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Things We Wish We Knew Our First-Year

Bureau Chief Olivia Mitchell gives you a list of all the things that Bwoggers wish that we knew before starting our first year at Barnumbia.

Living In The City

  • It only costs subway fair ($2.75) to go out and have a fun day! Your CUID can get you into a LOT of museums for free. It’s so fun and inspiring to chill at the Met, sit at a gallery, and study with a friend!
  • There are a ton of parks close to campus. Riverside, Morningside, even Central Park! Spend your time exploring nature and going on walks. Really helps to clear your head.
  • Don’t take the subway too late. Be careful.
  • Don’t be afraid of transferring trains or busses. Download Citymapper to help you figure out where to go and when to transfer.
  • Go explore! There are a ton of incredible places in the city. Morningside Heights is right in Harlem, too. Check out the Apollo Theater or the World Famous Cotton Club. Both are iconic places in musical and Black American history.
  • Discover local businesses around the area. Don’t just study at Butler or drink your coffee at Liz’s and Peet’s! There’s a cute cafe uptown in Harlem called the Chipped Cup, and there’s a great pastry shop on Amsterdam called the Hungarian Pastry Shop. There are tons of cafes on the UWS too.
  • On Thursdays and Sundays, there’s a farmers market on Broadway and 116th. You can get great produce and baked goods there that taste better than anything you’ll buy in the local grocery stores.
  • Hang out with the cats at Ivy League Stationers and Samad’s. They’re very kind babies. The cat at Samad’s is named Poncho. Love him.
  • If you want good bagels, go to Absolute Bagels or Wu & Nuss. Absolute is waaaay cheaper, but they only take cash.
  • Get out of the borough! Not everything is in Manhattan. Brooklyn has a lot of cool restaurants and museums. So do Queens and the Bronx. Staten Island does suck, though.
  • Bring a portable charger with you. It’s scary to be somewhere in the Financial District and have your phone die.

Being By Yourself for the Very First Time

  • Bring shower shoes. And a shower caddy. It’s not a joke. You need them.
  • Do your laundry regularly, whether that be weekly or every other week. It’s better to do one load a week than five loads at once.
  • Buy a kettle. Stop making your tea in the microwave.
  • New York City water has some of the freshest water you can get anywhere. Still, you might not be used to the taste. Get a Brita and keep it regularly filled.
  • Invest in a good water bottle and stay hydrated. Nalgene and Klean Kanteen make incredible water bottles (and Klean Kanteen are better for the environment). Drinking water keeps you alert and hydrated and helps to prevent UTIs and horrible, horrible hangovers.
  • Download Mint and set spending limits for yourself.
  • Invest in making your room yours. Decorating it will make you feel more comfortable and at home. Buy cheap postcards for your wall!
  • Give yourself a bedtime and a curfew. Seriously.
  • Odd piece of advice, but check out Pinterest. There’s a lot of cool information about stuff to do in NYC, cheap recipes to make, and how to become more independent.

