Looking for some wise words to get you through your day of studying? Charles Harper has some reassuring tips to get you through the rest of your time at CU.
Name, School, Major, Hometown: Charles Harper; SEAS; Environmental Engineering; Dallas, Texas!
Claim to fame: I’ve probably harassed you about the planet, either through EcoReps, ESC, or the Roosevelt Institute’s carbon neutrality campaign. Also I occasionally portray birds in Latenite Theatre.
Where are you going? Hopefully staying Up North to work in environmental policy! AKA not going back to Texas.
What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2022?
1. Take advantage of all the cool professors and classmates you have now. Go to office hours, even if you aren’t in their class. As an underclassman I would always chicken out and tell myself I had more time, but now I’m graduating and I wished I’d started taking advantage of all the awesome people we have at this school sooner. The biggest benefits of going to a good school like Columbia or Barnard aren’t in the buildings or the resources, although those are nice, but in the concentration of brilliant people. You might learn more from going to a panel/speaker event or club meeting or staying up late talking to your neighbors than you will in your actual classes, and that’s fine. Make the most of it.
2. You don’t need to be an adult™ to make positive change in the world. As students, we can and should start now. Maybe right now that looks like starting small at the campus or community level. But there’s no need to wait until you learn more or are more knowledgeable about topics to start pushing for change. I’m really glad that I got involved in campus activism around fossil fuel divestment and campus carbon neutrality. Although the country might be moving backwards on climate change, we can make an immediate difference at the University level. I wish I had more confidence as a first year. You are smart and powerful! The starting gun has already gone off. If there’s something you care about, don’t wait—start running!
3. It’s okay to fail. I’ve found that you often learn more from failure, and it can free you from any impossible expectations you’ve given yourself. Surrounded by so many high-achievers, it can feel like the end of the world if you bomb a test or don’t get your dream internship. Pick yourself back up, see what you can learn, and keep going. You are amazing, and there will always be other chances.
“Back in my day…” Dining halls had fewer staircases and fewer vegetarian options. The kids have got it so good.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: This year my housing group got the very last suite in EC! Ha suck it, lottery number 2954.
What was your favorite class at Columbia? Geochemistry for a Habitable Planet with Terry Plank! It’s basically a semester-long story time on how the Universe and Earth were created—told by everyone’s favorite volcano lady slash MacArthur genius.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Cheese has never let me down is all I’m saying.
Whom would you like to thank? I say thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing. “Who can live without it?” I ask in all honesty. What would life be? Without a song or a dance what are we? So I say thank you for the music, for giving it to me.
Actually though, I’d like to thank my friends, family, and dog Teddy for supporting me through four years of a SEAS course load. But also ABBA.
One thing to do before graduating: Smuggle a keg into EC inside of a blue bin.
Any regrets? Not getting off campus more! It’s easy to overcommit yourself to classes and clubs and never leave the Columbia bubble. Like, I still haven’t been to Brooklyn? I hear it’s cool?
Image via Charles Harper