Student Perspectives: Columbia with Carolina

Are you interested in learning about American's top colleges from the perspective of current college students? We'll be visiting our LogicPrep alum, who are now current college students to get the inside scoop about what makes these universities great and what's completely different than expected. Follow along to learn more!

Jesse and Murilo visited Carolina, a LogicPrep graduate who's now attending Columbia University. Carolina is originally from São Paulo, and applied to many top American universities. She ultimately decided to attend Columbia. In her interview, it was pretty obvious that she's really liking her experience on campus so far.

Tell us about Columbia's Core Curriculum:

I have mixed feelings about the core curriculum.
Pros: The cultural literacy! Everyone is reading the same books and everyone is taking the same classes. The core curriculum provides a sense of unity on campus because you can talk to fellow students about Homer's The Odyssey, Virginia Woolf, and that's interesting to me. We also read important historical texts: The Quran, the Bible, books that have value today and are such old pieces of literature.
Cons: In my Literatures of Humanity class you have to binge read the books. For example, you have to read The Odyssey in one week! So you just can't taste them fully. It becomes a very automatic process, skimming and trying to read as fast as you can, that you just miss so many facts found inside these books. Because it's a literature class, we also don't discuss the historical piece of these books, so to me, that's a shame.

Speaking of classes, what are some that you're taking now and can you tell us about them?

As I mentioned before, I'm taking a few classes, including Frontiers of Science and Literacy of Humanity. Frontiers of Science is one of my favorite classes and is taught by some of the best professors on campus. The class is lecture-style and has around 500 students in the auditorium. This class is based around 4 different modules of science (psychology, physics, earth science & environmental science), and we're studying physics currently. Our professor is Brian Greene, who is one of the most famous professors at Columbia and very well-known in the physics world. He's written many books and his lectures are incredible. I've never really loved physics, but when you go into a class where the professor can explain these concepts in such a different way, it's very exciting. The professor who taught the psychology portion actually advised in the making of the movie Inside Out. I've learned so many things in this one particular class than I just didn't know previously.
Freshman are divided into two groups: half of the class takes Frontiers of Science the first semester, and the other half takes University Writing the first semester, and then they switch for the second semester. University Writing is supposedly a very exciting and engaging class, so I look forward to taking that next semester, although it supposedly has a huge workload, so it will be very challenging.

What is your take on the international student population here?

When I first got here, I distanced myself from the international students a bit. It wasn't intentional, but I really wanted the American experience here. My roommates and their friends are American, so that kind of happened naturally. There is a Brazilian Society at Columbia that is well-known.
I am also in a program called Global Ambassadors, so I have contact with other International students, and I see that they predominantly surround themselves with other international students, so I think in a way, I'm an outlier, and most international students stick together. There's a certain comfort level with only seeking friendships with other people like yourself and the language barrier is real, so I can see pros and cons to both sides.

What's the typical Columbia student like?

The students I surround myself with are all very creative people. I have friends who are creative writing majors, film majors, and they love discussing philosophy and writing and poetry. There are also a lot of scientific-minded students here as well, mostly in other dorms. My dorm has a mix of athletes and creative minds. Students are very well-versed in many areas because of the core curriculum. In general, students take less classes and participate in a lot of clubs and activities.

What about religiousness on campus?

There are students on both ends of the spectrum and right in between. There are a lot of Muslim students, Christian groups on campus, but there's also a predominant Atheist population here. The number of religious organizations on campus is surprising to me, but it's great to be surrounded by so many people who believe very differently.

How is the social life here?

It's great! Perhaps it's because I'm a freshman and everything is new, but I feel like I'm always bonding with my friends. Columbia as a campus is not really united, and I think part of that is because we're in NYC and there are many other colleges around. I have a number of friends at NYU, Manhattan College and Parsons, and I will visit them regularly. So the social life here is really the social life in NYC-- for me, it's not really specific to Columbia.

How would you compare the workload to high school?

That's a tough question to answer for me. On one hand, high school was harder-- especially my final year of the IB program. However, in a way, high school was actually easier because there's more free time here, and time management is a major key to success in college. I definitely prefer the schedule here at Columbia because I have time to put effort into my work, whereas in high school, I didn't really feel like that because I was always rushing to get everything done on time.

Hardest part of the transition from high school to college?

At first, I was overwhelmed by the number of students here. Finding your "people" can be challenging, but there's also so many people that it's not too hard to make friends.

Knowing what you know now about college, what advice would you have given yourself a year ago?

I would not have shut myself off to so many other colleges. When I was applying for school, I really wished to go to Stanford (I had done a summer program there and loved it), so I thought that was my dream college. Now that I am here, I am absolutely loving it. Honestly, any of the schools that I applied to, I probably would have been happy attending. I feel so lucky to be here at Columbia. Sometimes I still wonder how I'm here!

Can you share any fun facts about Columbia with us?

They say there is an owl hidden in the cloaks of the Alma Mater statue right in the front of the library. If you are a man and you find the owl, you will be valedictorian for your class. And if you're a woman and you find the owl, you will meet your future husband here.
Also, There's a statue behind Low Library and urban myth says that if you look at it from above, it's a dollar sign (it's not, I've check on Google Maps).
And finally, students don't take the swimming requirement very seriously. Some will do it right away, and others will wait until the last moment of their senior year because them there's a large group that does it together. Engineering students don't have to take the test at all! I haven't done it yet.

Murilo looks for the owl so he can be valedictorian

Be sure to check out more student perspectives here.