Archive for Student Life

Your Frequently Asked Questions, Answered by Current SIPA Students!

Hello! The Admissions team would like to say congratulations to all Admitted Students! We have been receiving a lot of questions on a variety of topics, from housing options to SIPA’s quantitative coursework. We decided to compile our answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. Feel free to drop other questions in the comment!

What is SIPA’s quantitative coursework like? Will I be able to pass macro/micro economics?

Samantha: The quantitative coursework for the core courses at SIPA consist of three courses: Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Quantitative Analysis (statistics). Usually students take Micro in the fall semester, and Macro in the spring semester. However, Quant can be taken in any of the four semesters, but most students complete it in either of their first two. The workload is going to be a bit heavy, as you have homework, recitation, lecture and exams for all of these quantitative courses, but it’s all doable. You don’t need to be an expert in either of the three areas in order to do well in them, but getting in some practice before hand can’t hurt. In order to prepare yourself for the coursework I recommend completing the summer math tutorial SIPA provides, as well as attending the Math Boot-camp during orientation. However, If you’re still panicked about the fact that you’re going to see numbers and have instantaneously forgotten all the math(s) you’ve ever learned, remember you are going to be ok and I guarantee you will pass.

Julia: I would also say that the weekly homework are done in groups so some of the stress is shared. Many students don’t have an economics or statistics background (like me!) so you won’t be alone! The professors are also very approachable and helpful if you are struggling.

What is the SIPA community like as a whole? Or for a specific concentration?
Dylan: The SIPA community is generally very open and welcoming. Before arriving at SIPA, I assumed that most people would be very competitive and serious. While everyone here cares about their academics and career, I have found the opposite to be true; in general, people are very supportive and friendly. I think one of the other benefits of having such huge incoming classes is that you are always meeting new students. So on top of it being a friendly, collaborative environment, I’ve never really felt like I lacked opportunities to meet new people.

I’d say most people end up befriending people within their concentration. Makes sense right? You take a lot of classes with them, you probably end up at the same events, and you naturally share a lot of similar interests. As a USP concentrator, I met most of my USP friends my first semester and we’ve remained close since then.

What is the recruitment/job-hunt like at SIPA? Does the Office of Career Services, or SIPA in general, support students?

Julia: SIPA students have very diverse interests, so there isn’t a standard way students go through the internship or job search. When I was looking for my summer internship last year, I used the Office of Career Services internship database, which is a detailed account of all the internships previous students have done, to give me an idea what I could be interested in doing. I then applied for internships through the job/internship portal on SIPAlink. I would also say the info sessions that OCS organize are helpful as well. I just went to an ACLU panel discussion last week that was inspiring and exactly I needed to motivate me in my current job search!

What is something you wish you knew about SIPA before attending?
Dylan: I wish I knew more about cross-registration and dual-degree options at SIPA. That was more me not doing my due diligence on researching SIPA’s program offerings before attending, but it is something all students can do if they prepare in advance.

What has been the best/worst part of your time at SIPA?
Dylan: The best part has been developing my interest in anti-corruption policy and journalism. I came from a very theory focused Political Science background, and SIPA was the first place where I was able to really dive into policy.

Worst time has definitely been the quantitative coursework. I appreciate it and I begrudgingly recognize its importance. But it can be an enormous pain! That being said, everyone who comes to SIPA will pass the core quantitative classes. Do not fear!!

Julia: My best time was traveling with other Seeples on student trips. Last summer I went to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and this winter break I went to Israel. It’s a great way to learn more about the politics and history of the region, but also spend quality time with your fellow Seeples.

What are the housing options like in the Columbia area? How much can I expect to pay and where should I generally look?

Samantha: I would say that most students who do not get Columbia student housing generally live near or north of campus. Most of us live in shared apartments in Morningside Heights, Harlem, and Washington Heights. Living with roommates helps keep the cost down, and living near or north of campus is 1. Convenient and 2. More affordable. While rents vary, I say students usually pay anywhere from $900-$1500 a month in rent. The farther north you go from campus the less expensive apartments become, so if you’re looking to cut costs I recommend looking uptown. The benefit of living near campus is that it is close enough for you to walk to, so you wouldn’t have to pay for transit expenses to get to school like you might need to if you live further north.

