Information visualization for international students in NYC

Final Projects, Visualization


In New York, there are more and more international students from all over the world. They come here to gain a higher education. To study and live in such a big city, international students must face more challenges and difficulties than a native student. As an international student in New York, I remembered when I first came to New York, I didn’t have a very clear guideline and information to help me live in New York, which really spend lots of time searching the information and I struggled with many daily issues. For instance, I was almost cheated by the telephone and email spam because I didn’t know this situation and how to deal with it.

Because of my personal frustrating experience when I first went to New York, I really want to do something meaningful for students like me. So this final project will especially serve for the upcoming New York international students to help them settle down and make proper decisions when they are facing tons of choices. I created a couple of infographics based on the many relevant datasets about New York. Those infographics will show the information that international students are most concerned about.

The overall expectation of this project will be a very useful tool and visual guideline for international students who are not familiar with New York to quickly settle their new life in New York.

Discover the student’s need

In order to precisely solve the problems of international students and figure out what is their concerning, I need to do more research about this topic because my subjective experience is not enough to cover all international students. So I found three students and interviewed them. I also read some articles about this topic to find some recognized need from the Internet.

Interview with the second interviewee

Cost in New York

The first interviewee is from China and she has got an offer from the Design School of Parsons. Notably, she showed her concern about the extremely high cost in New York. As her family is not that rich and has already spent lots of money for her to study abroad, she really wants to save money for her family as much as she can. So her choice will be finding an economy house to live and doing part-time jobs. Additional, she said she really wants to know the general living cost in NY so that she can manage her money better.


The second interviewee is from Korea and she is currently studying in our program. She has already been economic independence. So what she most concerned about before she came here was the safety issue. She might have some knowledge about New York. But anyways this is one of the biggest cities in the world so she didn’t know which locations of New York are safer. She stated that she might expect a map about the New York safety level for her to refer to find the living location.

Cultural Difference

My third interviewee is also from China. I got to know him and interviewed with him remotely via Linkedin chat. He just gets a school’s offer and plans to study here. He mentioned that New York is a multi-cultural city and he is curious about other cultures. So he really wants to know where is the different culture gathering in New York. For example, the location of China Town or the Korean Town. He said he might not get used to western food so he would need to find the location of Asian supermarkets or restaurants. Also, if some emergency happens or he encounters some unexpected issues, he hopes he can get help from people who speak Chinese. So he expects to have an ethnological community map, which would be the best reference for him to decide where to live and hang out.

Research Conclusion

The top concerning issues from interview

By interviewing with my target audiences, I come up with the top four issues that international students concern about: cost, housing, safety, and culture. Additionally, according to the article “What is the top concern of prospective international college students? New report ranks students’ priorities”, international students’ top concern issues are basically the same as my conclusion. So my following visualization work will base on these four issues to create infographics.


As the data are all about New York, I narrow my data sources into NYC open data, NYC crime map, Street Easy database, and Numbeo.

NYC open data is a mainstream New York database for people to know about the public city data from many aspects. I mainly get the data from this database. For example, I can get the 2017 New York Police Department complains geographical data on it. Also, I can get the immigration distribution information so that I can create an ethnological map.

Dataset from NYC crime map

The NYC crime map is also an open dataset and it reflects the real-time crime events. This dataset can help me know the crime percentage of each 1000 residents in each area, which can precisely evaluate the safety level of each area.

2010 – 2018 Rental price in different boroghs (data from Street Easy)

Street Easy is one of the most popular housing service websites in New York. Their data is opening to the public, which has tons of rental information. I downloaded the datasets from their open database. This is also a good reference for an international student choose where to live and have a standard of the price.

Numbeo is a website that provides information about the living price. This is a very useful website and has very complete data about the New York living price. The information provided by this website includes basically all aspects of living. Numbeo even lists the price of some items in the supermarket, which is very helpful for students to manage their money when they living in New York City. The only limitation of this website is the data cannot download as CSV format.


The main tools I used to visualize those datasets are Tableau and Carto. Additionally, the original datasets have some tedious information so I need to clean them up. 

