senior wisdom Archive



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Surprise! This is actually our last senior wisdom (and post) of the semester. Prez Ben is a busy guy, but he eventually found the time to write his senior wisdom (a few weeks after the deadline). Read on for wise words from Ben Makansi.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Benjamin Karim Storch Makansi, CC, Astrophysics, Steelville, Pennsylvania

Claim to fame: NSOP OL in 2013 and 2015

Where are you going? Shit, that’s deep.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) When students are divided over something, they’re often divided more on tactics than they are on ideology. Few students will disagree that the university should do more to support survivors of sexual violence, but there will be a lot of disagreement on whether the right way to push for that is to project “Columbia Protects Rapists” onto Low Library during Days on Campus or to scrawl the names of alleged rapists on bathroom stalls. Seventy-four percent of CC students voted to divest from fossil fuels, but I’m guessing that fewer students were in support of occupying a campus building or chasing Suzanne Goldberg into a cab. Both CUMB and the people who posted on the Orgo Night event page hate discrimination and want to hold the university accountable, but they disagree on whether relentless satire is an appropriate tactic for doing so. I say this not as a prescriptive claim about how activists should advocate for issues, but as a descriptive observation that many campus conflicts aren’t actually about the issues. We often agree on goals but divide ourselves on how to get there. This is frustrating but it should also be encouraging. It’s frustrating that a disagreement on tactics is often equated with opposition to an entire movement, and it’s frustrating that, as I genuinely believe, there are people who care deeply about certain social justice issues but become discouraged from working on them at this school as a result. But I also find solace reminding myself that students are often advocating for the same causes.

More advice from Ben after the jump.



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a classy picture of meIt’s our last Senior Wisdom of the year, and we couldn’t think of a better way we’d want to go out than with our former Editor-in-Chief. She talks about St. Augustine, Hungarian Pastry Shop, and Infinite Jest – we’re not surprised. But she also has some wonderful words of advice to leave you all with.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Britt Fossum, the College, Chemistry, Omaha

Claim to fame: Former Bwog Editrix, Hungarian Pastry Goth, and the saddest boy in all of Columbia

Where are you going? Taking the summer off to surf every couch from Duluth to Tokyo before finally going into….plastics (starting a PhD program in Chemistry).

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) Learn to be comfortable on your own. There will be a lot of things you’ll want to do at Columbia and in the city and sometimes your friends are gonna be lame and bail on you last minute. Or maybe you’ll develop incredibly niche interests that no one else will be interested in. So: do ’em on your own! And in the meantime, make conversation with people when you’re out alone. I have had more wild and weird discussions with people I know I’ll never meet again than with acquaintances at 1020 I know I’m going to see again outside Butler the next day.

Addendum to #1: You’ll just exhaust yourself seeking validation from others. You do you, ’cause no one else will.

2) Eliminate any habit of hero-worship. Just because someone is older, more educated, “cooler” (whatever that means to you): it doesn’t mean they give good advice and certainly doesn’t mean the “good” advice they give will be good for you and your individual situation. Think critically about the things people tell you you should do. Start with this senior “wisdom” (do you really think a 22 year old going into grad school instead of the real world knows what she’s talking about??).

Addendum to #2: You will eventually realize that you’ve been unconsciously imitating the people you admire. Don’t feel bad about doing so, but realize when you’re doing it and make sure none of the habits you’ve picked up are embarrassing or life-threatening.

3) Shut up and listen! That and more past the jump



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not even graduation bleachers can stop that smile

Joseph Powers – known to many as Bwog’s former Internal Editor (or, Bwog Dad), and to many others as the guy who wrote that weird deer overseen a couple of years ago – discusses posts that probably shouldn’t have been published and experiences with math TAs that should. (If some of this advice sounds like it’s coming from a charming Southern grandpa without an unfriendly bone in his body, that’s because it kind of is.)

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Joseph Powers, CC, Applied Mathematics, Alexandria, VA

Claim to fame: As Daily Editor, Arts Editor, and finally Internal Editor of Bwog, I respectively: wrote a post about a deer inspiring the historic campus dialogue “I don’t want to drag this lyrical post down, but in this part of the country deer in Riverside Park mean Lyme Disease in Morningside Heights…”; reviewed the Varsity Show, my thoughts themselves favorably reviewed as “This is the weirdest review. It’s like a CC class post.”; and helped oversee a site universally acclaimed as “better when I was a first-year.”

Also: a truly cringeworthy photo in the Spectator included in an article (incorrectly) implying I starred in a one-man show.

