Archive for the ‘Outside Manhattan’ Category

Why You Should Study Abroad: Leah Zarra, London, UK

Monday, October 27th, 2014

 

Leah Zarra posing in front of a sign for the famous Abbey Road.

Leah Zarra posing in front of a sign for the famous Abbey Road.

 

“I just loved being so independent and being totally immersed in another city,” says Leah Zarra, 22, a Texas native and Drew University graduate.

Zarra participated in a semester-long study abroad program to London through her New Jersey college back in the fall of 2012. “I couldn’t wait to experience another culture,” she says, “even though London isn’t the first to jump to mind when you think ‘foreign’.”

According to Zarra, the full semester trip to London cost the same amount as a regular, on-campus semester. The trip included: tuition, housing in a flat with other people from her college, and a 2-zone Oyster card—similar to a Metrocard, allowing Zarra unlimited access to the Tube (subway) within specified zones.

When it came to financial resources to help fund her trip, Zarra had it covered.

“I had an annual Dean’s award scholarship all through college, so this carried over to my semester abroad,” she explains.

Zarra was able to take classes such as London Literature, British Political Drama, Modern British History and a required colloquium course. She earned 16 credits studying abroad—more credits than she would have earned in one semester staying on campus in the States.

Zarra and her friends riding the Tube.

Zarra and her friends riding the Tube. (Zarra is second from the right.)

When it came to saving money while abroad, Zarra made sure to budget wisely.

“As college students, we all try to be frugal, so we kept our eyes out for free food and events,” she says referring to her study abroad group. “If you’re looking, they’re easy to find. One professor told us about a group of Hare Krishna monks that served free curry every day. Food is a big one to save on.”

When asked if she would recommend her study abroad program to someone else, Zarra responded with a resounding “yes!”

“I learned so much, and not just in the classroom,” she says. “We didn’t just read famous British authors; our professors took us on walking tours around the city to see where Great Expectations took place, [or] where Virginia Woolf walked every day. As cliché as it sounds, I truly found a piece of myself there.”

Sometimes students take out some loans to study abroad and Zarra believes it’s absolutely worth it.

“Go into it with a positive attitude, and appreciate everything you see,” she says. “Make an effort to appreciate the privileges you didn’t realize you had. You will never have another chance like this.”

The famous Big Ben and Westminster Abbey: one of the many pictures Zarra took on her trip.

The famous Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. One of the many photos Zarra took while on her trip.

 

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-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram:slevitz

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#MakingMemories: How to Document a Study Abroad Trip

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

#tbt (noun) – A hashtag frequently used to brag on social media about past travel adventures.

However, Instagram-ing your “Throwback Thursday” pictures isn’t the only way you can document your study abroad adventures—though it is a popular one.

Journaling is another inexpensive way to preserve your trip memories without breaking the bank. It can be difficult to have the discipline to write in a journal every day, but in doing so you’ll have something to look back on for years to come.

 

The journal that I kept during my study abroad program in China. The cover is decorated with stickers and ticket stubs that I collected during my month-long adventure.

The journal that I kept during my study abroad program in China. The cover is decorated with stickers and ticket stubs that I collected during my month-long adventure.

 

Journaling can be an intimate experience, but for those looking for a more public outlet, social media is the way to go. Many travelers hoping to update friends and family overseas may want to consider creating an Instagram account. It’s free, works through WiFi and is a quick and easy way to document the highlights of your travels.

Some travelers do not understand the need to take frequent photographs, however past study abroad students, like Kimberly Rogers, 21, disagree.

“I am definitely the type of person to take a lot of pictures when I go on a trip,” she says. “People tell me to stop and take in the beauty of wherever I am, [but] I’m gonna want to look back and reminisce.” Rogers recently traveled to China with CUNY Brooklyn College in the summer of 2013. “I can be one of those old grandmas who tell my grandkids to come look at how cool I was [through pictures]!”

Kimberly Rogers holding the scrapbook she made after her study abroad trip to China.

Kimberly Rogers holding the scrapbook she made after her study abroad trip to China.

With more and more advances in technology every year, the amount of photos we can take and store is growing. Many of these photos get mindlessly uploaded to websites like Facebook and Flicker without a second glance, but the more creative you are with your photos the more memorable your trip will be.

Scrapbooking, a widely practiced pastime in the United States, is a useful tool for preserving study abroad memories. Rogers, who frequently used Instagram during her trip to China, also created a scrapbook upon her return home.

“I think it’s really important to document my travels,” she says, displaying her China scrapbook.

Four pages from Rogers' China scrapbook.

