My Classes This Semester

I’m so excited for my classes this semester! I get to take a really diverse set of courses, including ones for my major (Environmental Science) and just general education requirements. Keep reading to see what my semester looks like!

Intermediate Italian I: This is the third semester of Italian I’m taking, and it helps fulfill the language requirement at Barnard. Italian has always been one of my favorite classes because it’s not too stressful, the professors are so knowledgeable, and we occasionally talk about Italian food (which is amazing). I’m really excited to get better at speaking Italian and learning more about the culture!

General Chemistry I + Lab: Admittedly, this is the class I’m most anxious for this semester because it is known to require a lot of work and studying. It’s required for my major, so I know it will be valuable in the long run.

Workshop in Sustainable Development: In this seminar, my class works for a real-life client in the greater New York area to help solve a problem. This semester, we’re working for the Hudson River Foundation to contribute to a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment. I’m especially looking forward to this class because I get to use what I’ve learned in past classes to help solve a real world issue.

Coding in the Sciences: I love coding and computer science, and I’m really excited to learn a new coding language. In this class we are learning to use Swift, which was developed by Apple, and write programs to research scientific phenomena. Not only will I pick up a cool skill, but I also get to study a really interesting field!

If you have any questions about courses at Barnard or general questions about my time here, shoot me an email at

Hannah Spierer ’17

Coming Back to Campus

Moving in is always a momentous event, even if home is just a subway ride away from campus. Since home for me is a plane flight away—and a 20 hour long one at that—I’ve experienced quite a bit of the entire process. For instance, I now know the entire layout of Frankfurt Airport’s transit area, and also, that there’s no way you can fit ANY suitcase past New York’s subway’s turnstiles (yup, I’ve lost a decent amount of money from swiping my card and realising too late).

Lugging bags up and down these stairs is pretty hard too

To be honest, move-in, and thinking about moving-in, make me really anxious. First of all, move-in is a logistical nightmare. There are so many details lurking in it, like getting hold of flight tickets, ensuring travel documents are in order, packing for a different climate, handling storage… It’s crazy that I’ve managed to be here; that all that effort and coordination has resulted in my very presence in this college. Yet everyone I’ve met so far has handled move-in so well, since any kinks in the way tend to be sorted out. We’re never alone, really, with supportive family ensuring that we pack sensibly, and Amazon Prime with its amazing ability to deliver fridges within 2 days, when the ones we rented never showed up (true story).

The other part of move-in that makes it so daunting is the turbulent emotions that go with it. Saying goodbye to my family at the departure gates has not gotten easier, even as a sophomore this year. Going through immigration, navigating the way back to campus with luggage, and finally arriving in an empty room can feel pretty desolate when done alone. However, there are always the little things that ease the entire journey. On my most recent trip here, I met two other Columbia students from Singapore on the same flight. We shared a cab back to campus, and got to know each other a little bit (before our collective exhaustion halted the conversation entirely). When I arrived on campus, the first person I met was my roommate from last year, who gave me a huge hug, despite me reeking of jet fuel and stale coffee.

So much blankness. So much possibility.

These are the tiny things that make coming back to campus bearable, and reveal that it’s not the monstrous odyssey it seems—because again, we’re never alone. It takes time to ease back into campus life too—I still have yet to make my room look less barren, and to populate my fridge with actual food. The upside is that moving in is the prelude to an amazing semester ahead in college; one filled with potential for new experiences, meaningful relationships, and personal growth.

5 Tips to Make the Most of Your NSOP Experience

It’s almost that time of year again, when campus awakes from its summer slumber and slowly returns back to normal. Soon enough, returning students will be moving into their dorms and getting ready for the first day of classes. But before all of this can happen, a University-wide tradition must occur–NSOP! NSOP stands for the New Student Orientation Program, and every new student at Columbia takes part in the week long orientation. Here, I lay out five helpful tips for making the most of your NSOP experience!

