A Midwestern Girl’s Tasty Bite of the Big Apple

By Sarah Gibbons, International Citizen of the Year (ICY) Intern

Growing up in a small suburb of Cincinnati, my upbringing was stereotypically Midwestern… It was a place where we knew everyone. I had known the classmates in my graduating class since I was in kindergarten and my friends lived within walking distance from home. Throughout my 18 years of living there, not much changed in my quaint suburban hometown. It was not until I went to college that I realized, although I had an amazing upbringing in Wyoming, OH, there was not much diversity there.

I continued my education and attended college at Butler University, just outside Indianapolis. While Butler is considered small compared to other universities with an undergraduate population of around 5,000, this number was a big adjustment for me. I went from a school of 500 to 5,000 students. As a result, I got a taste of more diversity than I did growing up Wyoming. Little did I know, I was about to be exposed to more diversity than I would have ever expected here in the United States.

I completed my freshman year at Butler University when a huge change occurred in my family’s life. My dad’s job required us to move to the heart of New York City in the bustling borough of Manhattan. New York City has more diversity than Indianapolis and Cincinnati combined. Our new tiny high-rise apartment in the heart of Manhattan was significantly different than the big red brick house and large grassy yard I grew up in. After visiting NYC for Christmas break, I decided that I wanted to stay for the summer to fully immerse myself in the city and see what the city had to offer. Therefore, I got an internship and lived in the city for three months.

Sarah ice skating in Central Park, NYC

After living in NYC for three months, I certainly got a taste of the city and the large amount of diversity that it has to offer. Simply walking outside, I heard a variety of different languages and saw a collection of different ethnicities as I passed strangers on the street. I was fascinated by the fact that I would rarely hear English spoken in my new hometown, even though I was living in the United States. This was especially true when I passed through tourist areas such as Wall Street, where I worked, and when I would venture into Times Square. The individuals I worked with were from all over the world and they brought their different cultures and backgrounds to the office. This diversity was a nice break from growing up in a town where everyone has a similar culture and upbringing. The day I finally realized what makes New York so unique was when I was walking back from a meeting with my boss. I was telling him how I had fallen in love with the craziness and diversity of the city and he told me something that I still clearly remember. He said that what makes New York City so special is that it has a little bit from all over the world. What he meant by this is, that NYC is not an American city, it is a city made for anyone and everyone. People who live there come from all over the world. They bring with them their heritage, culture, diversity, and backgrounds.

After returning to Butler from NYC, I realized while Indianapolis has been a great hub for refugees and has an ever growing population of international residents, it is still not as diverse as New York City. However, through interning at The International Center I’ve found that working in this unique environment is similar to living in Manhattan. The people I work with, both interns and staff members, are from all over the world. My co-workers bring their captivating culture, languages, and experiences. It is not uncommon to hear different accents being spoken in the office. The organization works with people from all over the world who are moving to Indianapolis and bringing their own cultures with them. Through interning in the heart of “The Crossroads of America,” at The International Center, I have learned that while Indiana may not be as diverse as New York City, it is organizations like The Center that encourage bringing diversity to the city. These organizations close the gap between the smaller Midwestern cities and the largest cities in the world.