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Trying to Study
Howard Wu, Alum
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 2001
Columbia College 1998

When I was an undergrad, a lot of my mental energy, maybe too much of it, was expended in search of the perfect place to study. As an easily distracted student, I was always looking for a physical environment in which I could easily enter the "zone," that elusive mental state in which one became engrossed in one's studies and actually got work done. As a first-year, I initially did most of my studying in Butler's large readings rooms but soon abandoned them, as they were good for people-watching but too distracting.

Over time, I settled on a list of favored spots for studying (as well as daydreaming and snoozing). First, there were the dimly lit Butler stacks, which had wooden desks decorated with amusing and sometimes offensive graffiti. I also liked the small reading rooms on Butler's upper floors, which looked out onto the lawns of the main campus.

The SIPA building proved to be another reliable location, especially in warmer months when I needed a place with air-conditioning. There were the quiet study carrels in the building's Lehman Social Sciences Library, with its amusingly worn and dated 1960s decor (and in which I twice ended up falling asleep during finals weeks, only to wake up after the library had closed; I had to call the Columbia security desk to send a guard over to let me out). The large, often empty lecture halls were also great places to study. But my favorite places of all were the small classrooms on several of the SIPA building's upper floors, which had large windows overlooking northern Manhattan. As nerdy as it may sound, I actually have fond memories of sitting in these classrooms on Sundays, completing my Contemporary Civ reading and Linear Algebra homework while enjoying the view of Morningside Hts/Harlem.

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