This academic year, the Columbia College experience is taking place in all corners of the world. To help keep our community connected, we’re asking students to share their thoughts about their classes and extracurriculars, what they’re learning about themselves during the pandemic and what they look forward to doing when they are able to return to campus. This week, we speak with Lilly Cao CC’22, a history and theory of architecture, and visual arts double major, from Bellevue, Wash.
What do you like to do outside of class?
I’m involved in quite a few clubs at Columbia; I just joined as an editor and a lead editor of two art history journals. I’m also in the Architecture Society; I’ve tried to get involved in almost all the arts clubs on campus. Outside of extracurriculars, when I’m in New York — which unfortunately, I’m not right now — I love to go to museums. I’m currently interning at the Met, but even before the internship I loved going to the Met, to MoMA and to the Guggenheim whenever I could.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?
I’ve learned that it’s very difficult for me to work when I’m not with people or in a space that’s meant for work, like a library or a café. Trying to force myself to get all my work done when I have access to YouTube and Netflix has been hard. But I’ve also learned that I quite like the flexibility of the online format!
What’s the first thing you’ll do when you’re back on campus?
Of course, I really miss my friends! And I really miss events like Bacchanal and Homecoming, and club events like the Chinese Students Club’s food market in the fall. Like I said, I really love going to museums, so definitely one of the first things I’m going to do is check out all the new exhibitions that I haven’t been able to see.
What’s been your favorite class at the College, and why?
I studied abroad in the summer after my freshman year. The class was “The Athens Curatorial Project,” and we learned about modern Greek history and contemporary art and curation in Athens. The monthlong program culminated in us getting to curate our own art exhibition! And 300 people visited on the first day — it was really exciting to do something like that and have people actually see it!
What’s the thing that keeps you close to Columbia while remote?
I signed up to be an Orientation leader this year, so I’m connecting with first-years; trying to bring the community to them has really been on my mind. And in the clubs in which I have a leadership position, I’m trying to foster a sense of community even though most of us aren’t around campus. So I’ve been connecting not so much to the physical aspect of Columbia but rather to the sense of community.
Do you have a message you would like to share with classmates?
We should keep our hopes up that we’ll be able to see each other eventually and at least be a little grateful that we have the means to connect, even if it’s in an online format. Keep up the good spirits and hope for the best in the coming months!