Where are they now?

How Marissa discovered a true sense of home in NYC

Growing up in Tucson, Arizona, Marissa had always fantasized about being part of the lifestyle in NYC. The metropolitan city seemed like a magical place that only existed in movies—conjuring grand, dizzying images of bright lights and unsurpassable skylines. Despite how much Marissa wanted to explore New York for herself, it just seemed unattainable. But all that changed when her teacher, Ms. Reed, gave Marissa the chance to visit Manhattan on her high school EF Explore America tour.

Marissa finally got to immerse herself in the frenetic energy and cosmopolitan beauty she’d been dreaming about since she was little. However, the best part of Marissa’s EF tour wasn’t Broadway or Times Square or any of the other bucket-list-level destinations she got to experience—it was just the simple, day-to-day act of existing in the city. For the first time, Marissa believed she could actually build a real life in this unreal fantasyland.

Fast-forward to today, and Marissa’s been living and working in New York City for the past eight years. She still loves visiting the sites that blew her away on tour, but her connection with all of these places has evolved. Plus, she’s discovered a few of her own favorite things that make the “Oz-like” location feel like home. So, we asked the student-traveler-turned-local to take the reins and tell us what makes for her perfect day in the big city.

Bagels are an integral part of the lifestyle in NYC


Choose the breakfast of (local) champions

Everyone who lives in New York has their favorite bagel shop, and Marissa swears BO’s Bagels is the best. “There’s always a massive line, but it’s so worth it,” she says. Her go-to order? A three-cheese bagel with jalapeño cream cheese, cucumbers, and tomatoes. But no matter what you’re craving, Marissa says you’ll leave happy (and full). “They have every bagel flavor under the sun.”

The autumn lifestyle in NYC


Clear your head at Central Park

This is Marissa’s favorite place to take a walk, listen to some music, and think about what she’s grateful for. “There’s also great people-watching and dog-watching here,” she explains. Central Park is huge (843 acres, to be exact) so there are plenty of different places to explore. But if you want to follow in Marissa’s footsteps, head to Bow Bridge, an iconic meeting point that overlooks the Lake, or Hernshead Rocks, which is in the middle of what Marissa refers to as “a magical footpath.”

Marissa standing in front of NBC Studios, enjoying the lifestyle in NYC


Go behind-the-scenes at 30 Rock

From watching SNL on TV as a kid to visiting 30 Rockefeller Plaza on Ms. Reed’s tour, and from viewing the show in-person post-tour to actually working as a production assistant at NBC, Marissa can track her career trajectory against her visits to this famed spot. If you’re heading there yourself, Marissa has some unconventional advice: Take a big whiff in. “30 Rock has such a specific smell,” she laughs. “My roommate found a candle that smells exactly like it. It was cactus pear.”

The Shubert Theatre, showcasing how Broadway is part of the lifestyle in NYC


See a Broadway show

Theater is a huge part of the lifestyle in NYC, and Marissa tries to see shows as much as she can. One of her favorite places to catch a play is the Shubert, because that’s where she saw her first Broadway play with EF. “I get a little pang of nostalgia every time I walk past it,” she says. The last show Marissa saw was Funny Girl starring Beanie Feldstein at the August Wilson Theatre. Fun(ny) fact: Marissa ended up sitting right by Beanie two weeks later at the premiere of Don’t Worry Darling. “It was just one of those weird New York moments,” Marissa says.


Take it all in (preferably from a rooftop)

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in New York—seeing the skyline at sunset will never get old. Marissa’s favorite viewpoint is from her friend Tracy’s rooftop in Harlem. The view is spectacular, but what she appreciates most is the company. “Moving to New York was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life,” Marissa says. “I didn’t know a single soul here.” It was lonely in the beginning, and there were plenty of times when she thought about giving up and moving home. But, Marissa knew if she stuck it out and kept putting herself out there, she’d find her people. Today, that community includes incredible friends like Tracy—and with them by her side, she’s able to take in the world in a whole new way.

The Manhattan skyline, a favorite scene among all who love the lifestyle in NYC

In EF’s “Where are they now?” series, we connect with former student travelers to learn all the ways their tour helped them grow in the moment and leave on the path to so much more.

Want to help your students find their home out in the world—just like Ms. Reed did for Marissa?

Sarah McLaughlin

Sarah is a senior copywriter at EF Education First. When she isn’t writing, you can find her browsing through bookshops, trying to cook, or going to improv class (which is basically just an excuse for adults to play make-believe).