Vanessa poses with members of The Food Project's Dirt Crew in a community garden they built.

Tips for Starting Life in a New City

When moving to a new place fresh out of college, there are many tasks to keep in mind, some essential and some less urgent. Although there are plenty of lists like this one out there, I wanted to build advice for incoming Fellows based on what I learned from my own personal experience starting the Fellowship — both through mistakes made and personal successes. So here are some things you may want to keep in mind when joining the FAO Schwarz Fellowship!

The experience of beginning again in a city can teach you so much about yourself and what you want out of future living experiences

1. Set up your new Primary Care Provider early

While establishing your healthcare in a new place might be an obvious important step to settling in, it is helpful to prioritize this process in your list of tasks after moving in. Personally, I put off choosing my Primary Care Provider until maybe the second or third month I spent in Boston. Unfortunately, I got quite a rude awakening when I found that new patients can face waiting times up to six months for an initial appointment with an available clinician.


2. Consider subletting housing before signing a lease

When moving to a completely new city, it can be difficult to get all the information you might want about your future housing — while video tours and roommate interviews can give you a better sense, nothing can teach you about a new city as well as living there. Signing onto temporary housing, such as a sublet, allows you to try out a location, and scope out the rest of the city, without committing to a full, year-long lease right away.

In Boston, the majority of apartment leases have a September 1st start date, so I sublet a room for my first summer before finding longer term housing. This gave me the chance to see which neighborhood I might like best here, factoring in my commute, things to do in the area, and neighborhoods with more young people to get to know.


3. Study the local metro map

For the first few months of living in Boston, I would spend parts of my daily commute looking over the map of our subway and bus system, the MBTA, while listening to music. Even though it was not the most entertaining way to pass the time, it gave me a good sense of how to get around Boston early on during my time here.

Then, a couple of months after I moved to Boston, the MBTA had a sudden emergency shutdown during my commute home, stranding me downtown. This forced me to quickly find a different route home, amidst the masses of other commuters also trying to get on board temporary shuttles. Since I had been often studying the metro map during my commutes, I was able to jump onto one of these shuttles with a destination of a station that I had never been to but vaguely knew was close enough to home.


4. Regularly visit spaces that reflect your interests

One of the best ways to make friends and build community in a new place is to often go to places built around your personal interests and hobbies. If you enjoy sports, join a sports league. If you like gardening, join a community garden near you or volunteer at a local growing center. Additionally, I like keeping an eye out for posters around the city with information about public events I might be interested in. Even if I cannot make a specific event, I will usually follow their socials to keep updated on future events.


5. Take walks off your normal route

I would have never found some of my favorite places to visit in Boston if not for random walks off my usual path. For example, I discovered my favorite store, a secondhand craft supply store, after accidentally taking a wrong turn on the way to buy groceries. Now, I try to often take walks around the neighborhood where I have not been before to find new places and foods to try.


Moving to a new city can certainly be an overwhelming experience, especially if, like me, you have never lived in a large city before. However, trying early on to familiarize yourself with both the unique and mundane aspects of your new home — as outlined in the tips listed above — can help you start to feel more comfortable sooner and to make the most out of city living. Plus, the experience of beginning again in a city can teach you so much about yourself and what you want out of future living experiences. Personally, I have learned from my time in Boston how much I appreciate living in a walkable neighborhood and having regular access to outdoor spaces. Thanks to this opportunity, I now know more of the values I would like to see in the next place I live. So while moving can be a great challenge, it also provides a valuable experience that is well worth starting anew.

Vanessa Barragán

Vanessa Barragán

Vanessa (she/her) is the Build-a-Garden Manager and FAO Schwarz Fellow at The Food Project in Boston.