1) Introduce yourself to people whenever possible. Whether it’s in the dining hall, at an info session, or just hanging out on campus, don’t be afraid to just say hi! One of things I immediately fell in love with at Barnard is how genuinely friendly the women are. I remember during my NSOP, I was eating a meal with some people and another student casually introduced herself and asked to join us. It was great getting to know these amazing Barnard women! You don’t have to become best friends, but it’s always nice to see familiar faces around campus for when classes start.

A gift given to my class during NSOP!

2) Go to as many scheduled events as possible. That may seem like a given now, but once you’re immersed in NSOP, it can get easy to skip the events. The info sessions are really helpful, even if the topic may seem boring. I remember in one info session, they taught us how to write an email to a professor. Even though that seems really trivial, to this day I refer back to the tips they gave us when writing to professors. There will also be plenty of opportunities to go into the city through NSOP. Take advantage of this! Most of the places (e.g. museums, zoos) you would have to pay to get into, but Barnard covers the cost during NSOP.

3) NYC is your oyster. This is your city for the next four years, so explore it! To the extent that you feel comfortable, get familiar with the subway system, venture into the other boroughs, and do touristy activities. You will have free time during NSOP to explore on your own, so grab your roommate(s) and some other women on your hall to explore. I recommend checking out Prospect Park in Brooklyn, The Cloisters in uptown Manhattan, or the New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx.

4) Explore Morningside Heights. While NYC may be your city, MoHi becomes your home for the next four years. Find your go-to restaurant, cool study spaces, and alone time places. Take a couple people from your orientation group or ask your RA (Resident Advisor) to organize a trip to a local restaurant. You could also explore Riverside Park with a group of people, or just stroll through the neighborhood! I remember walking through Riverside Park during NSOP, and now it’s become my place when I want to be alone or just enjoy the nature.

5) Get familiar with the Barnard and Columbia campus. A couple of days before campus, grab your schedule, a few buddies, and figure out where all your classes are. This is something I wish I had done during NSOP. Not only is it a good way to get more comfortable with our campus, but during the first week of classes, you’ll know exactly where you’re going! This will almost certainly help reduce first day jitters, and you and your friends can help each other out. Don’t be afraid to ask public safety officers or other passersby where a certain building is!

One last thing to keep in mind: NSOP is a mish-mosh of emotion. I remember in the days leading up to NSOP, I was really nervous. I had no idea what to expect, I wasn’t that familiar with New York City, and I didn’t know a single person here. What I didn’t realize though, was that pretty much everybody feels some degree of uncertainty during NSOP and it’s totally okay! Your orientation leader (OL) and RA is there to make the transition as smooth as possible, and is an awesome person to talk with. Plus, you’ll quickly get to know the other women in your orientation group. And if you’re all excitement and no nerves, then power to you! Enjoy the experience, use the time to meet amazing Barnard women, and explore whenever you can!

If you have any other questions or concerns regarding NSOP or Barnard in general, please feel free to shoot me an email at Have a fabulous rest of the summer!

Hannah Spierer ’17

Summer Blog: Rafting Edition

I’ll miss you, river!

My dear Barnard friends,

I wrote you a letter this summer, as I was hanging out it Oregon with a remarkable lack of the sort of stress that I feel now :) I’ve attached it below. You should know that for all of my trepidation at the idea of coming back to school, of diving into long hours in Butler library and short, sleepless nights, life here is pretty awesome. I do spend considerably more time in Butler than in my bed, and there aren’t many stars to see or any rapids to run (except the rapids of life…). But my classes are enlightening, my professors inspiring, and my friends remarkable. I find that with every moment I spend here, I am becoming more and more committed to what the authors I read would have referred to as “a life of the mind.” More and more I want to become Sontag’s “citizen of the republic of letters” –so I suppose that the trade off from river to school is worth it after all :)


Hey Everyone,

I write to your from the ARTA guide-house in Merlin, Oregon, where I am currently living the river guide life. I spend four days at a time rafting down the Rogue river here, introducing guests to the wonders of the wilderness, setting up kitchens on rocky beaches, cooking enormous amounts of food over a propane camp stove, and hauling on the oars. Life is sweet.

