My three month-aversary with #NYC

Three months ago today, I sat in the back of my parents' car and drove into New York City. My stomach was in knots, and I couldn't get rid of the nagging thought that demanded, What the heck do you think you're doing? For the first time since mid-2014, when I started planning my applications to grad schools in New York, I was petrified. What if this was a mistake?

We pulled up to my new home and I jumped out of the car, running up the front steps to grab my key. And the picture happened.

I've used this photo before ... but oh, well. Photo by Becky Rogerson.

The first 24 hours seemed to last forever. But here I am, suddenly, three months later, and I'm not sure where the time went.

Oh, of course, I could think about it and figure it out.

On a visit to Photoville early in the semester. Photo by Liz Arakelian.

The time passed with dinner cruises with fellow NYU students, with first projects and tears and victories, with visits to Photoville and walks across the Brooklyn Bridge. It passed with constant dreaming and some nightmares.

The time passed with a week-long hospital stay and a weekend in Baltimore. It passed with evenings with classmates and church friends. It passed with making friends and a life for myself.

Time passed with starting a new job tutoring second graders and getting published by Seventeen.

Time passed.

And here I am, three months later, and it wasn't what I expected. Every day hasn't been filled with Instagram-worthy moments of city perfection. Of course there have been some — fall in the city is breathtaking, and even way out in residential Queens the red, yellow and orange of the leaves have been glorious. But there have also been a lot of evenings spent at home with Netflix and pizza.

I thought I would be partying every night, in the city with friends and constant excitement. I thought my life would be like "Friends." "How I Met Your Mother" and "Castle," full of quirky incidents, opportunities and cute guys.

It hasn't been like that. It's been so much more chill. Of course there have been opportunities. I never would have gotten an article published by Seventeen if I hadn't been at NYU. I wouldn't have gotten to go to Baltimore to write about community women doing leadership.

All this to say — my dreams came true. I moved to New York, and I've been here for three months. It's not what I expected; it's better.

I'm still obsessed with New York

You live here now, Karis. You don't need to keep reading articles about why New York is the best city in the world and wish you were there. You're here. I don't know how many times I've told myself that over the past six weeks. It happens as I'm scrolling through my Instagram feed and catch a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline, when I'm watching Castle and the scene is his insane apartment or when I click on an article giving advice for how to be a true New Yorker.

Every time this happens, I feel a pang in my heart and think, Wow, I wish I were there. I've been doing it for years.

The only difference is that now, I am here.

I ride the subway across the Williamsburg Bridge every day, go to school mere blocks from Washington Square Park and am often just a short walk from sights like the Flatiron Building and Bryant Park.

I've taken the Staten Island Ferry, wandered Little Italy — in both Manhattan and the Bronx — traipsed through Brooklyn's picturesque residential streets and familiarized myself with the cheap delis in Queens.

There is no way to count the number of germs I've collected on the subway, I've consumed countless cheap slices of pizza and diner hamburgers and I've had a nighttime walk through the Battery Park City (where, dude, I would so live one day).

And those aren't the only things that make up my New York experience. Other factors include approaching strangers on a packed sidewalk and asking them about the pope; emailing a woman I spoke to briefly at a festival to see if I can do an in-depth story on her; having stories published and rejected; and live-tweeting the CNN GOP Debate before putting together a Storify of it.

I've made friends with the 13 other students in my program. We go out to lunch together and treat each other like siblings. We have a group Facebook message that's filled with plans to meet up, questions about assignments and, yes, full-on panic about what we're going to do and why we're here. I've had the equivalent of counseling sessions with several classmates — where I was both the counselor and the patient, at different times.

In the short time I've been in NYC, I've grown into a whole new person. I walk about five miles a day. I approach strangers in the biggest, most diverse city I know of, and ask to video them. I navigate the subway with ease. I am both more scared to be a journalist and much more confident in my calling.

Most importantly, I wake up every morning knowing that no matter what happens, no matter where I get thrown or what uncomfortable situations I'm in, every experience is making me stronger. I'm becoming a better friend, a better writer and a better city-dweller.

I'm overwhelmed. This is the city I live in, guys:

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I mean, seriously, what? How did this happen?

I don't know by what measure I was allowed to be blessed in such a way. But man, am I going to enjoy it. Every minute. Even the ones where I'm terrified, where I'm lonely, where I'm uncomfortable ... even those.

Surviving the one week mark

Can you believe it? I know I can't. I've been living in New York for over a week. That's right. I've spent eight nights in my new home, I've attended church, I've met up with college friends who live in the city, I've made new friends from my program during an orientation program we decided to skip out on and I've been on several solo adventuring trips. I've worked nearly 10 hours for my job, experienced multiple subway incidents, and have a bag that smells like tea because I spilled water in it and the teabag started seeping. I've walked, on average, 4.5 miles every day, I've done laundry in a real live laundromat and I've gone grocery shopping by myself.

