Business in the Big Apple
“World travel is something to experience. Take every advantage you have to explore, and just GO because it is not just fun, it is also educational. It leaves you with a much greater understanding of the world that exists beyond your familiar territory.”
This spring break, I opted out of the typical beach trip with friends and challenged the norm by studying business in the Big Apple.
Along with some fellow Birmingham-Southern Stump Entrepreneurial Scholars, we began our endeavor on a Friday afternoon at the Birmingham airport.
After a lengthy delay, we finally boarded our flight to La Guardia; I made the mistake of sharing with the group that it was my first time flying, which prompted the group to crack jokes about the possibility of fuel shortages and teeth-rattling turbulence. Surprisingly, laughing about it (it being the plane running out of fuel) made me less edgy about my first flight. Laughter truly is great medicine, I suppose.
Upon arrival in NYC, we piled into a shuttle bus and headed to our hotel, the driver navigating the streets as if he were at the wheel of the Knight Bus. It’s no wonder cars have bumper guards in NYC!
We then unloaded our luggage and headed to grab a bite to eat. It felt like I hadn’t eaten in days, so I had more than my fair share of Ray’s Famous Pizza – calories don’t count when you’re on vacation, right?
Arriving in Times Square – never had I seen that many people in one place (except maybe at the Chic-fil-a drive thru). As far as travel goes, I have not been able to explore the world north of the Mason-Dixon line. These folks didn’t say words like "y’all" nor did most of them speak in languages that were familiar to me. Perhaps, saying NYC was a culture shock at first is an understatement.
Everyone headed to bed around 3 am, but I was sure enough WIDE AWAKE. Why? NYC is loud! Sirens. Horns. Music. Lions. Tigers. Bears. Maybe not the last three, but you get the picture. When they say it’s the city that never sleeps – they mean it. It sounded like a Gatsby party right down the street (let me remind you at 3 am). In those moments, I craved the peace and quiet the South offers.
On days two and three, we were given the chance to attempt to blend in with the native New Yorkers and get the lay of the land. We toured Grand Central Station, ventured across the Brooklyn Bridge, and got lost on the subway too many times to count - shout out Judy and Dianne, two Manhattan natives who helped us find our way back to the hotel. We concluded days two and three by walking approximately 24 miles – I won’t have to worry about getting my steps in for a while.
At this point, the hustle and bustle of NYC life had begun to grow on me.
Throughout the next week, we got down to business: we explored the industries of fashion, entertainment, finance, and sports. We were given the opportunity to explore what goes on behind the scenes of NYC by touring several prominent firms - all thanks to BSC alumni!
We got tips from the award-winning fashion design team at Billy Reid, took notes on architecture at Ennead Architects, discussed e-commerce at Swimsuits for All, met executives on the trading floor at Wall Street, toured the United Nations, and, finally, witnessed the contemporary business culture of Spotify.
There was also some fun mixed in on the trip. After all, it was spring break. We were able to catch Sleep No More, the Broadway show Beautiful – a musical chronicling the life and legacy of Carole King. Madison Square Garden was also on our agenda, where we watched the Rangers take on the Bruins. We also had the chance to watch the Nets vs. Cavs game.
The 9.11 Museum was a powerful and moving experience from the start. It was one of my favorite parts! It was with heavy hearts that we explored the site on which such monumental historical events took place.
The tour gave our group a great sense of pride and patriotism for this country and the people who call it home.
On a much lighter note, the Empire State Building was awe-inspiring. Here’s a side note: if you ever partake in this festivity, GET VIP PASSES. I guarantee you we would have waited in line for four hours if we hadn’t had those passes. (You can thank me later!) Anyway, the view was breathtaking, in every sense of the word.
Seeing all the architecture, the sky rises, and lights of the city stretch out below remind you of the hard work and effort that millions of Americans have invested for centuries to make this country one of the greatest in the world.
Before your eyes glaze over, I do want to do this trip justice by featuring the rest of our agenda very briefly. We toured NBC Studios and appeared on live television for A WHOLE TWO SECONDS at The Today Show. We also visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Statue of Liberty, and Easter services at Christ Church – a full schedule, undeniably.
Living, breathing, and growing up in the South all of my life made the shock of the city a lot to take in at first. Eventually, though, the trip opened my mind to the diversity that exists in this country, and gave me a greater appreciation and perspective of the world beyond Birmingham-Southern College and Alabama.
This trip helped me realize that there really is a world out there – it helped me experience it in a way that made me understand that although that world is vast in size, it is conquerable.
Final thoughts: world travel is something to experience. Take every advantage you have to explore, and just GO because it is not just fun, it is also educational. It leaves you with a much greater understanding of the world that exists beyond your familiar territory.
Special Note: This 11-day trip was only made possible thanks to dedicated business faculty and alumni of Birmingham-Southern College. Most importantly, BSC alumni Kevin and Jane Stump endowed the trip through the Stump Entrepreneurial Program, and as their Scholars – we are all beyond grateful for their generosity. Forward, Ever!