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Senior Wisdom: Amy Liu

The tapestry is almost cool as she is.

This Senior Wisdom goes to Amy Liu, writer extraordinaire and avid athlete.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Amy Gong Liu, Columbia College, human rights and ethnicity/race studies, Alameda, CA

Claim to fame: Probably my writing – this semester I had a newspaper column and published a lot of my poetry and prose. I was also the captain of the women’s water polo team, president of Asian Youth Program, and on the board of Helvidius. Was probably was that person in your seminar who spoke a lot (and always smelled like chlorine and coffee).

Where are you going? Onwards!

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

1. That you have agency over your decisions is simultaneously one of the most frightening and liberating conclusions that you will come to: you always have a choice. You’ll have to make lots of difficult ones throughout college. Dessert or no dessert? Stay up and finish your paper, or go to bed and turn it in tomorrow for a lower grade? Refuse to take ownership behind destructive habits, or proactively work to identify, reroute, and change? You—and only you—can figure out what is best for yourself. Trust that you can and will.

2. These next few years are going to be filled with lots of hurtful moments. Learn how to (with both yourself and with others) find comfort by leaning in rather than away. The best kind of empathy digs into the uncomfortable; try and cast away the guilt that comes with not knowing exactly what to do or say. Struggle doesn’t need to be maximized or minimized. It’s okay in the moment to accept things simply for what and where they are.

3. You can be both a healthy skeptic and someone constantly struck by wonder. Allow yourself to question everything—the texts you read in class, the love you give and receive, your values, your long-held truths. In a similar vein, give yourself permission to be carried away by joy: sink fully into leaves, eye contact with strangers, train rides, fist bumps with Sir Mike, long nights out, traditions, poems, etc. Daydream. Night-dream. And then do everything in between.

Bonus: learn how to use a corkscrew as early on as possible. You’ll impress the people around you, and you’ll never have to do the thing where you bang a shoe for thirty minutes against the bottom of a wine bottle…

“Back in my day…” NSOP wasn’t filled with first-years with Juuls hanging out of their back pockets.

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: The one thing that I actually did learn with the human rights major is that nobody ever needs to do that—that one simply exists is justification enough :-)

What was your favorite class at Columbia? Too many to list all. Some standouts were Lit Hum with Janet Min Lee, my second semester of CC with Ben Barasch, Colonization/Decolonization with Emmanuelle Saada, Asian Americans and the Psychology of Race with Shinhee Han, Communities and Social Change with Marnie Brady, and Asian American/Latinx Memoirs with Nathalie Handal.

To anybody reading senior wisdoms looking for good classes to take in the spring: check out classes from Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER). Incredible faculty, really trenchant course material, and one of the few academic spaces where I’ve been able to find community.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? God I hate this question so much lol

One thing to do before graduating: Walk from the South Ferry stop on the 1 train up through Riverside Park all the way back to campus!

Any regrets? I was actually just with some old friends from freshman year last night (s/o to Carman 805) talking about this. Honestly—no. College was, in its entirety: imperfect, supremely extra, painful, exhausting, numbing. But I threw all of my whole imperfect supremely extra painful exhausting numbing self into it. I really did my best. And with the end of it all so clearly in sight, I have realized that the best is all we can ever do.

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