Take Five with Emily Tamkin ’12

Emily Tamkin
Emily Tamkin ’12 is the U.S. editor of the New Statesman, covering American politics, foreign policy, and society. Her work has also appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, the Economist, the New Republic, Politico, Slate and The Washington Post, among other publications. Tamkin previously covered foreign affairs as a staff writer at Foreign Policy and BuzzFeed News. More recently, she was in New Delhi on a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship. She is the author of the forthcoming book The Influence of Soros: Politics, Power, and the Struggle for Open Society, which will be published by Harper Books in July.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

For a while, I thought that I had been much more uptight, anxious and serious at the beginning of my College time than at the end, and then much more of those things at the end than I am now. But then maybe a year ago I got drinks in Washington, D.C., where I live now, with Mustafa Hameed ’11, JRN’13, whom I met my junior year, and I said that I thought I’d calmed down a lot since college. And he goes, “You’re the same.” And I said, “Well, I think I’m a lot more chill now.” And he goes, “You’re exactly the same.” So I guess that’s my answer — I was then like I am now.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I lived in a suite in Hartley — I did indeed both live and learn in The Living-Learning Center. I met Paula Gergen ’12, whom I still consider one of my closest friends in the world, in that suite. There was also one person there with whom I didn’t get along, but as this is a website for all alumni, including her, I will just thank her for teaching me that sometimes situations are so absurd that they become funny, and also for all the time that I spent in the library my second semester freshman year.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

On the first day of Lit Hum a young woman from Pakistan talked about the political protest she had been involved in before coming to the College. I remember thinking, “I’m going to learn so much from my peers!” And I was right.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

I like the Steps, because of course I do. I like the seventh floor of Hamilton, because I was a Russian literature major — majoring in Russian lit was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life, and if you’re considering the major, yes, you should do it — and the seventh floor of Hamilton is where the Slavic department is. And it’s not on campus but I like the Spec office, because it is where I became who I am, in a way (that’s probably too earnest but it’s true).

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I would worry much less than I did. If you are an undergraduate and you are reading this: First of all — Hi! Thank you for reading. Second of all — do not cry over that grade, because it doesn’t matter; do not cry over that guy, because he definitely doesn’t matter; and do not cry over your choices, because the ones you make will probably be fine, and because you will be, even if they’re not.