Friday, July 5, 2013

A World Within a City

Today we ventured off to New York City to check out Columbia University and squeeze in a couple sites. The Amtrak ride from D.C. to New York City took about three hours. With that being said, most of us caught some rest from the strenuous past couple days. 

The moment we arrived in New York City, I noticed how low the ceilings were as we left for the Empire State Building. If anyone was taller than Mr. Mannix, people would need to bend down at each ceiling beam. I didn't realize how NYC could be that compact. Everything's made to fit, but done by utilizing buildings until there's no room left. Some people might feel overwhelmed taking it all in. Before Mr. Ramsey left, he mentioned how different NYC is than anything you'd ever seen. And he was definitely right. Although I may not have seen all of NYC, I saw enough to know that this city bigger than I ever hoped to be. 

Empire State Building
Crab cakes for lunch
Since the Empire State Building was within walking distance, we decided to take a stroll. But by the time we got there, the line was too long to count the people. One of their workers said it would be at least an hour and a half wait. With that in mind, we all prompted to have lunch instead. So we chose to eat in a restaurant directly next to the entrance of the Empire State Building. The irony of the whole thing was that right after we finished eating, we saw the line drastically decrease in size. Seeing that we wouldn't have had enough time to eat and see the Empire State Building before our appointment with Columbia University, we were reassured we made the best choice.

Metro stop at Columbia University
Taking the Metro for the first time, I noticed how similar and dissimilar it was to Bay Area Rapid Transit on the West Coast. What I didn't take into account was how packed each compartment could be. BART is rarely this crowded. But since New York City isn't suitable for the use of cars because of the traffic that would ensue, I soon realized most New Yorkers used Metro for a good reason. Metro arrives every couple minutes to meet the demand of commuters. The only things that set Metro from BART was its design and route. While BART cars are designed  with seats going horizontally, Metro seats are found around the perimeter of each car. And because of its narrowness, Metro cars get crowded easily. And because of its demand, Metro seems travel further than BART. Still, each are vital to commuters of each coast, especially for the people of New York. 

Columbia University
I didn't realize how beautiful Columbia University was until I arrived. Once we navigated our way through campus and found the venue of the info session, we chose a spot to sit and patiently waited. The  admissions officer spoke to a full house, with international students in attendance. As one of the most selective universities in the county, Columbia doesn't need to do much for students to apply. The admissions officer today didn't need to act as a car salesmen. He didn't state much statistics but rather the stress the education and lifestyle Columbia has to offer to its students. And with a school like theirs, it needs no tough sell. Just last year, there were 34,000 applicants competing for 1,370 spots. 

I find their Core Curriculum to be ideal, since students become more well rounded by the time they graduate. Students are given a strong foundation in which they can base their ideas and opinions on. An alumnus from 50 years ago can strike up a chat with a student who graduated just a couple years ago. Whatever decade Columbia students graduate, they're left with an education that propels them to think and act globally. Regardless of the career path students choose, it's always great to know more than you need to. 

Because of the attention Columbia offers, full time advisers are available for students to utilize during their four years for guidance. Class sizes are also considerably small, with classes no bigger than 50. The care Columbia has for its students is unheard of at other universities. With introductory classes at other schools several times as big, a class size of 50 is like a dream come true. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. 

As he continued to talk about the lifestyle in Columbia, I realized that learning in an urban setting isn't so bad. Before this trip, I didn't think much about applying to universities in urban areas like NYC. But the further along we go on this journey, the more I liked the idea of studying in a place like Columbia and UPenn. And contrary to belief, New York City is one of the safest cities in America, with Morningside Heights as one of the safest neighborhoods to live in. Since Columbia is first and foremost a residential college, students can live on campus up to all for years of their schooling. Columbia would still thrive socially without NYC as its playground. You can find all kinds of events held and be in a supportive environment. And because of its prime location, students have multiple opportunities to apply to thousands of internships. Like UPenn, I still felt the sense of a closed but open campus. Again, it was the best of both worlds. And if a student chose to study abroad, they'd have to proficient in the language of that country. If they wanted to speak English, students have the option of studying at the University of Oxford.

You'd think that because of the quality of education Columbia has to offer, it would be expensive. But it doesn't have to be. Like UPenn, there is no need to take out loans. It isn't even part of their financial aid package. Columbia is need blind, and doesn't reject students based on a family's needs. They choose students who deserve to be here, not students who can afford to be here. There is no better package, whether you apply early or regular decision. 

What I didn't find very nice was the fact that some parents were more interested than their children. Some parents even took notes while their kids had their phones readily available on their laps for use. Not only was it disrespectful, but it doesn't give much indication that they have the slightest interest in Columbia. I know classmates of mine who would jump at the opportunity of attending any kind of college tour. And with students at the session who had the opportunity but didn't seize it, it seemed like a wasted experience on their part. 

Once the admissions officer concluded the info session, we were broken into groups for the campus tour. I didn't realize how fast the tour was. Because before you knew it, you were done. As much as I wish I could say I had a good time during the tour, I found it a tad lackluster. It seemed as if our tour guide was just saying the words, but not putting much emphasis or feeling. Not to seem bias, but I preferred Dyana's tour the other day in comparison to today. I had no questions to ask by the end of the tour because there was nothing that I could build a question off of. The tour gave off a less energy to say the least. Still, I'm planning on furthering my research into Columbia regardless of what happened today.

Central Park
Now that we had the rest of the day to ourselves, we took the Metro to see Times Square and later walked to Central Park. We were enjoying some sites before our trip back to the Amtrak Station to D.C. And walking through NYC was incredible. Although the weather started to pick up, the energy is indescribable. Despite the hustle and bustle and sometimes unpleasant odors of NYC, the city comes alive. Given the hustle and bustle of Times Square and the relaxing nature of the Central Park, people can never get bored in the Big Apple. And before we knew it, we took the Metro back to the Amtrak station to leave New York City. Within a span of a day, I was able to look at Columbia University and sightsee. I felt accomplished. 

Elmo invasion in Times Square
Columbia has given me a couple other things to consider like UPenn has. There's no wonder why so many people love Columbia. Being in a big city like New York isn't as scary as it seems. It only  adds to the college experience by venturing off into the unknown and learning while living. I didn't think I'd enjoy NYC as much as I did today. It was a great day to be in New York. With the Georgetown college tour and dinner tomorrow, I'm excited to see yet another side of D.C. 

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