It's been a tough two years for everyone, especially with international travel being closed off. However, with Australia now opening up its borders I have been lucky enough to take an extended trip to the USA and will be living in Long Island, New York from Feb to May 2022! This is partially an exchange as I'll be completing university classes online, partially a chance to see the world outside of Sydney and overall an opportunity to enjoy a new lifestyle after months of lockdowns.

Read on for a summary of everything I've gotten up to in February 2022! Also if you haven't already, subscribe and check your inbox for these monthly updates.

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✈️ Travel

Flew from Sydney to LA, LA to JFK in New York City. It was very cold when I arrived, and within the first weekend I was on Long Island we experienced a snow day.

New York City is large, tall and busy with some chilly breezes between it's very grid-like architecture. There are hundreds of people milling about, especially in Times Square. A store can go from relatively few patrons to being completely full with a line extending outside in a matter of minutes. I've seen the Empire State Building from the outside and lit up, but will need to appreciate its size from the top. I also have to mention the weed carts on various corners; with marijuana now legalised in the state of NYC you can definitely smell it when you walk past some people.

Central Park was like a breath of fresh air for me. I really enjoyed the relaxed and family-focused atmosphere compared to the bustle of NYC's streets. There was music, dogs and chariots, as well as a wonderful skyscraper view (pictured at the top of the article). Surprisingly, COVID has not been mentioned once. Everyone has been wearing masks everywhere I've gone and socially distanced when possible, but otherwise I haven't seen any restrictions or news about it which is quite different to life in Sydney.

In terms of Long Island observations, food places are congregated in similar brown buildings in front of large carparks. Stony Brook University is massive. Despite having less students than USYD or UNSW, the buildings' size and scale of campus and health sites competes with or even betters Australia's largest universities. And Trader Joe's is a pseudo-temple to the chill people who reside here.

Some final notes I've made about the States so far: the roads are wide, and everywhere on Long Island and in NYC is further away than you expect. After getting used to cars being flipped and driving on the right side of the road, it isn't too bad - but man do people move fast here!  Portions are indeed a bit larger, especially on drinks at fast food stores. And the people do have those funny movie/ TV-like accents :-)

😋 Food

Airport stores

  • Sumo Salad @ Sydney Airport: Had the chicken pesto and tomato penne. Filling and guilt-free before an international flight. What more can you ask for.
  • Umami Burgers @ LAX: More like a crispy sandwich with a lot of oil, but the textures go well together even when flavour is lacking.
  • Border Grill @ LAX: Didn't enjoy the service here and the food itself looked unappealing. A messy but filling meal.

Famous American Franchises

  • iHop: Soft and savoury pancakes with a range of flavoured syrup toppings. But I want more butter on my pancakes! Decent omelettes as well.
  • Shake Shack: Oh my goodness an amazing tiny burger package. I had the SmokeShack - delicious beef patty, chopped cherry peppers and soft applewood-smoked bacon in a smooth bun. Their cheesy fries were ok and the chicken burger was decent. I will be going back for a shake when it's warmer!
  • Starbucks: I've never had Starbucks before! It's not that common in Australia due to our established coffee culture post WWII (a really interesting business case study, look it up!). I also don't drink coffee haha, but love cha and can have tea. But wow this was a decadent sugary drink, almost like slurping a dessert. I may or may not have gone back to this franchise at least 4 times in the month...
  • The Cheesecake Factory: This has to be given the award for "Most misleading restaurant name ever". Yes, you will find a 1.5 page range of delicious and filling cheesecake flavours, but there's at least 6 pages of entrees and main dishes from various cuisines. Pastas, curries, south asian salads, burgers and steaks are all put alongside each other. Definitely one to revisit, but my tip for making a choice is to just go with your gut - everything seems to be of a good quality.
  • Five Guys: Amazing amazing amazing. This chain is popular along the East coast and has a few stock-standard burger options along with hot dogs and cajun fries. What makes them interesting is a range of 15+ toppings and sauces that you can use to customise and create your own burger. Naturally, I selected pretty much everything I could and created a monstrous, messy burger that must have been a nightmare for the kitchen staff. This thing sent me straight into a food coma and I was just completely absorbed in the process of eating it and enjoying the quality of ingredients and range of flavours in my mouth. Definitely one I will be revisiting in the next two months.
  • Chipotle: The pick-up rack was cool, but food was a bit off the mark. Your classic Mexican options including burritos and tacos, but I found my burrito having too strong of an acidic/ lime flavour, which dripped into the other fillings and left a strange aftertaste. I may give this one another chance, but then again there are a bunch of other Mexican food places to try here, so maybe not.

Local Gems

  • Oldfields: A very American establishment but with appropriate portion sizes. Basically ribs and a range of small sides, with everything being up there in flavour. The many sauces made for fun experimentation.
  • Joe's Pizza NYC: When we got here there was a long line already, but it grew even more behind us. We took it as a sign of the pizza's quality, but when we saw the wall of celebrity pictures and realised this was the Joe's Pizza from Spider-Man 2 (see my review here), my excitement went through the roof. Grabbing one of each flavour, we basically loved everything that was cheesy - the less toppings the better. Well worth missing a train for, but next time we'll try and wolf a slice or two down while it's still hot.
  • PJ Sushi Teriyaki: A cheap and easy sushi fix. There was a long line for pick-up/ delivery orders, but we opted to eat in. The Mt. Fuji pyramid pictured above was a delicious mix of saucy and crunchy on top of tuna sushi.
  • Slurp Ramen: Really good ramen done right, with a cute pork bun to boot. The poke bowl was fun, but the ramen won't let you down.
  • Kumo Sushi & Steakhouse: Definitely an experience. Dimmed lighting, flashes of flame off a hibachi grill and large shared dining experiences. In the words of my girlfriend, "like you are entering the fires of Mordor". The meat itself was above average, but the showmanship of our personal chef (egg and spatula tossing) and Hibachi Fried Rice were the highlight.