For cleaning datasets, I used Open Refine to filter the useless information in the datasets. For example, I used the facet feature to clean the subjects that have same useless keywords. Also, as the data from Numbeo is not the CSV format but the text. I used Excel to transfer those texts from the original websites into the Excel chart so that I can export them as CSV format. Some geographic data didn’t have the exact geographic (longitude and latitude data), which cannot be read by Carto. To solve this problem, I used Google sheet’s add-on to generate the geocodes of those location. 

For visualizing the data, I use Tableau to generate all bar charts, pie charts and the square charts. Also, Tableau allows me to integrate all the charts into a dashboard, which is more clear to the audience.

The format of maps was created by Carto. I could set a different color for different groups, which is very clear for me to present the distribution of a certain thing. Also, Carto can generate the spectrum of some data’s degree. For example, the area with a darker color might mean a certain higher value of this area. Also, the map generated by Carto is interactive. when the user clicks the point on the map, there may be a pop-up label about this point, which can show the certain value of that point.


The square chart of single person monthly cost without rent.

The first data visualization uses the square chart to show the basic proportion of monthly cost without rent. I did this visualization without rent cost because the rent cost takes up so much of the total monthly cost and the price is fluctuating. The cost without rent is relatively stable.

In this graph above, each square represents the cost of the item and the same color squares are the same type of cost. The area of the squares means the proportion of them compared with the total area.

If the user hovers mouse on a square, there will be a label popping up and showing the name and the exact average price of that item.

The trend of 2010 – 2019 NYC rental price in different borogh

The second graph is a line chart. This chart integrates 5 boroughs in one chart with different colors. The light pink line is the average cost. As we can see, Staten island’s price trend is the most fluctuating. The general price trend in Brooklyn is increasing. And the price rank of each borough is very clear and obvious. This chart can provide an international student with a basic concept of New York Rental price and also this chart is a guideline for them to choose a suitable price based on their economic situation.

The third graph is the map of NYC police complaints. The redder area means more complaints happen in this area. This graph can be a reference for students to know the safety level of every location.

However, the number of crimes cannot reflect the real safety level because the more crime and complaints area may have more population. So I revised this map into a new version that shows that the number of complaints divides the population amount in each area. So we have this map.

The ratio of complains happens in different precincts in New York.

This map can show the safety level more persuasive because the ratio makes more sense than the amount.

The Immigration Distribution Map

The fourth graph fulfills the international student’s culture needs. This map shows the geographical immigration population distribution in New York. Each dot represents a unit of immigration people. Their color stands for their nation. By viewing this map, students can easily to find different nation’s community location.

In this map we can see the Asian community are basically gathering on the downtown Manhattan and Eastern Queens. The Sub-saharan Africa communities are in the uptown Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. Those kinds of distribution information can not only help students find the place to hang out but also give them a guide to select the most comfortable place to live because similar culture has similar lifestyle.

Last but not least, the emergency center and hospital map are also very important for international students. As many international students live in New York alone without family and friends, if the emergency happens, they need immediate help. This map points out the locations of New York hospitals and emergency centers. When the user clicks the dots on the map, they can know the name of that facility.

This infographic can also be a good reference to help international students decide where to live. Living closer to a hospital or emergency center will be safer when an unexpected situation happens.


In fact, the most frustrating part of this project will be choosing the topic. This is the third topic I have considered for this project. At the beginning of this project, I had a great ambition to make a very a serials of useful and impactful visualizations. However, the difficulties in finding proper datasets always force me to simplify my work. So the reason I selected this topic is not only my preference but also the datasets of this topic is easier to access. 

By doing this final project, I practiced more about the information visualization tools and my proficiency in using the tools enhanced a lot. Also, I have more awareness of research and visualization principles. If I could iterate this project, I will do some usability tests to evaluate the accessibility of my infographics whether the design elements I used are confusing to the audiences.


What is the top concern of prospective international college students? New report ranks students’ priorities

NYC Open Data

Street Easy – Data Dashboard

Numbeo – Cost of Living in New York

NYC Crime Map