This academic year, the Columbia College experience is taking place in all corners of the world. To help keep our community connected, we’re asking students to share about their classes and extracurriculars, what they're learning about themselves during the pandemic, and what they look forward to doing when campus is fully back in session. This week, we speak with Jayron Mardani CC’23 from Grand Forks, N.D.
What’s your intended major?
I’m hoping to double major in urban studies specializing in sociology, and astronomy. I was originally a student in Columbia Engineering, and I transferred to the College after deciding that I was not cut out for it. But I [still] really wanted both sides of the spectrum. I grew up loving the stars and wanting to be an astronaut, and I didn’t feel complete without representing both of those sides of me, so I’m giving it a try now!
What do you like to do outside of class?
I try to get outside as much as possible, especially now, when I’m mostly cooped up inside. The weather is going to be OK for probably two or three more weeks, and then it will become sub-zero — it’s pretty cold here! I like to go for walks with my dog and get away from electronics. I’m a huge Star Trek fan, so when I have a little more free time I like to watch all those episodes and think about the future and its possibilities.
Photo courtesy of Jayron Mardani CC’23
What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?
It has been very difficult for me, as I know it has been for a lot of people. I came home at an unexpected time, and my family lived in a small apartment, so sharing that confined space while trying to balance classes, figure out what was happening with my summer employment and go through the transition of what I wanted to study and how that played into my identity was very straining on my mental health. Also, just being back in my hometown, which is not always the most welcoming place for someone like me, was definitely difficult. I’m currently in a better state, though; we’ve moved to a bigger unit, so I have my own little workspace now. I realized it’s very important to me to have that physical barrier and to find that mental clarity for myself. I’m getting into the groove of things now and am really able to focus, both mentally and physically.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when you’re back on campus?
Definitely the first thing I’ll do is meet up with my friends as soon as possible. I really can’t express how significant physical proximity and physical contact is to me; it’s an important form of connection. So I just want to give my friends a big hug. I also miss the neighborhood — I want to walk up and down the streets. And I definitely miss the halal cart food; I’ll be making a stop at my favorite cart outside the Law School and saying hi to them as well!
Which class has been your favorite so far at the College, and why?
I’m really lucky and thankful that many of the classes I’ve taken have been amazing, including the ones I’m taking remotely now. The one that stands out the most is my urban sociology class, which I took last term. It sparked my interest in urban studies as a major; I find it really relevant to the student activities I’m involved in and activist movements that I’m passionate about. I’m part of the Housing Equity Project, which is a student-led organization working in partnership with Community Impact. I’m one of the co-directors of our direct outreach initiative, which aims to go into Morningside Heights and West Harlem and speak with individuals who have been impacted by housing inequity and food insecurity specifically as a consequence of Columbia’s presence and expansion there. We speak with those folks and get to know them, and try to provide immediate relief in the forms of food and snacks, toiletries, conversation and friendship.
What keeps you close to Columbia while remote?
I have a few friends who are on or near campus, so speaking with them, video chatting and seeing the campus in the background, sparks a lot of mixed emotions. I was also involved with NSOP. Meeting the incoming students has helped me to think about my experience as a first-year. So my connection is strictly virtual, but I do have lots of channels that help me keep in contact.