Today’s first senior wisdom is from Karen Lopez, notable for her work in the Latinx community and her food insta.
Name, School, Major, Hometown: Karen Lopez, Columbia College, Economics and Hispanic Studies, Hempstead, New York (Long Island)
Claim to fame: Doing a thing or two for the Latinx community, possibly going to too many alumni related events, and posing for pictures on Low steps.
Where are you going? I am going offline for a bit and returning to NYC to join the corporate ranks.
What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2022?
1. Try really hard to not compare yourself to others around you. Many of you will get to campus and realize that you are surrounded by extremely gifted individuals. It’s only natural for us to compare ourselves to others but it can be very harmful. It took me a while to realize that while the finish line is the same for all of us, not everyone begins at the same start line. It can be difficult to not fall into a self-deprecating cycle when you’re surrounded by constant stress. Remember that it is more than okay to take a day off to replenish—you should not feel pressured to stay in Butler all day and night because your friends are doing so. You might ask yourself if you should be doing more and the answer is almost always that you should be doing less. Be kind to yourself!
2. You are paying for Columbia’s network—use it. During my sophomore year I joined Columbia College Student Ambassadors (CCSA) and it opened my eyes to the alumni community. I realized that alumni are always willing to meet with students for casual coffee chats and mentoring sessions. My professional career has taken a significant turn because of the advice I received from thoughtful alumni.
3. Embrace the unexpected. There are so many of us that come to Columbia with a set plan of what we want our lives to look like a few years from now. As most usually find out, life doesn’t always take you on a linear path. If you’re deviating from your original plan, it could be that life is taking you on an even better direction. As hard as it is while going through major lows, I promise you that something good is in store for you.
“Back in my day…” You had to get to the package center early or be doomed to an hour wait.
Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: I’ve had to justify being on this campus way too many times so I think I’m allowed to skip this one.
What was your favorite class at Columbia? I am part of the cult that was converted to being an Econ major by Principles of Economics with Gulati. I also really enjoyed Social History of American Public Health with Professor James Colgrove.
Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I can’t feature oral on my food insta (@healthy_bullshit_)
Whom would you like to thank? There are so many people who have shaped my Columbia experience but I could not have gotten through it without the support of my closest friends.
Alex, Erin, Maleeha, Sara, Samia, Kevin, Kimmy, Yasmin, Irene, Celeste: Words cannot describe how much you all mean to me. When I’ve been down, you have been there to pick me up. You have spent countless hours in Butler with me, celebrated my successes and wiped my tears when things took unexpected turns. I will not forget your genuine friendship. Thank you for loving me!
My mentees – Patty G, Nathan, Maddy, Baby Siegal, Guadalupe, Jalileh, Jocelyn: Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey here at Columbia. I am so proud of all of you and I am confident that you will absolutely kill it in the next few years. I hope you all remember to reach out to other students and hold mentorship close to your hearts.
Latinx community: Thank you for introducing me to some of my closest friends, giving me the space to sharpen my leadership skills and for providing me with seasoned food! Columbia wouldn’t be home if I wasn’t surrounded by people who understand that a simple hello does not suffice—a hug and a kiss is a must!
One thing to do before graduating: Catch the sunrise on the Brooklyn Bridge with two of my best friends.
Any regrets? I truly regret neglecting my mental health freshman year. During that time, I felt like I had to justify being accepted to a place like this and found myself working to the point of a breakdown. I spent so much time working that I often found myself grabbing quick meals rather than meeting friends. I convinced myself that I didn’t have time for anything besides studying and going to group meetings! I now recognize that I wasn’t kind to myself and have been on a journey to be so ever since.
Photo via Karen Lopez