Back to School!


Greetings, future Barnard students!

Since I got back to school a week ago, life has been every bit as hectic as you might assume: going to classes, dropping classes (cheers to you, o Latin Prose Stylistics!), doing readings, auditioning for dance groups, emailing advisors, desperately trying to adjust to the time zone and the reduced sleep levels on which I survive during school months. I miss the warm, blizzard-free weather of California, and my family, and nature (and getting actual sleep), but I won’t beat around the bush: I am very glad to be back.

I ought to confess right off of the bat that I missed my classes and professors more than anything else here. I rarely am more engaged than I am sitting in class and rarely more excited than I am meeting with a professor or TA (teaching assistant). I have wonderful classes this semester (see below), with really remarkable professors at both Barnard and Columbia, so even though my workload is pretty heavy, I am so happy to be back at it.


Victorian Poetry

American Radical Tradition

In/Around Abstract Expressionism

History of Islamic Societies

History Senior Thesis Seminar


I’m writing my thesis in the field of American intellectual history, and I’m fairly thrilled with the whole process. On Tuesday I have an appointment with my “second reader,” a prof. in this field at Columbia who (tragically) was on leave last semester, so that is going to be great. I’ll elaborate on the Barnard-Columbia relationship in a future post, but for now, know this: it’s awesome. It works. Get stoked.

The other major welcome-back event for many Barnard students is the whole slew of dance auditions that happen at the beginning of every semester. Though I dance a lot and as seriously as I can (I take 6+ dance classes/ week), I’m not exactly a prodigy, so I’m a big fan of the everyone-will-be-cast groups: Orchesis (all genres) and CUBE (classical ballet). They’re both totally student-run and totally accepting of EVERYBODY, so they’re a great way to make friends, dance, and have a chance to perform.

As always, feel free to shoot me an email about anything!



Moving the Magnolia

The beginning of the monumental magnolia tree move at Barnard College started on Monday, November 16. The most beloved tree on campus moved across Lehman Lawn to make way for the construction of Barnard’s new teaching and learning center that will replace Lehman Library. The ultra-modern building, which is set to open in the fall of 2019, will include state-of the art science and computer labs, study spaces, classrooms, a café, and many updated amenities.

The magnolia in full bloom

The Barnard community wouldn’t let this construction happen without celebrations! On Monday night, the McIntosh Activities Council hosted the “Moving the Magnolia” celebration, during which students came out to Lehman Walk to enjoy cookies, s’mores, hot chocolate, and performances by student groups around the tree. On Wednesday, the day of the move, campus was abuzz as everyone watched the dramatic process. During the day, students watched from Lehman Walk and inside the library, where apple cider and oh-so-appropriate Magnolia Bakery cupcakes were served. Everyone posted pictures and the tree was featured multiple times on the Ivy League Snapchat story. The event was also covered by the New York Times and ABC news, and in a lovely time-lapse video by Barnard alumna Rebecca Douglas:

In the meantime, Barnard students are continuing to receive regular construction updates and celebrate Lehman Library before it comes down over winter break. Earlier in the semester, students had the chance to paint the walls in Lehman, and pretty soon, Midnight Breakfast will be held there. We are so lucky that Barnard administrators have been exceptionally thoughtful of students in the construction process and have allowed us to take advantage of Lehman while it’s still here!

The magnolia in its new home!

You can follow @milliebuilds on Twitter for updates, and, as always, feel free to contact me with any questions!


Deena Cohen ‘18

Thanksgiving Dinner with Barnard Alumnae

Thanksgiving is a pretty foreign holiday to me. Prior to coming to the States, I hardly gave Thanksgiving a thought, and vaguely conceived it as a festive meal that involves lots of turkey and cranberry sauce. I didn’t realize the thing that made Thanksgiving special though: that it’s really about spending time with one’s closest friends and family. So when campus empties out during Thanksgiving, I can’t help feeling a twinge of sadness that everyone’s enjoying good food with their loved ones, while the most I can manage is quality one-on-one time with Seamless takeout.

Here’s where Barnard steps in: every Thanksgiving, Barnard’s Alumnae Relations pairs students with Barnard alumnae who have volunteered to host for their dinners. It’s really the best thing anyone staying on campus over the break can sign up for—I did both years I’ve been here, and had a fantastic experience each time!

