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Students at Columbia come from all over the world. Some live right across the Hudson River in New Jersey, while others hail from a completely different continent. Living close by has its perks—for one thing, you can come to Days on Campus and see what campus is really like.
If you come from farther away, however, don’t feel excluded. There’s still a way for you to get acquainted with campus even before showing up. Here’s the best of what campus has to offer.
If you took our fun Columbia trivia quiz, you’ll know that there are a ton of libraries on campus (over 20). However, there are just a handful that students frequent on a daily basis.
This big, rectangular building was probably displayed prominently on the admissions packets or info pamphlets you received about Columbia. It’s the biggest library on campus, the one students visit the most, and an icon of the school itself. Studying in Butler has its pros and cons. For one thing, there’s a pretty decent café, Blue Java, and many of the study spaces are also overly picturesque. The building is open 24-hours, even though certain study spaces close at earlier times. However, it can be hard to find a seat to study (especially during finals). The stacks, the inner rectangle of the library where all the books are, can also be super confusing to navigate. Luckily, the Circulation Desk staff on the second floor can help you find what you’re looking for.
@ynqkim / via Instagram
This is the one that looks like Hogwarts, imo. It’s much smaller than Butler and has those very aesthetic ceiling-high bookshelves. It’s a bit behind Low Library, meaning that it’s not a far walk at all, but like Butler, it can be a bit difficult to find a seat because it’s pretty small. There’s also a less aesthetically pleasing lower floor with, surprise surprise, another café (sense a pattern here?).
@cam_jor / via Instagram
Also known as the East Asian Library, Kent Library is located in the academic building Kent Hall. It’s a bit like Avery architecture-wise, and is a decent choice if the other is taken. It’s really only full during finals week, as it’s not as widely known as Butler and Avery.
Science and Engineering Library
Located inside NoCo (its full name is Northwest Corner Building, but we call it NoCo to save time), the science and engineering library is frequented by (surprise!) SEAS students. However, all students can get in. It has a distinctly different aesthetic than the other libraries on campus—while Butler, Avery, etc. have more classical architecture, the science and engineering library looks modern with large glass window panes, light wood floors, and colorful rolling chairs. The outside looks sort of out of place on campus (see image below), but the inside has plenty of natural light.
@_sybillai / via Instagram
This was once a library, but it’s not anymore. The interior is cool (check out the rotunda from inside), but there’s not much you’d do in there if you’re not an administrator. Let’s move on.
@hoonkka / via Instagram
The LeFrak Center is Barnard’s makeshift library while the new Teaching and Learning Center is being constructed. It’s quite small and the lighting is très artificial, but it’s rarely ever completely full and is close to the Quad and Hewitt Dining Hall.
The Geology Library is located on one of the upper floors of Schermerhorn. It’s pretty comfortable, but seating is extremely limited. That’s fine though, because hardly anyone knows that this place actually exists.
There are a ton of cafés both around and on campus, which is good because Columbia runs on caffeine.
As I mentioned before, this one’s located on the first floor of Butler Library, meaning that it’s the perfect place to frequent during one of your many study breaks. It might be a bit overpriced, but the pastries are good and it’s close to all the action, so most people aren’t complaining.
Located on the lower level of Avery, Brownie’s serves more than just your traditional pastries. They have soup specials for each day of the week, and the offerings are generally pretty healthy (so they’re probably not serving up, contrary to the name, many brownies. Sad, but there’s other places you can get them).
This is probably the coffee classic of most Columbia students. There are actually two locations on campus: The first (and more well-known) is located in aforementioned NoCo, where it’s nearly impossible to find a seat at all times of the day. With its white marble floor, light blue cups, and large windows looking onto Broadway and 120th Street, this is the place to capture all your Instagram-worthy coffee pics. The second (and newer) location is a small coffee stand on the first floor of Dodge (the academic building, not the gym).
@florapxrk / via Instagram
UP Coffee is located between the Journalism School and Furnald (one of the first-year dorms). They have a pretty traditional coffee menu, pastries, mason jar salads, and hot paninis. There’s also plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, which is nice during the spring.
