For a prospie or a first-year, stepping onto a college campus surrounded by big stone buildings and green lawns full of intimidating upperclassmen can be scary. Yes, there are occasionally signs and posters that tell you where you are, but you might be too anxious to even stop to look at them during your first couple days here, whether it’s during NSOP or Days on Campus.
While navigating campus as a prospie may seem like a daunting task at first, don’t fret, because it is very much possible. Here are some ways you can avoid getting lost on campus.
The best thing you can do is to explore the campus. Simply take a walk, or go on a run and make mental notes of some of the buildings you see. Of course, your brain won’t remember them all, but get a general sense of where everything is.
Also, while you’re exploring the campus, don’t be too self-conscious about what others might think of you. Yes, campus gets pretty busy—there will be lots of people walking (like grads and undergrads going to classes, professors going to their offices, staff members going around campus), but they might not be paying attention to you.
Take a virtual tour online
If you, for some reason, couldn’t attend DoC and go on a tour of Columbia, you can still feel like you’re walking on campus, thanks to amazing technology that shows you 360-degree panoramic views of the beautiful campus.
If you have any MP3 player, you can even download an audio walking tour of the buildings on Columbia's Morningside Heights campus. You’ll hear the history of some of the most iconic buildings on campus narrated by Columbia architecture professor Andrew Dolkart. You can even listen to it while you’re exploring the campus by yourself, and you can just pretend like you’re listening to music, so no one even has to know.
People can be great resources
Chances are most people you see on campus know the area better than you. If you ever find yourself asking, “Where am I right now?” you can ask any person on campus for directions. People are generally friendly if you ask for assistance and are always willing to point you in the direction you’re headed. (I’ve been approached a couple of times and am never bothered.)
Download or take a picture of a map of the campus
The campus maps are easy to read and navigate. You can download them here and just keep an open tab on your phone.
Pro tip one: Figure out where you are in terms of Low Library or Butler Library, two of the most visible buildings on campus. They’ll be like your compass.
Pro tip two: If you forget your phone in your dorm (as if) or you just forget to download maps, there are actually enlarged maps around campus that you can refer to if you ever feel lost.
Technology helps, too
You may be surprised to see that even the tiniest buildings on campus can be found using Google Maps. It tells you how to get to buildings, dorms, and libraries if you just type in the address or name of the building. For example, typing in "Schapiro Hall" on Google Maps will tell you the exact path you should take to get there.
Familiarize yourself with some major landmarks
Before you set out, you can always plan preemptively and get acquainted with some of the most popular places on campus. Here’s our guide—we’ve marked libraries, first-year dorms, dining halls and cafes, and academic buildings.
Don’t worry too much about getting lost—compared to other college campuses, Columbia actually isn’t that big (just five New York blocks), and there are plenty of resources to help you find your way around. If worst comes to worst, don’t be afraid to use other students or the ol’ reliable technology.
Sein An is a Spectrum staff writer and a Columbia-Juilliard Exchange first-year. All these methods have been foolproof tested on herself. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.