New York Dolls: 4 Irish Women On Why They Made The Move To The Big Apple
We've all thought about it - these women did it.
Galway girl Michaela O’Shaughnessy, 26, has lived in New York for three years – she now works for Teen Vogue, and gets to rub shoulders with celebs at events like the Met Gala
“When I was in college, I spent two summers in NYC working internships trying to learn as much as possible about the digital marketing field. When I graduated, I felt a pull back to the city and thought it would be a great place to gain experience that I couldn’t get at home at the time. From finding a place to live to landing that dream job, everything is so competitive and you’re up against some of the most talented people in the world for every position. But once you get on your feet, you really start to remember why you moved here.
I’m the Social Media Manager at Teen Vogue – working in social media is a 24/7 job and there really is no such thing as ever truly ‘switching off’. But on the plus side, I’ve had some really wonderful opportunities to cover events like the Grammys, the VMAs, and New York Fashion Week, as well as working with some really incredible people.
It took me about a year to feel truly settled. It’s very different from Ireland because there’s always something going on and the pace of life is just quicker in general. While there have been so many highlights since I moved here three years ago, I have to say that landing my first job with MTV and then getting my current job at Teen Vogue were two moments that I’ll never forget.
I’ve always been a real home bird but moving away from Ireland has given me an even deeper appreciation for Irish people and the culture back home. I think living in New York has made me feel even more connected to my Irish identity, it’s the first thing I tell someone about myself when I meet them! Luckily there are so many Irish living in the city that I have a couple of friends to talk to whenever those homesick days creep up on me.
I definitely miss my family, friends and dogs back home. I try to make it home twice a year to visit, but the goodbyes never get easier for me. Thankfully FaceTime makes the distance a little more bearable. Other than that, I really miss the food and fresh air! at might seem a little random but the first thing I do whenever I step o the plane back home is take in a huge breath of fresh Irish air.”
Dreams of yellow cabs and skyscrapers brought freelance journalist Orlaith Farrell, 35, to the Big Apple, where she’s lived for six years
“I’d always wanted to live in New York and had a now or never moment around six years ago. I was motivated by all of the cliches… late nights in yellow cabs, skyscrapers, the pace. I wonder now if I knew how hard it was going to be, would I still have made the move… I like to think yes. A lot of Irish who come here slot right in but I found the transition hard and it took me a while to adapt. Personally and professionally, you’re starting from scratch. It’s an expensive and stressful city to try and navigate. Getting to know it and its idiosyncrasies takes time. If you’re considering it, try to have as much as possible organised before you arrive and bring plenty of savings.
When I moved here, I heard someone use the term ‘urban family’ and I don’t think I’ve ever rolled my eyes as hard but I appreciate that sentiment now. One of the main highlights has definitely been the friends I’ve made. I always think it’s hard to talk about New York without sounding cheesy… but I love the seasons, getting to experience a proper winter and summer.
Watching the campaign and run up to the Eighth Amendment referendum was stressful and frustrating. Like most of our group, I’d lost the right to vote 18 months a er I left. I’m very proud to be Irish, and was even prouder following the landslide Yes vote. My identity is definitely defined by being Irish, the language also comes in really handy when you want to talk about other people on the subway. My friend group is a mix of Irish, English, Australian and American but mostly Irish. None of us set out to make Irish friends but you naturally gravitate towards each other, with a sense of shared experience and a common appreciation of a hot chicken roll.
My parents come and visit at least once a year and I’m lucky enough to get home a few times too but it doesn’t compare to being in Dublin. The main thing I miss beyond that is food. Is is terrible if I don’t say I miss something cultural and answer truthfully that it’s probably the sausages? But I’m always excited to get back to New York. I probably miss the accessibility of the city, everything is so close and available. You get conditioned to be lazy and demanding. It’s nice to get out and get home to Ireland every so often too – so I really get the best of both worlds.”
35 year-old Cavan native Gemma Sherlock (AKA the Scarlet Bob) has been a New Yorker for over three years, and is inspired by the creative energy of the city
“I get asked why I came here all the time and my answer is always the same – the dream. The city draws a particular type of person – the bravest, most relentless, determined, resilient people you will ever meet. It’s a cut-throat place to live for sure, but on the plus side, the aforementioned crazy ambitious people will also become your friends. I found that it took a good two years to hit my stride and figure out how to successfully live in New York – by that I mean how to get around without checking the subway map every five minutes, what neighbourhoods to live in, and build a network of real friends.
I’m a creative director, stylist and writer so the number one part of my job is coming up with ideas, followed swiftly by hustling to bring them to fruition. I never fully understood what the term ‘hustling’ meant until I moved here. You need to get the work done not only accurately but FAST. Then it’s on to the next thing. ere have been many highlights – my first day sitting on my fire escape having a cup of tea (Barry’s Gold Blend, always), my first day crying on the subway, Patricia Field shouting ‘It’s my long lost daughter!’ when she saw me on the street, as we both have red hair. I even met Iris Apfel. Many of my friends have picked up very Irish phrases from me; It’s funny to hear my Russian-American best friend saying things like ‘yer man’.
I miss my family, friends and my parents’ dog. I miss the quiet of the countryside and how straightforward people are. People in New York can be so complex – especially the men. I miss the craic and great pints of Guinness and being able to talk using my native lexicon. Irish chocolate is always on the miss list – I get anxiety when I’m down to my last Wispas.
I love coming home, but after a couple of weeks I begin to get antsy for NY. It’s hard going back because you have the guilt about what you’re missing at home – parents getting older, your friends’ children growing up… but when you’ve got ambitions, you have to go to the place in which anything seems possible.”
Elaine Caffrey, 29, moved from Dublin to NY over a year ago, and now has a high-flying digital marketing job
“Like a lot of people, living in New York was always an idea that floated in and out of my head. While I was working in Dublin I completed my second masters at night, which meant I had the option to apply for a working visa in the US. I felt if I didn’t do it now I never would and I had passed on the opportunity before, so I wasn’t going to do that this time.
Like most Irish people, I came over completely on my own with no job, no place to live, and no family here. You really have to put yourself out there and be willing to go to every single networking event. The most difficult thing was getting a job that I wanted. I had left an amazing position at home for the reason of improving myself and looking for a challenge. It’s tempting to take a role just for the security of having a job, but I knew if I did take the ones I was offered in the beginning it would be difficult to look for a more established position. So there were a lot of $1 pizza slice dinners at the start while I knocked on a lot of doors for the bigger roles.
I now manage the digital marketing strategy and social media activation for the beauty company Maesa, which includes brands like FLOWER Beauty by Drew Barrymore. It’s been tough of course, but I’ve loved it all and learned a lot about myself. Getting to travel around the US with my role is amazing too, I’ve been to some places I never thought I would and get to do it all with an incredible team. Of course, working alongside Drew Barrymore is insane, but that goes without saying!
I’m a firm believer that you’re never more Irish than when you’re away from home. It’s only when you go away that you realise how amazing our little country is and how much Irish people are loved over here. In work, I’m the only Irish person, so it’s all a novelty – but outside of that I’ve a mix of American and Irish friends who are my family over here now.
‘eI miss my family, friends and food. I think everyone says that though, right? With the girls at home I wake up to some hilarious WhatsApp threads that keep me in the loop, so it keeps you going. That and having people coming over with a stash of King’ crisps.”
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