A Day in the Life: Columbia Computer Science Student
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A Day in the Life: Columbia Computer Science Student

(upbeat music) – Hey, my name’s William, and I’m a sophomore here
at Columbia University. I’m studying Computer Science and I’m from Auckland, New Zealand. Outside of class I’m
involved in music activities such as the orchestra. And I’m also in a few
finance groups on campus. (upbeat music) So at a typical day at Columbia, I usually wake up around 11 or noon, and then I go to my first classes. So Monday, Wednesday, I have
my classes all in the afternoon from midday to about six p.m. And then on Tuesday, Thursday, I have my classes a bit earlier. I start at 10 and then I end at one p.m. So usually I have my classes first, and then I have a bit
of food, or something. And then afterwards it will
be time for my activities. So Tuesday I have orchestra, and a finance club I’m
in called Lion Fund. And then, on Monday I have day meetings for
the private equity group. And then a lot of the other meetings for the social groups and
other clubs that I’m on happen on Sundays. So that leaves Fridays
and Saturdays pretty free for me to go out, or do whatever I want. Catch up on work, and stuff like that. (upbeat music) Alright, so I’m heading to
my first class of the day. It’s Discrete Math in
this building over here. So generally, Discrete
Math is just a class involving sets and all
proofs around set theory. We have this class twice a week. The lectures are one
hour and fifteen minutes. And then we have homeworks
usually once a week. So this class isn’t
actually a lot of work. It’s definitely one of my
lighter classes this semester. I probably say I spend around three hours a week on the homeworks, and that’s basically all the work that I need
to do for this class. (upbeat music) – So academics at Columbia. What is the culture like here? – So, everyone jokes that
there’s kind of like a really big stress culture around campus. I feel like there definitely
is some kind of stress, just because people here
are so high-achieving. Like, everyone is really trying their best to get the best grade,
and get the best jobs. But, I feel like there’s
kind of a really strong student community here
as well, so that kind of supports you with that. – So it’s not like, cutthroat. People aren’t competing
against each other. They’re just like,
everyone’s trying their best. – Yeah, because the classes
here are, honestly pretty hard. People would try to overload
themselves with work. Not to compete against each other. Just because they wanna try
and challenge themselves. And lot of the time you get this kind of stress
built up from that. – I see. So, in terms of classes,
Columbia’s kind of famous for its Common Core, is that right? Is that what it’s called? – Yeah, the Core Curriculum. – Oh, okay. – So that kind of involves
two main classes, I’d say. So, in Freshman year you
do Literature Humanities. Which, they describe it as masterpieces of Western literature. So you go all the way back to
Homer, back to ancient Greece. And then you read 40
books throughout the years until you get to 20th
Century with Virginia Woolf. And second year, which is the
class that I’m doing right now is called Contemporary Civilization. And that’s masterpieces of
Western Lit, Philosophy. So instead of reading literature, we read philosophy books. Same time period. We start with Plato, Aristotle,
that’s like, 400 B.C. All the way up until
you’re at 20th Century. – Jeeze!
– Yeah. – And that’s just one of the classes. How many classes do you
usually take a semester? – So students usually
take between four or five. Historically I’ve taken
five classes a semester. The workload I’d say is
definitely quite a lot. But you always, you’re in
New York, you always find time to make free time. Chill out if you’re, like, stressed. – And in terms of the
Computer Science major. What do you have to achieve
in order to get the degree? – So, here we have concentrations, which is basically minors,
and then the major itself. So the Computer Science major, we have the Computer Science
Core, which is seven classes. And then if you finish
the Computer Science Core, then you can get a concentration
in Computer Science. And then the major, you
choose one of four tracks to concentrate further on. So, the track that I’m planning to go down is Intelligent Systems. So I’ll be taking classes
like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence,
Natural Language Processing, and high-level classes like that. For the Computer Science Core, which is the classes I’m doing right now, it’s things like Advanced
Programming, Discrete Math, and Intro to Java or Python,
or whatever language. (upbeat music) Over here we have Pupin,
which is the Physics Building. And then, there’s an
observatory on top of there which actually works, and students can use it with permission to do their Astronomy projects. And then on the other side, we have the other Physics
or Engineering Building. It’s called Mudd. And that’s where they
tested the first prototype of the Manhattan Project back in 1943 or 42, or whatever it was. And actually, they store the
original uranium reactor, down underground somewhere. It’s in the tunnel somewhere. You can probably access it. You’re probably not allowed to access it, but you can probably still go there and see the
original uranium reactor. So that’s pretty cool. Nice bit of history here on campus. (upbeat music) – So where are we now? – So this is actually Riverside Park. It’s to the west of Columbia’s campus. It’s a probably five minute
