Sunday, April 18, 2010

Columbia: Anyone's Paradise

My name is Matt Arciniega. For those of you that didn't know I existed and are wondering why this mystery man is writing on your ILC blog, I'll give a brief overview of who I am and why I'm blogging.

Last year the WCCUSD Ivy League Connection handed me one of the most life altering experiences of my life: participation in the Yale Ivy Scholars Program in New Haven, Connecticut. It was an intensive two week program on "Grand Strategy." I had some experiences that truly challenged my perception of the world and confirmed my theory: that I want to work in public policy some day in the near future. I gained so much from these two weeks. I gained a mentor in one of the professors, who I still call regularly regarding college decisions, I obtained a letter of recommendation from the head of International Studies at Yale, and director of the Yale Ivy Scholars Program, Dr. Dr. Luong (Not a typo, he has two Ph.D's), I also met some of my closest and most intelligent friends on this trip. I cannot thank the Ivy League Connection enough for what they have done. I would not be in the position I am today or be the person I want to be without the ILC. You new Columbians should be ecstatic for an amazing, and impossibly affordable experience this summer.

Anyways, there are lots of people that participated in the Ivy League Connection last year, so you're probably still asking "Matt, why are you writing on this blog?" Well, I am actually writing from a dorm room in the Big Apple itself. I have been accepted to, and am planning to attend Columbia University in the fall. I have been invited by the ILC to contribute to this blog and share my experiences with you and hopefully give you some valuable insight.

I apologize for the long winded introduction but here goes the good stuff: the down low on Columbia: the nitty gritty from my three day trip.

I am going to apologize in advance for giving you the unoriginal "I loved it" description, but that is really all I can say; I loved it; it exceeded all my dreams, and I dreamed big; I expected fireworks and I got shooting stars; this place is electric.

I will undoubtedly get swept into an incoherent rant if I attempt to blurt out all the things I love about Columbia in a cohesive paragraph format so I think it wise to instead make a tidy check list of why I believe Columbia is truly the school of anyone's dreams.

A few of the reasons I love Columbia:

1) Academics: The best. This place smells, moves, thinks, and looks like an Ivy League institution. The students complain about the 200 pages they read almost every day however, they are reading some of the most influential texts ever created... ever. Columbia subscribes to something called the core curriculum where each student takes a huge breadth of humanities classes and becomes versed in the classics in a way that can all but guarantee their success in understanding how and why our current society works.

2) Diversity: 52% of this Ivy League Institution's student body identify as students of color. There are dozens upon dozens of minority groups on campus and Columbia is located in the culturally rich and diverse community of Morningside Heights.

3) Location: It is in the middle of everything, including the planet. It's NYC. It's got food (Go to Corinettes's during your trip), night life, shopping, and everything else you can think up. It's a hearty walk or a short subway trip from anywhere in Manhattan. For $2.25 you can end up in Times Square, Greenwhich Village, The Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty, Columbus Circle, or NYU in a matter of minutes. I'm not sure I can give NYC a just explanation but here's my best attempt: If all the other cities in America got together and made a super city, that would be the closest you could get to replicating New York.

4) People: The people on campus were real. They cared. They reminded me much of Berkeley citizens. They were not too materialistic and they cared about the important things. I had numerous conversations about real world issues with students. It was clear that they had an ambition to help the world around them, not just themselves. I think this is a character lacking in some other Ivy League Schools I have visited, but I believe it crucial. I need to be on campus with a student body that gets that they, as individuals, are not the center of the world. I think I found this at Columbia.

5) The Campus: The campus is amazing. A calming, safe oasis smack in the middle of the calamitous New York community. I have attached pictures of the school. I shot six photos from the middle of the campus so you get a 360 degree feel of the area, as well as a couple of miscellaneous pictures.

The main library (Butler Library).

To the right of Butler Library. This photo contains Lerner Hall, the Carman Residence Halls, and one of the South Fields.

