When I stepped through Columbia’s gates as a first-year, I planned to major in physics. I expected four years of working on problem sets and conducting lab experiments.
However, I struggled through the freshman physics classes and pulled all-nighters, worrying about how the next three years would go if I stayed in science. That summer, I journeyed back home to Tennessee, full of doubts about Columbia and, more importantly, myself. I honestly didn’t want to come back.
In an endeavor to save my college experience sophomore year, I decided to change my major to English and philosophy—a path that, in hindsight, fit my personal interests much more than physics ever did. But I still seriously questioned whether this was the right choice for me.
In the midst of this academic confusion, I threw myself into one of the extracurriculars I dabbled in freshmen year—Spectator. In my first year, I had written a few news articles on topics such as grade inflation and the Core. But, sophomore year, I started writing regularly. I attended the monthly University Senate meetings and interviewed faculty and students about a range of campus topics. And, for the first time at Columbia, I felt like I belonged here.
That December, I decided to run for campus deputy news editor. After obtaining the position, I worked with a plethora of passionate people to put out the paper everyday.
Honestly, I can’t say I loved every second of it—the job was demanding, the days long, and schoolwork often became a bit too optional. But, I would do it over in a heartbeat.
I was a student by day, a journalist by night. I learned so much about Columbia—from the intricacies of the administration to the major student issues. I met an array of amazing people I never would have talked to on campus otherwise.
The people I worked with at Spectator also appreciated my English and philosophy double major and had made some of the same life decisions as I had. They assured and supported me during the time I most needed it.
Working at Spectator also gave me back some of the confidence I had completely lost in myself at that point in my life. I was empowered by being able to tell other peoples’ stories, by telling of their successes and, sometimes, failures. When I felt powerless as a student in an intricate and alienating system, Spectator empowered me and molded me into a person I was proud to be.
After my tenure as a deputy editor, I studied abroad in London. During spring break, I traveled throughout Europe—visited 10 cites and seven countries—where I bonded with Columbia students also traveling abroad and met a myriad of interesting strangers. This adventure was one of my best experiences through Columbia, and I wouldn’t have had the self-confidence necessary to take advantage of it if it weren’t for Spectator.
In March, I wrote a lead story for The Eye about post-graduation choices and how many students seem to not be following the path that would lead them to the most happiness. My time at Columbia—and Spectator—has taught me that the journeys are what matter in life and not the ultimate résumé-bullet or paycheck.
Through Spectator, I have had the opportunity to discuss people’s passions and achievements with them numerous times over the past four years. These people have given me the confidence that, in life, it is never worth settling for the easiest path—it is only through trials that we can even begin to find ourselves.
As I graduate in a few weeks, I will know that it was my years at Spectator that gave me the confidence I need to go out into chaos that is the real world. I may still not truly understand myself, but Spectator has put me on the path to begin to and, for that, I’ll be forever grateful.
The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in English and philosophy. She was a news beat chief for the 133rd volume and a deputy news editor for the 134th volume.