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Original photo by Emily Nelissen

Dreaming of Campus: What I Miss Most

A little over a year ago, my parents and I made the drive from my childhood home in Boston down to New York City. I was simultaneously incredibly excited, but nervous, and sad, but happy. It was time for the first step in my new adventure— college. Questions of “what if?” flew through my mind. What if I hated it? What if I made no friends? What if the food was really bad?

The first month of college was an adjustment. Not so much because of the academics, but because it was my first time living away from home. My newfound freedom was not needing to tell anyone where I was going or when I’d be back. It was constantly meeting new people and constantly searching for my place in a world of intelligent, ambitious, hardworking students. I had dreams of writing for the Columbia Spectator, but when I was met with rejection, impostor syndrome quickly took over. However, by the end of first semester, I had found my home and niche: I had found my friends. 

While I miss being right next to the 1 Train with New York City as my oyster, what I miss most isn’t the access to Times Square or the Met or Broadway. I miss walks in Riverside Park along the Hudson. I miss walking to the West Harlem Pier with my friends. The sounds of our laughter and the view of the sunset over the New Jersey skyline. I miss the moments lying on the floor of my friend’s triple in Reid, singing karaoke to Disney songs at questionable times of the night. I miss going to the library to study only to have made absolutely zero progress hours later. The late nights in Butler 209 and the walk back to the Quad. I miss being annoyed that the Chastity Gates would close at 11 p.m. The late night trips to JJs for mozzarella sticks and quesadillas and filling my container with gummy bears. Ferris eggs and John Jay bagels and Hewitt sandwiches and Diana pizza. Waiting in line for Sig Nu or Beta or an EC sign-in. Calculating whether it was faster to wait in line for the Hamilton elevator or to suck it up and walk up all seven flights of stairs. It’s the little, everyday moments I miss the most.

Each week I had attended the Italian Department’s Caffe e Conversazione. I dream of Italian espresso and speaking Italian. I smile thinking about the other regulars who became acquaintances. I think about them and those who were almost-friends. The kind of people you’d smile at and talk to in passing but were never really close enough to text and ask to hang out. I wonder how they’re doing, if we’ll see each other again, or if we’re going to remain almost-friends, Facebook friends, could-have-been friends. The people I worked with at the Columbia Call Center, where are they now? 

I suppose that’s how life goes: the friendly acquaintances and coworkers you would circumstantially speak to fade away, while friends stay around. I guess I thought this would happen after college, but if there’s anything this Zoompocalypse has taught us, it’s that we can’t count on a return to normal any time soon. I had wanted to spend college in New York City, not Boston, but in being back home, it’s made me appreciate New York all the more.

[bf_image id="q2wioz-cdl1mg-8a64rn"] Last March, I was sad because I wouldn’t get to do all the things my friends and I had planned on doing that spring: a trip to Coney Island, going to Battery Park and the lower tip of Manhattan, riding the Roosevelt Island gondola and Staten Island ferry, and other dreams that seemed to have slipped further away. But the time away from campus has given me perspective and made me thankful for everything I did get to do. Bike rides through Central Park, Broadway shows, rooftop ice-skating, walking to Times Square from campus, trips to the Cloisters. All things considered, it was an awesome first year of college. Before it all ended, I was the happiest I’ve ever been. And while I may have lost touch with the almost-friends, my friends and I have still found ways to have fun with each other, even if it is on Zoom. 

And though I’m sad that I won’t be returning to campus until fall 2021, I know that when I do, New York City will still be there, and that my friends and I still have time to chase our dreams and create new memories to last a lifetime.

Carina Layfield

Columbia Barnard '23

Carina is a sophomore at Barnard majoring in Urban Studies with a Political Science specialization; she is also minoring in Italian. In her free time she enjoys discovering new recipes and spending time outside. She also recently started learning how to play the bass. She can be reached at crl2149@barnard.edu or @carina.layfield on Instagram.
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