We asked the Class of 2020 what it means to graduate at this moment in time.
We asked the Class of 2020 what it means to graduate at this moment in time, and though every answer was unique, several themes emerged. Though they missed being on campus, the graduates have a deeper appreciation for all the experiences that came before. They learned as much from people outside the classroom as they did in their courses. They’re proud of themselves and each other. And they’re ready to make a difference in the world. ROAR, LION, ROAR!
BRIANNA SHU YANG
“I will always credit Columbia with honing my sense of civic purpose. I have discussed and debated citizenship and social responsibility in my Core classes, especially Contemporary Civilization. I have met so many people who passionately advocate for issues they care about. I’ve been inspired to do the same, and to make it my mission in life to break down barriers to civic engagement. Go vote.
“I feel like it’s common now among seniors, at least among my friends, to mark the occasion when we finally broke down crying about this unexpected end to our senior year. There is a sort of catharsis in this act. In many ways, being physically apart has brought us closer together, and it has underscored that what is, and has been, most important this year is celebrating how far we’ve all come.
“The most important lesson I will take away is this: Nothing is worth doing if it is not in the service of others. The greatest thing we can do with our education is to work toward change, no matter how big or small, that promotes a fairer world.”
“Thinking about the future, I know I’ll appreciate the connections and networks I established with fellow students, faculty, mentors and professionals. My Columbia education has made me a better-informed citizen, both politically and socially, with a deeper understanding of the history and philosophies that continue to govern our society.
“I am beyond proud of every single member of my class and all they have accomplished. My message is to be bold, push yourselves beyond your comfort zone and never be afraid to continue taking risks, as you have already done. And of course, massive congratulations to all on your hard work and ending the year with a BANG!”
“Being at the College has always meant that everything happens between Broadway and Amsterdam, from 114th to 120th. From my freshman year to my senior days, I have always considered myself very lucky to live with and near those closest to me. This past semester, I’ve missed my friends and the campus that was the straw that stirred the proverbial drink. I’ve realized with our spring being cut short that life doesn’t work in clean-cut phases like some people tend to believe; college is not a separate four-year life or oasis.
“With this, though, I’ve developed a new hope. If there are no clear boundaries separating events over time, and if it is never too early for something to end, it must follow that it is never too late for something to start. Here’s to friendships yet to be made, passions yet to be cultivated and fulfillment yet to be had.”
SEMIRA AFIA KAZURI BROWN
“Columbia has served as a crucible of my character, my intellect, my artistic inclinations, my physical and mental health, and my work ethic, and I am so much better for it. I know myself far more comprehensively than I did four years ago, and through extending my comfort zone, working hard and challenging myself, I have a newfound, incandescent confidence that is intrinsically rather than extrinsically derived. I know myself, love myself and genuinely believe that I can do anything.
“The extraordinary circumstances of this year have shown me how temporary everything truly is, how ephemeral worldly attachments are and how timeless human connections will always be.”
“Columbia was the perfect combination of idealistic introspection and #NewYorkTough. It has taught me to be gentle and sensitive in my heart, and bold and fearless in my actions.”
“These past few months I’ve really missed the gatherings, especially how everyone would sit on the grass and on Low Steps. Whatever we were doing, it was the fact that we were together that gave it a feeling of belonging.
“Out of my entire college experience, I most appreciate the friends that I’ve made and the people whom I’ve met. I believe that we’re meant to meet the people we meet, so every single interaction that I’ve had has only added to my experience and my self-love journey.
“I hope one day we’ll all look back and see that, all along, we were growing. The moments where our limits were being tested, we were actually being strengthened. Here’s to a new journey, a new beginning!”
“I miss walking around campus and running into friends. It was amazing how amidst thousands of people, I would always see a few friendly faces on College Walk or the endless Hamilton stairs. I also miss Morningside Heights. The best feeling in the world was coming off the subway from a bustling neighborhood downtown and feeling at peace and at home.
“The Core Curriculum was a large part of what drew me to Columbia, and now that I have completed it, I can say that it was — without a doubt — the defining feature of my academic experience. I believe I am a more critical and compassionate person because of it. I truly believe that taking some version of the Core Curriculum is one of the best things you can do in your life, especially at this age, the start of adulthood.
“All of this being said, my greatest education was probably outside the classroom. The relationships I made changed me and formed me, and I am better for them.”
“Through my experience at Columbia and with New York as a whole, I learned from people from all walks of life. I was able to learn from different cultures, viewpoints and experiences that helped to challenge me and develop myself fully.
“I would like to send a big ‘Congratulations!’ to my classmates, and to remind them to invest in what they would like to see changed in the world around them. They are very passionate, dedicated people, and I know they have the skills to accomplish significant milestones: Congrats, Class of 2020!”
“I’ve learned that community is what really matters. At the end of the day, it’s the experiences that you shared with others, the lives you touched and the lives that touched you that linger. We’re graduating at such a tough and uncertain time, and it may seem out of place to celebrate, but we’ve all come so far, and I’m so proud of us!
LACEY ANN STRAHM
“The unforeseeable and swift end to my senior year made me realize how precious the time I had at campus really was. As you go through the day-to-day life of being a student you accumulate these little joys of campus life — like seeing your friends on College Walk, getting your favorite sandwich at Brownies, finding the perfect seat in Butler.
I understood these joys to be built-in perks of being a College student, but took for granted the ephemeral nature of their presence in my life; my abrupt departure from campus meant leaving them all behind. Ghosted, with no substitutes to take their place. As I scroll through my camera roll and watch memories emerge from my Snapchat, I am reminded of how lucky I was to have found such joys throughout my four years at Columbia.”
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