What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?
Walking in through the Gates in August 1999, I was young and ambitious. I had graduated from high school a year early, and I came to New York City with the passion and big dreams of an artist trying to escape her bohemian roots. I was only 17, but I felt mature and responsible, and thought I had the answers to everything. My dad had wanted me to go to a SUNY school because it was more affordable, but I had my heart set on being with the best and brightest in the biggest city in the country. I felt like I had made it to the world I had been waiting for.
What do you remember about your first-year living situation?
I wanted to be able to cook, so I opted to live in a suite. I had my own room in Hartley and I remember thinking that we were the misfits. As I saw it, the “normal” college students picked Carman or John Jay. There were 12 of us in our suite, and all of us were a little out of the ordinary. When we went out in packs to explore the city I had the sensation of not having much in common with any of my suitemates, but I loved hearing about their unique lives. One had done a gap year in England, another was from Alaska and another would sing the Golden Girls theme song while working on his L&R essays. Those first-year suitemates are still my best friends from my Columbia days, but at the time I felt like it was very random we were connected at all. And I never cooked anything in the kitchen.
What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?
I had a phenomenal Lit Hum class with Professor Michael Seidel, full of students with big personalities who absolutely adored learning from him. He made all of the classic literature thrilling to read and discuss. During the seminar, he would say these somewhat crazy things out of nowhere, while my friend Bram and I sat next to each other and jotted them down. We compiled our notes into a book of “Seidel Quotes” and distributed it to our classmates. We all had a huge bond by the end of the year.
Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?
It’s a tie between The Thinker and the overpass on Amsterdam Avenue, where you can see all the way downtown. I lived in East Campus my sophomore year and my favorite route home had me walk by both of them. My mom had a book about Rodin, and when I saw the statue for the first time it reminded me of her. I’d never seen a sculpture from an art book in real life. I had always idealized New York City, so the view from the Amsterdam overpass always amazed me. I loved watching the cars disappear down the avenue and all the lights glittering. I’ve always been a romantic, and that’s where I felt most connected with the city.
What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?
In my final semester I directed the Varsity Show, and in many ways it was the culmination of my time at Columbia, so I love that all roads led me there. The only thing I regret is not auditioning to perform in more shows myself. As good as it feels to craft something incredible, it’s the performers who get to bask in the glow. I had auditioned for an acapella group in my first semester, and when I didn’t get in, I internalized the rejection and stopped trying to sing or perform on campus. I got into writing, acting in independent film and directing theater. I was in charge then, and that’s where I felt comfortable. It took me almost a decade before I was willing to be vulnerable and put myself out there as a performer. Once I rediscovered my passion for music, I launched into writing music and performing with my band.