Get outside, even if Low Steps is packed.

Name, School, Major, Hometown: Haya Ghandour, SEAS, Civil Engineering + MESAAS, Beirut, Lebanon

Claim to fame: Apparently, someone called me the grandma of Turath which I don’t know how to feel about? People probably know me for being Arab, an international student, Muslim, working with admissions, or the 2 years I accidentally worked for Sp*c. Shoutout to 4 years of working with Turath, GRC, ISOP, and SJP on this campus, though. And to all the people I argued with in John Jay lounge freshman year. 

Where are you going? Right now? To watch Moon Knight. After Columbia? If you need to know, you’ll eventually know.  

What are 3 things you learned at Columbia and would like to share with the Class of 2026?

  1. Health. Comes. First. Literally nothing else matters as much as your physical and mental wellbeing. I can 100% confirm that not a single all-nighter I pulled in the last four years was worth it. Just go to bed and ask for an extension in the morning. It’s always easier to ask for forgiveness. That also applies to having fun (last-minute concerts will always be a better idea that staying up to write your papers). 
  2. When the sun is out, don’t stay inside. Yes, everyone and their mother will be on Low Steps, and so should you. While you’re at it, invest in a good speaker, a free blanket from Columbia, and a football (soccer ball) and you will feel a new level of joy. 
  3. Tell the people you love that you love them while they’re with you. The community you build here will become your family, especially when family is so far away. Have the most random conversation with them about life on the steps at 2 am and see for yourself. 

“Back in my day…” JJ’s was open 23/7, it wouldn’t be raining all week in May, and we would set up an apartheid wall on Low for Israeli Apartheid Week in the spring #CUADforever. 

Favorite Columbia controversy? @gab_nyc. I refuse to believe she is a real person AND that she thought she was a match to Columbia Twitter. Also if you support CU Raqs, we can’t be friends. 

What was your favorite class at Columbia? I really enjoyed my MESAAS and architecture classes. Rethinking Middle East Politics with Timothy Mitchell is still one of my favorites. 

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? Alhamdulillah I keep it halal all the time, like 100% 

Whom would you like to thank? My family at home, first and foremost. And then my chosen family here at Columbia. To my girls in 1804, aka SUITEES, thank you for sticking by me through all the hardship, success, joy, and controversy of the last four years. And for always trying my food. And for sharing your joy for life and dancing in dining halls with me. To my Arab family, from those who have graduated to those finishing their freshman year right now, thank you for allowing me to grow and learn with you, and for showing me what community and care can really look like. To all my international kids, past and present, I am so proud of you. Thank you for rooting for me since day 1. Last but not least, Julian, for being the only person I would go through engineering with again. 

One thing to do before graduating: Have a spontaneous dance party with your friends in public. Be it to the music in John Jay, on the Sundial to Bohemian Rhapsody, or a random Zumba class on Amsterdam. And take group pictures on 0.5x zoom with your back camera, flash on.

Any regrets? Not using my meal swipes enough then running out of dining dollars every year. 

Portrait via Haya