We recently got the chance to sit and talk with Courtland Thomas, a freshman in Columbia College who is most notable for being a staff photographer for the Spectator, for his contributions to the Huffington Post, The Collegiate Blog, and for co-founding the popular online magazine, the 292.
Since Courtland is a director of the Collegiate Blog, an online website that details various aspect of college life and the college admissions process, the first question we had to ask was why Columbia? Courtland expressed his love for the city of New York and everything that it represents. “Columbia is a reflection of the city. You have people from so many different socio-economic backgrounds and people who just lead different lifestyles.” With New York City as an extension of Columbia’s campus Courtland loved the prospect of taking full advantage of it. As someone who spent all his life in Florida, he knew where he wanted to be.
“I’ve always loved Columbia,” he stated with a smile on his face. And as Courtland explains his first time visiting Columbia’s campus, you can’t help but have a smile spread across your own face. Initially deciding to visit another college in Maine, Courtland decided to visit New York City after his flight got delayed for 8 hours in Newark. “Of all the places in New York, I told myself to go to Columbia. I could have gone to Times Square, I could have gone anywhere.” A year later Courtland still finds himself in awe of this diversity of the students here. “The people are one of my favorite things here. Hanging out with people who think and act so different has shaped my experience.”
After only a few months here at Columbia, Courtland decided to take his passion for photography and writing, and his love of Columbia University and New York City, and start his own online magazine. In a school and city as diverse as this Courtland wanted this magazine to be diverse as well. “We want 292 to be relatable,” says Courtland. “We want people to look at it and be able to say that they’ve experienced the same things.” Whether you’re into music and fashion or art and sex, you’re bound to find something that peaks your interest. But what exactly does 292 stand for? As we asked this question, Courtland smiled and said, “It’s a secret. If anyone can find out let us know and we’ll give you a prize.”
With the profound role that photography has in Courtland’s life, he decided to to embark on another journey that would have a huge impact on the lives of others. “I actually work for a dating website. I take photos of the clients for their profiles. I get to meet them at places like the Highline or Brooklyn Bridge or Central Park.” After photographing these New Yorkers, Courtland would get the chance to talk to them and learn their life stories. “They open up to me and it always comes down to these philosophical or life changing statements.”
So what’s next for Courtland? “I really want to do an internship at the Met, the Frick, or MoMa.” His goals, however, don’t stop with museums. “I want to be a journalist. But my dream job would be managing editor of Vogue, second in command behind Anna Wintour. I really love the managing side of things. That’s what I do for 292.” Before interning at museums or working for fashion magazines Courtland also hopes to go to France. As a current French language student, he intends to study abroad in the near future.
His freshman year has been an extremely busy year, but Courtland doesn’t regret a single moment of it. “I would never change my experiences.” His experiences are what he felt as the most defining part of his time here at Columbia. “Things happen for a reason and they happen when they do.”
New York City can be overwhelming but Courtland’s love for it is apparent. With all of the chaos that accompanies life at a school in this big city, Courtland has nothing but positivity moving forward. “I want to be in New York as long as a can,” Courtland shares. “I’ve never felt this ecstatic, happy, sad, crazy or stressed in my whole life. It’s been a roller coaster but I would never give it up.”