@upcoffeenyc / via Instagram
Liz’s Place is located on the first floor of the Diana Center on Barnard’s campus. This place serves Starbucks coffee and is great because it’s really easy to pop into on your way to class, as it’s not too far from Altschul or Milbank, and you can use your meal points here.
Most Columbia and SEAS first-years live in Carman, Furnald, or John Jay, and a few will end up in Wallach or Hartley. Barnard first-years all live in the Quad, which includes Sulzberger, Brooks, Reid, and Hewitt.
Carman is definitely known as the party dorm amongst first-years (and as you move up through the class years, you’ll realize that there’s really a Carman for each year). In Carman, you’ll likely be living in a double within a suite, though your number of suitemates will vary. The good: You won’t have to share a bathroom with your entire floor, just with those in your suite. The bad: Carman’s aesthetic is off-white cinder block, kind of like a prison, and there may be puke in the elevators during the weekend.
@jacobveerapen / via Instagram
While Carman’s the party dorm, Furnald’s the quiet dorm. With mostly singles, Furnald can be more isolating than other dorms, but there are often shows and events (like Spec’s last Free Food Expo!) that take place in the large lounge on the first floor.
@defreitasgabe / via Instagram
John Jay is a nice synthesis of the two. It’s not super quiet like Furnald, nor is there a rager on every floor on Friday evening. You also still have a good chance of getting a single, and you’re close to John Jay Dining Hall and JJ’s Place, which can either be a good or bad thing. Good because you don’t have to leave the building for food, but bad because the smell of JJ’s wafts into the windows of the lower floors at all hours of the day.
@sarahllu / via Instagram
Wallach and Hartley
Wallach and Hartley form the Living-Learning Center, an opportunity for first-years and upperclassmen to live together. Because many rooms are reserved for upperclassmen, fewer first-years live in these two dorms. However, the LLC mentorship program is a great way to make friends with more experienced Columbians!
@columbiaadmissions / via Instagram
The Quad is where all first-years live at Barnard, and it’s located on the corner of Broadway and 116th Street. First-years live in three dorms that make up the Quad (though you’ll occasionally hear about a newbie who’s put in Hewitt, generally an upperclassmen dorm): Brooks, Reid, and Sulzberger.
@flashtx75 / via Instagram
Brooks is the oldest Barnard dorm, which has its good and bad parts. The good is that the furniture is pretty nice, and some dorms even have bay windows and fireplaces. The bad is that it’s AC-less, and the doubles are pretty small.
Sulzberger is probably the nicest dorm in the Quad, just because it has AC (a luxury in the stifling heat of August) and the doubles tend to be more sizeable.
Reid is wedged in between Sulz and Brooks. Configuration wise, it’s more like Sulz, as the furniture is the same and the doubles are pretty spacious. However, like Brooks, it doesn’t have AC. :(
You’re not able to pick into a specific Barnard dorm as a first-year, but you are allowed to indicate your preferences.
Lerner Hall is our equivalent of a student union. You can find almost everything you need in Lerner: performance spaces, lounges, study rooms, places to eat (including Ferris Booth Commons, one of Columbia’s two dining halls), meeting rooms, and important offices (like Counseling and Psychological Services and Undergraduate Student Life). With large ramps that span across the building (which students tend to make fun of), Lerner has a distinct architectural style that sets it apart from every other building on campus.
@collegevine / via Instagram
The Diana Center
Located on Barnard’s campus, the Diana Center is BC’s own version of Lerner. Again, there are performance spaces, places to eat (including the aforementioned Liz’s Place and Diana Café, one of Barnard’s two dining halls), classrooms, and places to hang out or study. There’s also a grassy seating area right outside of Diana, making it a go-to hot spot during the warmer months.
@nywalks / via Instagram
Academic buildings, including Havemeyer, Schermerhorn, Mudd, Hamilton, and Barnard Hall
Which buildings you spend the most time in will depend on your schedule, but there are a handful worth checking out.
