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

Scientific Research at Barnard

I’ve mostly talked about dance and food on this blog, but when I’m not in class I spend a lot of my time in a chemistry research lab here at Barnard. The research group I work in synthesizes 2-amino sugars for use in glycodiversification studies (if you want me to explain that more, feel free to email me or leave a comment!). I started working in my organic chemistry professor’s lab the summer after my sophomore year, after I applied and was accepted through the Barnard Chemistry Department’s summer research program. Over the summer we’re in the lab from 9:00 PM  to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday for 10 weeks. Working in the lab during the academic year is a bit different because you have to find time in your schedule to spend a handful of hours each week in the lab. This past year, I usually spent most of my Fridays in the lab, and then extra time on the weekends and throughout the week in order to get other things done. This semester was pretty crazy, but I like being in the lab and working on a project. I mean who wouldn’t when you get to do reactions like this?

A reaction with hydrogen gas!

Working in the lab and learning from my research advisor and fellow students is one of the reasons that has led me to the decision to apply to a chemistry graduate program after I graduate next spring. Not only have I learned a lot more about organic chemistry and the practical aspects of actually running reactions in the lab, but is it here that I have also met some of my closest friends at Barnard. I’ll be doing my thesis in the lab next year and working there this summer. I’m looking forward to getting to spend more time in the lab uninterrupted by classes and homework during these summer months. It’s also nice (and kind of weird) to be on campus during the summer when there aren’t as many people around.

Our lab group with Professor Rojas this summer. That’s me; second from the right.

Students at Barnard get involved in scientific research in a lot of different ways. You can work in labs at Barnard and Columbia, at the medical center uptown, or at a number of other places around the city. One of the great things about doing research at Barnard is that you learn directly from PIs (Principle Investigators/Research Advisors/Professors), as there are no graduate students in the labs.

There is scientific research being done at Barnard in a lot of different subject matters. Reading about different professors’ research in fields that interest you can help you decide what lab you would like to work in. Once you have found a lab that interests you, you can email the professors directly to set up a time to meet and learn more about their research and if they’re accepting new students to their labs. Usually professors want students to have taken certain classes or labs before joining their groups, but some students start doing research the summer after their first year.

Feel free to email me/comment if you have any questions about research at Barnard!


Margeaux Miller ’16

PS: Have you guys seen the LEGO women scientists set? The lab I work in uses NMR spectroscopy a lot, which is sort of like an MRI machine for the molecules we synthesize, so we can start to examine their structure. Someone created this NMR LEGO set, and you should all vote for it.. so it can go along with the female scientist legos!

The Athena Center for Leadership Studies


The Athena Center is located on the third floor of Barnard Hall.

Hello all! Today, I’m here to talk about a really special part of Barnard: The Athena Center for Leadership Studies. This organization is really unique to Barnard and is part of what makes attending an all-women’s college such a valuable experience. The Athena Center is located on the third floor of Barnard Hall.

The Athena Center is actually rather new. It began in 2009 and has been growing rapidly ever since. The Center’s mission is to foster the next generation of women leaders (that’s us!) by using lots of different academic programs and special events aimed at Barnard students. As undergraduate women, building and instilling these leadership skills is extremely important and allows us to take advantage of them beyond Barnard and into the real world.

This mission is what drew me to the Athena Center, and at the beginning of this semester I joined as an Athena Scholar. The Athena Scholars Program is the Center’s academic method of teaching leadership skills. Through a combination of theoretical and academic approaches, the program helps us develop strong leadership skills throughout our undergraduate career.

The only requirement to enroll as an Athena Scholar is that you have to be a first year or second year. After that, it’s really simple. Attend an information session about the program’s requirements, sign a contract, and you’re in! What I love about the Athena Scholars Program is that nobody gets turned away, and the philosophy behind this is that everyone has the leadership skills within them to succeed in the program.

Once you’re in, there’s a host of requirements we have to fulfill in order to be named an “Athena Scholar” at the end of our four years. The way I like to describe the program’s requirements is that it’s essentially like declaring a minor with a heavy practical component. There are five academic courses you have to take: three pre-approved electives, a senior seminar, and a class called Women and Leadership which all Scholars take in their sophomore or junior year. So far for my electives, I have taken Economics of Gender and am planning on petitioning to get my Environmental Law class to count as well. I’m also hoping to take Public Speaking as an elective either next year or senior year because that’s such a great skill to have! While the Environmental Law course is for my major as well, the Economics of Gender is a class I would have never chosen to take (anything with the word economics scares me) and I have learned so much about women’s issues from a unique perspective. The Athena Scholars Program really pushes students to step outside of their comfort zone and try new things, and it’s really paid off for me!

