Columbia Life Hacks: Your Best Advice on Where to Eat, Study, and Relax Around Campus

In preparing for the return to campus, we asked current students and alumni to share their tips and tricks for making life at Columbia that much more enjoyable. Have you tried all 28 of these ideas?

Dan McShane
August 26, 2021

Ah, the start of the fall semester. The smell of freshly bound books, the sight of new dorm accoutrement, the feel of new school supplies, the sound of a bustling campus. This fall, the back-to-school energy is all the more poignant considering we’ve been away from campus for so long.

At Columbia News, we’ve been preparing for the return to campus for a while, and to help incoming freshmen (or any student that hasn’t set foot on campus yet), we asked current students and alumni to share their tips and tricks for making life at Columbia that much more enjoyable.

Whether it’s grabbing a bite to eat, finding a quiet spot to relax, or making the most of New York City, we've got it covered!

Favorite Spots to Grab a Bite on Campus

Assorted pastries on a plate.

Dear Mama Coffee in Manhattanville. They now have a new food market which is also great.” — Eunice Kim (GS’19)

“Fish tacos at Ferris Booth Commons.” — Raisa Alam (CC‘21)

“You can always count on the Hewitt Food Hall ‘Fyul’ section for healthy veggies.” — Jenna Madden (BC’22)

Favorite Spots to Dine Off Campus

A banh mi sandwich from Cafe Saiguette.

"Absolute Bagels and Saiguette. Two amazing places to eat near the Columbia campus. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! ” — Eunice Kim (GS’19)

"You must go up Broadway to get LaSalle Dumplings or Falafel on Broadway” — Jenna Madden (BC’22)

“Love Hungarian Pastry Shop!” — @nikkislesin

And don't forget this rundown of awesome spots to try in Morningside Heights!

Best Spots to Read, Study, or Relax

Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University.

"Amsterdam Overpass (aka Revson Plaza) to read or relax while looking at the downtown cityscape." — Eunice Kim (GS’19)

“The Barnard Library is quiet and bright and beautiful. I could study there all day, every day!” — @teri1012

"Casa Hispánica’s library. Hidden gem." — @el_eydd

“I like to read in the pool at Dodge Gymnasium!” — @silkydontlie

"Edward Said Reading Room in Butler." — @dealirious

"Fifteenth floor of the International Affairs Building." — @vrindahanda

“Hot take: studying while eating in John Jay always kept me alert and awake” — @liiana.xo

"Alcove in the top floor stairwell of the Mathematics Library.” — @hannkunze

"Mudd second floor computer lab." — @tombechillin

"Schermerhorn eighth floor library/meeting room." — @tonix.iii

"The Starr East Asian Library in Kent." — Thomas Nielsen (CC’18)

And if you're looking to take yourself on a bit of a history tour, check out this article on the "secret" spots of Columbia

Favorite Spots in New York

Sakura Park pavillion and Riverside Church.

“Take the 1 down to Christopher St and walk west to Pier 45.” — @rickulele

"Sakura Park is a hidden gem, only a few minutes walk from campus." — Jenna Madden (BC’22)

"All over the city—some favorites include The Cloisters, Park Slope, and Flushing." — Thomas Nielsen (CC’18)

And don't forget to check out this list of Columbians' nine favorite spots to get outdoors!

Advice for Columbia Newcomers

Columbia alumna, Eunice Kim

Eunice Kim (GS’19):

“Don't worry too much about grades. It's important to do well academically, but that's not all. Go out and experience the rich cultures around you. Go out and meet people. Start a conversation at a local coffee shop. Be adventurous.”

Barnard College student, Jenna Madden

Jenna Madden (BC’22):

“The frisbee team is fun and welcoming. And it’s for trans/gender non-conforming people as well as women!”



Columbia alumni, Thomas Nielsen

Thomas Nielsen (CC’18)

“I wish I felt more confident pursuing the subjects I was passionate about and taking full advantage of what Columbia had to offer in these areas. But it only took me a year to figure this out! Be kind to yourself and assume growing pains will happen—college is a huge transition, but you’re at one of the greatest places, in one of the greatest cities, in the world. Drink in the experience and remember the city will always be there for you.”

Recent Columbia graduate, Raisa Alam

Raisa Alam (CC'21):

“Don't be afraid to explore the city, your interests, relationships, and everything else in life.”



And more:

“Sleep eight hours a day no matter what.” — @srutitravels

“You don’t have to be a perfectionist and it’s ok to have rough days.” — @simitiwarii

“I wish I had known about Columbia World Leaders Forum in my first semester” — @salwa033