Justin Birmingham

Today’s Senior Wisdom is brought to you by our fav COÖP kid, Justin Birmingham.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Justin Birmingham, SEAS, Mechanical Engineering/Music Minor, Clinton, NJ aka the fifth best small town in New Jersey!

Claim to fame: Was once the head hancho of the COÖP Biking Program, known far and wide as the kid who carries around a nalgene everywhere, did a lot of environmental stuff, sang acapella with Notes and Keys, worked a wide variety of odd jobs on and off campus, and met a ton of people whom I love dearly <3

Where are you going? Across the country, Connecticut to California, 4128 miles, on a bicycle, for Affordable Housing. After that, hopefully staying in NYC to work in green technology/engineering!

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2019?

1. Do COÖP. I’m serious, do it. As long as you don’t absolutely hate the outdoors, you’ll have a great time and you’ll be in a much better place coming into NSOP. I’m a little biased, but it’s truly one of the most wonderful communities of people on this campus. I’ve met so many people who regret not doing COÖP, and no one thus far who regrets doing it. Also, if you’re at all into biking, I highly suggest bringing a bike to campus if you can. NYC is a crazy place to bike, but it really lets you get to know the city in ways that are otherwise impossible. It’s also the fastest/best way to get around when the weather’s nice, and makes certain parts of the city so much more accessible.

2. Don’t be afraid to speak up if something bothers you. To quote the all-seeing, all-knowing MTA, “If you see something, say something.” A few courageous people have paved the way for open dialogue about issues such as income inequality, sexual assault, racist police tactics, gender diversity and other topics that were previously suppressed from the public discourse. Several channels have opened up in recent years for people to express their true feelings (CU Class Confessions, CU Admirers, even Yik Yak), but it would be great if we were in a place where people could talk about these things more openly. Be vocal and courageous when you can, and it will help change wider perceptions on a grand scale.

3. Think about why you’re here. Part of the reason I came here was to have a rigorous academic experience, but I mostly came here to meet the amazing people who call this place home. Whatever your reason, do what you can to prioritize that. I’ve got about three weeks until I graduate and I want to get coffee/lunch with as many people as I can before then.

“Back in my day…” Carman lounge was friggin grody, JJ’s was mad crusty, and Ferris had an espresso machine. Roofs and tunnels were far more accessible than they are now because security cameras were less common and much more expensive back then.

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: I don’t need to justify my existence. Nobody needs to justify their existence.

What was your favorite class at Columbia? Ear Training VI with Richard Miller. We learned about some sweet African rhythms and Indian scales in an interactive way that forever changed how I think about music.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Giving up cheese only affects me ;)

One thing to do before graduating: This was last weekend, but: go to the subway party. Every spring, Potluck House runs this thing where around a hundred sweaty silly people take over a subway car at midnight and ride it down to Coney Island. It’s the most carefree night of the year, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s trying to let loose and escape the monotony of campus for a night.

Any regrets? Too many to count. While I don’t regret keeping myself busy and getting involved, I really regret getting caught up in the grind and letting it affect my relationships with others. I regret not stopping for a chat when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while. I regret wasting my spare time on facebook instead of having late night conversations on the steps. I wish I spent more time doing college-y things like playing guitar and tossing around a frisbee.