From "Officium et Civitas" to "In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen"

From "Officium et Civitas" to "In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen"

Friday, February 12, 2016

From "Officium et Civitas" to "In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen"

This opinion piece appeared in CityU's Department of Applied Social Sciences Serves the Society newsletter, Issue 20, January 2016 and was written by current Joint Bachelor's Degree Program student Yan Ying Fong.

It is intimidating as I realized that it is a big world out here and how small I am at this stage. As a joint bachelor’s degree program student, I am admitted to Columbia University through the School of General Studies (GS). This school is one of the colleges that provides undergraduate degrees to its students along with Barnard College and Columbia College (CC). However, unlike the other two colleges, students in GS come from different walks of life and everyone has what we call a “GS story” to share. Some of us are veterans, Broadway performers, professional dancers, stay-home mothers or even fulltime working-students who went straight to work after high school and now felt the need to go back to school. Others might be Postbac Premed students, who are here to pursue their dreams, or an older adult who values the spirit of learning. One of the universities in France, Science Po, also has a similar program of a Dual BA degree here at Columbia, and so there’s another group of students who share similar experiences with us. So to say the very least, GS is an extremely diverse school, but the GS community is very welcoming and all of us share the same aspiration – we are here to learn. Although I belong to GS, my classmates include students from Barnard and CC as well. Hence, I am also meeting people who are around my age and have experienced a different education system.

All students here are intelligent and hardworking; everyone has a dream they want to pursue and they are constantly working on getting closer to that dream. To put it another way, they are not only about thinking big, but they are also putting their thoughts into action; doing small things every day to build up something big. Columbia has a lot of resources that students here are never shy to take advantage of, to actualize their plans. This intimidates me, because I realize that there is an extraordinary amount of possibilities for me out there in this world; everything is literally possible as long as I put my heart, mind and effort into it.

It is also hard because the courses here in Columbia are definitely not a piece of cake. Although I did not come here thinking that it would be easy, I definitely did not foresee the amount of readings that I would be given here. Apart from textbooks, each of my psychology courses has at least two journal articles that we are expected to read before class. My global core course has over four thick textbooks that are being covered over the semester, and if you think it is okay to not read them, you are wrong; because there are always in-class discussions that I must participate in. There are home works and short discussion blog posts due every week, not to mention midterms start to roll in from the second week of October (at least for the fall semester), which continues to the end of November, and then final exams come in to wrap up the semester in December.

My roommate and I have calculated the amount of time we spend in class learning versus the time we spend studying out of class; the conclusion is that we are definitely spending at least triple the time studying out of class than we do in class. It is indeed hard, but as one of our deans here would quote from a movie, A League of Their Own: “The hard is what makes it great.” Studying in Columbia is hard, but it’s the consistent challenges that Columbia gives its students that make this place great. With every challenge we are given, we are taken out of our comfort zone, and this is where the magic happens; where learning happens. Despite the heavy workload, the faculty members and professors here are very patient and helpful whenever I have questions. Columbia encourages students to not only stay in libraries 24/7 (their libraries here are magnificent), but also be actively involved in the society with hands-on experience. Thus, there are regular careers fairs, lab previews and student organizations that students participates. To better prepare everyone with these opportunities, the university has put an effort to provide a wide range of resources to students: mock interview training, writing centres, tutors for different subjects, reading coaches – you name it, 99.9% of the time, they have it here. Therefore, even though it is hard here, it is rewarding as well.

The famous Columbia Bubble is between 110th Street Broadway and 121st Street Amsterdam. This is the area where most of the Columbia students are stuck within since we could find almost everything we need around this area. However, I will make an effort at least once every two weeks to leave this bubble during the weekend. Central Park in New York is the best place to go for a quiet walk, especially when I am fed up with all the buildings around me and need some green scenery. The Art Initiative that Columbia has allows us free access to almost all big museums here, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. In addition to museums, we also get discounted tickets to see Broadway performances and orchestral shows. Over the fall break, I went to visit Princeton, which is only an hour and a half away from here, with my roommate. Many other prestigious universities or historical landmarks are very close by to visit during the short breaks we have. New York is definitely not a boring place, every block in NYC is unique in its own way and every one of them is worth spending time to explore on. Columbia is intimidating and hard, but CityU has definitely prepared me well for this rigorous environment. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to study at Columbia University; it has and will continue to make a huge difference in my life.