Four pages from Rogers’ China scrapbook.

 

The scrapbook that she created contains photographs of her friends, landmarks and other memories of her trip. She bought stickers that went along with the China theme and decorative paper to make the pictures pop.

Some places to go for cheap deals on scrapbooking supplies are stores like Target, Amazing Savings and Michaels.

“I could have just printed out pictures,” Rogers says, “but I wanted to put effort into what I collected and make something I could cherish forever.”

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-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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College Savings: How to Haggle Your Way to the Best Souvenirs

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

I have a confession to make. . . . Are you listening? Good. Well, here goes…

I’m a packrat.

I can’t help it. Wherever I go I like to take mementoes with me. My best friend calls me the Souvenir Kleptomaniac. If there’s a free gift or college discounts to be had, I’m there. At restaurants I save the little business cards and menus and circle what I ate. I keep receipts from purchases in other countries just because there’s a different language on them.  I’m a sucker for nostalgia and remembering my trip in every detail possible is important to me. Although people aren’t generally this extreme, the act of bringing home a keepsake is usually one that people follow. The most important thing about souvenir shopping is getting the most for your money without going bankrupt.

As discussed earlier, sometimes it’s hard to pack everything you need in one suitcase. However, make sure you leave some extra space in it so you have room to bring things back.  You don’t want to have to buy an extra piece of luggage to fit everything you want to bring home. Extra luggage means more plane space, means more money out of your pocket.

Be wary of scams.
If you’re going to a country that makes a lot of money off of tourism chances are the people there are waiting for you: and they’re prepared. They want your business and they want you to spend your money on keychains and postcards and bottle openers with funny sayings on them. Don’t feel the need to do your entire souvenir shopping in one day at the same place.

My friend bought a hat from a vendor in China for 25¥ ($5!) that ripped only seconds after purchasing it.

My friend bought a hat from a vendor in China for 25¥ ($5!) that ripped only seconds after purchasing it.

Do not buy souvenirs at the airport.
Those T-shirts that say I HEART [insert country’s name here] aren’t going anywhere. You will see them wherever you go throughout the country, and will probably get a better deal on them in other stores than in the first one you see.

Learn to haggle.
And don’t be ashamed of doing it! The locals want your money, and chances are the initial price they are asking for that miniature sculpture of that famous landmark is a lot higher than they expect you to pay. Haggle with vendors for a better deal. If you are uncomfortable with the asking price—walk away! You’re not obligated to buy anything, and many times walking away will encourage vendors to immediately drop their asking price.

We bought cute panda hats in China that we found a week later for half the price.

We bought cute panda hats in China that we found a week later for half the price.

Save your money for one priceless gift for yourself.
That’s not to say don’t buy yourself anything else the whole trip. However, study abroad trips leave lasting impressions. Having one precious item to take home from your adventure will mean a lot to you in years to come.

 

My favorite purchase of the trip: a Jade necklace. It's very special and something I will treasure forever.

My favorite purchase of the trip: a Jade necklace. It’s very special and something I will treasure forever.

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-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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Cultural Cuisine: Eating Your Way Around the World

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Writer and traveler Deborah Cater once said, “You have to taste culture to understand it”—and she wasn’t wrong. When you go to a foreign country and choose to eat only foods you are familiar with then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Traveling is all about trying new things—and food is one of the most important ones. In China, there are so many unique local dishes to try so you shouldn’t let fear of the unknown get in the way of experiencing the country like the locals do.

Sure we’ve all gone to our local Chinese takeout place and have ordered the pork Lo Mein or General Tso Chicken, but if you take the time to explore the country you’ll find non-Americanized Chinese food that’s definitely worth a try.

One of the most popular dishes to try if you find yourself in Beijing is the Peking Duck. This famous dish has been prepared since the imperial era and is served with steamed pancakes and eaten with scallion, cucumber and sweet bean sauce. Traditionally the meat is sliced thin by the cook right in front of you, which is definitely fun to watch. Two of the most notable restaurants are Quanjude and Bianyifang in Beijing, China.

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A chef prepares to carve a Peking Duck.

Peking Duck is traditionally served on a duck shaped plate.

Peking Duck is traditionally served on a duck shaped plate.

 

We all know that Italy is famous for their pasta; but did you know that the world’s oldest known noodles were actually discovered along the Yellow River in China? Dating back to roughly 4000 years BP, noodles have been a staple food in China—and watching hand pulled noodles being made is definitely something to go see if you visit. Hand pulled noodles, or Lamian, is made by stretching and folding the dough into strands. This unique method of making noodles originated in China and dates back to 1504. Lamian literally means pull or stretch, lā, (拉), noodle, miàn (麵) and watching a professional noodle chef pull noodles is a tourist attraction in itself!