🤵♻️📝 Professionalism

Work

Finished my Westpac internship! It was a busy last week pushing my two groups of content through pre-approval. This was a time of taking in feedback on the copywriting and quickly turning it around for meetings in the same week, as well as a bit of inspired visual design when I was granted access to Westpac's internal library of illustrations.

The final day was a bittersweet event, as I was glad to see the work our team had completed but also know that there are a few steps (and more time needed) until the updated pages actually go live. My manager and co-workers organised a really sweet farewell call, and we chatted about things to do in the US while laughing at the funny Teams background they had edited of me. In all honesty, the people I worked with at Westpac were wonderful and definitely the highlight of my internship, alongside the amount of content strategy I learned from my manager and in the work.

Volunteering

  • Continued to assist in marketing the launch of the Sikh Youth Australia Charity Gala Dinner. I believe seats are close to being sold out, but for more information on the event check out the Eventbrite (which I wrote copy for!) here.
  • I have also been given the opportunity to be a Team Leader for the University of Sydney branch of 180 Degrees Consulting! I'll be managing a team of volunteers remotely from the USA, developing consulting frameworks and gaining team leadership experience as we create a digital solution for our client.

Learning

I managed to attend two educational events this month, as well as start my university semester.

  • How to Win at Life with Sahil Bloom: This was a good discussion run by the guys at Next Chapter, but I found the most value from reading about Sahil Bloom beforehand as well as subscribing to his weekly newsletters. Whilst I do feel there is a gap in terms of how to achieve his status/ position, he is talking about a range of interesting ideas and affairs in the tech and business space. I did get some ideas to improve my own writing and article publication on this website from him.
  • The Only Growth Class You Need. Period: Ovira have challenged both cultural and marketing norms during their huge increase in followers over the past year. This was a fascinating presentation to witness organised by the team at Earlywork. Seeing the frankness of the company's founder as she explained how they iterate, make data-driven decisions and view numbers on platforms really deepened my understanding of the term 'growth marketing'.
  • Finally, my University of Sydney classes started at the end of the month. Only 4 units this Semester, but I've begun to realise that the classroom really is a supplement to real world work experiences.

📚🎥📺 Content

Books

A slow month in novel reading but to my surprise, I've found myself reading more articles. This is especially true as I'm subscribing to more writers in the start-up/ early career space (such as Sahil Bloom, mentioned above).

I was able to finish book 3 of the Wheel of Time series: The Dragon Reborn. Read here for my completed reviews of the first 3 novels.

Movies

Explored a range of directors this month - I mean just check out some of the names from that 'Director🎥' column below! I look forward into continuing many of their filmographies' in 2022.

Title🎬 Director🎥 Date📆 Rewatch🔁 Rating⭐ Article📝
Public Enemies Michael Mann 2/2/22 2.5/5 Link here!
The Darjeeling Limited Wes Anderson 4/2/22 3.5/5 TBD
Da 5 Bloods Spike Lee 5/2/22 4.5/5 TBD
The Last Duel Ridley Scott 10/2/22 3/5
Death on the Nile Kenneth Branagh 14/2/22 .5/5
Gehraiyaan Sahkun Batra 16/2/22 3.5/5
Moonfall Roland Emmerich 18/2/22 1/5 WIP
22 Jump Street Phil Lord, Christopher Miller 19/2/22 3/5
Don't Look Up Adam McKay 20/2/22 4.5/5 WIP
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Peter Jackson 21/2/22 Y 5/5
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Peter Jackson 22/2/22 Y 5/5
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Peter Jackson 24/2/22 Y 4.5/5
Gangubai Kathiawadi Sanjay Leela Bhansali 24/2/22 4/5 TBD
3 Idiots Rajkumar Hirani 25/2/22 3/5

TV

  • Invincible: After an average episode 1 with a huge cliff-hanger ending, this Amazon Prime show goes from win to win. Despite some truly gory animation the season has an enthralling and poignant conclusion that encapsulates the core of superheroes and parenting. Great soundtrack and coming-of-age themes, but there is a shocking aftertaste to certain moments.
  • The Book of Boba Fett: An enjoyable watch, even if episodes 5 and 6 were just The Mandalorian season 2.5. Fans had expectations too high for this Star Wars show, as it is just a simple catch-up and redefinition of Boba Fett's character under Disney. Here's to hoping that this year's Kenobi and Ahsoka shows don't disappoint.
  • Wheel of Time: Another Prime show, this one was a binge-watch to catch up. Watch this article as I put up my full thoughts on this season, mostly how it disappointed me.

🎵 Music

The Belligerents: Despite travelling to the States, this month I discovered a great Aussie artist! I'm hoping to see the growth of this five-piece indie band from Brisbane in the future. All of their tracks are fantastic additions to the alternative pop/ electronic rock, and I love that they recorded their album in a farmhouse. Doesn't get much more Aussie than that. Check out their album below, and don't miss their new singles Emily and 9 times out of 10 wherever you catch your music.


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