Waiting by the Metro North tracks

This year, two other students and I were paired with Sharon (’83), and were invited to dinner at her house in Scarsdale. The trek was quite something—it took about two hours to get there, since the station was crowded, what with everyone moving about for Thanksgiving. But when we finally got to Scarsdale, a quaint town with about five shops on its main street, I thought the journey was entirely worth it. First of all, I got to sit in someone’s car, which practically never happens in New York City (taxis and Uber don’t count). Seeing actual houses and wildlife was also a nice change of pace (townhouses in Upper West Side and rats in the subway also don’t count). We actually saw wild deer in someone’s front yard!

Check out all that food… and that amazing pomegranate centrepiece

When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by Sharon and her family into their beautiful home. While it was great to stuff ourselves with home-cooked food—which was delicious and aplenty—joining a family in celebrating a traditional holiday was even better. Sharon had the best anecdotes about her years in Barnard, and we had a great time comparing Barnard then and now. Also, her daughter is a prospective Barnard student! Her excitement for, along with her really impressive knowledge about Barnard was inspiring; she reminded me once again why I’m in this college (and why I have this job—I love talking to prospective students, so drop me an e-mail me anytime!).

Going wild with selfie sticks

I also came to know of this Thanksgiving mini-tradition of sorts, which I found meaningful: before dinner, everyone goes round in a circle to say something they’re thankful for. While I thought of the present moment, in which I’m lucky enough to join a kind and generous family in their Thanksgiving celebration, I also thought about the time I’ve spent overseas so far. I’m so grateful that I’ve the privilege to grow in a place where most things are foreign to me; yet to also discover the things that are already intimately familiar. Hearing everyone give thanks to their families reminded me that I really should Skype home more. In any case, I’m continually awed by how welcoming the people I’ve met are, and how willing they’ve been in getting to know me. So, I’ll sign up for round three next year. Hopefully there’ll be tofurkey—I tried it once and really liked it, even though I still have no idea what it actually is.

Erin (’18)

BEST OF BARNARD: Get Moving Edition!

Hello, everyone!

As the weather gets cooler, the red Starbucks cups more ubiquitous, and the college application deadlines nearer, I hope you’re all enjoying your Senior year of high school! (I know how bizarre that sounds—people have been saying it to me, too, lately, about college. Ahhh!) In the name of not getting sucked in the pre-holiday, pre-finals, looming-deadline blues, I offer the top five way to be active at Barnard.

It’s all too easy to give in to being tired and overwhelmed, to refuse to leave your spot in Butler even when you’re being not at all productive. But as the constant emails from Student Life and every one of my mother’s texts remind me, this is good for us. It releases stress; it helps us focus. And as I’m repeatedly delighted to discover, it can be SO MUCH FUN.

Dance! (I’m a dancer so clearly this is going to go first.) Barnard’s dance department is truly amazing. To start, everyone can take as many dance classes as they want—no formal dance major or minor or concentration required—and in whatever level they feel most at home. I’ve taken all sorts of things, and the teachers (who are epic) have always been helpful and supportive, even when I’m in over my head. Furthermore, Barnard offers no end of opportunities to get onstage, from department performances of new works by professional choreographers, to student groups for classical ballet, belly-dancing, Indian dance, contemporary, tap, and more. It’s always a party and such a supportive community.4458203760_46b4729e94_b

Fit Bear! Though it sounds like a teddy bear in spandex, actually Fit Bear is Barnard’s group fitness program, which offers classes, like yoga, cardio, weightlifting, etc. at a very reasonable rate. Basically, you sign up at the beginning of the semester for a pass, and then you meet in the basement of Barnard Hall (where our gym is) for 1-hour classes. Nobody knows or cares whether you come to every class or only a few, so it’s a great way to commit to exercise without adding pressure or judgment (the very things you’re trying to escape by exercising!). Also, the music is poppin’.

Dodge, Columbia’s gym. No, that’s not a command to avoid Columbia’s gym; I know how to use commas! Dodge is completely accessible to Barnard students and it’s positively enormous, full of every sort of torture workout equipment you could want, from ellipticals and stationary bikes to weight machines, dumbbells, and stretching mats. It’s free, it’s convenient, it’s weirdly underground—but it gets the job done!


Columbia Athletics. Even though I don’t know much about Columbia Athletics, I did some research (history major!), and here’s what I’ve learned: Barnard students can be involved in all aspects of Athletics at Columbia! We don’t have our own teams, but Barnard students can and do play on Columbia’s Varsity and JV teams. They can also go to games as fans (there are free buses to home games!), report for the newspaper, and take photos. Such potential! More info here:

This is a tie for off-campus shenanigans: Running in Riverside Park and Yoga. The first is obviously free and easy (not cardiovascular-ly, but convenience-wise), and Riverside is just a block from campus, and always so beautiful. Yoga to the People is a studio at 104th and Broadway that has donation-based classes, so you can pay whatever you can afford that day. It’s a gorgeous studio, and a great way to de-stress!