The process of preparing hand pulled noodles is so quick that it happens in a blur!

The process of preparing hand pulled noodles is so quick that it happens in a blur!

Whether you’re traveling to China, or any other country, make sure that if you have food allergies you are well prepared. The chefs know what ingredients they use to prepare their food with and a language barrier shouldn’t stop you from being safe. Having a restaurant card is a great way to stay safe, and still be able to enjoy many of the delicious unique foods available. The card clearly states in another language the types of food you are not allowed to eat and your servers and chefs can take it from there.

Gluten-Free restaurant card picture taken from www.chinahighlights.com/

Gluten-Free restaurant card picture taken from www.chinahighlights.com/

Also, take the time to find out if the water is safe to drink in your country of origin. Often times it’s just easier to choose to drink only bottled water for the duration of your stay. You know it’s clean and safe, and you definitely don’t want to get sick while studying abroad!

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-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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College Savings and Saving Space in Your Suitcase: What to Pack When Studying Abroad

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

When I fantasize about traveling it’s always the same: one neatly packed backpack with just the essentials. Unfortunately, I am not a light packer and so this is never the case. When it comes to studying abroad you want to make sure you’re properly prepared for whatever you may encounter on your trip. It’s never a good idea to assume that a foreign country has exactly what you’re looking for. Try to find college discounts for certain items before your trip and you can save yourself a lot of trouble once you’re there. So what if you’re labeled the “mom” of your trip? Being prepared is never a bad thing—and chances are your new friends will thank you.

Before your trip it’s important to at least attempt to learn the language of the country, or at least learn some key phrases. Rosetta Stone is a great option, but for those of us on a budget there are free smartphone apps readily available. Mindsnacks is a really helpful app I found before my trip to China that allowed me to start learning the language through a series of fun interactive games. If you upgrade to the full version for $5, you’ll get access to 1000 words and phrases, 9 unique games, and 50 lessons to master. This app is available in many different languages and the upgrade is definitely worth the money!

Mindsnacks is a free app that can be used to learn new languages.

Mindsnacks is a free app that can be used to learn new languages.

Do some research about the weather you’ll experience during the months you’ll be there and pack your clothes accordingly. You don’t want to be the one wearing sweaters in the heat or shorts in the snow. Make sure you have a solid stock of any medicines or vitamins you may take every day. Regular toiletries are an essential and it’s always handy to buy Tide-To-Go, packets of Downy or any other fabric soap just in case you need to do a wash at a moment’s notice.

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Sometimes laundry gets expensive in a foreign country.

 

Check to see what banks are available in the country you’re going to. Many countries often have branches that are linked with Bank of America so if you don’t have an account, open one up. It’s free and you won’t have to pay fees every time you grab some cash from the ATMs. The China Construction Bank, found all over China, doesn’t charge any fees as long as you have a BoA card. You can easily close your BoA account once returning to America.

Other important items are charger adapters for your specific country of origin. The outlets in America are not the same in every country and you do not want to be that person with the hair straightener exploding in your hair!

Also, to stay in touch with family and friends during your trip, set up a Gmail, Skype, Viber, and Whatsapp accounts. These are free ways to connect with your loved ones through email, phone calls, video and text messaging all through WiFi. You don’t want mom to get a $356 dollar phone bill because you accidentally used your data while roaming, do you?

My group connects to the WiFi in our hotel in Hong Kong and immediately engross themselves in social media.

My group connects to the WiFi in our hotel in Hong Kong and immediately engross themselves in social media.

-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

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College Savings: How to Afford a Study Abroad Trip as a Broke College Student

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Whether my friends ask me if I want to go to the movies or out for an expensive meal, my answer is always the same: “I’m a college student.” This is the universally known phrase meaning, “I’d love to, but I can’t. I’m broke.” College expenses can really weigh down on my desire to have a social life. Between tuition, books, Metrocard fare, and food, there’s really no wiggle room for anything extra and I’m always trying to find college discounts wherever I go. When I learned about study abroad options through CUNY, my friends asked me where I wanted to go. “China,” I replied smiling. “But I’m a college student.”

Eating a bowl of noodles in Nanjing, China that cost 7¥ (yuan): less than $1.50!

Eating a bowl of noodles in Nanjing, China that cost 7¥ (yuan): less than $1.50!

