Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"For The First Time in Forever"

For the first time in (what felt like) forever, I met up with my cohort and my chaperone to discuss plans and get sweatshirts from the bookstore. (Sorry, I'm usually not an advocate for Frozen puns, but I walked right into it after I wrote the first sentence.) Even before coming to New York I had already mentally picked out a sweatshirt design in my head - a simple crewneck with "Columbia" written across the top. What I forgot to consider was my size availability, and this narrowed down my options considerably. Still, I found myself with two choices, inevitably torn, and ultimately ending up with a sweatshirt that looked a lot like what I had imagined I would buy (in a good way). Moral of the story?

Stick with the classics. Huzzah!
The gang.
Sample of my notes from the day
I made the wise decision to get a coffee before heading off to my morning session and found myself surprisingly alert the entire class. Good thing too because we covered a crazy amount of content in the seemingly short two hour lecture. Dr. Mesznik started off the day with an introduction on bonds, stocks, vulture funds, and risk diversification. Previously unbeknownst to me, I found myself able to grasp all the concepts and definitions that were explained. During the class I realized that one of Dr. Mesznik's main and most effective techniques to help this comprehension process accelerate was cold-calling to encourage involvement in the discussion. It wasn't just cold-calling either necessarily, but the fact that he made it feel like a discussion that involved more than one person and proposed possible real-life situations for us to think about and answer, as opposed to a typical lecture. Of course there were times where he had to explain certain topics to us in more straightforward terms, and thus didn't use discussion. What I respected the most was his flexibility in keeping the interaction between him and his students a two-way street, regardless of the actual material. For example, I figured that it would be easier for him to discuss a particular country's economic problem with the whole class since many kept up with the news, or at least could pretend like they did. Whereas, with today's material where new ideas like unlimited liability and limited liability, it would have been a lot more difficult to keep the dialogue interesting had it not been for Dr. Mesznik's frequent use of application and analogies. 

Hey, I found a Tiara!
I pulled the "loner wolf" move at lunch and garnered all my food together before sitting at an empty table, content with silence and reflection and also partially curious as to whether my subliminal self would eventually win out and convince my physical self to talk to someone or whether someone else would initiate. Interestingly enough, it was the latter that won out and I met Jacky, an up and coming senior taking a class on iPhone/iPad Programming. (It amazes me how many classes there are that I still haven't heard of yet.)  He expressed interest in going into the math/science/engineering in the future and explained that he was taking his class for more experience in programming and to gauge how much he enjoyed it, very similar to my situation with business.

The afternoon session went by way faster than it should have. We spent the first hour in a circle taking turns discussing articles we had picked beforehand and their importance/relation to economics. The second hour was more content-based and we broached the subject of supply and demand and how those had to work together to help a market thrive. In order to help us be more engaged, Ms. Santos had us simulate a market where one side of the classroom represented consumers and the other represented producers. She assigned each consumer a different set amount of income they could spend and each producer a different set amount of cost that it took to make their product. We were then given the task of "negotiating deals" with one another until nobody could or wanted to strike a deal. Through this exercise we simulated a supply and demand function using people to roughly determine the market equilibrium. 

Between the two - to my surprise - I found that I enjoyed the morning session more than the afternoon session only because I felt like the simulation that took up the latter half of class was a bit chaotic and unorganized. Alhough I did like getting up, walking around, and talking to others very much. 

Tonkotsu Ramen 
In the evening, I went to go grab dinner with Tiara, Demi, and Erin. We picked out a nearby and well-reviewed ramen place (on Yelp) called Jin Ramen. I'm not very good at discerning between amazing-tasting ramen and mediocre-tasting ramen so I'm not sure how trustworthy my opinion is, but I thought that it was very tasty ramen and I would definitely eat there again. After talking to Tiara more, I found out that she hadn't eaten dinner at the dining hall yet and simply went out for dinner primarily because of preference.

In fact, many people I've talked to find the cafeteria food to be - and I quote - "lame' and "disgusting". 

First off, I have no idea what they're talking about; the cafeteria food is just fine to me. Secondly, I take that back - even better than fine! They offer such a wide variety of food that I can't even start to complain. 

Where am I going with this? 

I feel as though being at this camp with eleven hundred other people is a little daunting to begin with. But after realizing how different my experiences are with many of theirs, I can't help but feel even more out of place. Even the minuscule differences such as the overall feeling towards cafeteria food translate to bigger differences like a response in a discussion on the current situation in Greece or trying to explain what an IPO is. I'm determined, however, to not let this be the limiting factor in my experience here at Columbia and instead try to take it as a learning experience in which, yes, people are different from me and wired more sharply in certain respects. But that doesn't mean that I can't work even harder and try to improve myself in those respects. So after a little self pep talk (or two) and encouragement from Ms. Thrift, my family, and my friends, I'm starting to pull myself together and feel much better about  being here than I did when I first arrived. 

It's a good feeling. 


  1. Deborah, don't feel intimidated by your classmates that had a more privileged upbringing. You have something that they don't; without all the travel and fancy private schools, you were chosen as one of the top students in a huge district of thousands of students, to go out there and compete with these people. You represent the underdog and you are the best we have to offer. You should wear that with pride! You have it all over these other people that have had all the advantages handed to them, because you got to the same spot by your own tenacity and intellectual spirit.

    If you feel like you don't know something that the other students know, look it up or ask for help. There is no shame in that. That's the way all the others learned it. For instance:http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/06/29/418639578/if-the-mess-in-greece-is-all-greek-to-you-then-read-this

  2. Let me echo what Joyce wrote. And since you’re from ECHS, let me tell you about Matt Arciniega. We sent Matt to Yale a few years back to take the prestigious Grand Strategies course. They only accept 40 students with half of them coming from families where the parents can do the school, the program or the director some good. These are kids who spent their whole lives in private schools.

    At the end of the course the professors select the top student and the top Marshall Brief (term paper). Matt was selected as the top student that first year and Yohanna Pepa (PVHS) was selected with the top Marshall Brief the second year.

    So don't feel intimidated because you attend a plain old regular public high school and you don’t have maids and butlers to take care of your needs.