Written and photographed by Jeffery Lo with input from Kevin Sparks and Lana Tran.
Fall Break was two weeks ago. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, but I decided on a whim to go to New York City to visit some friends. This was quite uncharacteristic of me because going on trips is always a, “That’s a great idea!” and then nothing ever happens. I would make excuses like, “Oh, I don’t have enough money,” or, “Oh, it takes so much planning.” But this year, I told myself that I would travel more. Unfortunately, I just started pharmacy school and it’s been the busiest period of my life. Whether it’s planning events with orgs, going to meetings, working on projects, or finishing those reflections that I’ve been holding off, there’s just not enough time to go on a trip without thinking about school…
Again, with the excuses.
Anyway, two weeks before Fall Break, I was busy lying to myself about using my break to catch up on work until I talked to one of my best friends, Allen. He goes to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the Upper East Side of NYC and he is arguably busier than I am, yet he always takes the time to travel. During our chat I thought, “Huh, maybe I should go to New York,” so I asked him if I could crash on his couch and impulse bought my ticket as soon as he said yes. Awesome, October 14th-17th.
So what actually made me act on it this time? Well, I love NYC for one. I think it’s a city that people either love or hate. I’m from Los Angeles and have lived in San Diego. I’ve been to other great cities like San Francisco, Chicago, Philly, and Boston. New York still tops out. I can’t really point out what it is, I just think that there’s a certain charm to the city that you can’t get anywhere else. Maybe it’s the same feeling Taylor Swift felt when she wrote “Welcome to New York”.
Another reason is that I missed home and a handful of friends back home now live in NYC. Also, I can’t get a lot of same Asian food around Ann Arbor as I did back home. Finding a real bowl of ramen and a decent boba (bubble tea for everybody else east of California) place is difficult around here. Asian food here is either Panda or something really expensive for what it is. Oops, I think my California elitism is showing… Pretty much all I wanted to do was eat and hang out with my 626 and 909 homies.
The beginning of Fall Break rolls around. Right after med chem on Friday, I had my buddy Mabel take me to the airport. I landed at 11:58PM and Ubered from JFK to Allen’s place on 98th. I was pretty darn hungry, but luckily enough, the Halal Guys are open until 5 in the morning. Allen, Anthony (his roommate), and I took the subway down to 53rd and got our chicken and rice combos. Protip: go light on the red sauce, it’s pretty potent.
The next day I started the day off with my favorite food, ramen, at Ramen Setagaya on St. Marks, near NYU. I almost cried on my first bite. Fun fact: I found out later that my classmate and friend, Rachel, is a family friend of the owner. Small world.
Next came the shopping. Allen helped me fuel my inner hypebeast and we went to one of the fanciest sneaker stores in the city, KITH. Pretentious doesn’t adequately describe this place. It has a cereal bar. Yes, a cereal bar. There were people in the middle of the store eating bowls of cereal. You cannot make this up. I love this city.
Then we went to Uniqlo. All you need to know is Uniqlo is the best clothing store in the world. You want good quality basics? Go to Uniqlo. There, please pay me now, Uniqlo.
Of course, a hipster’s trip isn’t complete without stopping at a coffee shop. The Philly-based La Colombe, answered the call.
After the recharge, we went to more stores with stuff that we couldn’t afford and then we saw it. We saw the Panda Toyota Trueno. It’s a real life replica of the main character’s car from Initial D. If you don’t know, there is a manga called Initial D about street racing where the main character, Takumi, uses his tofu delivery car to destroy everybody. It’s black and white, hence the Panda. To see a really clean replica of it was exciting to say the least.
As the day started winding down, we made our way down to the new World Trade Center Hub housed within a building called the Oculus. It’s a $4 billion dollar station that is supposed to look like a dove taking flight from the outside, but when I went inside, it felt like I was encased inside a giant ribcage. I felt like Moby Dick after he got swallowed by the whale.
After that, I split from Allen and made my way uptown to Shanghai Café in Chinatown to have some Xiao Long Bao, which are soup and meat dumplings, with my friend Joyce who I haven’t seen for ages. She’s now at NYU getting her Master’s in Public Administration and is doing big things with her non-profit organization.
Then we topped the night off at Nitecap and a few other bars with her friends.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the first day alone paid for the trip. The next day was just bonus. I checked running in Central Park off my bucket list, got Ladurée macaroons for my friends (still upset that I forgot to get something for myself, sigh), went climbing at The Cliffs in Queens with Allen and Carmen, got all you can eat hotpot at Hou Yi in the East Village with Rosa and Alan, and got my bubble tea and matcha rolled ice cream on.
All I know is that I don’t regret it one bit and I’ll be back soon. Among all the riff-raff of school, I would highly recommend taking a trip for yourself. If you can’t take a trip, that’s fine, go do that other thing you’ve been meaning to do. I think sometimes we get too caught up with what we have to do for other obligations or other people and forget what we have to do for ourselves. We’re in pharmacy school, but we don’t have to be pharmacy students 24/7.
I’m glad I stopped making excuses for myself and just did it. It helped me recover mentally and recharged me for the second half of the semester. I’m a happier person because of it. So if you’re ever in the same spot, repeat after Shia Lebeouf, “Don’t let your dreams be dreams, yesterday you said tomorrow, so just do it.”