Me and a friend volunteering at the TEDxBarnardCollege event, held annually at Barnard through the Athena Center!

Me and a friend volunteering at the TEDxBarnardCollege event, held annually at Barnard through the Athena Center!

On the practical end of the program, Scholars participate in three leadership labs, a practicum (just a fancy way of saying an internship) and do a social action capstone project in the senior spring semester. The leadership labs are 2-hour workshops that teach very specific skills. For example, a workshop may focus on learning about how to successfully negotiate or practicing effective speaking skills. I haven’t done the leadership labs yet, but I’m hoping to take one about how to manage my finances since I have no idea where to begin with that. For my practicum, I’m planning on doing research in an Earth Science lab or working for a New York City government agency (but I still have time to decide!). Hopefully, my practicum will inspire a social action project during my senior year.


The ADDA cohort.

Beyond the Athena Scholars Program, I want to get more involved in the Athena Center during my next two years at Barnard. I’m definitely going to apply to Athena Digital Design Agency (ADDA), which teaches women HTML/CSS coding languages (As an aside, read about Sarah’s experience in ADDA here)! By the end of the course, students build their own website! There’s also Mentoring and Enrichment Programs, which pairs students with either other students or adults to build professional, yet meaningful relationships with the end-goal of gaining leadership skills. I really hope to take advantage of this program in the future because I think it’s fun to learn from my peers and it will give me the opportunity to meet more amazing women! The Athena Center has many more events that they hold every year. You can find them here!

For more information about my experience as an Athena Scholar, the Athena Center, or general questions about being a Barnard student please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at


Hannah Spierer ’17

Reflections on My First-Year

Sometime before enrolling at Barnard, I scanned through Barnard’s academic calendar, and learned that each semester is only about 4 months long. I realized then that we technically spend two thirds of a year being a college student, which isn’t an awful lot of time. College then seems like a transient place, until graduation sends us off into the “real world”. Looking back on my first year here at Barnard, however, I’m in awe of all I’ve experienced, and the sheer amount of things I’ve learned in just two thirds of a year.


My roommates and I on a snow day (we’re all from warm places so we were very excited)

Being from Singapore, I’ve learned that there are many quirks to being an international student: like being hopelessly jet-lagged during the first week of classes, and having to adapt to American vernacular. The lady that makes sandwiches in Hewitt’s Dining Hall (by far the sassiest person I’ve met so far in NYC) gets a good laugh whenever I ask for “to-MAH-toes”, and friends suppress giggles whenever I refer to “lifts” as “elevators”, and “lines” as “queues”. Beyond that, living in a foreign country has been eye-opening. I’ve never lived in such a diverse community before, where students come from all kinds of backgrounds. By talking to both American and international friends, I’ve learned a lot about many different places and communities. These conversations also strengthen my identity as a Singaporean, and allow me to understand the openness it takes to be a (temporary) New Yorker.

Caring for NY trees with Columbia Catholic Ministry on community service day!

Caring for NYC trees with Columbia Catholic Ministry on community service day

Homesickness is something most first-years can relate to—no matter where we come from, many of us are navigating our own lives by ourselves, for the first time. However, homesickness evaporates as soon as the semester gets busy—and it does get busy, especially once classes and campus activities start. Balancing academics and social life is challenging, but definitely fruitful. Getting absorbed into college life is easy– I’ve spent my first year exploring college clubs and groups, in pursuing my interests. It is through clubs that I’ve met people I share similar interests with; now, over the course of a year, I get to call these people my friends.

outdoor class

Our last Intro to Psychology class on the lawn by the Diana

Upon further reflection, I’ve realized that a liberal arts education is what I prize most about my Barnard experience. I’ve taken classes that I never thought I would have taken, and have found many of them vastly enriching. Before enrolling in my First-Year Seminar, “Thinking Latin America”, I thought it’d be a class only interested in a land foreign to me—I couldn’t have been more wrong. The class covered philosophical ideas from Aristotle and Aquinas, as well as sociological theories like the centre-periphery model—concepts that would come back to me in my Introductory Philosophy lecture, and my English seminar about American literature. Being able to draw these links across Barnard’s interdisciplinary curriculum has proved to be fulfilling, both intellectually and personally. Barnard’s faculty has also defined my learning experience, since it’s the first time I’ve felt that I can speak to distinguished scholars from various fields.

