What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?
Having grown up in a small suburb north of Baltimore, I was beyond excited to be in the “City that Never Sleeps.” Unlike home — where a car was necessary, white-tailed deer freely strutted around and nighttime was pitch black and silent — New York was easily navigable with efficient public transportation and always bustling with things to do. (I was, however, very much unprepared to see the occasional rat scurrying on the subway tracks). I had plans to immerse myself in the city and at the College from day one.
NSOP was a whirl of activities. I fondly remember walking across the Williamsburg Bridge in the sweltering heat to attend the Smorgasburg open air food festival, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick and eating the delectable surf & turf meal on the Butler lawns. I also look back on attending the first class-wide Lit Hum class in Roone Arledge Auditorium. I felt a sense of awe gazing into the sea of more than 1,000 unfamiliar faces and came away even more enthusiastic about embarking on this four-year adventure.
What do you remember about your first-year living situation?
I lived in a single on the first floor of Furnald. I think my room was located on top of the heating system for the entire dorm, as it was quite humid in there no matter the season.
Furnald was quiet, yet spacious. I enjoyed baking pumpkin chocolate muffins and watching movies with friends in the common room on weekends. I mourned those common spaces when I lived in Watt Hall my senior year.
What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?
I had the opportunity to take Professor Edward Mendelson’s Lit Hum class in my first year. He was incredibly brilliant and captivating. He inspired us not only by teaching us what he thought, but also by teaching us how to think. We learned how to approach and delve into a given text, no matter how dense or formidable it seemed. With his guidance, I pondered whether a character had an inner life and investigated how a character thought. Professor Mendelson challenged us to cultivate our own interpretations based on whatever we found interesting. He instilled in us the importance of developing our voice and conveying our ideas clearly and succinctly.
Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?
Lerner Hall. I spent nearly every morning there, preparing for the day ahead and fervently hoping that my coffee wouldn’t spill onto my laptop, as the tables on the ramps were inclined at least 20 degrees. Monday nights were spent on the fourth floor, chatting and laughing with members of my club, Asian Pacific Heritage American Month, as we planned events to celebrate and validate the diversity of Asian identities in the United States. Other nights were spent in the piano lounge, working on group projects. I had the best conversations with friends in Ferris Booth Commons over Wednesday grilled cheese and tomato soup or in Café East over frozen yogurt or boba.
What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?
The pandemic was something none of us could have prepared for; it profoundly altered our College experiences and our young adult lives. I wish that I had not taken for granted the privilege of taking classes in person, meeting with professors face-to-face or working on group assignments in the same room. I realized much too late the value of the entire Columbia community and the University’s prime location in New York City. During my one-and-a-half-year departure from campus, I terribly missed engaging in highly energetic Core class discussions, attending lectures and partaking in laboratory experiments. I missed the infectious energy that permeated Chinese Students Club’s Night Market in the fall, the Tree Lighting Ceremony in the winter and Bacchanal in the spring. I missed chatting with classmates, friends and professors between classes and running into familiar faces on Low Steps. I missed running in Riverside Park and wandering around the city in search of the best pizza or sushi.