Work hard, play hard in New York

Overseas-education | Crystal Wu 28 Sep 2021

When it comes to the United States, one of the first cities that comes to mind is New York. For Columbia University sophomore Theodore Chow, however, it is more than just a tourist destination. It is the place he is calling home for his undergraduate life.

There are three undergraduate schools at the university: Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science; School of General Studies; and Columbia College, which Chow goes to.

"What makes Columbia unique is its core curriculum, which means that there are a few classes that every Columbia College student has to take." The classes cover different fields such as literature, arts, music and science. Students also take a course on university writing to familiarize themselves with academic writing.

"I thoroughly enjoy these classes, even though there is a little bit of reading involved," said Chow. "The class discussions are super rewarding and the smaller classroom setting means that you get to form a deeper connection with not only your peers but also your professors."

Chow also enjoyed student life at the university, despite starting his university during the pandemic. "The culture at Columbia is definitely 'work hard, play hard.' Everyone I know is super hardworking and puts a lot of effort into their academics," he said. "However, once you are finished with classes on Thursdays, the weekends are always so much fun."

While it took some time to get used to the new environment and the virtual mode of learning, he now feels a lot more at home.

Apart from school life at Columbia, Chow also enjoyed exploring the city of New York.

"You can never really run out of things to do in New York because Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island are just like a boat ride or train ride away.

"It took some time to adjust to and navigate New York. For example, the subway system was quite complicated, with all the different uptown and downtown components. But once you understand the basic layout, it becomes more straightforward."

Chow shared a tip about travel around the city - he suggests exploring either on foot, or Citi Bike, which is a public bicycle-sharing system in New York.

"There are so many dedicated bike paths, and Central Park is such a nice bike ride when the weather is good," said Chow. "Fun fact, the quickest way to get from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side is Citi biking through Central Park, instead of the subway, which goes around Central Park."

For students who are looking to apply to study at Columbia, he advises being creative while working on the prompts, which are essays that prospective students have to make in response to certain questions for admissions.

Chow, for example, wrote a poem instead of an essay for one question. "You should mention what makes Columbia unique. But more importantly, why you would thrive in that environment," he said. "When I chose Columbia, I knew I wanted to be in a big city, where there were so many opportunities at my fingertips. But I also wanted a traditional campus environment, and Columbia was the perfect combination for me."

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