Often times, people tend to move and settle together with a group of people that share their cultural and/or religious values. As a result of this behavior, boundaries are formed by these ethnically and religiously different groups, creating an invisible line that separates them. This was similar to what Ariana and her family encountered when they first moved to Maryland. In Maryland, there seemed to be an invisible division between where Christians and Jewish people lived. Although the separation was non-malicious, it was also apparent since most Jewish and Christian people knew of their specific neighborhood locations, even if they were coming out of state. Her family, however, focused more on finding the best public school for Ariana to go to and therefore ended up settling on the “Christian-side” of their community. Even though she did not feel excluded from events as a minority, she felt more comfortable when she was with other Jewish people in her Hebrew school on Tuesday nights, where she was able to freely share her religious beliefs. It was not until she found her own community here in New York City that Ariana felt truly “belonging and comfortable.”

As the only one out of her immediate family to be born outside of New York, Ariana yearned to return back to her place of childhood after moving to Maryland at the age of 9. Although born in Maryland, Ariana spent most of her childhood years in Long Island, New York, where her parents and brother were from. Most of her childhood memories centered around Long Island. Her favorite family and school trips were when they visited Time Square in New York City. However, in 2008, Ariana found out that she had to move to Maryland and was devastated about starting a new life after moving so many times before already. Although making friends was not difficult because of her outgoing personality, Ariana was not ready to leave behind the people that she has grown up with. Before this move, Ariana had moved several times before. In fact, two weeks after she was born, Ariana and her family moved to NJ, where her uncle had already been residing. Four years later, to they moved to Long Island to live near her grandparents, and then back to Maryland for her father’s job. However, when deciding where to go for college, she chose a school based on location: she wanted to move back to New York to dorm for college. Constantly moving and leaving behind communities and people that she became close with, including both family and friends, was difficult for her both physically and emotionally. In fact, during her move to Maryland, they faced “with a giant snowstorm that hit in 2009” making the journey a difficult one. With most of the Gladstones in New Jersey and Long Island, Ariana and her small family became the “further away Gladstones.”

Originally from Syosset, New York, Ariana’s grandparents recently moved to Readington, New Jersey after the cost of living increased and housing became too expensive. In fact, New York City is known for its large population and hence its high cost of living, where Manhattan is the most expensive with a monthly cost almost four times that of Newark in New Jersey, making it difficult for people to support themselves. In fact, “the cost of living in Readington, New Jersey is 5% lower” than Syosset, hence making the move a better decision for the financial situation more stable for her grandparents. However, rather than moving for a financial reason, Ariana’s parents moved back to Maryland because her father found a better hospital to work at. Although the Gladstones moved so many times, Ariana managed to adapt to all of the new environments since they were all relatively suburban — from Maryland to New Jersey to Long Island, all the people got around mainly by driving rather than by mass transportation. In fact, Ariana was shocked by the amount of people, especially around her age, who did not have a license and instead relied mainly on the subway. However, now that she is in New York City, she realizes the convenience of walking and of the MTA, a public transportation system that is not found in Maryland. Although, memorizing the myriad of stops was a daunting task, Ariana was grateful for the system here and depended a lot on the internet and Google maps to get around.

In addition to exploring Manhattan, Ariana also visited some of the other boroughs within New York City and shared some of her experiences during the interview. Although Ariana knew of  the other boroughs other than Manhattan, she was shocked to find out how similar some boroughs, such as Brooklyn and Staten Island, were compared to Long Island. She visited Coney Island recently and saw how suburban it was, where people got around mainly by driving and walking, and how lax and quiet the community was. Similarly, when she visited Staten Island, she was welcomed by trees, quiet neighborhoods, and cars everywhere; suburban characteristics that reminded her of her childhood in Long Island.

Although she spent most of her life in a suburban neighborhood, Ariana was not bothered by the busy and grand characteristics of the city; in fact she “felt belonging-immediately”, she says as she recollects her reminiscences in Times Square. Nonetheless, Ariana’s mother accompanied her to her placement exams at Hunter College, keeping a watchful eye over her daughter as she guides Ariana through the expansive metropolis. While they both depended on the internet to navigate through the endless streets and avenues, the comforting presence of her mother made Ariana feel safe within the big city. Ariana also kept in touch with her friends from Maryland in a group chat and texted and called her mom often. She is grateful to be living within the city while still retaining her connections to her loved ones. Since her grandparents live in New Jersey, she has been able to visit them more and see the rest of her relatives within the tristate area.

Ariana made new friends through living at the dorms, and together they explored the city and found their own favorite go-to spots within Manhattan. Ariana and her friends found their “favorite food spots” in Chinatown and little Italy which are “relatively close by” and even visited “Midtown comics during [their] free time.” As Ariana reflects on her experience living at the dorms in the city, she wishes to know more about the neighborhood – although she made friends through an ice cream social, she is not familiar with the community that lives around the dorm. However, she shares instances when she would be out with friends and they would bump into middle and high schoolers to play basketball and despite the difference in ages, they felt “included and belonging within the community as [they] all played basketball together”. Ariana found a home at Hunter when she joined the Hunter Hillel club, allowing her to reconnect with her religious community. She spends most of her time at this club, interacting with the people that also shared her beliefs. Although she never felt left out in her friend group as the only Jewish person, nor offended at the subtle sarcastic jokes thrown around at times, Ariana shares that she enjoys being accompanied by other Jewish people who can understand her practices and beliefs. In fact, even when Ariana was in Maryland, she explains how she would “still talk to her Rabbi back in Long Island” because she was most comfortable with him. Her connections to the city stretched far beyond simply that of a college student.

After exploring more parts of the city, Ariana believes that “New York City definitely represents the melting pot, at least from around the area where [she] lives,” because everywhere she goes, she sees different ethnic groups. She realized how diverse it was after visiting her go-to spots in Chinatown, little Italy, and Midtown, or walking around her neighborhood near Central Park. In fact, her neighborhood consists of mainly whites, Hispanics, and Asians so she is now exposed to more ethnic groups than she was back in Maryland. After moving so many times, Ariana shares that she has matured and learned that New York City is the place where she wishes to reside in permanently, since most of her foundational beliefs stemmed from this city. Despite how expansive Manhattan is, Ariana advises that, “as weird and large as it is and you feel like you’re alone… all you have to do is ask for help” when trying to get around dispelling a rumor that others tend to have a “rude New Yorker.” As she reflects on her memories here with a genuine smile, Ariana wraps up the interview with something that she tells everyone even when she was back in Maryland; “New York is my home because even though I learned things in Maryland, I am attached to the memories that I made here.”




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