Archive for new york city

Jumping from NYC to DC; My advice to students who want to work outside of NYC

Note from Admissions: Congratulations to the eight SIPA students selected to join the Presidential Management Fellows Class of 2019! Only ~8.7 percent of applicants were selected to become finalists in this prestigious U.S. government development program for 2019. We thought this would be a good opportunity to check in with other SIPA students who are heading to Washington D.C.


When I first considered applying to the State Department’s Pickering Fellowship, I was unsure whether it was worth my time. I assumed that students from D.C. studying International Affairs would have a considerable advantage, since I attended a small liberal arts college in Los Angeles where I studied History and Government. However, when speaking with alumni of the fellowship, I was told that my non-D.C. background could help my application for the State Department and other employers throughout my career. After receiving the fellowship, and having worked in D.C., I would agree with this sentiment.

Ultimately, I believe that employers look for talent and people with new and interesting ideas, regardless of where an applicant is from. Therefore, I would urge anyone considering SIPA to apply, even if they want to pursue a career in D.C. afterwards; here at SIPA, you’ll learn and grow in ways that will make you competitive for any job in any city.

SIPA’s greatest resource is New York City. As a student of policy, you will have endless opportunities to engage with experts and leading organizations in your field who are working in arguably the world’s most dynamic city. Because of SIPA’s location, you will also have access to world class faculty and students who are pursuing careers in everything from finance to humanitarian work.

SIPA also offers a very holistic curriculum and attracts students from the around the world who want to study in a global city. I can honestly say that I have learned as much from my peers as I have from my classes.

In turn, you may actually have an advantage over students who are in D.C. or any other city, partly because of everything that SIPA students are exposed to in New York.

Personally, I know of many students who are fully committed to working in D.C. after graduating, myself included. Many of these students use their summer in between their first and second year to pursue an internship in DC, as an opportunity to build a relationship with a potential employer and to get an idea of what they would ideally like to do full-time.

SIPA has relationships with almost every major organization in D.C. and therefore students are made aware of internship and full-time job opportunities available in D.C. all the time. Almost any employer in D.C. will recognize Columbia University and SIPA, and you will not be at a disadvantage during the recruiting process.

In terms of community in D.C., SIPA students end up all over; some work for the State Department, some work for think tanks like The Brookings Institution, and others end up at NGOs like Human Rights Campaign. Since SIPA’s Office of Career Services has strong relationships with alumni and organizations with heavy SIPA representation, it is easy to get in contact with alumni, who are always happy to offer advice or maybe even an opportunity at an interview.

I always tell people, living and studying in New York is never a bad choice. If you are interested in SIPA’s program offerings and think it is a good fit academically and socially, then consider applying/enrolling, even if you don’t plan to be here long-term!

A Definitive List of the Best Libraries on Campus

Although Lehman Library is the default place of study for the majority of SIPA students, there are plenty of libraries on campus that are worth exploring. Butler Library, is of course, the quintessential image featured on every other postcard sold at the bookstore but there are other, equally picturesque places to study on campus and your Columbia Student ID card is a veritable passport to each and everyone of these locations. See below for a list of my personal favorites. 

  1. Avery Library at the School of Architecture: Avery Library is by far one of my favorite places to study on campus. As soon as you walk in you are greeted with large windows and plenty of sunlight. Although finals and midterms season makes this a popular location, there are generally plenty of seats available throughout the semester. Unfortunately, you are only able to print with Paw Print, which means you are limited to a $2.00 quota per day, but this is usually the case for printing anywhere outside of SIPA. Plus, Avery is located above Brownies Cafe, so you can easily grab lunch.
  2. Science and Engineering Library: The Science and Engineering Library is another great location to study. The upstairs area is located right next to large windows overlooking the Engineering School, with views of the Business school as well. There are always plenty of seats and computers available. Plus, it is conveniently located next to one of the best cafe’s on campus – Joe’s Coffee.
  1.  Mathematics Library: located in the Mathematics building, this library is small and generally isolated. Although the library itself may be a little quieter and smaller than the other items on this list, it has some really great views of Broadway and Barnard College. The views alone make it worth the trip from SIPA.
  1. Gabe M. Weiner Music and Arts Library: this library is located above Dodge Hall and also has some great views of Columbia University. Additionally, due to its location, you will generally find it emptier than other libraries on campus. Although a little further out of the way than other items on this list, it is one of the quieter places to study, it also doesn’t get as packed during finals and midterms like other libraries generally do.

Note from Admissions: If you have the chance to visit Columbia University in person, you should also look into visiting SIPA and sitting in on a class.