Where are you going? As of now, no idea! It was finance for a while, and then in a moment of liberation and short-lived catharsis I realized it was not. I suppose I will split my time trying to enjoy the city and worrying about my future, so living the Columbia lifestyle in an apartment basically.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) It’s amazing how much we can affect the lives of people around us. Even in a moment we might never think about again, we can turn someone’s whole day around. On one hand, this means we can cause a lot of hurt if we’re careless, and we have to be aware of that. On the other hand, though, kindness really does matter, and a friendly word or an extra bit of understanding go so much further than it seems like they could. If I could stress only one thing, that’s what it would be.

Since I get three things, on a less serious note:

2) I have never had a TA who collected my problem sets on time, most have waited until the next afternoon, and the doors of the math building are incapable of locking. Do what you will with that information.

3) The green dumpling cart across the street from Barnard gates will sell you something like 20 dumplings for $5, and they are pretty decent.

Nostalgia, regrets, and oral sex after the jump



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Eric CohnAs we enter our final day of Senior Wisdoms, we give you some graduating Bwoggers and their life advice. First up is “ex-various” Eric Cohn, who covered some of the most real and least real news in Bwog’s history. Today, he brings you advice on listening, self-care, and getting over your cheese addiction. 

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Eric Cohn, Columbia College, Mathematics and a Psychology concentration. Philly suburbs

Claim to fame: Ex-various at Bwog, where I wrote a letter; recently un-anonymized peer listener at Nightline; that guy who you thought would never say hi to you (it was probably Ian).

Where are you going? Vietnam and Japan for a month, then returning back to NYC full-time starting in July.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) Listening is a virtue.

Listening is such an underrated but powerful act, but it takes dedication. Learning to listen to the world and people around you can teach you so much, and it has the added benefit of telling those that you are listening to that you value them. In this world and this place we are urged to speak, to have a voice, and to proceed vertically. These are definitely good things. But there’s a lot to be gained in the horizontal—in standing to the side to let others speak and to listen to them with open ears and minds. Internalize that people believe what they say and are legitimate in what they feel: their experiences are worth hearing. Listen when it’s difficult and uncomfortable. When your friend is complaining but you disapprove; when people on this campus honestly express pain or offense when you see none. We all have much to learn, and listening is an important—if not the most important—step along the way.

2) Act or accept.

This one might not resonate with everyone, but it certainly did for me. There were times in my life—particularly here—where I felt low on hope. One of the most empowering phrases I discovered was “act or accept,” which essentially means that you either accept a circumstance or act to change it. There’s no in between. You definitely don’t have to apply this to every aspect of your life (in a lot of cases you can’t). But if there’s something about your life that makes you unhappy, that you want to change, it can be helpful to frame it in this way: “If I don’t act, I am accepting.” If it’s something that you really want to change, then clearly accepting is not an option, leaving only action.

3) You are valuable.

Complementing #1, which is basically saying that everyone besides you has value, know that you also have value. Work constantly to internalize it. For a lot of us, this will be a lifelong and often difficult process. One thing that can help is not comparing yourself to others’ standards of value, or what you perceive to be their standards of value. It’s okay not to be the most vocal in class, not to be the most socially visible on campus, not to get a 4.0. Those do not have to give you value. You can choose what defines you, and it can be anything. Just make it matter to you.

Nightline, Letters, and the Heights after the jump



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Alexander Pines (1)You might know Alexander Pines from Under1Roof or some distant Twitter feud with a fraternity. He’s heading out of New York come this summer, so listen to him wax poetic just once more. It’ll probably be more interesting than Under1Roof.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Alexander Pines // CC // writing (nonfiction) and American Studies // Kalamazoo, MI

Claim to fame: I might have been your Under1Roof facilitator. I wrote a few things, and, um, this happened. Beta threatened me with libel. I made a weird Twitter once.

Where are you going? Headed home to Michigan for a couple of weeks, back in the city this summer to work with high schoolers on campus, and in the fall I’ll be (sorta) pulling a Hannah Horvath to write essays and teach at Iowa.

Read more here



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Claire Friedman (1)Another former editor emeritus of Bwog comes home to roost. Besides a solid response to the famous Oral Sex Question, she gives solid advice on just being an adult and getting out of the Columbia bubble.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Claire Friedman, CC, English and History, Salt Lake City, UT

Claim to fame: I used to be managing editor of this mess.

Where are you going? Home for a bit to hang out with my dog and stare into space, then back to NYC to work at a literary agency.

Read more from Claire after the jump.



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Sarah Faith Thompson (1)Sarah Faith Thompson, former EIC of Bwog and avid squirrel photographer, shares some nuggets of senior wisdom. Also some stuff about doors, spicy specials, and a cheese poem. Wonder where that poem fits in the Cheese v. Oral Sex statistical analysis. 

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Sarah Faith Thompson, CC, political science, rural NC

Claim to fame: Former editor of Bwog who started the revolving door of EICs, resident haunt of Butler’s third floor, person you can always faintly hear singing songs from Disney Channel movies, and, as WikiCU says, I’m “(in)famous” for my adroit campus squirrel photography.

