Thursday, May 1, 2014

Reflections on My Amazing First Year at Barnard

I cannot fathom that my first year of college is coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday that I was stuffing my car with all my belongings and moving into my dorm room on a very hot day back in August. I still vividly remember myself as an anxious high school senior. I was afraid that I wasn’t prepared to undertake the challenges of college. But looking back now, I can’t imagine myself at any other college and I couldn’t have asked for a better first year. I now realize that Barnard was everything I ever wanted in a college: a small, tight-knit community, surrounded by the greatest city, and a place that can challenge me both in and outside of the classroom. But the ease and assurance I feel now did not come to me immediately.

All through my life, the unpredictability of the future was my greatest fear, and I had no idea what to expect from college. I did not know whether I would be prepared for the academics, what type of person my roommate would be, what kinds of friends I’d make, what to expect from living in a big city (especially as a person from the suburbs of New Jersey), or if I was capable of being away from my family and friends for such a long time. I have to admit that my first month of college was a bit rocky; I had to adjust to a new routine in a new environment with new people. However, I eventually found my worries and insecurities being washed away as the months passed. I was participating in my classes way more than I ever had in high school, forming close relationships with people whom I had just met, getting very involved with campus life, and becoming truly happy about where I was in my life.

With my incredible peers in the Emerging Leaders Program at City Hall.
Most importantly, I was beginning to find the person I really was. It was like the flower within me was finally blooming. I was more outgoing, more courageous, more daring, and more positive than I had ever been in my life. I believe college doesn't change you, but rather it brings out the person you always were. This is one of the first times you’ll be away from home for a long time, without childhood friends to define the person you are and parents to make decisions for you. Although this seems a bit daunting at first, you will have the most rewarding feeling when you realize you’re far more capable of than you give yourself credit for.

A year ago, I never thought I’d be the class vice president, be a part of the student advisory board of an agency that helps more young women to be dominant in computer science, be a member of a program that teaches women to be leaders, and create friendships that will last many years to come. In fact, tonight I will be a recipient of an award at the SGA Leadership Awards Dinner. Reflecting on this year, I will always remember my humble beginnings and be grateful of the many doors of opportunity that have opened in front of me because of Barnard.

Some of you will choose to attend other schools, but I’m hoping that most of you will see that Barnard is the right place for you. However, no matter where you end up, remember not to worry about what lies ahead. You will be at the school you chose because you belong there and are ready to take on the challenge. Although I am sad that my journey with you through this blog has come to an end, it has been a rewarding experience and I hope you can take away something from reading about my first-year experiences. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope to see many of you on campus this fall!


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Twyla Tharp and the Opportunities of Barnard

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture on campus given by alumna Twyla Tharp about her work “Treefrog in Stonehenge.” Barnard and Columbia students also performed the piece last weekend as a part of an annual show, Barnard/Columbia Dances, produced by the Barnard Dance Department.

What may be even more exciting to you, as incoming Barnard students, is that Twyla Tharp will be a guest artist at Barnard for this upcoming year! She will be involved with lectures, master classes, interdisciplinary projects, among other things.

As I sat and listened to this woman, whose presence and work is so well-known in the dance world, I thought about how this sort of opportunity wouldn’t exist for me if I weren’t at Barnard. Outside of the dance world, Barnard attracts and produces fantastic people who are very willing to share their experiences in so many subject areas. While I’ve been able to hear spectacular guests talk at Barnard, I’ve also had wonderful experiences with my professors and friends. I have gotten to learn things from conversations with my peers that I could never learn in a classroom. These friends have taught me about staying happy and working hard.

Prof W.H. Haller conducting English class in the Jungle, circa 1946.
Courtesy of the Barnard College Archives.
It’s bittersweet for me to think that with the close of my sophomore year approaching, my time at Barnard is nearing half over. I only have two more years to be surrounded by the great people and fabulous opportunities that Barnard offers.

Obviously, I hope you choose Barnard. Barnard is fantastic. The people here make it an enthusiastic, intellectually stimulating environment like I’ve never experienced elsewhere. I hope you are able to make the most of your Barnard experience in a way that works for you. And if you come to Barnard, and you see me around campus in the fall, I’d love to meet you and learn from you too!


How am I different because of Barnard?

