Hoping to look this content when we’re done with finals

Alissa Kruidenier is swooping in with some killer advice on moderating your time at Columbia. Oh, and she really wants you to staff CMUNNY.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Alissa Kruidenier, GS (Dual BA with SciencesPo), MESAAS and “Social Sciences,” Santa Barbara, California.

Claim to fame: Rick Riordan named me Demigod of the Week in 2009 and I think that may have been when I peaked. I’ve also probably asked you to staff CMUNNY.

Where are you going? To go give my friends as many hugs as I can, and then I’ll be moving to Arlington where my only life goal is to be able to cook dinner every night without feeling guilty about wasting time.

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2022?

1. One of my old jump trainers used to scream at me that you have to own the course and you can’t let the course own you. If you need to make a circle, make a circle. If you need to stop, stop. The threat of doing things in a certain order at a certain speed should never control you, and the healthiest and most dedicated people I know here are the ones who took all the time they needed. If you need an extension, ask. If you can and need to take a gap year, take a gap year. We get swallowed into the routine of Columbia and forget to circle when we need to and take a breather or talk to a therapist when it’s healthy. Also, on that note, just about everyone needs therapy at some point, and I think we have to normalize that more. Sometimes you hit rock bottom – or maybe, in my case, just smash through it – and you really need a professional to help sort things out. Always remember you’re in control; fight anything that makes you think otherwise.

2. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I tried to bite off way more than I could chew – I took positions in clubs, tried to write a thesis, and wanted to become a lawyer who wore cute business suits and negotiated high-stakes mergers because I knew I had the capacity to do it. In the end, I had a crazy week where I resigned from positions, dropped my thesis and realized I don’t even like the reality of being a lawyer; I’d never really asked myself whether I should be doing any of it, and assumed I ought to be taking every opportunity I could. So, what questions really drive you? Do you care about having time to cook dinner every night? Will you be emotionally okay if you don’t get to write ‘with honors’ after your degree? Figure that stuff out early if you can, and hold your ground, because the nature of this school is one that will happily take anything from you – health, money, self-esteem – that you care to offer it.

3. There’s a really awesome taco place on 122nd and Amsterdam :)

“Back in my day…” The Rite Aid on 110th was open! I know it only closed like last month, but still! This is hard, because truthfully back in my day I lived in a glorious building named Yellow House. It was full of debauchery and impactful people, and Annick the baker next door forced me to speak French with her and I always attempted to leave before she could try. I lived in the only street-level apartment, and drunk French people would knock on my windows to ask if I had a cigarette lighter. It was an anxious and fascinating time.

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: Everybody’s trying to be famous, but I’m just trying to find a place to hide and eat bagels in peace

What was your favorite class at Columbia? Can’t pick just one, sorry – I cross-registered for SIPA classes, and it was the BEST decision. Do it if you can! Anything taught by Dipali Mukhopadhyay or Stuart Gottlieb is worth taking.

Professor Honarmand is a wise and gentle soul, and everyone needs to take Farsi with him.

I loved my classes with Wael Hallaq, who is possibly my most favorite professor here. He teaches you how to “go for the jugular vein” and says fun profound quotes like “You need to reinvent the wheel every time you ride the horse.” Not everyone is going to like his classes or message about modernity, but I think it’s very important.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I’ve never liked cheese, but pizza is my one exception. I know no life without pizza, and I don’t want to.

Whom would you like to thank? So many people!! My Dual BA cohort at large, for being beautiful and witty and bright. Justice, for always keeping faith with me and giving me clementines; Maddie, for sharing her family and insisting that I must leave MoHi regularly (she’s right, kids); Sara, for being the ultimate partner in crime; Jackie, for always reminding me to expect more from people. My friends in CA who have stuck it through the distance, and my friends from Farsi, CIRCA, Gamma Phi, and Reims for putting up with my shenanigans. Bwog, for giving me closure via this wisdom thing. My mom, dad, and brother, for being the best family ever.

One thing to do before graduating: Convince all of Columbia that they need to staff CMUNNY, Columbia’s College Model UN Conference, this fall! It’ll be a ride and you’ll make great friends, email Stephanie at chief.staff@cmunny.org for more info.

Any regrets? I think having regrets is a messy enterprise with no assurance of happiness at the end of the day. I lived in a lot of fear in college, especially the beginning – fear of strangers, of emotional attachment in spite of distance, of not knowing the precise meaning of language (context: I went to France without knowing French) and becoming too jaded to attempt to perfect it. I don’t regret these things, but I think fear managed to have a hold on me in ways that have been exhausting and exhilarating to unravel. I haven’t always made the best decisions, and I haven’t always been right or treated people the way they ought or would like to be treated. Part of life, I think, is knowing this, acknowledging it, and learning from it without a sense of regret.

Photo via Alissa Kruidenier