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for a while now, but I’ve been spending vastly more time on the river than in front of my computer (which is exactly the way I like it…), so I haven’t had a chance. But we finished loading for our next trip this morning, and I made seven batches of brownies, and I showered (this is a big deal :-), so I actually have a moment to sit still and check in with you all.

We’re down to our last 3 weeks of freedom, my friends (alternatively, we only have three more weeks until freedom, depending on your outlook…). I have to say, my feelings on this topic are pretty complex: it’s my last year at Barnard, and I love the time I spend in classrooms there more than just about anything else. I have a sweet internship lined up reading Civil War era manuscripts for the fall, and I can’t wait to dance again. But, that said, it’s hard to imagine not seeing a river or mountain or friend in fleece and Chacos for a whole nine months. As much as I’ve loved reading history books this summer, I’ve also loved snuggling into my sleeping bag, physically exhausted, under a sky full of stars every night, and it’s pretty hard to imagine giving that up for another year.

But the rafts and the friends and the stars will all be here next year, so I’m trying to focus on how great this year can be. I can’t wait to get back to school and hear from my friends who have been doing research in France and interning in New York and excavating in New Mexico. I can’t wait to dive into the library life and the pointe shoe life.

It’s going to be rad, guys :)

See you soon!


PS–Nervous about starting school? Missing the great outdoors already? Have a question about rafting, reading, dancing, or choosing classes? Shoot me an email anytime!

Me, rowing Blossom Bar, on the Rogue.
Me, rowing Blossom Bar, on the Rogue.


Parks and Recreation: My Summer Internship in the City

Columbia’s campus is quiet these days!

Greetings from hot and humid New York City! While the Barnard campus may not be buzzing with its usual hustle and bustle, Barnard women are certainly keeping themselves busy this summer. Many of my friends have steady internships and research positions in various US cities, and some are even studying abroad in Europe.

What am I doing during my summer, you may ask? I have the privilege of interning at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation where I’m the Commissioner’s Office Intern (for all my fellow Parks and Recreation fans out there, unfortunately Leslie Knope is not my boss). If there’s one place I’ve always dreamed of working, it’s the NYC Parks Department. This is the perfect internship for me because it ties together my Environmental Science major with my love for urban community building and the NYC parks.


As members of the Commissioner’s Office team, my co-workers and I see anything and everything that goes on in the parks on a daily basis. We work on correspondence. This means that any and all questions, comments, compliments, or complaints about every NYC park come through our office. Surprisingly, I see a lot of people write in about city trees they want planted or groomed.  People will also inquire about a specific event that may be happening at a specific NYC park. My job is to read the inquiries and direct them to the right division within the Department. I’ve only been interning for a month, but I can already tell you about how to request a tree in front of your property or the general parks rules and regulations.

The Barnard Career Development (BCD) office was so instrumental in helping me get this internship. When I first started my internship search, I made an appointment with a Career Counselor. I ended up going back to the same counselor once (or twice) a week for the rest of the semester until I secured the position. She was so awesome in helping me craft cover letters, perfect the wording on my resume, and prepare me for interviews. I now have someone in BCD who I’ll go back to during the next two years for help with more internship and job searches, which is such an amazing part of the Barnard experience!

My time at Barnard leading up to this internship has helped me feel like I’m contributing something to the Parks team. Even though I’m not using my knowledge of geology or the Hudson River directly in my everyday work, this job has given me tools to think on my feet and use effective judgement. We have a lot of inquiries to get through on a daily basis, so it’s important that the team works efficiently to make sure the NYC residents get the answers they need. There was definitely a learning curve in the beginning, but was to be expected as the newbie!