Where are you going? A brief detour to Latin America to de-stress, back to New York to work in Midtown and dress up my future cat, and then hopefully on to grad school.

Click to read more from SFT!



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Anna HotterFire Safety maven and green card seeker Anna Hotter is all about posing outside of Philosophy, living out 30 Rock, and not going to class. Let her astound you with her infinite wisdom re: lessons learned and regrets.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Anna Hotter, CC, Economics-Political Science and Philosophy, Graz, Austria

Claim to fame: I co-founded Columbia’s first video-based sketch comedy group, and helped make our new Fire Safety video.

Where are you going? Nowhere! I’m staying in the city and fulfilling my Liz Lemon dream/nightmare of working in television. Until I get deported.*

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) Treat people according to iceberg principle. Unless you are dealing with a close friend, you probably only get to see about 10% of what is going on in a person’s life. Try to be generous with your grumpy floormates, rushed TAs, and taciturn Morton Williams cashiers. You never know what their day was like.

2) Explore New York as much as possible in your first year. You will become lazy and poor. Go to Smorgasburg before the Sophomore slump hits (and the L train stops running).

3) Call your family more than once a week. I will forever be jealous of my American friends who can talk to their parents as if time zones and roaming fees don’t exist. So call your mom and tell her about that razzleberry pop tart you had for breakfast, the insane cost of privatised medical care, or whatever it is you people talk about.

Anna on whatever it is she has to share, after the jump



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Daniel Stone (1)Frequent tipster Daniel Stone (probably the only one who could get a foosball table installed in Hartley) is here to deliver his senior wisdom. It’s full of exactly what you’d expect: hyperlinks, meticulous research, and solid advice.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Daniel Stone, Columbia College, History with a concentration in Economics, Morningside Heights

Claim to fame: One time Public Safety head James McShane sent an email to everyone at Columbia.
I replied, “Thanks for the update.” Then he replied-all to everyone at Columbia.
Beyond that, I was at The Blue and White and at the Columbia Lion (in 2014). I may have also been your RA.

Where are you going? Probably Washington, D.C.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

  1. Any Columbia “institution” is only as good as the people who belong to it.
  2. Every year there is a lottery for lockers in Butler Library. Enter it.
  3. You can save a lot of time and worry if you just pick up a phone.

Comprehensive answers after the jump



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Julia Goodman [Bwog]Here’s to wisdom, previous Bwog EICs, and institutional memory! We bring to you today Julia Goodman, subway-rider, Dam frequenter, and punchcard queen. She has lots to spill on imposter syndrome and support systems.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Julia Goodman, CC, English and Creative Writing, Los Angeles

Claim to fame: I was editor-in-chief of Bwog for the fall of 2014, during which time I defended student protest and became a regular at International.

Where are you going? I’m staying in New York to work, write, and ride the subway.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) If you’re like most people at this school, there will be many times where you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t belong here, and everybody else knows something you don’t. It took me way too long to figure this out, but most people don’t have any more of a clue what they’re doing than you do. Your four years here will be one of few times when it’s completely okay, if not preferable, to live in uncertainty. If I had stuck to the plan I had when I arrived at Columbia, I would never have joined Bwog, met most of my close friends, or majored in creative writing. Not knowing exactly what you’re doing will leave you open to opportunities you never thought you would have pursued.

What else does this Bwogstress have to stay?



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Josh DillonUp next, we bring you our favorite buff Bwogger Josh Dillion with his dose of wisdom about bathrooms and drinking Red Bull for the taste.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Josh Dillon, Columbia College, Computer Science-Statistics, *somewhere in Connecticut*

Claim to Fame: I’ve slept in a tent with my best friends, on a toilet somewhere on 103rd, in an alcove in Butler 409 and inside a bathtub in Nussbaum. Three of those four times I was naked.

Where are you going? “Making my way downtown // Walking fast // Faces pass // And I’m home bound”
Aka Brooklyn after a quick escape to the cold woods of Canada. I don’t know which bears scare me more.

What are 3 things that you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) The men’s bathroom on the second floor of Pupin has a second PRIVATE bathroom inside of it. Like the Room of Requirements, it will come to you in your time of need.

2) Your life does not start after Columbia; it starts now. Don’t sacrifice your health and happiness in the hopes that it pays off one day. There will always be another paper to write or another problem set due, but the sun doesn’t shine every day so take the time to enjoy it.

3) You will learn more from your mistakes than you could from anyone’s (including my) advice, so always try things out yourself. People will always try to give you advice but it is your choice if you want to follow it or not. This will be one of the most rewarding and difficult times of your life; let it be.