Best apps and websites for the grad school application process

One of the most important things about applying to graduate school is staying organized. There are so many deadlines/things to remember that it becomes hard to keep track.  However, there are plenty of apps and websites that will make things easier. Below is a list of some popular apps/websites that will make your graduate school application process easier. Feel free to add your own in the comments below. 

Wunderlist: This app is great, it is very easy to input reminders and you can even create a shortcut on your laptop to create notifications with ease. It also syncs with your calendar automatically. 

Wolfram Alpha: This is essentially a very fancy visual calculator. It is able to solve problems across a variety of topics, including probability, money and finance, and statistics. This comes in very handy for the GRE. 

Trello: This is a great website for keeping track of projects with multiple tasks and assignments. Trello is a popular tool for many startups, which means it can handle a large number of tasks at the same time. 

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock: This is a great alarm clock that works naturally with your sleep cycle. It keeps track of your natural sleeping patterns and REM cycles to wake you up when you naturally would. The application process can be stressful and getting plenty of rest is important.

Youper: This mental health tracking app helps you handle stress. Although there are many apps out there that work similarly, this app stands out among the rest in that it helps you better understand your emotions in real time. Never underestimate the importance of taking care of your mental health!

Podcast Recommendations by Concentration

As a SIPA student, your time is probably preoccupied with group meetings, scheduling group meetings, studying, rescheduling that group meeting because it coincides with that other group meeting, and reading for classes. This in itself is very time consuming, but like any curious-minded individual, you still want to make room for additional learning. It is common practice for professors to discuss current events and relate it to coursework material and it’s important to stay up-to-date. 

Below is a list of podcast recommendations by concentration; feel free to share your own in the comments below.

International Finance and Economic Policy (IFEP)

Recommendations: Planet Money from NPR and Bloomberg Benchmark by Bloomberg. 

Why: Planet Money does a really fantastic job of explaining current economic events in a very accessible and entertaining way. Case in point: this episode on the Argentinian debt crisis, “A Hedge Fund, A Country, And A Big Sailboat.” Definitely worth listening to, even if you have no background in finance or economics.

Urban and Social Policy (USP)

Recommendations: Justice in America”  by Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith, and “Stay Tuned with Preet”, by Preet Bharara.

Why: Admittedly, both podcasts are very U.S.-centered but given the current political climate in America, there is something noteworthy to discuss every day. Preet Bharara is the Former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and was fired from his post earlier this year (that is reason enough to listen in itself). Preet uses his career and background to provide insight into events, and frankly, its hard to keep up. For example, this episode on the testimony by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh which was recorded on Thursday, prior to Jeff Flake’s announcement on Friday that he would only support Kavanaugh’s confirmation following an FBI investigation. And for those international students who are having a hard time keeping track of all these developments — honestly, we are too.

Human Rights & Humanitarian Policy

Recommendations: Declarations: The Human Rights Podcast by Cambridge Centre of Governance and Human Rights. And “Ending Human Trafficking” by Sandra Morgan & Dave Stachowiak. 

Why: Both podcasts do a really great job of covering various human rights issues in a thought provoking way. Declarations is recorded at the Cambridge Centre of Governance and Human Rights and is equal parts academic and practical. “Ending Human Trafficking” is more narrow in it’s focus but is remarkably in depth, for example, this episode, “How to Champion Advocacy in Government”, which discusses how electing more women to government is essential for crafting policy to eliminate human trafficking.

Energy and Environment

Recommendations:  The Energy Transition Show by Chris Nelder and Columbia Energy Exchange by Professor Jason Bordoff

Why: The first podcast was recommended by current and former SIPA Energy and Environment concentrators. Chris Nelder discusses global challenges in energy  and depending on the episode, they are fairly easy to understand if you have no background or knowledge in Energy. The podcast conveniently ranks episodes on a “Geek rating”, with a scale of 10 being suitable to individuals with highly specialized and technical knowledge in Energy (aka EE SIPA Students). The only downfall is that the podcast isn’t free, but I’ve been told that the quality of the content is good and well worth the subscription if you can afford it, or are are willing to forego one Halal cart meal per month. The second podcast is co-hosted by Professor Jason Bordoff (also founder of the Center on Global Energy Policy).

International Security Policy (ISP)

Recommendations: War on The Rocks by Ryan Evans and Lawfare by the Lawfare Institute

Why: Both podcasts were recommended by a former ISP student, and given my very limited knowledge of the topic, I will let this direct quote – which was definitely not sent via text – speak for itself “…they have journalists and people working in the defense and intelligence communities discussing the most pressing national security issues of the day.”

