schoolIn which Bwog’s first-year correspondent, Dan D’Addario, doesn’t let his schooling get in the way of his education.

The first semester of my Columbia education has flown by. It seems like just yesterday that I arrived with one too many bags, that I marveled at the splendor that is the interior of Butler Library, and that my next-door neighbor asked me, “Are you opposed, per se, to partying?” Since then, I’ve learned a great deal about Herodotus (in Lit Hum), Orientalism (in MEALAC), dialectical montage (in Intro to Film), and the limits of human endurance (in University Writing). But I’ve learned far more outside of Hamilton’s walls—and hence, my biggest lessons of first semester, freshman year:

Lesson 1. Social Endeavors

Clubs are weird. One week, I got into MisShapes on the strength of an Urban Outfitters t-shirt and an insouciant attitude. There were a lot of sweaty hipsters there, and also Jessica Simpson. The next week, the club was 21-plus. No big loss, I guess.

On the other hand, being in a dark room with twentysomethings dressed exclusively in American Apparel dancing to Hot Chip was fun—which is more than I can say for some of the parties that went on in the freshman dorms that first week.  After a couple of drinks in John Jay, my floormates shed their clothing, swaddled themselves in blankets, started crying, and watched Arrested Development. I’m not sure what lesson this taught me, other than that first-time drunks are both sweetly naïve (“Wow, I can’t believe they didn’t even search our bags when we came into John Jay!”) and hilarious.

Read more after the jump… 


Lesson 2. Food

You can eat Tasti-D-Lite every day for two weeks and think it’s the elixir of life, but one day you’ll get a serving of Graham Cracker with a weird mesquite aftertaste and never venture to the fourth-floor of Lerner again. Also, bubble tea is good, if you like chewing pencil erasers. For snacks, you’d be better served by hoarding John Jay food in your dorm room. The carrot-cake muffins keep surprisingly well, though sadly, Wilma’s omelets do not.

Each local eatery serves a very specific clientele. The one night I went to Columbia Cottage, it was primarily occupied by a table of twelve sorority girls enjoying the acrid (but surprisingly potent) wine. Strokos, on the other hand, is full of med students who always seem to be in a rush; as I recently discovered, if you let one take the spot in front of you in line, you will have a friend for life.

Lesson 3. The Columbia Experience

If your grandfather asks you why he’s heard so much about your school on Fox News, try to hold your tongue. On a related note, if it’s October 4, 2006 and there are major doings afoot in Lerner, don’t wonder why there’s so much shouting outside your window as you and your friends watch America’s Next Top Model. Remind your parents that no, you are not in an S&M club, and yes, you know that such behavior belongs at Brown. Learn all you can about the other Ivies, so you can mock them relentlessly.  Do the same with Fox News personalities, Greek philosophers, and professors.  As a general rule, learn as much minutiae as you can, so that you can mock. And smoke cigarettes, if at all possible.