Having A Social Life

  • It takes time to find your people. Introduce yourself to people in your classes, on your floor, or even sitting next to you in Milstein. People are a lot nicer than you think they are.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to other students, especially during your first year! Make some small talk, ask them questions, have lunch together, watch a beautiful friendship bloom!
  • Clubs are great! But don’t overdo yourself your first semester. Join a few things you’re really interested in, sign up for the newsletters for some others, but only go to what you really want to be involved in.
  • Greek life here isn’t “different” or “better”. Systematic racism and classism still very much exists!
  • Don’t be discouraged from joining clubs with application processes.
  • It is easy to stay in, it is fun to go out. Sometimes, you do need to relax, but most of the time you will not regret going out. Doing stuff is what makes college fun.
  • Carve out a little alone time every day. Spending 24 hours surrounded by friends can be fun, and if you really like them, it’s tempting to constantly be with them, but alone time is really good for relaxation and mental health. Just spending an hour to yourself will make you appreciate your friends even more and help you focus on your priorities (whatever they may be)!
  • Go to traditional events. Tree-lighting, Homecoming, Orgo Night, Big Sub, Midnight Breakfast. They’re all fun.
  • Be aggressive with friendships. You are now at a giant institution and it’s unlikely that you will naturally become friends with someone unless you make the effort to have meals with them/hang out outside of class.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to your orientation leader, your RA, or other older students you kinda know! We all want you to have a good time here.
  • Try to make the best out of orientation! Say hi to that person that seems standoff-ish, chances are they’re just shy.
  • You don’t have to like NSOP. A lot of us don’t. Everyone is trying to prove to everyone else how much fun they’re having and how many friends they’re making, but it’s ok to just feel lonely and bored and out-of-place. Give yourself time to adjust.
  • Join Bwog! Okay okay, no advertising. Join at least one club that doesn’t require an interview. Even if there’s a short application, chances are everyone will be a lot chiller and more willing to make new friends. We know Zoom meetings aren’t the same, but any social interaction to break the monotony of sleep, eat, class, repeat will help :)
  • Go to events or clubs you see posters and ads for. It’ll be more fun than you think.
  • College is a time to discover and embrace all parts of yourself, and meeting people who are like you will help speed up that process of “loving yourself.”

Learning To Love (Academia, That Is)

  • Try out different libraries! They’re all super different and a lot are underrated. The East Asian Library, NoCo, and the Teachers’ College Library are all incredible, but they don’t get enough love.
  • It’s okay to miss a homework assignment or two. Pushing yourself to the brink won’t make you a better student.
  • Designate homework and study times, and set a bedtime for yourself. Staying up till 3 am won’t help you. Work earlier.
  • Invest in noise-canceling headphones. People really don’t shut the fuck up, no matter where you are.
  • Pick classes based on professors, otherwise you’ll be miserable. CULPA is an incredible resource. Use it.
  • If you live in an area that’s cheaper than NYC, buy your school supplies there and bring it (if you can). Things here are EXPENSIVE. Decomposition Books and Whitelines are two incredible notebook brands. Invest in them.
  • Go to office hours. Your professors and TAs really want to make sure that you’re doing well.
  • Take classes that you think you’re interested in. Don’t focus too heavily on your major when you’re just starting. You’ll figure it out.
  • If you really need to get out, Columbia has some kind of arrangement with NYU where we can use their library. It’s not as great as ours, but it’s still cool.
  • You will no longer be the smartest person in the room. In high school, I was so used to being the Model Student and once I got to college it was disconcerting to be in a room full of other valedictorians, captains, club presidents, and so on. Students here are ridiculously impressive, I wish I’d known that I don’t have to be the “best” in the room to still be smart and capable.
  • Getting a B in a class does not make you stupid. A B is a good grade. Repeat that mantra to yourself. You are not in high school anymore, you are at one of the most competitive universities in the world, of course, it’s going to be hard! Sometimes you won’t get perfect grades and that’s ok.
  • The first essay you ever write will not have the grade you think it “deserved”, and that’s perfectly fine! It was definitely a wake-up call for me that I didn’t have the best essay in the world, and a lot of the techniques I learned in high school were not good, but this is a good time to accept critique and improve as a writer!
  • Don’t get intimidated that most of your friends probably won’t be in the same major as you. You’ll all have common interests, and what you study shouldn’t be the only thing keeping you together. You won’t run out of conversation, I promise you (and sometimes it’s fun to be treated as the ‘specialist’ in your area of study).
  • Everyone has their own way of studying and yours might not be in Butler with your friends. Take the time to find the right environment for you to work.
  • Seminars might seem scary, but they’re great ways to learn. Take some. You’ll love it!