This is the question I’ve been pondering as I attempt to write this final blog post. Ultimately, you want college to be a place of learning and growth, and the inevitable consequence is that it sort of molds or shapes the person you become. It’s somewhat difficult to separate the “shapings” that came directly from Barnard and those that would have happened naturally as I grew from an 18-year-old to a 22-year-old.  But I do know that being at Barnard gave me a big push in the right direction towards becoming who I am today, and who I want to be in the future.

Crossing broadway for the class of 2012 Commencement
A combination of general shyness and an overactive blushing reflex made me a very quiet high-schooler.  Asking questions in class was a rare occurrence for me, and usually resulted in me turning twelve shades of red and wanting to crawl under my desk and never come out.  I don’t know what it is about Barnard (maybe something in the water?), but I found myself growing taller in the metaphorical sense.  My mind-talk went from “Oh, I have nothing to contribute to this conversation,” to jumping out of my seat during seminar classes because I just could NOT wait any longer to talk.  At Barnard, I learned to speak confidently and intelligently, and I realized even if I turn red (which I still do), I just need to keep talking.  And raise my hand again next time.

A view from my awesome seat at Commencement
Barnard has also shaped me in another very real sense: I was awarded a fellowship at the NIH largely through the recommendation of a fellow Barnard alumna.  I met Roxanne at a reunion event and she encouraged me to apply for a grant through the NIH’s Intramural Research Training Award program.  I ended up being placed in her lab and have had an amazing experience.  Roxanne is still very involved with all things Barnard – we went together to hear Debora Spar speak when she visited DC on her book tour.  I know my experience is not uncommon.  The network you find yourself in upon graduation is endless, and there is a special connection among Barnard women. 
If you are still on the fence about Barnard, I encourage you to think about who you want to be when you graduate.  Barnard has a magical way of fostering confidence, intelligence and fortitude in its students… I’ve seen it happen to myself and so many of my classmates.  If that is what you are looking for, don’t be afraid to take the leap.  I can’t think of a better place to grow.
Wishing all the best to the class of 2018!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Secret Places on Barnard's Campus

(Ok, so maybe just less visible places on Barnard's campus.)

As this month comes to an end, maybe you’ve explored every link and photo on Barnard’s website. Maybe you’ve also toured Barnard’s campus already and/or come for admitted students weekend. I’m gonna try to tell you about some cool places on campus that I didn’t know about before I came to Barnard.


So maybe you caught a glimpse of it on a tour, but on the roof of Milbank Hall, there is a greenhouse! This space houses all sorts of plant species, including some for different professors' research. The greenhouse is open to everyone on Wednesday afternoons, but you might also have the chance to visit it with your Biology or Environmental Science lab courses. Coming from the desert, my favorite part of the greenhouse is the cacti section. 

Feels like home!
Additionally, the top of the Diana Center is a green roof, which means the vegetation grown there helps improve the energy efficiency of the building. While this space is used for research and work in different classrooms, it’s also a great space with a view for different events, like yoga during Spirit Week!

Though the 9-15th floors of Sulzberger Tower are (unofficially) reserved for upperclassmen housing, the 16th floor is more of a meeting space. A number of events and meetings are held there (like the one during Spirit Week that I missed out on). But when there isn’t something going on there, it makes an awesome place for getting some studying done, with a great view of the city!

Lastly and a bit more personal, I end up sitting at the tables in the little space between the library and Altschul Hall at least once a day if the weather is nice. I often go there to do some reading or call my sister or a friend, because it’s quieter and slightly removed from the main “thoroughfare” on Barnard’s campus. It’s a great little place to be alone and outside. As I was talking on the phone with my mom the other day, I realized that Einstein also hangs out near the back of Altschul (which I find funny since Altschul is the science building). If you prefer the tables on the north side of Altschul, you might be able to wave at one of the deans (some of my favorite people at Barnard!) whose office windows face that space.  

Einstein keeping me company

If you come to Barnard, I’m sure you’ll find your own favorite spaces on campus, just as I have.   


Ye Olde Libraries of Columbia

Good morning again, everyone! On this sunny Sunday in Morningside Heights, I woke up early (yet again…) to walk down to Trader Joes with a friend. Nothing like an 8am grocery run to liven one up, eh?

