One of the beautiful things about Chapel Hill, and there are many, is that it is an incredibly easy place to live. Whether you want to get groceries, a drink, or go to a coffee shop to do homework- there is a 2 square mile radius that all of these activities occur. Where one decides to live fluctuates in price depending on the proximity to this 2 square mile radius. Franklin Street, which extends down to West Franklin and Carrboro, is the life of the town.
One of the first things I noticed upon moving to New York is that, like any large city, it is composed of different “neighborhoods” each known for its unique aesthetic and culture. In Chapel Hill, there was one area you wanted to be close to, which made deciding where to live pretty easy. Everything I needed was on Franklin Street and by the university. In New York, suddenly I had to create a list of life priorities because there were so many different ways to live depending upon the area of town I chose.
What I prioritized for my first apartment was convenience- not culture. Moving from North Carolina to New York is culture shock in and of itself, so I decided to save the trendy neighborhoods for later on during my tenure in Manhattan. Murray Hill is the area of New York I ended up in, and what the area lacks in culture is made up for by ease of living. I have been incredibly happy with this decision during my first year in New York. For those of you moving up to the big city after graduation, here are some things to consider when making your move out of sunny simple Chapel Hill.
Groceries are important, and grocery stores are not inherent. After college there are no more dining halls or sorority chefs. Not knowing how to cook (or heat frozen food up in the oven) will be the end of your bank account. Ordering in can add up to tens of thousands of dollars a year. Food is great, but I can think of a plethora of better things to spend your money on in New York. Suddenly the grocery takes on a new significance in your post grad life. When choosing to live in the boutique-lined streets of Soho or the bar-filled West Village, remember that “running” errands can become a not-so-quick ordeal due to your dependence on the subway.
Having an apartment near a decently priced and stocked grocery store should actually be something you research and consider when moving. Grocery stores are hard to find to begin with, and many of them have about a fifth of the selection that say, a Harris Teeter would have in Chapel Hill. Trader Joes are about the only affordable option here, and because of this, there is usually a line to even enter the store itself. When it’s finally time to check out, the end of that line weaves in and out of all of the different aisles culminating with an employee holding up an “end of line” sign. Buying groceries is such a miserable process in and of itself is already so miserable- do you want to add a train ride on top of this?
Murray Hill happens to have one of the few (almost) Harris-Teeter sized grocery stores in the city. It is also within a half mile of not one, but both of the Trader Joes in Manhattan. I have never missed Harris Teeter so much in my life, but I thank god that grabbing some food at the store is a 5 block walk instead of a 5 stop train ride. Yes, Murray Hill lacks your cute boutiques and people outside of the ‘newly graduated’ demographic scoff when you tell them you live there. But as a post-grad, you learn boutique is synonymous with ‘expensive’ … which make them far less exciting when you’re suddenly responsible for paying your own bills.
If you do decide to go the take out route, Murray Hill conveniently houses many “fast casual” options. Going to a 5-star dinner is nearly impossible in this area, but your options to grab something decent (whether to sit down or takeout) are abundant. Finding a Chipotle or a Panera Bread is like finding a needle in a haystack living in lower Manhattan. Depending upon the area of town you live in, your only food options could be 4 or 5 star restaurants, which makes a lazy night ordering takeout that much more consequential on your bank account.
As I said at the beginning of this article, living in New York is all about figuring out your priorities. You can’t have everything, and the fact that I can walk to work, my gym, the grocery, and a movie theater have ultimately fulfilled me. I never “go out” in my neighborhood, but as I explained in my “Hangovers in College vs. The Real World” article, prioritizing your social life suddenly becomes much lower on the totem pole when adjusting to a full time job.
Murray Hill has been a great “transitional” place for me to adjust to life after college. Now that my year is up- I’m undecided as to where I will end up next. It is hard to beat the ease of life Murray Hill has afforded me, but it might just be time for a more interesting challenge. Maybe West Village? As always, I will be sure to let you know.