How young people in New York City find their place in the world

By Casey Carrasco, CNN • Updated 28th September 2015

New York City is a melting pot of people from around the world. The Statue of Liberty was erected in 1886 by Italians who came to America for a better chance in life and the national anthem is sung in more than a dozen languages.

It was our sister network CNN’s Travel series “Big City, Small City” that helped shape the features of the CNN website. Of particular interest to this series is the on-the-ground experiences of young people in the cities they call home.

CNN explores a range of cities with stories of young people trying to find their own path in their communities and in the world.

We’ve traveled to New York City, London, Doha, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Bogota, London, Amsterdam, Toronto, Tokyo, Shanghai, St. Petersburg, Dublin, Melbourne, Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Philadelphia, Fort Worth, Houston, San Francisco, Phoenix, Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Nashville, Honolulu, Nashville, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Portland, Frankfurt, Berlin, Stockholm, Toronto, Ottawa, Berlin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Munich, Brussels, Venice, Madrid, Nairobi, Rome, Paris, Taipei, Jerusalem, and to Hanoi.

While the cities we chose are diverse in history, size, and population, they all share many of the same socioeconomic issues and challenges, ranging from extreme poverty and homelessness to extreme gang violence and distrust between police and the community.

Many of the issues were challenging for the young people we talked to, and as we traveled around the world and met with young people, we struggled to make our own decisions about what we saw. Each city has its unique characteristics, challenges and opportunities, and the students we met with said many of the same things:


New York City: America’s biggest city has been ranked one of the “worst places to be black” for more than a decade, but New York has also been heralded as the city that never sleeps, with 24-hour programming, exciting nightlife, celebrities, and countless sports teams. However, despite its wealth, living in New York has some challenges. Take a look inside the lives of five recent high school graduates in America’s biggest city.

London: An influx of students and permanent residents from Eastern Europe, India, and beyond moved to London as it became one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Like many cities, the living situation for many young people in London isn’t ideal and the high rents and shortage of homes can make it difficult to find a safe and affordable place to live.

Mexico City: In an attempt to revitalize its image, the capital of Mexico City added a number of new events to its bustling nightlife. During our visit, the Biennial Arts Festival brought hundreds of performers to the city to change the perception of the capital as a war zone. Take a look inside the life of four young artists who now call Mexico City home.

Bogota: The capital of Colombia is like a microcosm of the world: more like big city USA than the dreamy environments of romantic France. We talk to young people about life in the sprawls of a big city. Take a look inside the lives of a pair of young people who live in Colombia’s capital.

In the Philippines, we interview four young artists who now call the “Philippine Disney” home, referring to the one-of-a-kind neighborhood of Manila.

In China, we learn the truth about China’s miracle economy, and follow an ambitious Chinese teenager as he balances college classes with his budding career as a fitness promoter and filmmaker.

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