Syma Raza, Midwest Expat

Since my experience away from the Midwest was such an interesting time for myself, I often think about other people who have left the Midwest and what their experiences are like. I decided to launch a series called "Midwest Expat" where I chat with a Midwesterner who has moved elsewhere to see how their Midwest is showing.

Syma Raza was one of the first people I met in New York City. We both had interned for the company that I moved to NYC to work for, and we were both from the Midwest, so we had a lot in common right off the bat. We often crossed each other's paths for work events – Syma and the whole PR team at American Eagle and Aerie were some of my favorite people to work with. She's still killing the game in the city, so I thought it would be fun to catch up with her and get her take on being a Midwesterner in New York.

My Midwest Is Showing: What is your hometown, and where do you live now? How long have you lived there?

Syma Raza: Fort Wayne, Indiana for 20 years until I moved to Bloomington, IN to attend Indiana University – Go, Hoosiers! I moved to NYC three weeks after I graduated from IU and have been here for 5 years and counting!

MMWIS: Tell me about your amazing job. What does it entail?

SR: I'm the Associate Manager of PR for American Eagle and Aerie. I also blog on fashion and beauty at

Everyday is different! We work with all types of media outlets. From magazines, websites, broadcast and social media. We also work with celebrities and social influencers for key initiatives to generate buzz for the brand. We also do a variety of events throughout the year which can be super exciting.

MMWIS: What's your lifestyle like? Describe a typical day.

SR: I get into the office and have 'coffee time' with my team - it's a great daily tradition. Then it's a day of working with fashion editors on e-mail and seeing what types of stories they're working on. They request product from us to do photoshoots on upcoming stories, and we try our best to get them the best product. We also work on pitching the brand out depending on what our latest focus is. Usually a typical work day has a mix of meetings with internal and external partners. Always busy!

Our team is small but mighty. We are unique within the company that we work on both brands, American Eagle and Aerie which keeps things interesting and us constantly brainstorming!

MMWIS: Favorite thing about where you live now?

SR: I love the energy of New York and the people I meet. It's such an interesting city with so many different people from all over the world. Everyone is so driven and works really hard. You have to really love the fast pace to stick around. It's not for everyone but I knew I always needed to be here to start my career in fashion.

MMWIS: What do you miss most about the Midwest?

SR: I definitely miss my family! My parents and siblings are all in a long distance relationship. I wish we were closer.

Also, the convenience of driving around and running errands. The cost of living I also reminisce about. Ooh and a good mall. Malls are the best. :)

MMWIS: What don't you miss?

SR: It's hard to say what I don't miss. I loved growing up in Indiana – it's all I ever knew. 

MMWIS: What's something you know now that you didn't know living in the Midwest?

SR: How the cost of living is so drastically different depending on where you live. I didn't pay attention growing up because I was a kid, but now my dad loves to remind me how my NY rent is twice what most people's mortgage in Fort Wayne is.

Also, I didn't know a washer/dryer in unit was such a luxury lifestyle! It's hard to come by here.

MMWIS: How does your Midwest show in your new location?

SR: I think it has helped me stay nice. I do not get caught up in being rude to people. I think it is so important to treat people with respect and how you would like to be treated. I also think it can show in my work ethic. All I ever wanted was a career in fashion, and I worked really hard to get here. I knew once I got to New York I had to do anything I could to succeed and not look back. I was 23 and hungry for anything! I think that motivated me and really continues to stay with me daily.

MMWIS: Do you think you will ever live in the Midwest again?

SR: I wouldn't completely rule it out but New York has my heart right now.

Be sure to check out Syma Speaks, and stay up to date with Syma on Instagram!

Photography credit: Christina Émilie