Barnard Library in Lehman Hall
But I thought I’d get a head start on this first. I can see in your (virtual, imaginary) eyes that you all are simply dying to know about the libraries here. Actually though, I may sound sarcastic, but I consider this no small matter: libraries are the source of your research, they set the intellectual tone on campus, provide space to study, and offer you limitless opportunities to increase your knowledge. Hence comes my undying love of them! So, without further ado:

(Some of) the Libraries of Columbia University

Barnard Library
Obviously, as our home library, this is going to make the top of the list! (Although, to be perfectly honest, I’m not ranking them here). It is conveniently located right in the middle of campus, across from the Diana and between Barnard Hall (general classrooms) and Altschul (the science building). It has, obviously, lots of books (including many that are unavailable in the Butler stacks), but it also has a fabulous Zine library, a ton of periodicals (including fun ones, like the Ballet Review), and top-notch study spaces. If you want a relatively calm place to work, this is the place to be!

Butler Library

Butler Library Reference Room
This is the major undergraduate library at Columbia, centrally located opposite Low Library (which is no longer a library!), and I personally rather like it. For one thing, it has a very wide range of study spaces, from the big, elegant Reference Room to an assortment of carrels, to balcony alcoves with tables and armchairs. For another, you can always find fellow sufferers there when the going gets tough—even on Friday nights, you can count on seeing plenty of students there, plugging away. Another major plus: it’s open 24/7, which matters a lot more than you might now imagine…

Avery Library
You need to be in the mood for hanging out around hard-core artsy, sophisticated grad students to enjoy Avery, but if you are, it’s the best. Technically, it is the art and architecture library, but anyone can go in there as long as you are quiet and don’t try to eat. The upstairs is gorgeous—lined with books and quaint mezzanine walkways—and the downstairs, though considerably less gorgeous, has tons of workspace. It doesn’t have great hours, but to make up for that, it is connected to Brownies, one of the less-expensive independent cafes on campus (also, where you can imagine that your proximity to grad students will make you cool like them…).

Avery Library
Science and Engineering Library
This is one of my recent discoveries, and I am a big fan! Being a history kid, I always feel like a bit of a poser working in there, but the fantastic lighting and open, modern architecture makes it worth it. It’s located in the Northwest Corner building (“NoCo”), right above Joe Coffee (see my earlier post for an explanation of my undying love for Joe). It’s ideal for late nights studying because a) the lighting so is cheerful, which you really can’t say of Butler, b) it’s only open until 3am, so you can’t get sucked into working ALL night, and c) it’s directly across the street from Barnard, so the walk home is painless.

Once again, this list is not inclusive, but it gives you a sense of the library options available on campus. No matter what sort of study environment you are looking for, you can find a library that will cater to it, and exploring the options is a fun activity on it own (the nerd just came out full force…busted!).

I hope your decision-making process is going well (especially given the impending date!). This may be my last post, but I will continue thinking of you all, and I look forward to seeing you around campus next semester! Enjoy the rest of your senior year!



Monday, April 28, 2014

My Favorite Classes at Barnard

Hornick, Andrea. Fashionable Goose Accompanies 
Flighty Mistress For Late Afternoon Stroll. 2009.
I have shared with you experiences of gaining professional skills during college and enjoying life in Morningside Heights outside class, but those are really just the tip of the iceberg. Today I am going to crack into the ice and show you the essence of studying at Barnard: strong academics.

As you may have heard, Barnard's curriculum, the Nine Ways of Knowing, gives you a great opportunity to explore various subjects, helping you find the field(s) of study that you are truly passionate about and further supplementing your major studies. I came into Barnard not knowing what to major in. So I started with classes that would fulfill the Nine Ways of Knowing. (There are really so many options and you can even petition for a class that's not on the pre-approved list.) I ended up taking classes that are fun beyond imagination.

One of the first classes that I took at Barnard was a drawing class called Drawing in Museums. I did a lot of visual arts in high school so I wasn't expecting anything brand-spanking-new. However, the moment Professor Andrea Hornick walked into the art studio, I knew that I was committing to an unprecedented adventure. Andrea (she liked to go by her first name) is an established artist in New York City known for her adaptations of Renaissance masterpieces. She began the class by showing us her recent works in which she copied Renaissance female portraits and elegantly superimposed animals over the space around the females portrayed. "This is exactly what we are going to do in this class," said Andrea, "to copy what people have long considered masterpieces and then give them a subtle twist and make them into something completely beyond people's expectations." She continued, "It doesn't matter if you have previous experience with drawing. I am not here to teach you skills but to inspire you to think in an artistic way. I want to be a visiting professor at Barnard because I know it's the perfect place to carry out experimental projects." 