In short, I've settled in. Or started to, at least. I still haven't fully settled into my morning routine and I do have to walk the streets with my handy-dandy arm extension, Citymapper, turned on at all times. But I'm getting there. Show me a subway station for the "A," "M," "R," or "J" and I can get myself home just fine, thank you very much. I've even memorized the last few stops on my journey home!

I still haven't made friends with the people at the grocery or the pharmacy — in fact, due to an incompetent employee's screw-up, I am the farthest thing from "friends" with my local Rite Aid — but I have had the opportunity to blow off one entire evening talking and laughing with my roommate while spending another one walking Battery City Park with one of my first Asbury friends.

My worlds are colliding. This dream city is becoming home. It's becoming — dare I say it? — almost mundane.

Ok, mundane it isn't. It will never be guilty of that...

I just laughed at myself for calling New York "mundane." I take that back. It's still a foreign world to me. But it's a world I'm slowly acclimating to, one that, I hope, is beginning to accept me.

I'm no longer one of those people on the ferry bubbling about all the things I want to see and do in my three days in town; I want to see and do the same things, but I have so many more days available.

I don't know how long it will take for me to be able to consider myself a "New Yorker." I'm thinking by the time graduation rolls around I might have earned that moniker? But today, I'm a definite "New York-liver." I most definitely live in this city.

My new friends!

I'm thrilled beyond words. On Wednesday I woke up and cried, feeling lonely. Since then, I've met three people from my program and have plans to meet up with them tomorrow and again on Monday to hang out, explore and get started on this adventure called grad school.

After a full week in New York City, I finally feel like I've made it home. And I'm going to be okay.

*drumroll please* And the future holds...

...a summer internship at the Messenger in Madisonville, Kentucky, and a year and a half studying at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Yep, come Dec. 2016, I will be Karis Rogerson, M.A.

For the first time in months, I know what I will be doing after graduation! And I'm beyond excited about it. Because just a few months ago, on Jan. 1, this is what I journaled:

It's the New Year! The year I graduate...the first New Year's Day in my life when I don't know where I'll be or what I'll be doing come the next New Year's Eve. It's thrilling and terrifying at the same time. I mean...seriously, where will I be? WHO will I be? Literally the only person who knows is God.

I swear I wasn't lying when I said it was thrilling, but obviously the truth leans a little more heavily toward the "terrified" side. Anytime you don't know what the future holds, there's bound to be a whole lot of fear and trauma involved. And I finally can say that I have some idea of what's going to happen. Of course, anything could change and I might wake up one morning and realize that God wants me to do something completely different. But for now, this is the plan, and here's how we got there...

First about the internship. Last November, I began applying to hordes of paid journalism internships. I don't even remember all the different places I applied to, but they ranged from The New York Times to The Baltimore Sun and the Google Journalism Fellowship. One of the organizations through which I applied is the Kentucky Press Association, which facilitates about 20 internships a year. Paid internships. And on Good Friday, I got a call from the Messenger saying they wanted me! After driving three and a half hours to get there for an interview, they offered me the internship and I accepted it a few days later.

I will be living in Madisonville with an older couple (who, apparently, are also hosting two baseball players) and I begin May 26. I am excited.

And now onto the bigger news: grad school!

I applied to four schools: Columbia University, the City University of New York (CUNY), New York University (NYU) and Northwestern University. And somehow, through some miracle or act of God, I got into all four!

As convinced as I originally was that I was going to end up at Columbia, my thoughts started changing in February when I got my acceptance to CUNY. Did I really want to get my degree in just ten months, or would I rather take some time to enjoy my grad school experience? Would I rather be one of 230, or one of 10 or 15?

So, soon after spring break ended, I bought my ticket for a weekend in New York to visit Columbia, CUNY and NYU.

And that trip is what sold it for me. I walked into the NYU journalism building at 20 Cooper Square, met Yvonne Latty, the director of the Reporting the Nation/Reporting New York department, of which I will be a part. She gave me a tour of the building and we had a long chat, which completely won me over.

But my visit with CUNY was also amazing. I went to a brunch with six or seven other potential students, met faculty members and current students, ate bagels and had all sorts of questions answered. And I walked away wondering--CUNY or NYU?

Y'all, I'm gonna be a bobcat. A graduate bobcat :) Photo cred: Becca Patton

NYU. The answer is, and always will be, NYU. Because I want to be a part of Yvonne Latty's program. Because I want to be a member of that excellent network of alumni. Because they tripled my scholarship. Because I know that I am wanted. Because I don't want to hide behind the walls of an Ivy League school or be immersed in touristy New York. Because I want to feel the heartbeat of New York City, and I think NYU can do that for me.

Go Bobcats, y'all :)