What comes to mind when you think about the Big Apple? Glistening skyscrapers, a grimy subway system, bustling streets, and tourist attractions? For many Penn students, New York often seems the only possible destination after graduation. You might think you need to do whatever it takes to make it there.
Penn students who pursue summer internships and entry-level jobs face unprecedented levels of pressure from their peers and the rest of the world to work in New York. Regardless of their major, 25.7 percent of Penn graduates pursue investment banking jobs, and these graduates are looked down upon if they don’t relocate to New York.
After all, it's the largest financial center in the world and the biggest deals tend to happen right on Wall Street. But the pay for analysts is roughly the same from one city to another, despite the common misconception that New York analysts get paid more.
The idea that living in New York is superior to living anywhere else is not unique to Penn. It’s pervasive, especially in finance. That’s mostly because Wall Street is located in, well, New York. Even if people are crunching the same numbers and analyzing the same data, the regional office or secondary location is seen as just that — secondary to New York.
So many college graduates decide to live in miniature apartments that eat up most of their salaries. Living in these tiny spaces, taking the subway, and other quintessential New York experiences are more of a status symbol more than anything else.
Implying that we are less successful if we don’t live in New York right after graduation perpetuates an elitism that an academic institution like Penn is better off avoiding.
I’ve traveled to many cities, both suburban and urban, in the United States, and each has its own charm. We shouldn’t dismiss them and the people who work there after they graduate as insignificant. By ignoring these other cities, we implicitly further the socio-economic divide between the American coasts and the landlocked bulk of the country. The cost of living in New York is 68.8 percent higher than the national average. So it's fair to say that Penn's obsession with New York is impractical.
There’s no problem with aiming high. If living in New York is your definition of achievement, that’s your choice. But if you’re just trying to live in New York to fulfill some grandiose, straight-out-of-college path to New York, think again. Do you really want to cave to the pressure of those who claim you must live in New York? Do you really think that your life will be less fulfilling if you live somewhere else?
For Penn students who don’t have the opportunity to live in New York, hearing about how necessary it is to live in the Big Apple is like seeing a group of teenagers you don’t know whispering among themselves. They’re probably not talking about you, but you feel targeted.
If living somewhere else is less expensive — it will be — or means that you won’t live in a cupboard with 10 roommates, locked in a tireless struggle to pay for necessities, your standard of living will be higher. There are clear alternatives to living in New York; we should pursue them.
ALEX SILBERZWEIG is a College sophomore from New York, studying mathematics and economics. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org