Back in Josh’s day…



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Hallie Nell Swanson (1)Wonder what a former Blue and White editor has to say about being a student at Columbia? Check out former B&W EIC Hallie Nell Swanson’s take on senior wisdom.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Hallie Nell Swanson; CC; Comparative Literature and Society; London, England

Claim to fame: Doing a bunch of publications stuff, and being the other Swanson.

Where are you going? Right now, to Orgo Night. In the longish run: to graduation, and then home, and then we’ll see.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) If you don’t like your life, it’s up to you to change it. If you find that the work you’re doing isn’t what you want to be doing, that the people you’re around aren’t the people you want to be around, that the person you are isn’t the person you want to be, fix it. College is far too early in your life to be compromising on any of that. In this respect, the independence Columbia offers is a double-edged sword. It can be isolating and lonely—I struggled with that, and rushed stuff as a result. But if you resist that urge, what’s good about Columbia is that you can carve out your own niche rather than contorting into an uncomfortable mold.

2) Cultivate yourself. When you arrive here, you are most likely a product of exactly where you came from. One filled with potential, but predictable and boring nonetheless. While you’re here, you can expose yourself to things you haven’t encountered before, whether that’s through friendships, through reading, through classes, or through any of the many events that happen here every day. Do it. That said, easy narratives abound here, and they come in several bland flavors, from frat boy to econ-poli sci to sophomore class page activist. If you find yourself surrounded by too many people who will just react with ‘this’ or ‘yaaas’ or ‘fuck [thing]’ to everything you say, and you find yourself doing it back, you can be having better conversations.

3) Use your resources. I’m writing this precisely because I don’t do nearly enough of it, so I can’t advise you on exactly how. But Columbia has a ton of fellowships just waiting to chuck money at people, professors who can adopt and guide you if you’d only show up at their office hours, free shit everywhere if you look for it (if you’re in CUSP, put up with the tedium). Sign up for every listserv, apply to every program, get coffee with everyone. It will benefit you—I’m sure it could have benefited me, if I’d bothered.

Eggs on toast with professors back in the day



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Viv RamakrishnanToday, take a look at the senior wisdom of one half of everybody’s favorite CCSC satire campaign duo. We can’t promise you’ll get Freedom, Liberty, AND Freedom, but you will get an appropriately Wisconsinite answer to the oral sex or cheese question.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Vivek ‘Viv’ Ramakrishnan, Columbia College, Economics, Madison, Wisconsin

Claim to fame: Running a couple joke CCSC campaigns with my buddy Ben and somehow getting elected the second time around. Actually putting my all into the VP-Policy position once I fell ass-backwards into it.

Where are you going? Memphis, Tennessee! I’ll be teaching 12th grade.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) Actively befriend people with views that are fundamentally different from your own. I feel like classes and clubs have the effect of grouping us into social circles of like-minded people who reinforce one another. And when we finally emerge from our echo chambers, we fail to even consider conflicting positions, instead resorting to comments like “u r dismissed [insert laughing-crying emojis].” Maybe campus discourse wouldn’t be so vitriolic and unproductive. Maybe not. At the very least you’ll get some awesome conversations out of it.

His plans for Scott Walker and more, after the jump



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Sean Augustine-Obi (1)

Ready to take on the administration. (Or the anime of questionable quality.)

If you read the Lion, you’ve probably read something Sean Augustine-Obi wrote. The same goes for Spec’s op-ed page, an Orgo Night script, or … almost anything controversial at Columbia. But what you haven’t read yet is his Senior Wisdom.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Sean Augustine-Obi, CC, Econ, Bronx, NY

Claim to fame: I ran a blog called the Lion, where I antagonized administrators, commissioned a male escort to ruin my SEO, and published something useful every so often. I co-wrote petitions about sandwich ambassadors and co-wrote jokes for marching bands and co-wrote slogans on hats that Republicans liked.

Where are you going? Back home to start an anime review blog. Oh, and turn 21.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?

1) If you want to change anything that requires administrative approval, you’ll need at least one of the following: support from student government, a widely read op-ed, an email from a New York Times reporter (lesser publications need not apply), and majority support among the 25% of students who bother to fill out surveys. It helps to have all four.

More on change (and sandwiches) after the jump



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Dan Garisto

Stressbusters? More like gravitybusters

Dan Garisto has written a lot, talked a lot, and met Nobel Prize winners. He’s definitely got wisdom to share, and share he does.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Dan Garisto, Columbia College, Physics, Bellport, NY

Claim to fame: I spent a fair amount of time at Spec working in the opinion section on fun stuff like this and starting up science and research coverage on fun stuff like this, I ran for CCSC’s executive board with a party composed entirely of Daniel(le)s, and once somebody took an unflattering photo of me when I was Stressbuster and looked grumpy (I promise I wasn’t).

Where are you going? Back to Long Island to catch a few z’s and apply to all of the places in pursuit of a job in science journalism.

More prophetic prose after the jump

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