Lunch breaks can only be enjoyed in Central Park

This internship has also showed me how Barnard has prepared me to be respectfully assertive and to be comfortable speaking up if I need help. I am so lucky to work with very important and accomplished people, and part of learning from them includes constantly asking questions. Barnard has given me those tools and the confidence to utilize them.

I’m really excited to return to Barnard in the fall with these new workplace skills. Although I won’t be fielding questions or comments anymore, my experience has already made me more passionate about Environmental Science and building a sustainable urban community. Also, working so closely with a team will definitely help me build even stronger relationships with my professors and classmates. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store!

If you have any more questions about my internship, how Barnard prepared me for my internship, or just interning in the city in general, feel free to leave a comment or email me at!

Hannah Spierer ’17

15 Things You Should Bring to Your Barnard Dorm Room

By now, if you’re a high school senior, you’ve already made your college decision! Congrats! With all of the applications and stress behind you, what’s next? How about dorm essentials? Life in a college dorm room is a new style of living to say the least, as well as an opportunity to change your room style! But, of course, it’s not all about the decorations and Pinterest finds; there are also practical things you’ll need to bring with you. Since Barnard is in the city, you’ll always be able to go buy anything you forgot, but it’s helpful to be prepared!

  1. Shower caddy and flip flops: essentials in any dorm hall.
  2. Organizers for desk materials, makeup, jewelry, etc.
  3. Rain/Snow boots: The slush struggle in NYC is real.
  4. A catch dish is a great place to keep your ID, key, wallet, earrings, etc.My catch dish
  5. Speaking of your ID, you will need to have your ID with you every time you leave your room! Barnard will provide you with a landyard and case for it, but if you want to put it with your wallet or in a different type of ID case, try to look for one you like before you get here!
  6. Hand sanitizer! Trust me, you’ll want it after you get off of the subway.
  7. Vitamin C: No matter how healthy you usually are, at college, you’re going to have to live with roommates and hallmates who get sick and can easily pass their germs on to you, so bring Vitamin C supplements for some peace of mind!
  8. Blue painter’s tape: It is a lifestyle in the quad. But actually, you’re only allowed to hang decorations with blue tape, so try to find some at home!
  9. A fan! The temperature in the dorms is fine for the majority of the year, but NSOP week will be hot hot hot!
  10. A storage box/step stool: these are especially great if you end up living in Brooks, since the beds are pretty high. They’re also useful in the other dorm rooms, which have some high shelving in the closets! Plus, they’re great for storage; mine fits all of my towels and extra sheets!
  11.  A cross-body purse: especially in New York, it’s nice to have a cross-body purse so that everything you bring with you is easily accessible and always on you!unnamed-3
  12. Pictures! You’ll probably want pictures of you and your friends on your wall, especially when you’re away from each other for such a long time. Besides pictures of friends, don’t be afraid to bring posters of your favorite singers, TV Shows, etc. – they’ll make you happy when you look at them!
  13. A fuzzy rug is always a great gathering place for long conversations and movie nights with friends! Also, fuzzy anything (socks, robe, etc) will feel great in the winter!
  14. Snacks! Because everyone loves snacks, right? Keep in mind that you might want to bring snacks that are good for studying, such as almonds, popcorn, or trail mix. But you can always get cereal, bananas, and apples in Hewitt!unnamed-2
  15. Whatever helps you relax! It’s not like you’ll have a ton of down-time at Barnard, but it’s important to bring things that will help you relax when you do, whether that’s art supplies (yes, we have coloring books in our room), your favorite books, nail polish, card games (Cards Against Humanity, anyone?), or anything else you’ll enjoy!
  • Helpful tips:
  • Stock up on snacks and drug store items at home; Duane Reade is only six blocks down Broadway, but you won’t have to go there every time you need something as simple as deodorant or shampoo if you just bring extra with you! Also, items might be cheaper where you live than they are in NYC!
  • Save any plastic bags you get at stores to use as trash bags.
  • A good calendar and/or planner will help you stay on top of assignments and events!
  • Switch out your summer and winter clothes during breaks if you’re able to! I kept everything in my room all year “just in case,” which was definitely unnecessary!

