?
Before studying in New York, I had visited twice beforehand, so my expectations of the city were blinded by the touristy areas of NYC. However, living in the city and exploring the more local areas provided me with a new perspective. I knew NYC was a diverse place but hearing about its diversity cannot amount to its actual diversity. NYC is the most diverse place I have ever been. There is every walk of life in the city, which makes the city that more beautiful. It was amazing to see how so many different people come together to create such a unique and inspiring place. It just shows how NYC is a hotspot for everyone, and everyone belongs in one way or another. However, my internship at the New York City Commission on Human Rights also exposed me to how important it is to protect diversity. My internship showed me how discrimination can plague the city, even with some of the most progressive protections. Fighting for New Yorkers’ rights was extremely inspiring and hopefully paved the way for a more just New York.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in New York?
New York City is filled with opportunities and resources to learn. There is a reason each quarter there is a specific theme because there is just so much the program is able to cover about this ever-changing city. Almost every week, one of my classes would take a field trip somewhere that tied into something we were learning in class. Having museums, headquarters, guided tours, history, and so much more at our disposal provided an extremely rich learning experience that was founded on the principles of experiential learning. Dr. Rosina Miller, the program’s director, has dedicated her career to experiential learning and this program reflects her efforts. Without a doubt, I would not be able to learn the same things, especially in such depth, without the city and this program.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
While studying away, I learned so much about myself inside and outside of the classroom. Although it sounds cliché, situating myself in a completely different environment dramatically changed the way I view the world and how I position myself within it. I could go into so much depth about the many things I learned, but I will just briefly discuss one. In one of my classes, there was a strong emphasis on group work and exercise, which was the complete opposite from my internship which was very independent. Through the class and reflecting on my internship, I began to learn that collaboration was of great value to me and my work ethic. Although this seems so mundane, it was extremely helpful for me to understand what kind of work I preferred and thrived with.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were off-campus and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging experience on my study away was time management. There were so many things I wanted to do, and the classes, internship, and external pressures made the experience extremely draining at times. I learned to prepare as much as I could in advance and made sure to get enough sleep. Although NYC may not ever sleep, I made sure that I did; otherwise, I would be a zombie.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Growing up in a suburb in Utah, I was always told to be nice to others. Part of this expectation meant smiling to others on the street and saying hello. New York on the other hand, is a completely different story. During my first day in orientation, the program’s staff informed us that we should always keep to ourselves – simply as a safety precaution. This meant not making eye contact with people on the subway, staring at others, getting involved in someone else’s business, etc. Over time, I grew to understand the importance of this because the city is not just rainbows and gumdrops…it can be dangerous and scary. Keeping to yourself is a mode of survival there which is something that I struggled with at first.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in New York?
Although I did not do this every single day, I would say my favorite part of daily routine was running on the promenade near the apartment/dorm. The dorm was right next to the water and Brooklyn’s promenade facing the lower east side of Manhattan. This gorgeous cityscape was outstanding and made me feel like I was living in a dream that I did not want to wake up from. After work most days, I would take a walk or run along the promenade, looking at the city lights across the water; it was by far the most gorgeous view I could imagine.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in New York?
My most memorable experience in New York was undoubtedly my trip to Broadway to see Beetlejuice. This was my first time on Broadway and will be an experience I will remember for the rest of my life (in part due to my treasured Playbill souvenir). In addition to Beetlejuice, I was able to see the following performances: The Book of Mormon (I grew up Mormon, so this one was very fun for me), Paradise Square, and What the End Will Be.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Motivating, energizing, amazeballs, stressful, and real.
What was your favorite food you had in New York?
My internship was conveniently located right next to Chinatown, so I would frequently make my way over there for lunch. My absolute favorite place I went to was Kopitiam, which served Nyonya cuisine (primarily a hybrid of Chinese and Malay flavors). There I tried their Malaysian style egg French toast, Hainanese chicken rice, as well as my personal favorite, the chilled spicy sesame noodles. The diversity in food choices and cuisines is remarkable in NYC and I would highly recommend going out of your comfort zone and trying new things. Just a small list of foods I tried in NYC that I had not had prior: Venezuelan corn pancakes, Brazilian empanadas, Hong Kong hand pulled noodles, Chinese soup dumplings, and Greek fried zucchini chips.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
If there was one thing about me in NYC, it was that I constantly had my AirPods in. So, the most treasured item with me on the program were my headphones. They were so trusty in helping me ignore people on the subway, feel like the main character strolling the streets, and my favorite distraction at my internship. Although some people believe it is helpful to listen to the noises of the city and everyone around you, I personally found I liked to drown out that outside noise as much as possible. I do not have the AirPod Pros with the noise cancellation, so trust me when I say I could still easily hear everything around me (NYC is LOUD).
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in New York?
Unlike other people who probably fell in love with some of the local music in their study abroad programs, my music taste did not change too much – I just went across the country, not the world. I still stuck with my classic pop, hyperpop, edm mix. And not to be dramatic, but I think I am probably one of the biggest Charli XCX fans out there. Disclaimer: I honestly do not know anything about her life or much behind her music, but I am a HUGE fan of her songs. Of my Spotify Top 100 last year, I think around 30 of my most listened to songs were hers.