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

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.