As always, comment and e-mail with questions!


Deena Cohen ’18

Reflection on My Past Two Years at Barnard

11018602_10205943661015712_7115608774995448632_nI always have a bittersweet feeling whenever the academic year comes to an end. It is very easy to get lost in the midst of final exams and assignments, but it is always important to take a step back and reflect on your semester or year. As my sophomore year came to a close, I was sad that half of my time at Barnard is already over. However, when I look back on all the things I accomplished, all the relationships I made, and all the experiences I had just in the two years that I’ve been here, I get goose bumps from just thinking about the next two years and how more amazing they can be than the past two.

When I walked through the black iron Barnard gates for the first time as a Barnard student, I made a vow to myself that I would use all the resources and opportunities this college would offer me, and grow into the woman I’ve always imgreshoped to become. I am proud to say that I have kept my vow thus far and will continue to keep it. From the very beginning, I took charge on campus by being the First-Year Class Vice President, being involved in other SGA committees, and becoming a BSAR. By being a part of those organizations and finding the right group of friends, I was able to find my home at Barnard during my first-year.

Sophomore year was a bit different. You are not new on campus, but you are still figuring out your place, and most importantly, you start seriously thinking about what major(s) you are going to declare by the March of that year. I had a bit of a rocky start to my sophomore year because I had a health scare. Because of that, I had to relay on my friends more than ever, and I honestly have no idea how I would have made it through that traumatic event without them. Also, I was one of the first people in my class to declare my major, economics, because I knew I was interested in that field of study since I fell in love with my first economics class at Barnard.

Despite my rough start, I was still able to power through the semester and even land my first internship at a nonprofit organization, The Caregivers Space. Although the internship was not directly related to the career I want to pursue, it has definitely given me skills I can use in any workplace, like talking to clients and being in charge of projects. I was also performing academically well in my classes although they were harder than my classes from my first year. I was still involved in on-campus extracurricular activities, but I put more focus on my schoolwork, health and internships. Lastly, I became friends with people who I never imagined being my friends, but now can’t imagine my life without them.

The second semester was the toughest, but most rewarding one so far. I took the most academic credits I had ever taken before, which was difficult, but I was still able to do well. However, I learned a valuable lesson for next semester and I will be taking less credits, so that I can give each class more at

Women's History Month
Women’s History Month

tention and effort. Chairing the Women’s History Month Committee and joining my sorority (and also being elected as its scholarship chairwoman) took up most of my time outside of classes. Although it was challenging to plan a month-worth of events and leading the committee, I was very proud of how successful the month turned out and how much time and effort each committee members dedicated to the month. In the midst of the busyness, I still found time to reconnect with my friends and take deep breaths, which are very important.

I am enthralled that summer is here. I am fortunate enough to have an internship and a paid freelance job this summer, which means I will be staying here in the city. To end my year on a very positive note, despite its unfortunate beginning, I was recently elected as the new Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees, a position that I will have for the next two years. Also, I am so honored to be a recipient of an award at the Honors Assembly.

Looking back at my year, I am proud of how much I have grown as a pers11072523_10206326106056599_7804455923200213729_non, how much I have accomplished, and how many relationships I have formed and strengthened. I am a totally different woman than I was as a high school senior. I am more confident, more passionate about the things I do, more aware of my peers’ different backgrounds and needs, and happier than ever before. I thank Barnard for being a place where I can flourish and reach for my highest goals.

Although I wish that each one of you will choose Barnard as your home for the next four or so years, I know that some of you will go along different paths. No matter where you end up, always remember to find a piece of home at that place and be open to trying new things and meeting new people. I believe college does not change you, but it shapes you into the person you wanted to be.

I wish you all the best of luck this week and hope to see most of you during the New Student Orientation Program, which I will help organize!

Sarah Kim’17