walk from the center of campus. So it’s actually very close to where people do most of their work. And so a lot of people come here to exercise or just to relax and take a nice walk to
de-stress along the park. – So what are extracurriculars
like at Columbia? – So, there are actually a
lot of clubs at Columbia. There are clubs like almost any activity that you can think of. We even have a butcher’s
club a cooking club. – You have a butcher’s club? – Yeah. – What do they do? – I’m not really sure. I guess they just get together and discuss meat, or
whatever they’re into. – Oh, okay. They’re not butchering things. – I don’t think so, yeah. But there is also wild ones. You have the normal
pre-professional, and the music ones, and then you have BDSM club, and whatever the niche interests are. – So, what clubs are you a part of? – So, I’m actually in quite a few clubs. I’m in three finance clubs. So, I’m in Lion Fund, which is
like an investment fund here. I’m also in the Columbia
Private Equity Group. And then the Columbia China
Law and Business Association. So those are my pre-professional clubs. And then music-wise, I’m in the Columbia University Orchestra, which is actually conducted by someone who they got up from Juilliard. So he comes up once a week,
Tuesdays to conduct us. And I’m also in Columbia Pops, which is a student-run orchestra that does non-classical music. So movie soundtracks, TV
shows, Anime, thing like that. – So, how do you balance your extracurricular and your academics? Or do they sort of go together? – I feel like, especially for me, my extracurriculars aren’t
really tied in with my academics. They kind of just are a way for me to express my other interests
apart from academics. And so that way it’s kind
of like a cool-down time from all the coding and math
that I do for my classes. So it’s nice to kind of get
away from that with music, and finance, and things like that. Or in university, it could
be at the high school, a lot more emphasis is
placed on extracurriculars as opposed to academics. Columbia deliberately leaves us time off for clubs and extracurriculars. That’s kind of one of the reasons why they give us Fridays off. We only have a four day academic week. So, being in New York is
one of my favorite parts of being at Columbia. I generally try to get, go downtown or leave campus, leave far from campus
at least once a week. I really enjoy the city
because I feel like there’s just so much more to do here. You can just walk around
Manhattan and you can find great places to eat, cool
museums or galleries to look at. And you can just see interesting things happening
on the streets as well. Yeah, and the whole atmosphere
is just very exciting, and it’s also nice to be able to come back to a place like Columbia which is, even though it’s in New York, it’s kind of very insulated and much more slower paced and quiet. And so you kind of have the choice between do you want some more action if you’re getting bored or stressed, you can go downtown and get
lost in the atmosphere there. Or if you’re just
feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole concrete jungle of New York, then you can come back to campus. (upbeat music) So this is where I live. It’s about a five to 10
minute walk from campus. This is sophomore housing,
so it’s a bit further away than where I lived when I was a freshman. (upbeat music) – What would you say has been
the most surprising thing about your time at Columbia so far? – Well, I guess the most
surprising thing I’d have to say is the people here. Because I kind of expected,
coming in, a lot of people to be very motivated, very ambitious, but that’s that’s not in the best way. Maybe they’d be unfriendly or
too concerned with their own goals to really talk to
others or help others. But I was really pleasantly
surprised at that. Because people here are all very helpful. They’re all willing to share
information and help you along if you have any problems of any type here. – That’s great. So it’s a pretty welcoming
community you would say? – Yeah, definitely. I feel like that’s kind of
hard to find in colleges. Especially with me
coming from New Zealand, or another country. You’re trying to find this new community. But Columbia provided that for me. – And how has the transition been from New Zealand to the
States, to New York? – Yeah, I actually. Because we’re both
English-speaking countries, there’s not too much
culture shock, to be honest. People, they behave in similar ways. There’s not anything particularly
that stood out to me. Maybe apart from tipping,
the bills are usually higher. – Yeah, you have to tip. – Yeah, you’re forced to. – So, what advice would
you give to students who are coming from other countries to the States for college? – So, I’d just say
definitely do your research into which college is best for you. Columbia is very different from any other school that I’ve heard of. Because they’re kind of known
for their Core Curriculum, which no other school really has. So just do a lot more research, I’d say, into which kind of school
you think is best for you. And it’s always nice
if you have the ability to visit the campuses, or
talk to people that go there. Because you really want to find a place that suits you for the next four years. That’s way more important than
your name or brand recognize. (upbeat music) If you like this video, and you wanna keep learning
more about colleges, please subscribe below. (upbeat music)

33 thoughts on “A Day in the Life: Columbia Computer Science Student

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  2. I am pre-med student at UNC-Chapel Hill. Would love to host you for a visit!
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