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From BCU to NYC

I've just got back from New York City with Birmingham School of Media, and boy did I have an amazing trip.

Thomas Sayers
BA (Hons) Media and Communication student

Media NYC trip - primary

On Monday morning 40 odd School of Media Students met outside The Parkside Building and boarded a coach headed for Heathrow airport, from which we would fly to John F. Kennedy airport in New York. During the waiting time at the airport Becky and I were introduced Niamh (and instructed not to lose her). After a long flight we boarded another coach which drove us through Queens and into East Manhattan, providing the goods (a beautiful view of the City at night) on the way. We arrived at The Vanderbilt YMCA to find the other half of our group had been delayed at Customs and Immigration and had too only just arrived (we sailed through, not to brag). After checking in and all that boring stuff Becky, Niamh and I headed to Times Square and soaked up the atmosphere, took some photos, ate some 99¢ Pizza and, after it hit us we were in an H&M at what was to us 3 in the morning, we headed to bed. 

Our first morning (Tuesday) was filled with a tour of Manhattan’s most famous filming locations: from Times Square to Central Park, from The Plaza to Washington Square Park to (obviously) The Friends Apartment, with the tour starting at the famous Ellen’s Stardust Diner! The streets of Manhattan are among the most filmed and photographed in the world, and seeing where these have come to life on screen was a truly special experience, made even better seeing the city bathed in white winter sun. 

Media NYC trip group photoBetween the tight schedule we managed to find a tasty sandwich shop, Lenwich, where I consumed a sandwich twice the size of my mouth, one which tasted incredible and set me up for our next stop: WNYC (New York Public Radio). We took the Subway downtown back to Greenwich Village, where we had a tour of the (surprisingly big) New York Public Radio building (home to WNYC, WQXR, WNYC Studios and more) in which we saw a rich history of their important independent public service broadcasting. After the tour we had a wonderful opportunity to meet with two Associate Producers, Annie and Bethel, as well as WNYC’s VP of On-Demand Content, Tony. Hearing their knowledge and experience was incredibly valuable and actually very inspiring: it’s great to hear from industry professionals, as well as incredibly reassuring to hear the same advice as our own BCU Lecturers give! 

Media NYC trip students

We spent the afternoon exploring the beautiful and historical Greenwich paying a visit to the Stonewall Inn & Memorial, walking down to the Hudson, and into Chelsea visiting the Chelsea Market in the old Nabisco factory. We then headed back uptown for dinner at The Comfort Diner (East 48th & 3rd Avenue) which not only serves up tasty, well-priced dishes, but is a rad retro walk down memory lane. 

Media NYC trip The Comfort Diner

Wednesday morning is Whoopi morning 

We were lucky enough to have the chance to see The View (like Loose Women) being filmed, which was, from start to finish, an exciting experience. We were on live national television, and got a shout-out from Whoopi freakin’ Goldberg too! It was so interesting to watch how a live production of this scale comes together, albeit not always smoothly (I get the impression they talk too much for the Stage Manager’s liking!). 

Due to some changes we then headed back to The Village to visit Huff Post at 770 Broadway, where I met some lovely people and we had (after searching for probably too long) a lovely lunch. 

We strolled through the offices of Tumblr and Yahoo before reaching the Huff Post floor, where we learnt about the workings of an international digital-only platform and had the chance to ask loads of questions. It was incredibly refreshing and positive to visit institutions striving to protect the integrity of independent journalism and reporting.

Media NYC trip Huff Post

After this Niamh and I headed to the World Trade Centre, where we paid our respects to the 9/11 Memorial and wandered through the Financial District in the wind. We eventually met up with Becky and instead of going up Freedom Tower (we had initially planned Top of The Rock for Tuesday!) we headed to Brooklyn to basically just take some photos, where we happened upon a crew filming for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. We obviously had to walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge as the sun set, which provided some breath-taking views of Manhattan rising out of the East River.

Media NYC trip skyline

It’s so perfect it doesn’t even look real (it is, promise)! While walking over the bridge, we met Michael and Sam who are local and imparted some really profound words upon us about ceasing opportunities wherever you may be. Michael got us a photo with a Police Officer, and sent us into Little Italy for some authentic New York-Italian food at La Nonna. 

Media NYC trip Police

Thursday brought terrible weather 

On Thursday Morning I had my first Proper New York Bagel from a stand in Grand Central. It was really tasty. After breakfast we visited a small exhibition in the New York Transit Museum exhibiting documentary photographs of the artificial reefs created from out-of-service MTA Subway cars, which was a really interesting program to discover. 

Media NYC trip bagel

Due to the re-scheduling of the Huff Post visit, I had an entire day to explore whatever I wanted, so naturally we went shopping on Fifth Avenue and got lost in Saks & Co. 

After the shopping (and a rest) I decided to head over to the United Nations. Turns out there’s not really much to see, so instead I decided to stroll towards Central Park… in the pouring rain. I have never experienced anything quite like NYC in the rain, nor have I ever seen quite so many umbrellas. Upon reaching the South-East edge of the Park, I realised I had to jump on a Downtown Train to meet with Becky and Niamh, although this would become our third failed attempt at going up a skyscraper (spoiler alert: we didn’t ever go up!) so instead we carried an 18″ pizza from Times Square to our hostel in the rain (13 blocks). 

Media NYC trip times square

Friday I’m in love 

For the final day we headed back to Grand Central Terminal for one final New York breakfast before visiting the MoMA (my first gallery in NY!) which held some beautiful works of art from Matisse to Magritte to Frida Kahlo and more, and was a really nice way to end the trip. 

Media NYC trip gallery

So there we have it 

I signed up to this trip not really knowing what to expect. Turns out it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity with so many experiences. Maybe it’s the tiredness as I write this, but I am slightly lost for words as to describe how amazing this last week was. 

Neil, Poppy, Matt, Ryan, and Catherine, along with everyone else who came, you really allowed each and every one of us to create something special this week, something I’ll never forget. Thank you. 

To see more of Thomas’ work check out his portfolio here