A Tale Of Two Schools: From Washington To New York City

In the middle of the second semester of my sophomore year, I spontaneously decided to move back to my childhood home of New York City with my mother. In my sheltered, predominantly upper-middle class city of Bellevue in Washington state, Seattle was considered “ghetto” (imagine Queens, New York City). Now, I realize what true ghetto is! Here are some differences I noticed after my moved from one of the “top” schools in Washington to an underfunded inner-city school in New York City.

  1. The “New Yorkers are rude” myth is not true.

 Sure, New Yorkers are blunt. But that’s something that is so great and unique to the people of New York City. Moving from a city where the “Seattle Freeze” is a (somewhat) widely known phenomenon, it is incredibly refreshing to be around people who tell it like it is.

In Washington, I got the sense that people are shallower. For example, they will go out of their way to be nice to you, but never follow up on making plans. In New York, people can be brutally honest. But, if they decide they want to be friends with you, they mean it, and you don’t have to spend time trying to second guess their intentions.

Again, this is only my personal experience and I would recommend people see for themselves and not rely to my generalizations.

  1. Contrasting “Instagram cultures.”

 In alignment with the straight talk and fast-paced city life that rings true in New York, New York City also boasts a straight-forward Instagram culture that is a sharp contrast to the Instagram culture of general suburbia.

In Bellevue (WA), which is mostly suburbia, we tended to portray ourselves in the best light. As a result, the pictures tended to focus more on the happier times we had with our friends or during life in general.

In New York, in alliance with the general, straight-forward culture, the Instagram profiles of New Yorkers tend to be more honest. You will see people complaining about school, selfies instead of DSLR-quality portraits, and (of course) the city-life. It is difficult to explain, but there is a general more genuine feel to the Instagramming in New York.

  1. From soccer moms to absent moms.

 In Bellevue, parents chauffeur their children to and from school, soccer practice and whatever other activities their children may be participating in. Then, once their kids learn how to drive, they’re often gifted a car for their birthday present.

In New York, this is definitely not the case. Children are a lot more independent. It’s not unusual for school kids to take public transport to and from school. Most kids in New York City have parents who are too busy with work to chaperone them around town; a start contrast to the many school-goers in Bellevue who have a stay-at-home-parent.

This contrast between the two communities was also visible in the atmosphere in school. In my suburban high school in Washington, there was a general sense of trust between students and teachers, and within the peer community. I never had a fear of leaving my laptop in front of my locker for a few hours and our teachers weren’t so distrustful of us in terms of cheating.

In the inner city public school, however, there was definitely a more patronizing feel, with the teachers almost expecting the students to cheat or steal from each other.


All in all, I am grateful to have experienced both and, through this, realized that there are benefits and detriments to each school life. Suburban schools – especially in more affluent areas like mine was – tend to be better funded, so we had access to many facilities, including, clubs, subjects and events. There is generally more support and a greater chance of building a great teacher-student relationship.

However, in inner-city schools, you will meet a wide range of personalities and there is a more authentic feel to the school atmosphere. It is less likely that people will do activities because they want good fodder for their college application. The culture does not necessarily promote overachieving students and so the students who do get involved, in my opinion, genuinely care about the community.

Having said all of this, I would like to re-emphasize that these are my personal experiences and opinions, and are not representative nor fairly portray a whole community of people. If you have had similar or very different experiences, I would love to hear about them in the comments below!

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Ellen is a New Yorker who's love of travel started when studying at United World Colleges (UWC)'s Robert Bosch College.

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