On a different note, college has been the first time I’ve had to fend for myself, without guardians physically by my side. I will confess that I’ve never had to do my own laundry, nor have I had to file taxes, or apply for social security numbers by myself. On the flipside, the amount of freedom one has in college is very exciting, and for me, very new. Having a room in New York City I can return to any time of the night (or early morning), without having anyone to answer to is incredibly liberating. I’m really lucky in that I can hop on the subway to the MoMA, or walk around for hours in Central Park whenever I feel like it. Everything in New York City is so close together, which makes wandering about even better, because you can spend an afternoon out and still return to campus in time to hit the books.


My faithful desk for the past year– it’s weird to think it’ll go to someone in the class of 2019!

All in all, I’ve had a pretty eventful first year at Barnard. The past couple of weeks have been weird, knowing that I’m about to return home to a separate life, to a separate circle of friends and family. Nonetheless, I packed my bags, I cleaned my room, and yes, I got through finals. I am excited to return in September as a sophomore; to take on Barnard College, and, beyond that, New York City. I plan to learn as much as I can from these fleeting, but precious four years.

Erin Low ’18

The Finals Are Coming! The Finals Are Coming!


I wish this weren’t so spot-on…

~From your resident nerd: the upsides of finals!~

They’re here, folks! Everyone’s favorite time of year, when the weather is warm, the libraries are packed, and every student has a cup of coffee glued to her hand…finals!

The Post-Studying Carnage

The Post-Studying Carnage

True, they can be gnarly, and some semesters are worse than others. This one has been relatively painless for me: three papers and two exams. Still, for many sleep becomes a rare commodity, the lack of structure is disorienting, and the constant need to study hangs over you even during supposed breaks. You have no doubt seen the memes and the movies and your older friends’ Facebook posts: sometimes finals week can turn into a battlefield.

But—I have good news!

1) Finals in college offer you something that finals in high school never did: the ability to focus solely on one thing. We spend most of our time here (like, perhaps, you have in high school) running between classes and rehearsals and meetings and work, and then plop down at our desks at night to forge through readings and problem sets. Our attention has to be split so many ways (for me, those ways are history, Latin, ballet, and work in the archives) that it can be hard to feel that you’re really on top of any one thing. And then finals week rolls around. Classes and club events (meetings, practices, rehearsals) end. We have three days of “reading week” (you tell me how they reckon that…) to catch up on readings, write papers, and begin to study for exams. And then the exams begin, and unless you are taking seven classes (which some crazy folks do indeed do; I am just not among their number), you have the time and energy to take your exams one at a time. It feels like a luxury to be allowed that sort of focus.

I found this perfect reading spot hiding behind Barnard Hall!

I found this perfect reading spot hiding behind Barnard Hall!

2) Better yet, the school really takes care of you. Barnard is already pretty good about hosting wellness workshops and providing tons of resources to students (counseling, health services, gym classes, etc.), but during finals, they really go for it. Last Wednesday (in the middle of reading “week”), the school put on a study break during which they served iced coffee, trail mix, and do-it-yourself essential oil-making. Columbia’s student government brought puppies to campus for all of us to cuddle. Obviously, you’ve heard by now of Midnight Breakfast. (It was great this year. I ate half my weight in ice cream and pancakes…). And as I’ve written in the past, there is something heartening in the way the students pull together, the way they share hugs and chocolate and sincere “how are you getting along?”s.

3) New awesome study spots. When you suddenly begin spending ten hours a day studying, you have to mix up your usual places, or you’ll go crazy. I go to coffee shops (especially the Hungarian Pastry Shop and Joe Coffee) and check out new places in old libraries (I ventured onto the third floor of the Barnard Library yesterday! It’s gettin’ wild, guys.). And since classes aren’t in session, you can camp out in academic buildings, claiming a whole classroom for yourself and your treat-toting friends. It’s actually rather fun.

So, guys, I survived my Latin final this morning (“at dawn,” my professor said…really it was at 9am). It was on Virgil’s Aeneid which is like 12,000 lines long, so that was a lot. But the good news is that only one exam remains. Wish me luck! Until then, I’ll be holed up studying :)

And good luck to you on your APs and finals and all the rest! Feel free, as usual, to send emails my way!



Chloe Hawkey ’16