“My mom was like, ‘You should definitely experience the city, be on your own,’” said Ms. Dimaano, now 21 and a senior. “I wasn’t going to say ‘no.’ If the opportunity arises to live in Manhattan, you take it.”
Born and raised in Queens, Ms. Dimaano had long fantasized about moving to Manhattan, a once-common rite of passage for outer-borough natives. “I liked the idea that you could do different things every day, have a different adventure every day,” she said.
While Manhattan’s attractions were just a 50-minute subway ride away, they had always been weekend excursions, not activities embroidered into the daily fabric of Ms. Dimaano’s life. Her strongest impressions of the city, in fact, were from watching sitcoms like “Friends” and “Seinfeld.”
“I loved watching TV and I wanted to be in the city where all these characters were,” Ms. Dimaano said. “It’s pretty cool to say I go to school in the city. I can take a lunch break in Central Park, go to Times Square if I’m bored.”
Still, she cautioned: “It’s definitely not as easy as it looks on TV. There are more struggles with grocery shopping, trying to find the most bang for your buck. And it’s not as picturesque.”
Among the early challenges: cooking. As Hunter is primarily a commuter school, there are no dining halls.
“I lived off hot pockets for the first two months until I physically got sick of them,” said Ms. Dimaano, whose cooking repertoire now includes baked fish; chicken Parmesan; spaghetti; and a few Filipino dishes, like bangus (fried milkfish) and sinigang (a tangy soup), which her parents taught her how to cook on visits home.
The floor’s communal kitchen is also its primary hangout spot. “People will say, ‘Maybe this is the heat you should cook that at,’” Ms. Dimaano said. “We all try to help each other out when we’re cooking because we don’t want anyone to eat burned food.”
Ms. Dimaano’s current room is a corner single which, she suspects, may be slightly larger than a non-corner room, though she can’t get anyone to confirm this. Larger or not, it’s still pretty small, so she maximizes space by putting her bed beneath the window, opposite the door, a furniture configuration she hit upon last year.
While the rooms at the 92nd Street Y are fairly uniform — save for an accent wall in each that is painted pistachio green, orange or a purplish blue — the views are quite different and Ms. Dimaano loves hers. It is very much an urban view, engaging rather than eagle-eyed, with buildings of varying heights and styles. On a recent December evening the windows outside were glowing to life as the daylight faded.
Like Manhattan itself, living at the 92nd Street Y can be an exercise in extremes, with residents becoming equally at ease with celebrity sightings and communal bathrooms.
Besides steeply discounted tickets to star-studded events downstairs, the more spartan aspects of dorm life are leavened by free membership to the building’s gym. Ms. Dimaano and her friends visit its sauna when they’re feeling “super-stressed.” She also keeps a pair of boxing gloves hanging by her door for use in the gym’s mini boxing room.
But her favorite thing about the 92nd Street Y is its community. “Everyone on the floor hangs out together outside the dorm, spends snow days together,” Ms. Dimaano said. “And we all support each other. The best thing is when I come home people will be like, ‘Hey, how was your day?’ or ‘How did that paper go?’ ”
Last year, Ms. Dimaano thought she would have to leave that community because maintaining a G.P.A. above 3.5 was a requirement for keeping her scholarship and hers had slipped below. But then her resident assistant, who was graduating, suggested that she apply for the position since it comes with free housing. Her floor mates, who helped her make the requisite application video, said that they couldn’t imagine living there without her.
“I wanted to come back to this building badly, but I thought I wouldn’t be placed here,” Ms. Dimaano said, explaining that it is rare for R.A.s to get positions on their old floors. “When I found out that I was, I actually cried and hugged my mom.”
She will, however, be moving out for good this spring, when she graduates. For the next chapter of her education — she has applied to a master’s program in mental health counseling at Hunter — she’ll be commuting from her parents’ house in Queens.
“A lot of us have debated sharing a three-bedroom or something,” she said. “I’d rather wait until I’m self-sufficient.”
Having spent the last three summers at home, she knows that it will take some time to adjust to the loss of Manhattan conveniences. One of the things she’ll miss most? “Getting a slice of pizza at 3 a.m.”