Tamara Cruz always envisioned herself living in New York City when she was a kid. So, her manifestations came true when she did just that at 22 years old.
Ask any recent college graduate and they’ll tell you that finding a job is not easy. The struggle to find that perfect fit with the best benefits is real, which leads most to bring their aspirations for work down to reality. We all want what we dreamt of in our school “when I grow up essays,” but the truth is, that doesn’t always happen. When it does though, boy, does it feel so damn good. Conversely, finding a job abroad, and actually getting to live in that city is a goal many aspire to achieve. Often, these dreams take years to manifest, but for 22-year-old Tamara Cruz, the moment happened a few months after she graduated college.
Growing up, she always saw herself living and working in New York City. And that dream became a reality when she moved alone to the Big Apple at the beginning of 2022 to start a new job working at a major media company. NYLON Manila recently chatted with Tamara to talk about her big move, what it’s like to live her dreams, living alone in another country, and much more.
They say manifestation is real. And for Tamara Cruz, she’s been diligently doing so since she was young. “Since I was a kid, I knew that I wanted to live in New York. I already knew that I wanted to live there just based on like, movies, music, fashion, and the like. Everything I loved was here. So, I really made it a goal of mine to move. I always just saw my future here when I would envision it in my head.”
Born and raised in Manila, Tamara is no stranger to the city that never sleeps. She’s visited the city once before while on vacation with her family. But while it is one thing to dream, it’s another to make it a reality. She graduated with a degree in Communication from Ateneo de Manila University in 2021 as the pandemic greatly shifted her plans of moving abroad. “I always knew that my plan in my head was always after college I move here. But it was really hard for me because of the timeline of everything, I think, for everyone, COVID really changed a lot of things. So, that was something that was harder for me, because, you know, it’s like still the pandemic, it’s still going on.”
SETTING UP FOR NEW YORK
But with her supportive parents behind her, Tamara felt that she could make it abroad. “[My parents] told me that I needed to find a job before I moved, because they’re not gonna pay for everything for me. They wanted me to be able to support myself and figure it out on my own.” It is important to note that Tamara’s dad is a US citizen while she herself is a Green Card holder, so her job search was able to proceed pretty smoothly. But just because she had that going for her, that doesn’t mean she got accepted right away.
By her count, Tamara applied for more than 100 jobs and going through numerous job hunting sites. All were either no response or a rejection. While still in Manila, she had a part time marketing job that was work from home as she continued her job search. “I fixed my resume, made it good, and honestly applied to whatever I could. I still tried to stay in the general field that I like, which is communications, like media advertising, marketing, the things that I’m really interested in and wanted to pursue. So, I kept it within that field. But at some point, I was like, getting pretty hopeless.”
In January 2022, she flew to Los Angeles to join the rest of her family. At the time, her job hunt was still a bust, and at one point, she thought that she would be moving to New York unemployed. But it seems as if luck was on her side. While in LA, a family friend informed them of a job opening at media company in New York. “It was just one of those things that I had a good feeling about, you know, when you have a feeling in your stomach, like your gut feel. So, I just kept having that positive energy. And I made sure to do really well, in my interview, like I prepared really well. I studied, I researched on the company, I took down notes for myself, and practiced.”
Tamara applied and while she was at LAX waiting for her flight to NYC, she got the call from HR saying that she got the job. “I couldn’t believe it, because my prayers were finally answered and things were finally falling into place.”
THE BIG MOVE
In February 2022, she moved to NYC and began working at her job a month after. She currently works for a media agency under Group M and is as part of their investment team. She works with brands like Uber, Uber Eats, and Postmates, and determines where to place their ads on digital and TV platforms. This is actually her first time she’s held a corporate job. ”It’s really cool. I’ve never been in this job before, so I’m learning a lot. And it’s actually really fun.” Her office is located at the World Trade Center in Downtown Manhattan, around a 30 minute trip from her apartment in Brooklyn when using public transportation.
While Tamara is sometimes required to be in the office, her job also brings her to many parties around the city. And during her free time, she gets to explore the many wonders and hidden spots of New York City. Along the way, she also shares her NYC adventures on her TikTok account, which has grown a small following of 12.8 thousand people eager to follow a fresh graduate from the Philippines take on New York City.
