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What I Learned at Columbia UniversitySeeing Myself through the Eyes of Others
Written by James Kiwoong lee | Published. 2020.10.13 14:41 | Count : 98
[Alma mater statue at Columbia University. Photo by Sumin Kang]

It was a brisk afternoon in January 2020 in New York City. After a brief bus ride through the roads of Harlem, I got off in front of the Butler Library of Columbia University and waited – half anxious, half excited – for the college tour to start. Long flights and jetlag had me sleepless the night before, and my instinct searched for a Starbucks Coffee where I could get a tall cup of black coffee to lift myself out of drowsiness. Before the tour started, I had a chance to wander around the stone buildings inside Columbia University’s famed New York campus and take some pictures. As soon as I met my tour guide, a Korean student named Jiyeon Kwon, I decided that I did not want to waste this opportunity to learn as much as possible about the school and the thoughts of those who participated in NGO Hope for the Future. 

[Butler Library at Columbia University. Photo by Sumin Kang]

I was guided to a large lecture room, where several students were already seated. After everyone was seated, a Columbia senior welcomed us and congratulated us for being selected to the Hope to the Future program in New York. She started her presentation, “The People,” by briefly mentioning her experience as a member of Hope to the Future during her high school years. As soon as I saw the cover page, my first urge was to get some more coffee. I was already tired from waking up early and had been looking forward to an “exciting” day at Columbia University (i.e. walking around campus with my friends and taking pictures of everything I saw). Little did I know that her presentation would change the way I thought about the world and the people around me. 

Her presentation started with a rather unexpected declaration—that Columbia no longer encourages their students to be knowledgeable in a singular field. Instead, the senior said that CU is trying to motivate students to take a more interdisciplinary approach to academia: in other words, merge different areas of study to expand the scope of their career. She went on to mention that modern educators believe that by creating interdisciplinary majors, such as psycho-education and anthropological communication, people from different backgrounds can “create a discourse that integrates critical thinking and creative problem-solving.” This would, educators believed, expand their knowledge, with people in academia being able to broaden their scope of understanding to encompass the ideas of those from different fields.

She then told us about how she wanted to change her major “20 times a year” when she first came to CU, because she had no clear vision of what she wanted to achieve during her college years. She confidently stated that she found the answer to this question through traveling to several countries and talking to people from diverse backgrounds about their life beliefs. In short, she found her true identity by sharing interactive conversations with others, and she emphasized that this is an essential step to maturity as we live in a global community where we have to rely on each other for development.

After her presentation, participants discussed the importance of communication with people from various fields and walks of life. As we talked with each other during the forum, we learned things we did not know earlier and gained new perspectives. During that relatively short session, we experienced what it means to taken an interest in our community.

[In front of Jerome L. Green Science Center, at Columbia University.
Photo by Baul Kim]

As we all walked out of the buildings of Columbia University, I felt a sense of connection that I had never felt before. What I gained was not only a beautiful view of Columbia University and New York City but also the warmth of being surrounded by people who can motivate me to bring changes to both my life and others—a lesson that I hope will sustain me through not just the college application process but for many years afterward.

 

 







James Kiwoong lee
Senior (Grade 12)
The Learning Community International School

James Kiwoong lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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