Studying abroad, although costly, is not necessarily as impossible as one might think for the ‘poor’ college student—and it certainly has its perks. One way to help pay for your study abroad trip is to get scholarship money. Just like when you were applying for college, scholarships are diverse, obscure and available to a multitude of people. You just need to be willing to look for them. One great place to start is CEA Scholarships, which are scholarships specifically for students who want to study abroad. There are multiple merit based scholarships available and also financial need based scholarships.

Often times when applying for these scholarships you are required to write a personal essay. In order to get the money you need to make yourself stand out. Write several different essays, share them with your writing major friends, revise, and edit. The more work you put into your essay, the better chance you’ll have at getting that money. Other scholarships to look into for studying abroad are the SIROCS scholarship and the SASA Travel Abroad Scholarship.

You never know when you're going to stumble upon some interesting souvenir like a Communist Obama Tshirt!

You never know when you’re going to stumble upon some interesting souvenir like a Communist Obama Tshirt!

Don’t be afraid to go and contact the financial aid office at your college. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, go anyway. Sometimes the financial aid rules and regulations differ for certain study abroad programs and it never hurts to ask! Taking out student loans might also be a viable option to look into. Loans are a really great way to give yourself some time to save up your money after you take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Start saving up now! Even if you get fully covered by scholarships or financial aid, there’s still the matter of having spending money in a foreign country. Whether you want to buy a cheap bowl of noodles, or a memorable souvenir, you’re going to end up wanting to spend some cash on your trip. In Shenzhen, China I came across an amusement park called Windows of the World. I was definitely glad that I had some cash to pay for the admission. Get a part time job while you wait for the start of your program and put that cash aside. You’ll be happy you did once you get to your new temporary home. You want to be able to take care of yourself while you’re away and have some fun too!

 

 

My friends on the train ride at Windows of the World in Shenzhen, China.

My friends on the train ride at Windows of the World in Shenzhen, China.

-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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College Savings Experience by Studying Abroad

Saturday, September 13th, 2014
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Photo op with some monks my friends and I met on the Great Wall of China.

I like chicken soup. Wǒ xǐhuān jītāng.

It’s probably one of the only phrases I learned to say correctly in Mandarin while studying abroad in China and it still makes me laugh one year later.

No matter what college you go to, even if it’s only a few psychology courses online, everyone should go on a study abroad program at least once in their lifetime. Study abroad is a rite of passage and the college discounts you get is worth the experience. It’s the ability to say that during your young adult life you did something different and learned about a new place. It doesn’t matter what you do or where you go. What’s important is that you get out, see the world, and learn about a country that isn’t America.

One of the best benefits of studying abroad is that your early 20s is the best time to travel. Besides school, and maybe a part-time job, you don’t have that many obligations. Once you’re working the 9-5 grind you’ll find it’s extremely difficult to snag any vacation days right away. Studying abroad provides you with a way to get college credits without sitting in a classroom for an entire semester. Study abroad programs usually offer a variety of courses that range from common core classes to specific credits that can be used towards your major.

Studying abroad through your school is a great way to make friends that will be there after the trip. Most of the people that go on study abroad trips go to the same school. It’s very easy to form close friendships in a short amount of time on these trips. Walking across campus and seeing a familiar face is always a nice surprise in the middle of a hectic day.

 

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New friendships only grow stronger after hours of hiking the Yellow Mountain (Mt. Huangshan) in the southern Anhui province in eastern China.

People don’t just travel because of the boredom from living in the same place. People travel because they thirst to see something new. It’s one thing to see a picture of a famous landmark; it’s quite another to actually see that landmark with your own eyes. Ask anyone that’s ever traveled anywhere, or ask anyone with a smartphone camera; no photo or Instagram filter can truly ever beat the real thing. When you go home and change your profile picture on Facebook to a picture of yourself standing on the Great Wall of China—that’s something to brag about.

To learn about a culture that is foreign from your own is a truly important experience. There are so many different cultures in the world that it is impossible to count. To go through life ignorant of the world around you is a foolish mistake. Hear a different language slide past your lips. Eat a food that you can’t identify. Engross yourself in a way of living that you’ve never experienced.

A study abroad trip is more than just a trip. It’s a chance to take an adventure, fill a scrapbook with memories, and tell stories to your loved ones that will last a lifetime.

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Group picture of the 2013 Summer CUNY China trip in front of the Monk Xuanzang statue in Xi’an, China.

-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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The High Line

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Looking for something free to do in Manhattan?  We recommend checking out the Chelsea High Line.  You can easily walk the entire park in less than 45 minutes — that is, if you don’t want to sit and read a book or take photos along the scenic pathway.

