What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?
Like a fish out of the water. It was my first time in the U.S. — first time taking a flight, even — so everything felt like a dream. I had arrived a week early to participate in a pre-orientation community service program (Columbia Urban Experience), but because my flight was delayed I missed the intro meeting. I didn’t have a cellphone (you’d be amazed what an international student has to go through to get one of those, even today) and I had no idea where to go. I was literally pacing the quad trying to figure out what to do when I walked by two people and overheard one ask, “Whatever happened to that Turkish guy?” “I’m here, I’m here!” I screamed, and I hugged my saviors. I’m still grateful to all my CUE friends for keeping me alive that whole week and helping get me settled.
What do you remember about your first-year living situation?
I was in a single on John Jay 13. I remember my floor being full of amazingly lively, friendly people. I remember lots of late-night trips to JJ’s in the basement and way more chicken fingers than I’d care to admit consuming.
What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?
Lit Hum and CC, without a doubt. Whenever I was able to step back from the crazy amount of reading, it felt like these classes were what college was really about — reading, debating and writing about things that may have no practical use in real life but make you feel immensely richer in a unique way.
Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?
The benches in front of Butler. Stepping out there for a break, watching people and looking out onto the whole campus always felt special.
What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?
If I could go back I would try to do more of everything. Meet more people, participate in more things on campus, explore more of the city, have more fun ... The only possible way to do that would have been to learn how to survive on even less sleep but, in retrospect, it would have been absolutely worth it.