How do you manage time between classes and internships/work?

Dylan: This is a hard question to answer because it really depends on the classes I’m taking and the way assignments are structured for each class. Some weeks, I’ll have no assignments due besides reading for class. During those weeks, I obviously attend classes, work around 15 hours at SIPA Admissions as a program assistant, and do my readings either in the afternoon after classes or in between classes while I’m still on campus.

Other weeks, it’ll feel like my professors conspired to absolutely slam me with assignments. In those cases, I’ll usually plan on working 11am – 5/6pm-ish on weekends (at least) and then work in the afternoons after classes are finished and in between classes. If I’m particularly stressed with my program assistantship work, I may ask to take a few hours off and make them up at a later date. Most SIPA jobs are understanding and flexible with students.

A quick April update

We assume you’re all as busy as we are this April, so here’s a few updates on what’s been going on at SIPA:

Tomorrow is our Admitted Students’ Day event for the incoming SIPA Class of 2021. We’re excited to welcome them to Columbia University’s campus to meet the SIPA community of faculty, alumni, current and other admitted students! The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid will be closed tomorrow for the event, so please be patient with us if it takes a little longer to get back to your calls or emails.

Are you following @columbia.sipa on Instagram yet? Current SIPA students Kier Joy and Daniel White led a virtual tour of the International Affairs Building and led an admitted student Q&A. We’ll add their answers to Instagram soon, so here’s a sample: One admitted student asked “How does the size of the student body impact your ability to find community?”

  • Kier: “The advantage of being in a larger policy school is that there’s bound to be someone who’s interested in what you’re interested in! For example, I’m interested in the intersection of policy, blackness and America – so I created a WhatsApp group with black students at Orientation and got very involved with SIPA Students of Color on campus.”
  • Dan: “Classes are big enough to have discussions, but small enough that you can’t hide.”

To give prospective students a sample of the rigorous academics at SIPA, faculty members have been leading condensed virtual lectures and Q&As with prospective students. Thanks to all of you who joined in – we hope you learned something new! Here’s the first Faculty Webinar from Vice Dean Scott Barrett on “International Cooperation to Limit Climate Change.” Let us know what you think!

To those of you who have given feedback on what blog content you’d like to see, know that we have some SIPA students working on answering your questions. Wishing everyone a great week, and looking forward to meeting you admitted students tomorrow!

A Foodie’s Guide to Columbia University’s Food Scene

One of the greatest things about Columbia’s campus is that it is essentially a foodie’s paradise. There’s several different cuisines nearby, from Ethiopian to Mexican and from mass-produced burgers with fries to locally-sourced vegan friendly meals. Columbia offers a smörgåsbord of food options.

Massawa (121st and Amsterdam)

Massawa is an Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant boasting flavorful and shareable meals, all scooped up with a handful of injera, a sour bread served with all meals. The restaurant holds an impressive menu with several types of meats and vegetables. Meals can be vegetarian friendly also. It’s also a perfect place for a date for those planning. The quiet, dim-lit environment sets a romantic, conversational mood perfect for a first-date or a long-term couple. Meals range from $15-$25 per person including tip.

Shake Shack (116th and Broadway)

You might have heard of Shake Shack if you’re from the Northeast, but for those who don’t know, it’s a franchise burger that rivals the well-known West Coast chain In-n-Out Burgers and the broader burger chain Five Guys Burgers. However, Shake Shack is more than just burgers. They’re also known for their concretes, an ice cream concoction with a few different toppings and flavors mixed in. Shake Shack is often a filled with students looking for a quick bite between classes. A meal costs about $10-$15 dollars, no tip required.

Community (Between 112th and 113th on Broadway)

With an American-eclectic menu that features seasonal, local, organic food whenever possible, Community is a popular place for those who are food conscious. While the restaurant isn’t just for vegetarians, almost all of their meals can be made for vegetarians by request. One of their most popular items on their breakfast menu are their blueberry pancakes, a must-try for all newcomers. It’s also a great place for a Sunday brunch so bring your friends and enjoy a meal on their patio. Average meals range from $13-$20 without tip.