Economic and Political Development (EPD)

Recommendations: Pod Save the World by Crooked Media and Global Dispatches by Mark Goldberg (editor of the UN blog UN Dispatch) 

Why: If you are an EPD concentrator and not yet listening to Pod Save the World, what are you even doing?! The co-host, Tommy Vietor, hails from the Obama Administration, where he worked for President Obama’s National Security Council. Again, somewhat U.S.-centered –I am starting to see a theme here — but it does a great job of discussing foreign policy and the impressive guest list alone is reason enough to listen. Episodes are weekly and cover anything from Syria, to the politics of the World Cup.

Notable mentions that didn’t quite fit into any category:

99% invisible: if you enjoy learning a great deal of incredibly specific information on the most esoteric topics as much as I do, then this podcast is for you! For example, did you know that nearly every statue in New York is modeled after Audrey Munson, an early 1900’s model who went on to live a very eccentric life in upstate New York? Have you ever looked at a straw and wondered about its tragic ties to contemporary capitalism? Well, if you have, you needn’t worry much longer! 99% invisible has you covered with this episode on the history of the straw. To be fair, the podcast is predominantly focused on design, architecture, and the history of things we wouldn’t ordinarily think about (hence the name 99% invisible). Either way, you’d be surprised at just how fascinating the history of the ballpoint is. Fun fact: the Bic pen accounts for the largest percentage of ballpoint pens currently on the market (this is a great conversation starter at SIPA parties, btw — you are welcome!).

All About Columbia, NYC and Bicycles

I may or may not live a further from campus than the average student, but I delight in my commute to Columbia: a seven-mile bike ride through New York City, 14 miles round trip. Sounds terrifying exhilarating, right? Here’s why biking is great.

Biking is Fast.

New Yorkers tend to be impatient about getting places. Prime ways to get around campus: Walking (invest in comfortable shoes if you haven’t already); NYC subways and buses (get your MetroCard once you’re in NYC!); the (electric!) intercampus buses.

But one of the fastest ways factoring in your route and traffic? Biking. From the Columbia School of Social Work on 122nd St. to the Hungarian Pastry Shop on 111th, walking those 11 blocks will take 11 minutes, while biking will get you there in 4.

Biking is Convenient.

You don’t even need to own a bike, to bike. Citi Bike is NYC’s bike-sharing service (and the largest bike share program in the U.S.). The bike docks are located all across New York City and is ideal for quick trips. Their app also makes it convenient to find the nearest dock with real-time bike availability, and you can unlock a bike with the app.

If you do own a bike, Columbia offers free bicycle parking enclosures, which also has bike repair tools and tire pumps (there’s an enclosure that is a 2-minute walk from the International Affairs Building). Don’t want to show up sweaty to class? You can get a Commuter Shower Pass at the Dodge Fitness Center for just $38 a semester. Columbia also offers bicycle store discounts, free bike registration with public safety, and many more perks.

Biking is Fun.

Of all the cardio exercises, biking has to be near the top in terms of enjoyability. New York City has some beautiful bike paths: The Hudson River Greenway trail, which is separated from car traffic, is on the West Side, and Central Park is teeming with cyclists. This is even without all the trails in Brooklyn!

If you’re already on campus or will be here before Orientation, take advantage of Summer Streets. On the first three Saturdays of August, 6.9 miles of Park Avenue will be closed to cars and open only to cyclists, pedestrians and joggers. You can bike through NYC landmarks normally closed to pedestrian traffic like Grand Central Terminal, and there will be free food, activities and giveaways along the route.

 

Always remember to put Safety First when you’re biking. The Morningside Heights neighborhood is easier to bike in since there’s less traffic and pedestrians relative to busy areas like Times Square. Still, this is the big city, and you should always put safety first:

  • Wear. A. Helmet. You’re going to really need your brain for Columbia. If you don’t have a helmet, use your Columbia ID at nearby bicycle stores for a 10% discount.
  • Obey traffic rules and be predictable. NYC is a busy and dense place, so along with following traffic rules, don’t make any sudden swerves in and out of traffic. It’s dangerous and the traffic around you can’t always account for it.
  • Be Aware. Someone flings open their taxi door into the bike lane, or a pigeon flies into your face — you can’t predict what’s going to happen around you, so be aware. This means no headphones or texting while biking, too.

A bike-friendly Columbia means less traffic and parking congestion and an improvement in health of the University. Improving and encouraging healthy commute alternatives will be an ongoing mission on campus as part of our Sustainability Plan. So grab your helmet and have fun exploring New York City by bike!

"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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