[Photo: Columbia Men’s Lightweight Rowing team’s winter training camp at Chula Vista Elite Training Center (Olympic Training Center) in January 2020]

Caroline Yu '22

Caroline Yu ’22 is a coxswain on the Columbia Men’s Lightweight Rowing team who performs at the highest standards of athletics and academics. Athletes like Yu benefit from a unique partnership with Columbia University that allows Barnard students to compete in NCAA Division I athletics. This arrangement, established in 1983 through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, makes Barnard the only women’s college whose students compete in D-I tournaments, via the Ivy League Athletic Conference

Yu, an economics and social history double major who is minoring in psychology, said the demands of balancing academics and crew has helped her to learn about trust, communication, and leadership. Being a Barnard student contributed to Yu stepping out of her comfort zone and being okay with making mistakes because, she says, she “knows that her teammates would always have [her] back.” Learn more about Yu in this “Barnard’s Got Game” Q&A. 


How does being an athlete inform your college experience?

[The balance] is challenging. As a commuter student-athlete, early morning practices mean that I am on my way to campus long before the city wakes up. Our team commits to a rigorous all-year training plan, which means that we devote anywhere from 25 to 30 hours per week to rowing during our racing season. Weekends consist of races and travel, and breaks are filled with training camps. The team training, in combination with my academic load, requires me to be focused and conscientious. However, I also get to spend time with an amazing group of athletes that have become my valued friends. Being a student-athlete gives me a structure that is unique compared to a normal college experience. 

Why did you become a rower?

Athletics have always been an important part of my life: I participated in multiple sports throughout my childhood, from figure skating to synchronized swimming to fencing. I knew that I wanted to continue to explore athletics in college and step out of my comfort zone. As a walk-on for the Columbia Men’s Lightweight Rowing team at the beginning of my first-year fall semester, I wanted to push my mental agility to the limit and be challenged with something new.

Caroline Yu during crew practice

How do you balance academics and athletics?

As a commuter, athlete, and student in Barnard College’s dual-degree Master of International Affairs program with Columbia University’s School of International Affairs, staying on top of academics and athletics is a balancing act. Scheduling out my days, making reminders lists, and getting early starts on my responsibilities helps me on both the academic and athletic sides. 

What makes your role on the team special?

In the sport of rowing, a coxswain is unique. We are the human race-plan, the steersman of the boat, the performance data analysts, and so much more. The trust that the rowers put in coxswains is incredibly strong and an integral part of team success. Through the ups and downs of this competitive sport, working closely with my teammates has been so rewarding.