Living and Lifestyle
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@columbiaadmissions / via Instagram

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Welcome to Barnumbia! While a lot of university life is about academics and the dreaded art of adulting, it’s also nice to take into consideration campus events and traditions when finding the right fit.

Part of the beauty of living in New York City is that there are endless events to attend in the city. However, students need not look far to find something going on within the walls of campus and the bubble of MoHi. (Just a bit of CU jargon—basically, Morningside Heights.)


Kiera Woods / Staff Photographer

Bacchanal is often considered to be the highlight of the school year at Columbia. In the spring, right as the weather starts to turn nice and students can see the light of summer at the end of the tunnel, Columbia hosts a massive concert to ease students’ stress before finals.

Students usually make a Saturday out of Bacchanal by going to brunch, attending and hosting parties, and finally attending the concert on Low Steps (if they’re lucky enough to get tickets). This is one of the only all-day events CU students have all year. The biggest part of the event is the performance by the headliner. (In past years, we’ve seen artists such as Macklemore, the Chainsmokers, Kanye West, and Big Sean. Take that, Penn Spring Fling.)

Orgo Night

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Columbia’s dreaded organic chemistry exam used to be on the first day of finals, prompting the Columbia University Marching Band (CUMB) to annually invade Butler Library the midnight before (legend says in hopes of lowering the exam curve). There was some drama last semester, so they’re no longer allowed in Butler; but that doesn’t stop them from performing outside.

The performance is a mixture of a musical performance and “skits” performed by the band members themselves. The jokes range from absurd to low-key inappropriate, and Columbia, administrators, and recent events are always the target.

After disturbing the students studying in Butler 209, the band then proceeds to Van Am Quad to play for the residents of Columbia’s halls, and then to an array of campus locations, including President Bollinger’s house. They even stop by Barnard Hall (they’ve been barred entrance to the Quad), finally finishing off in front of Furnald Hall around 2 a.m..

The Varsity Show

Leon Wu for Spectator

Since 1894, some of Barnard and Columbia’s best comedians and performers collaborate yearly to write and produce a satirical play about life at Columbia. Often based on current university happenings, the Varsity Show sells out every year, with students clamoring to get tickets. The show has even had some famous alumni, including Kate McKinnon and Jenny Slate of Saturday Night Live.

Super keen on learning a bit more about the Varsity Show? Spec sat down with the director of this year’s installment for a bit of inside info.

Big Sub

@reilucy / via Instagram

Many of my friends like to relate Big Sub to Christmas: Students start anticipating it days beforehand, buy and wear themed apparel, and take pictures as the preparations start to go up. Every fall, Barnard winds a 700-plus-foot sub throughout campus, from Milbank Hall all the way to the Quad. Students are given maps to find their desired sub fillings, and then at 7 p.m., the battle ensues. Prepare for the entire sandwich to be gone within five minutes.

Tree Lighting and Yule Ceremony

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If you’ve ever seen a Columbia student’s Instagram in December, you’ve undoubtedly seen the row of trees lining College Walk lit up from top to bottom in holiday lights. At the beginning of December, students gather to watch and celebrate the start of the holiday season with a tree-lighting ceremony, a cappella performances, holiday food and drinks, and giveaways. The ceremony also includes the carrying of a Yule Log through campus before lighting it in the hearth in John Jay lounge.

The Tree Lighting Ceremony is #aesthetic in every ways, so if you want a more visual representation of what it’s like, you can watch this video:

Midnight Breakfast

@barnardcollege / via Instagram

The night before exams in the fall and spring semesters, Barnard faculty, deans, and president serve a midnight breakfast of pancakes, waffles, bacon, ice cream sundaes (not really breakfast, but delicious nonetheless), and other treats to students from all four undergraduate schools. For many, this is a great stop to make after attending Orgo Night and to refuel before more studying and exams.

Athena Film Festival

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Every winter, Barnard is home to a film festival for innovative short films, documentaries, and feature films highlighting female leadership. The nationally recognized festival not only includes screenings of award-winning films, but also hosts panels and workshops to inspire and engage students and visitors.

Outdoor theater with KCST

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Once a semester, Columbia’s King's Crown Shakespeare Troupe performs a full Shakespeare play all over campus. Not only is the play performed outside at night, but different scenes are also performed at different campus landmarks. Usually, a pretty large crowd of students amasses and follows the performance from location to location.

World Leaders Forum

So Yun Jun / Senior Staff Photographer

Something you’ll get used to is the fact that Columbia attracts many high-profile speakers. If you’re interested in current events, political science, and international relations, the World Leaders Forum is a good opportunity to attend discussions lead by presidents, ambassadors, diplomats, and other leaders from various countries.

There’s always something to do around campus. From club events to sports games to academic forums, students can always find their niche. However, several times a year, University students join together to celebrate some of Barnard and Columbia’s most historic and treasured events and traditions.

Have any questions about campus events? Want to hear more about happenings around Columbia? Reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Mariella Evangelista is a Barnard first-year and a Spectrum staff writer. Her favourite campus event is fighting for a seat in Butler Library during finals week. Reach her at

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