Taking Care Of Yourself Mentally, Emotionally, and Physically

  • Know that your issues aren’t going to go away just because you’re somewhere else. Things are easier and they are better, but you still have to work on your issues and be honest with yourself. Your issues travel with you and you need to take time to take care of them and yourself.
  • Utilize CPS and Furman to the fullest extent. CPS isn’t always great, but they’re a start, same with Furman. Talking with someone always helps.
  • Well Woman and Being Barnard are incredible wellness resources. Well Woman has craft nights every Wednesday and open hours at certain times of the week, and it gives you an opportunity to talk to a peer about anything in your life that you’re curious about, whether it be mental health, sex education, or adjusting to campus life. Being Barnard is also an incredible sex-ed resource, and the coordinator does have appointments where you can just sit and talk about anything sex-related, whether it’s learning to put on a condom or talking through sex anxiety.
  • Download the Reach Out Editions app and connect to your school (Barnard or Columbia). It gives you a ton of information on campus resources, medical care, mental health, alcohol and substance issues support services, sexual violence support services, and reporting sexual assault and harassment. You might not think you’ll need it, but it’s good to have on hand.
  • Walk-in hours for the medical services are a GODSEND. Even if you have a cold or just want to get tested for STIs, walk in. They’re super kind and helpful and will give you specialist recommendations if needed.
  • Know that no one fucking cares. Wear whatever you want, eat whatever you want, do whatever you want. It’s fucking New York City, babyyyyyy!!!
  • Acupuncture is actually pretty dope. Harlem Chi is a great place to get it for cheap!
  • Don’t be scared of going into Dodge! Working out isn’t just for sweaty gross cis men! And Barnard students: the Barnard Gym is in the basement of Barnard Hall. It’s small, and you can use Dodge too, but it’s convenient.
  • Get a therapist. And a psychiatrist. Please.
  • For Barnard students: try a FitBear class! They are usually small and nobody cares about how you perform!
  • Barnard students: GET TRAINING FOR THE BIOFEEDBACK ROOM!!! This is a highly underutilized resource that is on the first floor of first-year housing. All you need to do is go to Furman and ask, the training is like 15 minutes long and then it is yours to use!
  • Use mental and physical health services! Apply for CARDS/ODS if applicable. Stop by the health center for a check-up if you don’t feel well. Academics are important, but your physical and mental health trumps all.

Dining On (And Off) Campus

  • Drink the Diana late-night smoothies. It’s honestly the best way to get a lot of vitamins and minerals that you can’t get from other dining hall food. Figure out what’s in a good smoothie first, too. You need a good balance of acid and bland ingredients to make it juuuust right.
  • Don’t overuse JJ’s. You won’t feel good if you’re dining there every other night. Save it for celebrating something or a place to head after getting completely blasted at a party.
  • Columbia students: Hewitt is DOWNSTAIRS in Barnard. In the basement. You have to take the stairs to the left and then go down a tunnel. None of it is clearly signed. You should honestly ask someone where it is. You will not find it by yourself.
  • Ferris breakfast goes til 2pm. And Ferris is double-leveled. Chow down.
  • If you’re leaving a dining hall but need to come back, ask to leave your ID. But don’t forget it!
  • You won’t use all of your swipes every week. Swipe in upperclassmen and/or use your swipes to buy snacks at JJ’s.
  • Eat balanced meals. You might not eat 3 times a day, and that’s okay, but don’t just eat a plate of plain spaghetti and be done for the day. You need proteins, carbs, vegetables/fruit, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
  • New York’s diversity makes its food scene incredible. Try different cuisines from different cultures. Even if you don’t like it, you’ve tried it!
  • Repeat after me: coffee is not a meal. You need to eat.
  • All the grocery stores near campus are super overpriced (that’s New York for you). If you want groceries but can’t afford to spend $8 per apple, take the subway down to 72nd and Broadway and go to the Trader Joe’s! Trader Joe’s prices are standardized nationally, so they’re some of the cheapest groceries in the area.