Ok, friends, that’s it! But, I’ll be around, from now until forever, studying Latin and reading, so shoot me an email or leave a comment if you have any questions!


BEST OF BARNARD: Coffee Edition!

Ladies, as you have no doubt gathered by now, midterms are very much upon us: the papers and exams and project proposals are positively raining down. It can be an exciting time, if you have the right mindset, but it is certainly also an exhausting time. Sleep in in short supply for all on campus, and as a result, we turn to that magical sleep-in-a-cup formula: coffee. (No, parents, I don’t actually think they’re the same. But we’ve all got to muddle through somehow, right?) In honor of this time of mass caffeine consumption, here is the first in a new series of BEST OF BARNARD blogs—the best coffee shops on and around campus.

  • Liz’s Place: Conveniently located right on campus and conveniently covered by your meal points, Liz’s Place is the perfect place to grab a coffee en route to your class—or to hang out. True, the coffee is Starbucks, but the friendly employees, the cool red armchairs, and the fun music they play makes it a worthwhile study break (or, classic Barnard, group project meeting) location.lizsplace.winter2012
  • Joe Coffee: Outrageously expensive, but also outrageously delicious, Joe is housed in the Northwest Corner building on Columbia’s campus, right across the street from Barnard. The huge windows and open layout, the marble floors and bright lighting—there is rarely a sleep deprivation- induced struggle that can’t be remedied in Joe. Also their scones and oatmeal are
  • Hungarian Pastry Shop: Ok, so Hungarian is a few blocks away (111th and Amsterdam) and their coffee is pretty low on the list BUT: the refills are endless, the pastries are delightful, and the environment is somehow both cute and intensely intellectual. It’s the kind of place that can make you forget that Allen Ginsberg doesn’t still walk around campus. FYI: It’s lacking wifi, which makes research hard, but everything else very productive :)


  • Butler Café: Upon entering this coffee shop in Columbia’s Butler library, you’ll notice that it’s absolutely packed, all day, every day, with students clamoring for coffee. But, who hasn’t turned to the comfort of a steaming cup of (mediocre) coffee and a pastry at some god-forsaken hour of the night? It may be the coffee choice of the masses, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never appreciate it!migrate-dining-64_web
  • Oren’s: Definitely some of the better coffee around, but decidedly lacking in any real study space, Oren’s is just a few blocks South on Broadway. It’s also pretty expensive (welcome to New York, everyone!), but it’s really good, and if you need a cup of coffee to make it through that two-hour seminar, Oren’s is an excellent decision.


Cheers! May your coffee consumption always be by choice rather than necessity :) And please shoot me an email with any questions you may have about coffee, studying, Butler, history, Latin, or the nerd life in general!

Fall in New York

Fall in New York is particularly sentimental to me. The first time I visited New York was in the fall, and it goes without saying that when I left home for college in New York, that was also in the fall. While every season technically embodies transition, the changes autumn bring about somehow seem more poignant. It marks a new semester of a new school year, and also promises new life experiences for us young adults.

My favourite part of fall is, quite conventionally, how the leaves change colors. While New York City itself does not have the most stunning fall foliage for show, there are many parks within and out of the city that come pretty close to that standard. Last year, I visited New York Botanical Garden, and was awed by what it had to offer. Other than the foliage’s rich hues, what really moved me was the park’s tranquillity. Despite having the privilege of going to college in the coolest city in the world (I couldn’t get any more objective in saying that), my favourite places in New York are still its parks and gardens. I love how such spaces exist within an insanely packed metropolis; havens you can go to feel fall in all its glory, as well as to realize how life outside college and concrete does indeed thrive, and thrive beautifully.

What also makes fall special is the way it’s observed in New York. Things you can do in the fall are always low-key and somehow comforting: tasting apple cider, apple picking, carving pumpkins… All activities which are are available by making extra effort to travel out of the city– something definitely on my agenda this fall.


Of course, there are festivals and parades that mark the holidays in the city every year. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade is a definite classic. I once saw the floats being inflated the night before the parade, and managed to get a few shots up close! From what I’ve heard, the night before the parade is as close you can get to the floats, because the parade itself is always swarmed with people. I’ve also heard that Halloween parades are gloriously weird, and gloriously New York– I’ll update you all with that if I go this year!

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