Name, Hometown, School, Major: Usha Sahay, Short Hills, NJ, CC, history & political science, which is just a longer way of saying I majored in JSTOR.
Claim to Fame: Conspiracy theorist, Simon and Garfunkel fanatic, overwhelmingly proud Youth for Debate mama, that girl rudely doing the crossword puzzle in lecture. I wrote the rules for this drinking game, and I probably stuck an orange SPECIAL sticker on you at Bacchanal.
Where are you going?
Not sure yet. If all goes as planned, I’ll be single-handedly reviving the dying journalism industry in DC, San Francisco, or maybe here. Also, I’m determined to live in Portland (OR) for a few years at some point in my life.
Three things you learned at Columbia:
I took an English/theater class sophomore year in which we studied Chekhov, and one thing has stuck with me: Chekhov uses his characters to highlight how people fixate on one thing and convince themselves that it’s the key to solving all their problems. For his Three Sisters, it’s “when we get to Moscow, all of our worries will disappear.” For us, it’s “when I turn in this paper, I’ll finally have time for fun again,” or “when I get this one job interview, everything will be okay.” It isn’t true: there’s no one solution to our problems. It’s easy to think that things will let up after that one nagging worry is taken care of, but something else always crops up to replace it. That’s life.
There’s no shame in stopping to rest on the way up to Hamilton 7. If anything, it’s more embarrassing to show up to class gasping for breath. Plus you might see a flyer for an amazing club or lecture or movie screening…plus you might figure out where the bathrooms are.
The means justify the ends. Life is weird, unpredictable, and yes, unfair, so staking your happiness on a grade, or someone else’s approval, or any other end result, will leave you disappointed. It sounds lame, but working hard and being a nice person are their own rewards, and I wish I had learned that earlier.
“Back in my day…” John Jay still served those incredibly addictive chocolate chip muffins that my Carman floormates were convinced had crack in them. Brownie’s didn’t have that awkward communal table setup. Hashtags weren’t a thing.
Justify your existence in 30 words or less: I’ve tried to be a good older sister, to teach kids to have opinions and express them proudly, and to make Columbians understand how hilarious this video is.
Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? It’s definitely not over, but fun will win in the end because it’s a moving target, subject to constant redefinition – that is, the WoF forces you to rethink ‘fun’ in creative, and more subversive, ways. For instance, it made my friends realize that the Casa Italiana terrace is really the only place to shotgun beers. I’m still terrible at shotgunning beers, by the way.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? It occurs to me that Columbia students might not be the most unbiased subjects for this question, given how easily they can walk to Westside and make a meal out of free cheese samples. But I always seem to get there too late in the day for the cheese….which I find is less of a problem with oral sex.
Advice for the class of 2016:
It’s not super popular advice around here, but I really believe it: seriously, seriously consider studying abroad. You’ll thank yourself every day that you did it. While it’s completely true that every second in New York is valuable, you’ll come back with an invaluable understanding of why exactly that is, and how to appreciate this city in the best way possible.
If it seems like you’re the only one who doesn’t yet have their perfect job/friend group/soulmate/life plan, don’t panic. We forget that college really is about trial and error, about figuring things out as you go. That’s why you’re not expected to pick a major until after you try out a bunch of different classes, and the same applies outside the classroom. Also, I haven’t been there yet, but I hear that in the real world you kind of need to have a plan, so enjoy this rare chance to just wing it for 4 years.
Find out when the theme nights at John Jay are, skip your discussion section, and go! Tons of work goes into making those dinners happen, and they’re a hidden gem of an otherwise mediocre campus food scene.
However, when John Jay isn’t having a theme night, you should not skip discussion section. Discussions are in a lot of ways the heart of the classic undergrad experience – you get to think about big questions, get things wrong, and learn from people who are smarter than you. For real, talk to your TAs! They’re there because they want to help.
Any regrets? Tons, actually. Classes I wish I had taken, people I wish I had gotten to know, talks by famous people I wish I had attended, typos in my thesis I wish I had spotted. But I really don’t think regrets are a bad thing – missed opportunities mean that I had those opportunities to begin with, which reminds me a) how lucky I’ve been to go here, and b) to live life even more fully after I leave. Seriously, though, I have no idea why my sophomore year self ever thought it was a good idea to suffer through linear algebra.