Photo by Jared Narber
What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?
I wanted to get off campus and take the subway ASAP. I grew up taking the L in Chicago, which meant I was basically a New Yorker, right? Wrong. So wrong.
In my first month, two strangers at the Times Square subway stop asked two of my new Columbia friends to show them their IDs. The city kid in me was like, “NOPE!” and I tried to rush us away. But these strangers claimed they were undercover cops and one showed us her badge: Officer Donna Mayo. “How do I know that’s not a fake?” I squeaked.
It took uniformed officers coming over to let me know that my friends were stopped because one of them had jumped the turnstile and wouldn’t admit it — all the while, I had been throwing a fit for all of the Times Square station to see — and now I was going to have to appear in court for being “disobedient.”
A humiliated, tearful, nervous wreck, I looked for Columbia Counseling and Psychological Services and ended up at Columbia Health, where student EMTs were instructed to take me to St. Luke’s in an ambulance on a stretcher, even though the hospital was across the street.
A few weeks later I went to court. Mayo never showed up. I went on to make much better friends at Columbia.
What do you remember about your first-year living situation?
It took three blue moving bins to get all of the boxes from my mom’s Ford into my John Jay single. It was cluttered, but I loved every square inch of it. I remember spending nights looking out my window, over the roofs of 113th Street and beyond to the great, sparkly skyscrapers of Midtown.
What class do you most remember and why?
The course that had the most impact on me was Catalan — the language spoken by more than 10 million people in Catalonia, Andorra, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Southern France and a tiny sliver of Sardinia called L’Alguer.
Thanks to my brilliant instructor, Elsa Úbeda, after just two months of classes I could hold a decent conversation. Fast forward 10 years and now I live in Barcelona, where some people think I’m a native speaker with a great American accent.
Hearing an American speak Catalan brings joy to many Catalan people, so I keep at it.
Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?
The roof of Low Library. Don’t tell anyone I’ve been there — twice.
Other highlights include the Reference Room in Butler and the second-floor student lounge in Jerome L. Greene where Perri Blumberg ’11 and I would debrief on RA duties, off-campus shenanigans and boys.
What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?