Just like Andrea said, the class turned out to be an amazing experimental journey. We visited different museums during class time every week and copied artwork. The homework to take home was the "giving it a twist" part. And then we would come to next class to present our "twisted" works and we discussed the philosophy and process behind our artistic decisions with each other. At the end of the semester, Andrea helped each of us put together a portfolio and conferenced with us individually to discuss our experiences. I still remember the last comment that she gave to me: "You may or may not pursue drawing as your life career, but I do hope that it will always be part of you and remind you from time to time to give life an elegant twist!"

Another of my favorite classes is Intermediate French with Professor Brian O'Keeffe. You would imagine a language class being full of dull grammatical exercises, but surprise, surprise! At Barnard, you get sophisticated in language classes too. The best moments in class were when Professor O'Keeffe explained the philosophy behind particular French words or grammatical structure. For example, one day we were reviewing French words related to time and "maintenant" (now) was one of them. Suddenly he stopped and asked, "Has any of you thought about how this word was formed?" Nobody responded. He continued, "Well if you look at it closely, you will see that it is made up of 'main' (meaning hand in French) and 'tenant' (a form of the verb 'to hold" in French) so 'maintenant' literally means holding hands." He went on to challenge us to think about the relationship between the temporality of the word "now" and "holding hands." I won't go into detail because the discussion lasted half an hour, but one thing is for sure--it was a mind-blowing class for me. If I hadn't taken this French class, I would probably use the word "maintenant" for the rest of my life without knowing how philosophical it could be!

These are just samples of the amazing classes offered at Barnard. II could go on and on about all the "wow" moments in almost every class that I have taken. Barnard makes you want to learn and that's the best kind of education you can ask for.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

What does NSOP stand for?

Good very, very early morning, everyone! I just got up to squeeze in a trip to the gym before getting down to work, so this will be short and sweet. (No point in getting up at 6am after only 5 hours of sleep if I don’t get work done, right?)

Today, we’re going to talk about NSOP, the New Student Orientation Program. Two things: 
1) You pronounce it “Enn-Sahp.” I don’t know whose idea this was, but so it goes :) 
2) You may be thinking that you’re not going to choose a school based on its orientation program. And I think you’ve got a pretty solid point there. But do remember that little things like this—how schools run big, non-academic programs—say a lot about the atmosphere of the school. I’m sure that by now you all grasp how important that is.

So about this NSOP. How about a list? Those are good, right? Quick to write, quick to read, so you can get back to studying for looming APs? Yes? Ok, onwards!

  1. NSOP is a University-wide program, so you get your first taste of the oft-discussed Barnard-Columbia relationship. In general, it is a little more separated than real life, but it does offer a decent approximation: we have our own groups, but they are analogous to those of the CC (Columbia College) students, and we meet up for lots of events on the other side of the street.
  2. You will be busy! Everyone’s big fear, once it finally comes down to moving in, is that you will find yourself lonely and homesick, suddenly not quite the grown-up you felt yourself to be. Don’t worry: you are very, very unlikely to have the kind of time necessary to cultivate those unpleasant feelings. NSOP is a whirlwind of mandatory meetings—this is how program filing (class registration) works! this is how you reach Public Safety!—and super fun outings and events, ranging from group dinners to book discussions to Broadway plays.
  3. You will be assigned to a couple of groups (led by Orientation Leaders, your RA, etc.), so you will have plenty of organized opportunities to bond. Go forth and make friends! They come in handy later.
  4. There are outings. Go on them. These are trips to various cool places/ neighborhoods around New York, and they are an amazing opportunity. Not only are they tons of fun—friends, food, your last days of sun!—but they are a fabulous chance to actually get to learn about NYC. It gets very difficult, after the semester is under way, to make time to venture downtown, so now is your chance! The leader will give you lots of information about the history/ current reputation, but you will also have a lot of time to explore on your own. Also, this way, when family comes to visit and you panic, thinking the only neighborhood you know is Butler Library, you can draw on these outings for inspiration.
NSOP seems long, but it flies by. Before you know it, you will have learned the Barnard basics, and you will be free to join my giant pile of unread books and me in the library. I’ll be in the Reference Room, 301.

Ok, gym. Latin. History…I must go now, but please be in touch!