Ivelisse Urea, 18

Third Ave between 42nd and 43rd Sts.

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Photograph: Jay Muhlin

What do you do? I'm in college at New York City College, and I'm also a hostess at the restaurant Sinigual.

Where are you from? I came here four years ago from the Dominican Republic. Oh my goodness, I miss it a lot. It's hard when you come to a country and it's not your language, it's not your lifestyle. In the Dominican Republic, there's always time for you to go out. You can meet with your family, have dinner; you can get together and get a guitar and start singing. But here, everybody has limited time. So the transition shocked me.

Welcome to New York. Why did you come? My mom got married.

How did you feel as a 14-year-old leaving home for your mother's relationship? You know, me and my mom, we pass through so many things that I think she deserves happiness.

That's generous of you. I think you should have somebody to enjoy when you're getting old, when gray hair is coming out. I'm kind of romantic. [Laughs] She worked so much in her twenties and thirties. She was always trying to make me as happy.

Seems like she succeeded. Yes, she did. I have so many nice memories. When I was young, I used to go to college with her and fall asleep when she was taking her classes.

So this is your second time in college. Yes, yes! I say I graduated with her in psychology.

No wonder you're so mature. [Laughs] Ay. What can I say?

More from Ivelisse

"I love to read, especially romantic books. I read those famous—maybe childish?—books, the Twilight Saga. I read all four of them so fast. I was going to sleep so late every night."

"How do American boys compare to Dominican boys? You know, it doesn't really matter where they come from because every country has their good and bad. It's the same everywhere you go."

"I really want to stay focused. I want to do all my work and get some money so that I can pay my tuition. Even at the beginning, when I was a freshman in high school, I had that goal. I said, I'm not going to see the results now, but I will see it in the future. In the future, I will be more comfortable, and if I have a family, they will be more comfortable, too. I want to go back to the Dominican Republic one day, maybe to live, but not right now. Once I start something, I really want to finish it."

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