“There were a few struggles in the start, in all aspects, like moving, getting an apartment, being really far away from family and friends, being really lonely,” Tamara shares on her first few days in NYC. “Thankfully, I have a really good support system back home. I’m close to a lot of Filipinos who also live here. I feel like we all hang out with each other because you know, it’s a sense of like, home. And I just, I can say that now that it’s been like about five months, I’m happier because it’s also summer. I feel like I’m more settled in now than I was before.”
REALITIES OF LIVING ALONE
Getting to live abroad, especially in your dream city is a life achievement for many. The fact that Tamara got to do it at just 22 is even more impressive. But the realities of living along quickly set in, especially when it comes to her finances. Life isn’t always a fairy tale and you need to pay your bills. Living your life in one of the most expensive cities in the world is not easy nor cheap. Luckily, Tamara has been able to manage her finances well enough to get by.
“I’m still learning the spot of like, being able to not overspend on things that I don’t need. But I’m really lucky that I can pay for my rent, my utilities, my groceries, all of that and still be able to spend for going out with friends shopping, eating out, and drinking. This is still my first office job. So I’m not earning a lot, but I’m earning enough to be able to live and survive here. I’m really thankful for that.”
One thing Tamara also expressed about the downside to her situation is that safety is a big concern for her. As a young Asian woman living alone in New York City, she’s well aware of the risks she puts herself in, especially with the spike in Asian hate crimes in America. “There’s so much news out there about crimes happening around and like, that’s such a big thing for me, like, especially being an Asian woman. I always try to be aware of with my surroundings. And I always have my guard up because you just never know. I think that’s something that scares me, especially like walking alone at night. So, I make sure to always have pepper spray with me. My location is always shared with my loved ones just in case.”
But despite all that and the pressures of living alone in a big and foreign city, Tamara can confidently say that she’s living her dream. “I really do feel so grateful to be here. Not everyone can get the chance to live here, you know? So, I always try to like, shift my perspective, whenever I find myself like complaining about something. I’m just starting off, but I’m already here. And it’s only gonna go up from here. I’m gonna work my way up to a nicer apartment and things like that. But for the most part, I’m super grateful.”
So, now that Tamara is finally living in New York City, has her image of the Big Apple changed from how she saw it as a kid? “I think it’s exactly what I thought it would be. Again, it may seem so cliche, but when I talk about New York with other people, it’s really not overrated. Like, it really is as magical and as fun and nice as you think at this.”
To that end, she cites the city’s multi-claim as one of her favorite parts about New York. There’s just so much culture everywhere you go. “Everyone looks different. Everyone is from different places. I find that just so like mind blowing.” And with getting to experience all the city has to offer, she also loves how most parts of NYC are easily accessible. “A big part of New York for me is that you don’t need to own a car. It’s so easy to go around to any part of the city.
THE DREAM JOB
While she is indeed living in New York, what thought she was going to do is another thing. “I think as a kid, I always thought that I would be performing. Yeah, I would be on Broadway or singing, which doesn’t mean that I can’t do it anymore. But it’s different now that I’m actually in a corporate job. I never thought that I would actually be working in an office. Even if it’s not performing, I’d say that I was still true to myself because it’s still media.”
And as she sees it, while she has now achieved step one of living in New York, she’s now working on step two, finding that dream job. “I’m still looking for that. I know that what I’m doing right now is not what I’ll be doing until I retire. I honestly don’t know what I want to be doing as my dream job. But I think that like early 20s, 30s is, you know, where you figure that out? I’m not pressuring myself, but I would love to try new things along the way. But that is still TBD.”
MAKING IT A REALITY
As Tamara Cruz continues to live and build her life in New York City, these are her words of wisdom for people looking for follow her path in living that dream. “First of all, you have to be very brave. You just have to do it. And you just have to accept that. Like, if you really want it so bad, then you just have to make it happen. And just bite the bullet. I know, it’s easier said than done. But yeah, I feel like there’s more opportunities here.”
She adds, “never stop applying the jobs. I applied to like hundreds, maybe even like 115 jobs. But then I got my job now. It can be discouraging, especially if you don’t get any interviews. But I mean, you really need a job to be able to survive here. So, I’d say that’s really step one, especially if you want to be independent and take the lead in planning for yourself and doing all these little things.”
Finally, Tamara shares that while the road to achieving that dream may not be easy, everything happens for a reason. “Whatever is meant to be, will be. And not everything is what it seems. You know, social media, you post like your best side, your best. But of course, there are also hardships of course there. There’s also loneliness and struggles. Despite that, I’m still super happy to be here and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. So, whatever is meant to happen will happen for you.”
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