Your Commute to School: Apps, Playlists, and Tips for Grad Students commuting to NYU

Attending a university with a campus spread out all over New York City can be tough if your undergraduate was a tight-knit college campus like mine was. BUT, living in the city has helped me find joys in the little routines of my new grad student life.

Like many people just moving into the city, my eyes sparkled at all the mundane NYC tropes: rats crawling through the subway, the smell of hot dog carts on the sidewalk, and being yelled at by strangers across the street. Even after almost a year of living in New York, one of my favorite parts of city life is still the commute. Whether it’s taking the NYU shuttle (free with your NYU ID card!) to class or riding the train back home after a long day of work, I always love to plug in my earphones to either people watch or just sit in my own little world-- even if only just for a second!

For this blog post, I am going to share some of my personal favorite tips for making the commute to and from NYU just a tad more enjoyable.


As a Music Business Master’s student at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, my favorite thing in life has always been music. I’m a huge nerd when it comes to organizing my playlists, showing up to concerts by myself, and just geeking out with other music nerds about what’s going on in hip-hop, indie rock, new jazz, music technology, and everything else! Although I keep most of my playlists to myself, I’m happy to share my daily commuting playlist here (even though it changes from day-to-day). I’ll always be the one to encourage others to branch out from those same 10 songs/artists you have on repeat.

A Bitmoji image of Kelley singing with a cup of coffee in her hand.


Adding onto my music obsession, I’m also a burgeoning podcast lover. A lot of my music knowledge comes from shows like NPR’s All Songs Considered, Song Exploder, Spotify’s Dissect and Deja Vu, the New York Times Popcast, the Joe Budden Podcast, and KEXP Presents Music That Matters. I also help produce NYU’s own podcast called Musonomics, led by the head of my department, Larry Miller. For those of you more interested in different podcast genres out there, I’d also recommend checking out some of the other amazing shows out there.

My personal favorite? WNYC’s Radiolab-- this show has unbelievable audio production and storytelling tactics that make you feel like you’re right there in the recording studio, even when you’re really just on the loud and creaky L train. They cover HUGE concepts spanning from tear-jerking stories about love, to the science of colors, to hair-raising war narratives in world history. Another favorite of mine is Hannibal Buress: Handsome Rambler, hosted by the comedic partner of The Eric Andre Show. Hannibal brings on great music, comedy, and acting guests like Jon Hamm, Mitski, Chris Rock, Jake Johnson, Chance the Rapper, and more.

Other podcasts I’d recommend are 2 Dope Queens (of course), Bodega Boys (from the beautiful Bronx), Harmontown (from the creator of Community and Rick and Morty), Inside Trader Joe’s (surprisingly great?), the New York Times’ Still Processing (insightful identity issues), Strangers (stories on random strangers’ lives), and a million others! I’d also suggest reading some “best podcasts” lists to get a better idea of finding one that will keep you awake.

A Bitmoji image of Kelley dancing on a piano.


Sometimes you wake up to go to work or class and your brain just isn’t working. When this happens, I plug in my earphones, pick a song, and just scroll through my phone. It’s not a crime-- we all do this! I try my best not to get addicted to games like Candy Crush or TwoDots, and instead try to catch up on the news or latest events going on in the city.

I subscribe to the New York Times newspaper and also use the app fairly regularly. It’s great for the commute because you can download articles for offline travel (like when the train is moving between stations and you lose cell service), get local city news updates, and pick and choose which areas interest you most (e.g., politics, sustainability, music, film, op-eds, food, etc.).

I also use apps like Bandsintown, Songkick, and (I hate to admit it but) also Facebook events for my daily fix on new concert announcements. I like to keep up to date on anything from Travis Scott playing at Madison Square Garden or smaller shows in Brooklyn at some of my favorite venues/clubs like The Bell House, Baby’s All Right, Elsewhere, Output, Warsaw, Brooklyn Steel, Union Hall, and all kinds of great bars that put on live music.

Simple Radio is also a great commuting tool to listen to radio stations from all across the world-- usable only when you’re above ground (aka MTA bus, NYU shuttle, or walking)!

A Bitmoji image of Kelley thinking about what apps to use on her phone.


On those days where I feel on top of it, like I can take the initiative to start my day and week off right, I do my best to get some recreational reading done on the train. For lots of us in the city, this is easier said than done, but that’s why we make New Year's resolutions to forget later on.


Here are some of the books I’ve read during my time in NYC on my commutes:

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

The Future of Capitalism by Paul Collier

Hawaii’s Queen by Hawaii’s Queen, Liliuokalani

Demian by Hermann Hesse

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris


And something for the music geeks out there too!

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth)

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Equipment for Living: On Poetry and Pop Music by Michael Robbins

The White Album by Joan Didion

Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay-Z by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar

Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin

She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Joan Morgan


A Bitmoji image of Kelley running out of a classroom.

And, now you're ready to face your commute! Definitely don’t be discouraged to live off-campus in further neighborhoods (like Brooklyn, Jersey, Harlem, Queens, etc.) where the rent is cheaper, the food is better, and the trains have express routes! Don’t forget to also take advantage of student discounts for services like Spotify and Apple Music.

Always push yourself out of your comfort zone, but always with great care, self-love, and thoughtfulness. Consume your content wisely and take care of yourselves!! :^)


A Bitmoji image of Kelley "bowing."