Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lights, Columbia, Action!

Today we started off with a walk to the 30th Street Amtrak station on the Penn campus.  We knew today was going to be a particularly hot day, but the humidity came like an invisible wall right when we walked out the door.  The 30th Street station is another older looking structure inspired by Greek architecture.  Back in the day it used to be a central post office.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat for breakfast before boarding the train headed toward New York City.

Can You See the New Year's Ball on Top?
The Amtrak ride was a very similar experience to the Amtrak system in the Bay Area.  Most of the ride was above ground, and we were introduced to the greener suburbs of Philadelphia.  I realized yesterday while in the city that we were yet to see a residential area, until today that is. After arriving to New York City we transferred to a subway train, where everything changed as we were greeted by the many lights and sights of Times Square. 

It has been 8 years since the last time I have visited New York, and it was great to come back.  Luxury stores and movie posters decorated the streets and skies as the wide sidewalks were used to hold a yoga program, which consisted of about 200 people total!  Signs for Broadway productions and name brand clothing towered over every building as the New Year’s Eve ball glittered in sight from afar.  Our trip eventually led us to board the train once again headed toward Columbia University. 

The campus presented more of these older buildings influenced by Gothic architecture as we entered campus.  Luckily we had our personal tour guide, Eric, who attended an ILC program at the school last summer.  The campus was smaller than I imagined, much smaller in comparison to Penn, but compact, not lacking any essential features.  The campus, located in West Manhattan, was more urban and less “green” than Penn as well.  Nevertheless, I was given a great first impression of the campus as we soon met Jessica for the info session.
Outside the Columbia campus

The info session and later the tour consisted mostly of the academic structure of the school.  With a required core curriculum, there are not as many options for classes available until you declare your major at the end of sophomore year (at the beginning of sophomore year for the engineering school).  The makeup of the school seemed to have more restrictions than I would have expected, especially in regards to the academics, but nonetheless I felt convinced that this school really leads students down a path to success.  Something that I was impressed with was Columbia’s availability of school counselors and advisors to incoming freshman (about 3:1 ratio) to help them figure out their schedule and life on the campus.  I have always wondered how the adjustment to university life would be, and this method seems to really allow students to have a smooth transition into their new life on campus. 

Columbia Library
Next, Tyler, at rising sophomore at Columbia studying economics and history gave us a tour of the school.  We visited the library and a couple classrooms as Tyler gave thorough explanations of each building’s purpose and gave insights to life on campus as well.  I was impressed that only after one year on campus he was able to provide us with so much information about the school.  One requirement that I found funny was the mandatory swim test that all students have to take to graduate, originating from an old tradition from when the school was founded (at first called King’s College).  Each student, before their graduation, has to swim a vigorous three laps in…three hours!  This tradition is commonly treated as a social event as friends tend to take these tests together.
Anchovies: one of the many delicious dishes
On the way home our train got delayed by about 45 minutes, so we did not have as much time to transition from college touring to dinner.  Amada: a Spanish restaurant about 20 minutes away from The Inn, and one of the most unique dining experiences I have ever had.  The dinner was chosen by the chef, and consisted of 16 simple, but gorgeously prepared plates as well as dessert.  What I appreciated most about this restaurant was the way they accommodated food allergies.  Rachael and I both suffer from food allergies, and they were extremely conscious of this and, if there were a dish that we could not eat, they would bring a just as delicious alternative for us.  The waiter as well as the servers were able to describe each dish as it arrived and illustrated a picture in our mind of what we were about to eat: from what the dish consisted of, where the ingredients originated, and, for Alfredo, a wine that accompanied the meals and again, what it was and where it came from.  This dining experience was fun and was a great time for our group to bond and laugh over the magnificent meal that was presented before us. 

Tomorrow we will make the journey out to New Jersey to visit Princeton University.  We will be getting an extremely early start, but I cannot wait for what another day will have in store for us! 

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