Senior Wisdom: Rhonda Shafei
Written by Bwog Staff
Claim to Fame: Co-dethroning the leadership of Columbia’s Arab club, exactly two years before the Arab Spring. Raising and rearing two hundred beautiful CIRCA babies. Perpetually annoying admins about Moslem issues. Writing a column about South Sudan and consequently getting banned by its government from ever entering the country.
Where are you going? To relive Cairene memories in the city’s continental counterpart, San Francisco, exploring emerging market finance in a chiller environment (hopefully).
Three things you learned at Columbia:
- If you have a voice, and speak up loud enough, you will get heard. I spent too much time writing opeds and complaining, and not enough time speaking to Columbia staffers and administrators directly. No one ever tells you freshman year that you can schedule a meeting with any admin on this campus, if you have something worth talking about. If you have a cause or concern, don’t skirt the issue; just talk to the power brokers directly. It will save you time, you will get taken more seriously, and you will make progress on any and all issues.
- That having been said, people are always listening to you, everywhere on this campus, so don’t say stupid ish. Seriously, spies and eavesdroppers be everywhere. You might write this off as a cynical immigrant remark. But whether it’s Bwog’s anonymous “heard on campus” snippets, or students in classes recording discussions for studying purposes–and later repurposing on facebook– half-processed remarks can come back to bite you and more importantly are completely avoidable. As a loud-mouthed opinionated person who has too often been too verbal, speak loudly and openly but think first.
- Butler is more of a social club and less of a library. If you really need to get those ten pages written, consider locking yourself in your room instead of hitting up 209. By sophomore year, I convinced myself that going to butler every night was making me a better student, when really all it was doing was compounding my procrastination. Despite working too little and chatting too much, I met some of my best friends in Butler Cafe (shout outs to Destiny Swan Sullens and Alan Daboin in particular) so no regrets on that front, I suppose.
“Back in my day…” You could swipe multiple people into Lerner with your ID without getting locked out. John Jay lights were spookier. The computers in Lerner were faster. The ctrl alt backspace trick worked.
Justify your existence in 30 words or less: I hope to challenge others to revisit false notions of Arabs, Muslims, and students of color more broadly. I love babies.
Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? I don’t really think there is a War on Fun per se. I just think there are countless restrictions that are haphazardly enforced to make the lives of some unfortunate few harder than others. It pushes you to be that much more crafty and scheming. I once smuggled twenty helium balloons, two cakes, three pizza boxes, and an entire turkey into Butler for a friend’s surprise party. I also once delivered grilled cheese sandwiches and cookies into the stacks for a charity drive, convincing the guard that my delivery box contained books as their condition prevented me from carrying them in a bag.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Best answered by an influential figure in my life, Trey Songz, “You can believe that I’ll be where the cheese at.”
Advice for the class of 2016:
- Take a history class and seriously consider majoring in history. The history department at Columbia’s is truly a gem that devotes so many resources to its students, treating you like a legitimate academic in the making. Whether you’re passionate about politics, art, activism, or economics, you can find your niche in the department and really love the assignments and readings given to you.
- Consider interning during the school year and adjusting your schedule accordingly. A lot of fascinating opportunities open up in the fall, winter, and spring that you should take advantage of, being a student in NY. It is really tough at first to adjust school and work, but two weeks in you will feel so fulfilled.
- See student performances on campus. Because the talent here is better than a lot of what’s outside these gates. I sadly only started doing this my senior year. So freshbabies, make sure you check out what’s going on in the Lerner Blackbox at least once a month.
Any regrets? I regret emailing a 2,000 person listserv announcing a dinner meeting with the President of Iran. I also regret not informing the Columbia community that multiple Spec editorial board members privately requested seats to that dinner despite publicly calling for its cancellation. However, on that note, I regret holding too many grudges with Spec reporters. The work you do is in fact difficult and subject to genuine mistakes and I apologize for overacting and general pettiness. Lots of love for everyone on the campus, of all viewpoints and affiliations, and I regret not declaring that love earlier.