Senior Wisdom: Omar Abboud
Written by Bwog Staff
Name, School, Major, Hometown: Omar Abboud, SEAS, Operations Research with a minor in MESAAS (much to my parents’ chagrin), Toronto, Canada / Beirut, Lebanon
Claim to fame: President / dictator of Turath, with other stints at CIRCA, the URC, OMA, Dean Goldberg’s “I care about everyone” committee on race, and the Music Department (I gave up a kidney to appear on stage at Carnegie Hall for 4 minutes).
Where are you going? I’m going to be doing my master’s in Random Numbers and Symbols at this school that rejected me as an undergrad so yea KARMA IS REAL EVERYBODY.
What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?
1) Never separate yourself from where you came from. I grew up in a generation of Muslims and Arabs that had a very rough time in this country. But the moment I compromised my values over things like hockey, sex, and speaking English a certain way, it killed so much of what gave me pleasure and understanding in life. Look at your past fondly, never be satisfied with the knowledge you have, and you will find unexpected sources of meaning in a place as big and confusing as Columbia.
2) Help others rise. Being great comes not from a position or a title but from helping build the future. I view what I’ve dedicated my love to over the past four years with great admiration and appreciation for those that helped me make it here, especially my peers and family. When I got into Columbia, my mom teared up and told me “I feel as though all of us got in,” and I never understood until recently how true that actually was.
3) Columbia, please go to sleep. Just do it.
“Back in my day…” I used to eat UNI café hash browns, shit went down in the back room of Havana, Columbia Cottage served free wine on Tuesdays, Four Loko was everywhere, I thought CrackDel and HamDel were the same thing (until a few months ago… thanks Alyssa), dorms were generally more decrepit, the Butler roof was a cool and exclusive place, and does anyone remember Kev $ho???
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer. My message, what I convey and exude in every stroke of the keys, is that music will save the world…
What was your favorite class at Columbia? My only class with perfect attendance was Calc II back in fall of ’12 and things have gone totally downhill since then, but I’m still gonna cop out and double down like everyone else: the Art of the Novel is a class I took randomly because it was co-taught by Orhan Pamuk and Bruce Robbins. I think Robbins is the first professor that actually looked at me in the eye and was like “I enjoyed what you said about blah. Can you tell me more about what you think of blah?” Connecting with a professor in that way while reading great books made that class very memorable although I was essentially the Lit Hum FOMO / random SEAS kid…
Secondly, very few of you will ever take this one but Simulation with Karl Sigman, as gut-wrenchingly hard as it was, taught me how to view the world in a much more beautiful and logical way – and it basically convinced me that the Random Numbers and Symbols I’ll be studying next year are a little less random than they seem ;)
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I’m so sorry to disappoint everyone but my answer to this question is easy and ORAL SEX IS NASTY.
One thing to do before graduating: Before you graduate, rent a Zipcar (or if you don’t drive take a friend who does). Leave Columbia no earlier than 1:00am. Take the Westside highway all the way down the island. Get off at TriBeCa and pick up candy by the courthouses. Drive across the Brooklyn Bridge. Veer to the right on the first exit and drive towards Grimaldi’s. Take the first left onto the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Once again take the first exit on the right towards Atlantic Avenue. When you turn right onto Atlantic from Columbia St. you’ll see an immediate sharp left turn back onto the highway towards Manhattan: take it. Before you will be the best view of New York City you might ever see on open, lonely roads. Put on “Choir to the Wild” by Solomon Grey. Appreciate and never forget the sublimity of that moment.
Any regrets? Oh yes Bwog, many… not trying out clubs like CORE that were doing awesome things, tripping and falling on my way out of Amal Clooney’s office, renewing my meal plan twice, not doing a summer abroad, and not doing the goddamn readings are just a few of them. But in all seriousness, many people have asked me throughout my four years at Columbia some variant upon the following question: why did you do all that stuff? Why did you stress about all those meetings, committees, and events instead of just chill?
Columbia is a difficult place to go to school. It’s easy to lose hope in this university. It’s also easy to set low expectations for yourself in this university. And the truth is that I survived here because despite all those meetings, committees, and events, I never, not even once, saw something in my schedule as a burden — and the second I did, I let go of it. I give myself to everything I do, and see things like playing the piano and building a strong community for Arabs on campus not as schedule killers, but as a duty, as a calling. It’s that attitude that gives me no bigger fortune than telling people that everything in life to me is a joy. To those of you moving on into 2017 and beyond: it takes work on your part, but it’s possible to be happy here and to make it to graduation seen, understood, and not so very lonely.
A man who lost a kidney for Carnegie Hall via Omar Abboud