Social distancing may be a new way of life, but building community for new and transfer students, regardless of a person’s hometown, remains an important practice. While the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP) ran virtually this year from August 31 to September 7, the Barnard-Columbia Global Centers were still able to bring NSOP to international students on two different continents, on September 2 and 3.
“These were occasions for Barnard first-years and transfer students in Beijing and Paris to both meet their peers and get to know the Global Centers, which provide a well-established Columbia-Barnard presence in these cities. We are in a unique position to offer our international students in Global Center cities a hub where they can go to study, access WiFi, and meet with each other,” said Giorgio DiMauro, associate provost for International Initiatives and Special Projects.
The centers — located in Amman, Beijing, Istanbul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Paris, and Tunis — are equipped with upgraded technology, equipment, and full-time, on-site, trained staff. Students who can commute to a center are also able to use them as a hub for engaged learning.
At the Beijing Global Center, Sylvia Su ’22 hosted a Q&A session for about 15 first-year and transfer students, who gathered on September 2 to participate in online NSOP activities together. In Paris the next day, five students toured the Global Center facilities and met with Genevieve Ramos Acker ’61, president of the Barnard Club of Paris since 2007.
Alexia Pérez ’24, who had already visited the Global Center in Paris, said that meeting with Acker gave her a sense of reassurance. “Barnard takes pride in providing students with tools to see the world through different lenses, with an intellectual mindset capable of adapting to a rapidly changing world. This is why Barnard was my top choice,” said Pérez. Even though the start of her college journey was different than expected because of the pandemic, Pérez said, “I still am eager to learn new, interesting subjects and form new relationships this semester.”
Another way that Barnard will keep students connected to each other and to the curriculum is through new academic programming, like the Big Problems lecture series, which DiMauro said will be woven into the programming at the Global Centers over the course of the fall semester. The monthly lecture series features prominent voices and renowned culture experts, such as New York Times contributing opinion writer and bestselling author Roxane Gay, who inaugurated the series on September 16; award-winning journalist Linda Villarosa, who will speak on October 14; and executive vice president and chief innovation officer of Houston Methodist Hospital Roberta Schwartz, who will present a lecture on November 11.