The High Line, now one of NYC’s great urban parks, used to be a dilapidated historic railroad.  Once used for the commerce and distribution of  meat, milk, and produce,  the historic infrastructure became a voided space in Manhattan in 1980 as the last train delivered frozen turkeys to Greenwich Village.

Since 1980, the elevated railroad was left to natural forces and was devoured by New York’s wild plants and vegetation.  Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the architects who designed the renovation and reuse of the High Line in 2003, wanted to incorporate the wild plants  into the renovation design.  The intentionality of preserving the wild plants lead to the final re-use design of a public park.  While walking in the park, one can still see the original train tracks amongst the wild trees, grasses, and flowers.

The High Line at 14th Street

Since it’s opening in 2009, The High Line has been made itself accessible to the public in three phases; the third and final phase will be opened in 2014.  Right now, the High Line stretches from West 30th Street to Gansevoort Street along 10th Avenue.  We recommend walking the entire Highline from from West 30th and 10th Ave down into Greenwich Village.  This is a fantastic way to clear your mind and enjoy the last bit of summer!

After the walk, why not pick up a bubble tea on your way back to school?  Be sure to get your discount by using this coupon —

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Eliza Moore, Brooklyn College

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Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

 

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The Brooklyn Book Festival

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

September is the best month to be a book-lover in New York City.

I discovered this last year, when I had just started interning for a Brooklyn-based literary magazine, The Coffin Factory. As a member of the team, I was asked to go out to the Brooklyn Book Festival, an annual celebration of all things literary. (http://www.brooklynbookfestival.org/BBF/Home ) It’s the perfect place to be, whether you’re an aspiring writer, an avid reader, or just a college student looking for something interesting to fill your time with.

 

The editors of The Coffin Factory at the Brooklyn Book Festival

The festival itself takes place on one Saturday (this year it’s September 22 from 10am – 6pm). However, there are a plethora of free literary events hosted by various members of the New York City literary scene for the entire week leading up to the big event.

Last year, The Coffin Factory hosted a panel entitled “Who Gives a Sh*t About Literary Magazines?” with editors from Granta, Tin House, and The Paris Review discussing their opinions on literary culture, readership, and the future of print magazines. I remember sitting at the back of the independent bookstore (Book Court) where the event was held and thinking that it was wonderful that such a thing could exist and that so many people cared enough to come. I guess a lot of people give a sh*t about literary magazines after all.

The events prior to the actual festival are always fun, engaging, and sometimes intimate enough to get to talk to the hosts afterwards. There are pretty much always opportunities to win free print issues or subscriptions, and most importantly, you get the chance to be a part of the conversation.

The festival itself is like a maze, with booths for popular publishing houses and lesser-known literary magazines alike. The event welcomes people from all aspects of the literary community, from all over the world. You never know what you’re going to find there. Maybe you’ll strike up an interesting conversation with the staff of your favorite Saturday-morning-read; maybe you’ll stumble upon an internship opportunity. Or maybe you’ll discover a writer or a magazine you’ve never heard of and fall irrevocably in love.

Because that’s what the Brooklyn Book Festival does: somehow, every year, it beckons to people from all different walks of life and manages to coax them out of whatever chaos they are in the midst of. It manages to swallow them completely for one week or weekend out of the year and get them all down to Brooklyn Borough Hall. And when they emerge from the Court Street subway station, they will inhale the distinctive but subtle scent of a good book, hear snippets of conversations revolving around their favorite writers, and see stacks of polished pages awaiting them.

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Katie Yee, Bennington College

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Friends of Campus Clipper: SocialEyes NYC

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Even living in the exciting atmosphere New York, sometimes I get bored. Which is crazy! What a city to be bored in! Sometimes I just need a little inspiration, or maybe a nudge in the right direction. SocialEyes NYC  is a great blog to give you that nudge.

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First you can pick by area, in case you don’t want to stray too far from your home, or if you’re feeling adventurous and want to explore a certain neighborhood. Or, you can select from museum deals, concerts, or even sporting events. No matter your interests, SocialEyes NYC is your blog for fun, affordable outings.

My favorite of the current events: classic film screenings at Bow-Tie Cinemas. Tickets are only $7.50 and they’re showing movies like The Goonies, Casablanca, Psycho, and The Birds. Another great idea to get in on is the presale for the New York Comedy Festival. This is a huge event each year, with a ton of fun comedians and groups coming to town, so hitting up the presale is a must.

Let SocialEyes NYC help you search for your next fun night in the city!

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Erin O’Brien, NYU.

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