Julia Stevens moved to San Francisco in August.
Courtesy of Julia Stevens
Julia Stevens moved to San Francisco after visiting friends there and falling in love with it.She landed a new job and moved from Raleigh, North Carolina, with her partner in August.She says she isn’t concerned about safety and enjoys the outdoor activities but pays higher prices.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Julia Stevens, a 25-year-old who recently moved to San Francisco. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I was born and raised in Raleigh and started building my adult life there when I landed a job after college. Even though I loved it, I always dreamed of moving away from home and living in a big city.
I was open to living anywhere as long as it was in the US and I had friends nearby.
In August 2022, a few of my college friends who’d moved to San Francisco invited me to visit them.
I’d never been to San Francisco and didn’t know much about it
I’d heard SF was home to many technology companies and the oldest Chinatown in America. The day I got there, I was flabbergasted. I’d traveled in Europe during college; even still, San Francisco was the most beautiful and striking place I’d ever seen.
Candy-colored houses, the Pacific Ocean, and mountains in the distance surrounded me. My friends took me to popular spots like Dolores Park and Golden Gate Park, and people my age were everywhere. During that trip, I decided to move there.
In August 2023, I unpacked my boxes and started a new job in the city I fell in love with. Even though there’s talk about how SF has become a ghost town and is unsafe, I’ve had a different experience.
San Francisco was perfect for the career path I wanted to take
I majored in English and minored in environmental science. My first few jobs were for nonprofits, but I always aimed to work in communications in the climate-change and sustainability space.
SF has a big focus on climate, clean energy, and sustainability. Many companies like this are headquartered here because the state is known for its progressive policies. I knew that moving to this city would help further my career.
In May, I started applying for jobs. The process felt long, and I applied to dozens. In August, I landed a job at a PR agency focusing on cleantech, healthtech, and edtech.
Finding a job in a city I didn’t live in yet was challenging, but I included my intent to move to San Francisco in my cover letters and interviews. I also changed my location on LinkedIn from Raleigh to San Francisco so recruiters would be less confused by my profile.
I didn’t let the news affect my decision to move to San Francisco
I heard the news about SF struggling to recover after the pandemic. I was aware of the increasing homeless population, crime rates, and the amount of people struggling with addiction. I didn’t feel like these things made the city a bad place, and I understand that cities nationwide have similar problems.
It did make me a little nervous to move from a place like Raleigh, where the crime rate is low. But even in Raleigh I took safety precautions. I avoid walking by myself late at night, take rideshares home after a night out on the weekend, and am generally aware of my surroundings.
I don’t think the answer is pretending these problems don’t exist in San Francisco. I educated myself, and I’m interested in finding a community-based mutual-aid organization to volunteer with.
Moving across the country was easy because I didn’t have a lot
I moved with my partner, who also found a job here. Since we’re in our early 20s, we don’t have a lot of possessions or investment pieces. We offloaded our furniture to friends and sold items on Facebook Marketplace, then packed everything in our car and drove ourselves.
It was hard to look for apartments online without seeing them in person. I didn’t want to get scammed, so we stayed in an Airbnb for a month and explored different neighborhoods and apartments.
We used Zillow, Craigslist, and Facebook to find good deals and found the winner on Zillow. We’re paying nearly twice as much as we did in North Carolina, but I did receive a salary increase that reflects the higher cost of living here.
There’s a lot I love about this city that makes it better than Raleigh
I think SF is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Though Raleigh is very green, the Bay Area has stunning grassy hills, redwood trees, and native succulents that make it unique.
I’m outdoorsy and enjoy nature, and there are so many opportunities to go for hikes or explore towns nearby like Half Moon Bay or Santa Cruz.
I’m also in a food paradise here. I’m close to some of the best Szechuan, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mexican, El Salvadorian, Eritrean, Taiwanese, Italian, Filipino, French, Arab, Burmese, and new American food I’ve ever had.
While my boyfriend and I share a car, we rarely use it. In Raleigh, you have to drive everywhere. Here, there are bus and subway systems. San Francisco is also one of the most bike-friendly cities in America, though I don’t have a bike yet.
The cost of living is the biggest downside
I wasn’t fully prepared for the high cost of living in SF. I knew I’d pay a premium to live here, but everything from gas to laundry is significantly more expensive than in Raleigh.
The trade-off is that living here, I have better access to amazing food, a vibrant social scene, incredible hiking, and a good transportation system.
I don’t know if I’ll live in San Francisco forever, because it’ll be difficult to purchase a home here. Plus I’m far from my family, who are all on the East Coast. But right now I love it here and enjoy exploring all the city offers.