Name, School, Major, Hometown: Hello! My name is Mikhail Klimentov, and I’m a senior in Columbia College majoring in political science with concentrations in visual arts and computer science. I’m writing to express interest in the position o- oh, wait. Briefly reverted into robot-emailing-potential employer mode. Sorry about that!
(I’m from Somers, NY!)
Claim to fame: I was Spectator’s opinion editor for a year, which means that I probably made some of you very happy, and some of you very unhappy. I was also the Marching Band’s poet laureate (a fancy name for “head scriptwriter”) for a year, which means that I probably made some of you very happy, and some of you very unhappy.
Where are you going? Wouldn’t you like to know?
What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2020?
1) Columbia’s history is fascinating, but since we’re mostly here for only four years, institutional memory is virtually nonexistent. This is why my first-year Bacchanal would be totally unrecognizable to the class of 2020, and why their first-year Bacchanal will probably, in turn, be totally unrecognizable to the class of 2024. Learning when and how this school and its student body have clashed, compromised, and (more rarely) cooperated can be useful; it also makes for fun reading [TW: butts]. If you’re curious, here is a good place to start.
2) Being available for a friend in a time of stress is always more important than whatever “work” you have going on. I don’t even want to try and rationalize this one—just trust me.
Friends > homework. Always.
Also, if you ever find yourself in need of an outlet, please reach out! Talk to anybody—a stranger, an acquaintance from NSOP, the guy who gives you your bagel in Nussbaum—LITERALLY ANYBODY. People are here to for you, and are more willing to listen than you might imagine.
3) Listen to the quiet ones. People who get Senior Wisdom features necessarily occupy some position in the public eye; however, I’ve found that those who speak most often, will often say the things of least consequence (this is probably why I can’t “justify my existence,” in 30 words or at all). Conversely (and unfortunately!) those with the most important things to say tend to bite their tongue. That kind of withdrawal often speaks to a modesty that obscures a deep intellect.
P.S: The same is often true of professors.
4) Question what you’re told, and be ready to push back if what you’ve been told doesn’t make any sense. Don’t take orders from just anybody—that’s why this list is four (no), five (still no), six (!) points long!
5) “Administrators are people too!” and “The War on Fun” are not mutually exclusive ideas. I’m sure that most administrators are perfectly polite, even nice people (shoutout to Cristen Kromm and Scott Wright for being particularly great). But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes, administrative goals will be at odds with student wants and needs. In moments like these, it’s important to remember two things: 1) that students make up an important but often overlooked constituency, and 2) that there is not one administration—there are many, sometimes competing departments and personalities.
This can be tough to navigate. But there’s hope! The perfect way to strike a balance between “administrators are people too!” and “The War on Fun” is to get personally involved and reach out to those in the bureaucracy who truly care about the student experience. If you’re lucky, you’ll win concessions like getting the lawns open early. If you’re not… well, umm. Huh.
6) Be willing to laugh at yourself. Once, on a walk, I sat in a particularly muddy puddle. What could’ve been a deeply traumatic walk of shame turned into an amusing march of pride because I chose to be in on the joke.
“Back in my day…” I wasn’t attuned to the bad aspects of Columbia. I guess after four years of attending school here, I’ve started noticing the cracks in the facade, the chipping paint, and the cockroaches.
That’s because back in my day, I didn’t know what a cockroach was. The day I moved in, I saw one scuttling around my John Jay double, and not recognizing the obvious threat, just watched it as it disappeared behind my dresser.
Now I know better. Now I scream.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer. Sometimes, when asked how old I am, I forget and say 20, or 22. I’m actually 21. I think that alone disqualifies me from being able to “justify my existence.”
What was your favorite class at Columbia? US Intellectual History w/ Casey Blake is the obvious answer. But because it’s so transparently good, I’d like to pick another: Roman Art & Architecture, with Professor Francesco de Angelis. Professor de Angelis introduced the class with a warning: Roman art is both ugly and derivative. Identifying with those traits on a deep, spiritual level, I chose to stay in the class. This turned out to be the right choice.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Well, I’ve never gone looking for cheese behind an Olive Garden dumpster, so I gue- … wait, yes I have.
One thing to do before graduating: Really, there are two questions here. The first is “What is the one thing you think every Columbia student should do before graduating?” and the second is “What is the one thing you (the Senior Wisdom recipient) think you should do before graduating?” Both are important and not wholly mutually exclusive, so I’ll focus on what I should do before graduating, and you extrapolate the obviously extrapolable message at your leisure.
Over the next two weeks, I’d like to make peace with all (read: most) of the people I’ve beefed with at Columbia. People I’ve disagreed with—either publicly or otherwise—have passions and talents and perspectives that very easily get lost in the wash of an argument. Thankfully, my list isn’t terribly long. Even so, there’s no sense in allowing any simmering bad feeling to spill over into whatever the next stage of life will be. Make of that what you will.
Any regrets? I came to Columbia with very specific expectations, which, unfortunately, unraveled quite messily over the course of my freshman year. Even now, as graduation looms, I still sometimes wish I could go back and redo my four years here at Columbia. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But in retrospect, I’m confident that those big regret-worthy mistakes became an important part of my mythos. (Do I sound like an asshole?) My deep well of first-year failures and anxieties inform my actions today, like a less bad version of how The Social Network implies that Facebook was built by Mark Zuckerberg to get back at a particularly unhappy ex-girlfriend. (I do sound like an asshole!)
And so on a more positive note, I regret not writing that album I always wanted to record, or not developing that video game I always wanted to design. I regret becoming the guy who is always late to/sleeping through things. I regret fraying important positive relationships through personal carelessness. But that’s the kind of regret that makes the future a tiny bit brighter; there’s always tomorrow to record, or design, or actually be on time, or be just a bit more caring.
Where IS he going? To Olive Garden? via Mikhail Klimentov