This is to the right of the last picture. You can see the edge of the Low Library on the right. The picture contains some buildings that house classes at Columbia. I believe this is the Math building but I could be wrong.

This is me in front of the Low Library. It is not actually a Library but the Dean's residence place and the visitor's center. In front of it are the Low Steps where students congregate regularly for all sorts of events and meetings and hang outs. The Low Library is located in the middle of campus and is directly across from the Butler Library (which is behind us in this photo).

To the right of the Low Library this is a shot of another set of academic buildings. However, you can also see the little orange "Maison Francais" (French House). That is an original building and the college is mandated by contract to keep it intact. You can also see part of the college chapel hidden in the background of this shot.

To the left of the Butler Library (and to the right of my last picture) are these: three of the freshman residence halls on campus, and the other South Field. From left to right the residence halls are John Jay, Furnald, and Hartly. The last Freshman dorm is Carman, which we saw in another photo.

This is a bad picture of a typical freshman dorm.

This is a better picture. It's the view from a typical freshman dorm

This is a picture of my wonderful father grinning intently as he stands outside the restaurant near Columbia that Seinfeld used as the facade for its famous dining scenes. I just thought this was cool.

These are the main 5 reasons I have become infatuated with New York. NYC is almost mystical at first. It is hard for me to believe that I will be spending the next four years there, but that just makes it even more exciting.

I apologize, I did not post a mid trip assessment. Truth be told, I am actually not in the city anymore. However, I was not lying to you earlier in the post when I said I was. When I started this post on Sunday I was in the Columbia dorms but I just couldn't finish the contribution until today. I kept coming up with more reasons I loved Columbia so that I ended not finishing until tonight: Tuesday: after I got home from my 10 hour trip.

Anyways, I hope this catalogue of my findings has served you in one way or another. I gave as detailed a description as I thought appropriate but if you have any other questions about the school please feel free to contact me, I can talk about this college for hours (but I don't necessarily have to, so don't let that stop you from contacting me!).

Again I want to thank all the ILC contributors for the amazing gifts and opportunities they have given me over the past year. I sign off by hoping the 2010 summer Columbians an amazing trip, although I know my hopes and prayers are unnecessary because I am positive you will have the time of your lives regardless.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Thanks Matt,

    The post you wrote made a lot of sense and I appreciate you posting pictures. Your comments gave me the impression that you felt that Columbia was an academic institution that would help you develop as a person. So I am glad that you are attending this prestigious academic institution.

    Let us know if you plan to attend a pre-college program at Columbia. We would love to see you if you are on campus.

    Welcome home and I look forward to seeing you at the El Cerrito High School graduation.

    Take care.

    Charles T. Ramsey, Esq.
    School Board Member
    West Contra Costa
    Unified School District

  2. Matt,

    Okay--so the place has some nice academics, some decent places to eat nearby, a couple of cultural icons in the vicinity, some really old buildings and it's in the center of the universe.

    So what else does it have to offer? :-)

    You covered a lot of ground here and you topped it all off with photos--it just doesn't get much better than that. Just curious, though, weren't there any good looking women you could have put in the photos maybe to give them some scale?

    Before you make your final decision, have your tried on any articles of clothing in that baby blue color they use to see how you look? This is important, Matt.

    Thanks again for the great telling of your adventure.

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  4. Matt,

    We're all very proud of your performance as a scholar and campus leader. More important, perhaps, is your dedication to helping others grow. Your post to other students demonstrates your commitment to encouraging others to explore the world in the way that you have.

    We all anticipate great things from you in the future!

  5. Congrats on your admittance to Columbia! I can't wait to hear what you have to share at the dinner next Tuesday!

  6. Congratulations on your acceptance and thanks for sharing!

  7. Wow... I think I'm even more in love with Columbia now and I didn't think that was possible. Fantastic descriptions!!! I can't wait to get there and see it for myself.