Livin’ And Lovin’

  • Don’t spend your time on men who don’t know how to communicate or who push your boundaries.
  • More people “like” you than you think. Everyone’s afraid of dating. Be confident in yourself.
  • Don’t use the shitty condoms they have for free in the halls. Trojans are always standard and safe. Remember to pinch the tip when you’re rolling it down. Use lube, too. If you need it.
  • Don’t fuck in the showers. It’s honestly gross. And if you take up the accessible stall to do it, you’re kind of a bad person.
  • Ask your roommate at least 2 days in advance if you’re going to have a person come up to your dorm. They need time to make plans. If you can’t, at least give 1-hour heads up. Please.
  • Getting your heart broken is a rite of passage. It will pass, and you will come out stronger. You’re not unlovable. You’re not broken.
  • If you’re going on a date, always tell a friend where you’re going and text them updates. Ask them to call you in the middle. Set a code word so you can let them know if something’s not okay.
  • If you’re mostly sober/completely sober, and someone any kind of drunk wants to hook up, don’t, and vice versa. Inebriated people cannot consent. Drunk hookups really are not a good idea.
  • Understand the different types of consent and what is and isn’t considered consent. Sexual assault and harassment are rampant on college campuses, and if anyone pushes your boundaries, leave.
  • Set boundaries for yourself beforehand. Don’t push your own or let anyone else push them.
  • In the romantic, sexual, or intimate sense, there may be older students who will prey on your newness because they can’t get with people their own age. There are going to be people who do not have your best interests at heart. In the event that something scary happens, know that it is not your fault and you do not owe anyone an apology. You deserve to feel safe and respected.

We Know You’re Gonna Drink/Do Drugs, So Do It Safely

  • If you’re going to party, make sure you’re regularly hydrated. Hangovers suck, but the main reason they do is that all of that alcohol makes you super dehydrated. If you regularly drink enough water, you should be fine. Take some Motrin before bed, though. Just in case.
  • Don’t take an edible on an empty stomach. Even if you think you can handle it. It’s a mistake.
  • Don’t drink/do drugs too much too fast. Wait for your body to catch up. It’ll hit.
  • If you leave your drink uncovered while you’re away, dump it. Goes for anywhere and everywhere.
  • Know how different substances will affect your mental health. Seriously. Acid isn’t fun when you’re Bipolar. And know how they interact with your medications too.
  • Make sure you have someone to walk home with. Someone sober. If you need to get home and you’re a subway drive away, it’s sometimes better to invest in an Uber or Lyft.
  • Alcohol. We all know what it is, some of us know it better than others. Enjoy it in moderation, and please be careful. Try to avoid drinking alone, as it can become a very slippery slope, and try to drink heavily with people who respect you for you and will have your back in case anything gets out of hand.

NOTE: Bwog does not condone underage drinking or substance usage.

keep your dorm this clean via Bwog Archives

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5 Comments

  • Gary Chang says:

    @Gary Chang Perhaps a few more things good to know for first year are, it is a fact that you could fall in love with somebody on campus, someone whom you would one day call Husband or Wife, lol, funny but fact. If you feel so lonely from all your time spent on studying, try the Columbia Ski [and Snowboard] Team, it is not varsity, it is a club open to Barnard and Columbia students, some are pros, some are beginners, but all are family with lots of beer and liquor by the fireplace. On the ski slopes, some of em’ decide to wear “Caution” tapes on their jackets to identify themselves as Columbia Ski Team for others to recognize while everybody’s wearing helmets and goggles. Hope you have fun! And stay safe! :)

  • Richard says:

    @Richard Just an FYI regarding the first sentence of this article: It should be subway “fare” not subway “fair.”

  • Ellie Lan says:

    @Ellie Lan Wish this post existed when I went to Columbia. Well said.

  • Barbara H. says:

    @Barbara H. Bwog also shouldn’t condone excess socializing!! Freshmen, don’t make me lose all hope for Columbia students. Be safe, be sane, don’t ruin it for everyone.

    2
    3
    1. Olivia Mitchell says:

      @Olivia Mitchell Hi! That’s totally fair. We don’t condone excess socializing during the pandemic. However, we wrote this based on general freshman year things we wish we had known, not a list of things that fit specifically to this pandemic.

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