Jin Ramen (Broadway and Tiemann Place)

This is not your microwavable ramen. Though a little bit of a walk from campus, Jim Ramen is one of the Columbia community’s most popular restaurants, boasting several types of ramen noodle bowls. Also a great place for a date because nothing is cuter than watching your boo slurp up noodles. For meals, you can go classic with a soy sauce ramen or go different with a green coconut thai curry ramen bowl. Either way, you’ll love what you’re eating. Meals are around $12 – $18.

Strokos (114th and Amsterdam)

If you’re looking for something quick and pretty cheap, Strokos is the way to go. It’s a gourmet deli serving dozens upon dozens of options, from pizza to salad to sandwiches to chicken and vegetables. The place also has enough room there for studying so you’ll usually find several students eating with their laptops. Stop by Strokos and get a meal for usually under $10.

Oaxaca Taqueria (Between 122nd and 123rd on Amsterdam)

As a lover of tacos, I must say Oaxaca Taqueria does an amazing job at making the signature Mexican meal. You can get three tacos for around $10 and they have a little under a dozen of different styles of tacos. My favorites are the classic carnitas tacos and the savory Korean taco. It’s a casual place so you can either eat there or take it to go. Either way, you won’t regret it.

Join the Columbia Journal of International Affairs

I’m Shalaka Joshi, second-year Masters of Public Administration student with a concentration in International Security Policy and a specialization in Technology, Media, and Communications. Prior to graduate school, I was an Associate at the public affairs firm Dewey Square Group in Washington, D.C, and I have an undergraduate Political Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin. While my family is from India, and I was born there, I grew up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas.

When applying to graduate school, I knew I was looking for an institution where I would not only learn about the important issues of the day, but would also prepare me to be forward thinking about the challenges that we face. Being at SIPA has sparked my interest in the intersection of technology, policy, and politics, and how this nexus of ideas is impacting our lives. It has also provided me opportunity for growth, intellectual fulfilment, and close friendships with my wonderful peers.

The Columbia Journal of International Affairs has been around since 1947, making it the oldest student-run academic publication in the world. I first learned of it when a flyer announcing that the Journal was looking for assistant editors caught my eye early in my first semester at SIPA. Because I was intrigued with the idea of students leading the conversation on the public policy challenges of the future, I applied to join the board as an assistant editor on the digital team.

Currently, I am the Managing Editor of the Digital and Online Team, where I help to manage our website and social media presence. My goal for the past year has been to build the Journal’s digital presence so that more people know of the work we do, and we can further share the ideas in our pages. We have done this by livestreaming the launch events for our two most recent issues: “Contentious Narratives” and “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” by developing our social media presence, and by publishing interesting analysis around important events both current and historical, such as the Brazilian elections last year and the centenary of the end of World War I in 2018.

We live in a world in which policy discussions have become divorced from the public conversation. It is my hope that the Journal continues to try to break through this divide and engage with everyone, and leads the conversation on the public policy challenges of our time.

The next issue of the Journal will examine “The Dynamics of Global Feminism.” For this issue, we have announced a student essay contest and a visual arts contest, a great way for SIPA students to win money and be published alongside experts, academics and policymakers. We invite everyone, including future SIPA students, to engage with us and carry the legacy of the Journal forward for the next 70 years.

Follow us on social media on Facebook and Twitter for the latest issue of the Journal, and as an example of how you can get further involved with life at SIPA.

Photo Credit: Shalaka Joshi and the JIA, including the header photo of the JIA special launch event.

Why SIPA? New York City is where the world comes together.

Decisions came out earlier this week, and we’re excited to welcome our admitted students to Columbia SIPA. Admitted students will have a multitude of global events and webinars to get more information about what it’s like to be at SIPA. (To our Fall 2019 applicants, regardless of your decision, check back with the blog next week for next steps to consider.)

Congratulations again to all of the admitted students. We leave you with this video featuring Kier Joy MIA ’19.

Happy weekend, everyone.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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