Antonina - IEP
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Antonina - IEP

Profile:AntoninaDepczynskiHometown:Auckland, New ZealandProgram:Work USALength of time spent overseas?4 months in New York CityTell us in a few hundred words where youlived and what you got up to in the USA?I gave up the great New Zealand summer in exchange forconcrete, shopping and snow – my new home becameNew York City. I shared a fifth-floor walkup apartment in theLower East Side, with two strangers, and was fortunateenough to find a job in nearby SoHo. I worked as a retailassistant at Zara over the busy Christmas period and stayedon till my visa expired.During my time in the city I felt determined to feel like alocal and immersed myself in everything NYC had to offer.My days generally started much later than that in Auckland.Work scheduled my starts mostly after 1pm and I wouldn’tfinish until 10pm onwards. Being in retail, most of the storesdon’t open before 11am and close very late. It definitelywas a culture shock at first but you learn to adjust your livinglifestyle accordingly. I would wake up earlier to go foodshopping at the local market, this being the quietest time ofthe day and would do my washing at the laundromat atmidnight. It’s a privilege to have your own washer anddryer! Sleeping so late was not uncommon. I walkedeverywhere (walking is an activity in itself as there is somuch to see) and took advantage of free activities thathappen around the city. MoMA has free admission onFriday evenings, so I made sure I was always off work onthat night. Attending a concert at Madison Square Gardenwas mind-blowing; the scale of the place and the entertainmentis enormous.What are some experiences that you hadwhich made an impact on you?Not knowing anyone, being ‘homeless’ or having a prearrangedjob really exposed my decisions making. I wentwith my gut feeling on many occasions and would be quickwith decisions, otherwise I missed out. Travelling alonewithout a doubt asks you to put yourself out there, to makenew friends and try new things. The amount of confidenceyou acquire along the way is very powerful.What are your 3 favorite memories ofliving and working in the USA?1. Living and breathing Manhattan 24/7. Enough said.2 The endless discoveries of food. Every diet andbudget under the sun is well catered for (personally, thevegan options were amazing at all levels). Whole Foodssupermarket was always a favourite trip with plenty of newand interesting foods to try - think hemp milk ice-cream andraspberry chipotle salsa.3 It had been a gorgeous morning when the firstsnow storm to hit the city happened and I was working. Icame unprepared with no scarf and wore skin-bearing flats.Trying to walk home in ankle deep snow was such a mission,one of my colleagues walked arm-in-arm with me, both of ustrying to support each other up.The cheapness of intercity travel was totally appealing andwhilst working pretty much fulltime, I managed to squeezein between shifts a quick trip to Boston and also traineddown to Washington, D.C. Making the trip back to Aucklandthere was a brief visit to family in Portland, OR and Ialso spent a few days at Disneyland, CA.

Were there any times that were hard?There wasn’t particularly any times that were hard, it wasmore of a case of confronting little difficulties. Like trying tofind an apartment to call home, with no contacts or realclue about what I was doing. The stress can be daunting.Also to work the subway system required a lot of patience; Igot lost underground upon my arrival from the airport andstarted to panic about making it out. Getting stuck in theturntable and lugging my huge suitcase up three flights ofstairs didn’t add any calmness either. New Yorkers werewillingly helped me out and I couldn’t have been morethankful.What is somethingunexpected/different/strange about theUSA compared with other places youhave lived?1. The way the city is portrayed through themedia/films/television/photography etc, truly is the realNYC. People are fast-paced, steam rises out of street grates,yellow cabs are everywhere, buildings reach for the starsand daily publications come out of a sidewalk box with acoin deposit. Everyone is constantly on their cell phone; I feltlike a real New Yorker talking and walking my way aroundthe streets.2. It is very much a cash orientated society. I waspaid fortnightly by way of a check as opposed to directcredit and many retailers didn’t offer card as a method ofpayment.3. There is such ease in getting around a major cityany time of the day or night; I really do miss the subwaysystem.How did you find employment in the USA?My first approach to finding a job was using Craigslist; I can’tremember how many resumes I emailed out daily. Realizingthis approach was less successful than hoped for I sussed outa few of my favourite stores where I would like to work. Idirectly targeted the store manager, résumé in hand, andexplained my situation; how I was after employment, hadplenty of prior experience and was freely available to workas soon as possible. A day later I received a phone callasking to return for an interview and was offered a job onthe spot. It comes down to being extremely persistent andexploiting your foreignness.Has working in the USA benefited yourcareer work experience?Updating my resume with an international job placementhas certainly added that extra dimension. I’ve managed tosecure an elite internship which is supplementing my fulltimestudy. My confidence in my working ability has hugelyincreased which is something I will always apply to futureemployment opportunities.What is your advice for someone whowants an American adventure?Go at it alone, that way you can make all the decisions andyou can expose yourself in to plenty more amazing opportunities.Whatever you do make sure you have at least oneweeks accommodation pre-booked. You can familiarizeyourself with the surroundings and decide where to go fromthere. Also, invest in a top quality camera – you’ll want todocument nearly everything you see and more. Having onewith a video record option makes it more realistic andmemorable looking back.What did you find valuable in going tothe USA on an IEP program?IEP’s ability to obtain a visa sponsor and having access toBUNAC whenever I needed support was great!What is next?Start saving for Work USA Plus! NYC again please.

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