A lot of first-years go to Schermerhorn for their Frontiers of Science discussion sections. This is the one with the geology library on the sixth floor and the Wallach Art Gallery on the eighth. It’s located on the east side of campus (closer to Amsterdam than Broadway), and it’s about a five-minute walk from most first-year dorms. There is a giant blue banner for Wallach hanging on the side of the building, so it’s not too hard to find.
Hamilton is a minute away from John Jay, Hartley, and Wallach and maybe three minutes from Carman and Furnald. A lot of language classes are taught here, and this is also where the Center for the Core Curriculum is housed.
@helenakyuzizi / via Instagram
Havemeyer is important if you’re going to be taking chem during your time at CU. It also houses the most famous lecture hall on campus, which has been featured in movies like “Mona Lisa Smile,” “Ghostbusters,” and more.
@grotcahn / via Instagram
Mudd is SEAS territory, so all our engineering folks will spend a decent amount of time here during their four years at CU. Unfortunately, in our humble opinion, it’s in a three-way tie with Uris and Pupin for the ugliest building on campus.
Barnard Hall is the first building you see when you walk through the Barnard gates. This building is especially important for first-years because it’s where most of the First-Year English and Writing classes are taught. Hewitt Dining Hall and Barnard’s gym can both be found in the basement; on the first floor is the LeFrak Center (the temporary library), and on the third floor is the dance department.
Officially, it’s called Ferris Booth Commons, but everyone calls it just Ferris. It’s located on the third and fourth floors of Lerner. You’ll come to associate it with its pasta (custom ordered pasta dishes but with a super long line) and disposable cutlery. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
@alumniofcolumbiacollege / via Instagram
John Jay Dining Hall
The other major dining hall on Columbia’s campus is John Jay, and you’ll often hear people get into fights over which one is better (it’s Ferris, btw). John Jay has the aesthetic of an old-timey dining hall, and it’s particularly well known for its desserts. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the week and brunch and dinner on Sunday.
@jaeheehwang / via Instagram
How could we forget sweet, beloved JJ’s Place? (JJ’s Place was actually closed for a bit of time not too long ago. I think its absence has caused people to appreciate it more than ever.) Its claim to fame: greasy, stereotypical college food (like pizza, hamburgers, and especially mozzarella sticks), the frozen yogurt station, and its newly renamed frozen juice station. JJ’s Place is open for lunch, dinner, and late-night snacks. Starting next fall, it will stay open from 12 p.m. to 10 a.m. (!)
Hewitt is the main dining hall at Barnard. It’s not accessible by Hewitt Residence Hall, but rather by Barnard Hall (makes sense, I know). People have a love-hate relationship with Hewitt. On one hand, the offerings are much more limited compared to Columbia. The cold tofu bar also throws most people off. However, the pizza is better than average, and the chocolate cake is a staple. Hewitt is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late dinner (called Late Night).
Located in the Diana Center (and actually accessible via the Diana Center), Diana Café is located on the second floor. It’s significantly smaller than Hewitt, but many argue that the offerings are better. For one thing, the thin crust pizza (especially the white pizza) is legendary. Second, the smoothie bar is great if you’re looking for a healthier alternative. Finally, sometimes it’s nice to not eat in a basement. During breakfast hours, you can use a meal swipe to get a generous combination of a breakfast entrée, oatmeal or yogurt, a piece of fruit, and juice or coffee. During lunch, there’s a salad bar, sandwich station, and sushi that you can buy with your meal points, while dinner options include another combo of items for a meal swipe.
And this doesn’t even graze the surface of everything that’s available on Barnard and Columbia’s campuses. There’s still so much more to talk about (like the buildings off campus, the gyms, Morningside Heights restaurants, etc.), but hopefully this gives a taste to those who live too far away to visit. However, make sure you continue to check our Required Reading page—we’ll keep updating the site with new content every day.
Veronica Grace Taleon is Spectrum’s editor and a Barnard sophomore. She’s one of the few people who actually appreciates the cold tofu bar in Hewitt. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.