I’ve left Manhattan after weeks of self-isolation. This was not how I had envisaged it when I arrived to study at Columbia. I imagined receiving my degree on a glorious day in mid-May, thousands of us wearing our gowns proudly. All the ceremonies, parties, and anticipation of what comes next.

Today’s reality is different, but I take it. Casual dress, still two finals to go, but all of my belongings either on their way or already unpacked. No graduation ceremony, no excitement about the future. Just a sense of relief. A sense that life will return to normal. Not the normal we used to know, but a different normal that is up to us to define.

I’ve learned a lot during my time in New York. No just by studying the more obscure ways in which we all try to get along on a little speck of dirt, called earth. I’ve also learned a lot about people; myself included. So at the risk of pissing some of my readers off, here are the top 10 things I’ve learned while I was at Columbia; or New York more generally.

Whatever you think is wrong with people or society, there are really smart people working on it. Unfortunately, nature is way smarter than we are.

Kink isn’t limited to people who consider themselves kinky. Most people consider their kinks to be perfectly normal.

Sex is a commodity. It’s great to enjoy like sugar or spice. But it can also be addictive, abusive, and repulsive.

People are the same, but societies are different. The way my friends would describe me here would be totally different from my reputation in Berlin.

If you have a chance to go to school in the US, take it. Whether it’s the academic life, the intellectual curiosity, or the kind of research people do, it’s worth it.

New Yorkers stick together. I’ve seen more sides of Manhattan (sorry about leaving out the other boroughs) than I can describe. New Yorkers don’t give a fuck about each other, except when they need to. Then they’re like glue.

A good blow-job still works. Men are obsessed with blow-jobs. That seems to be one global universal constant.

Casual sex needs a name here. Whether it’s ‘friends with benefits’, or ‘one-night stand’, it seems impossible to just be friends and let it go where it goes. Relax people!

When it comes to fetishes, Americans suck. No self-respecting fetish model in Europe would wear the kind of fetish items that celebrities wear here. Yes, Kim, that includes you. Get a decent custom cut and don’t forget to make it shine!

America is a unique country, impossible to understand, infuriating to listen to, and brilliant in making the most of a heap of crap.

This doesn’t seem like a very impressive list of accomplishments. I have a feeling that much more has sunk in that I will only come to appreciate when this crazy time is over. For now, I’m glad to have left Manhattan. It’s nice to be able to go outside, see some grass, flowers, and a sky that doesn’t include skyscrapers.

Still, I know that I will miss New York. For now, though, I’m glad to just breathe. Digesting what life in a dying city will have done to me has to wait for a while.