A Week in the Life

Photo Essay.

A typical week in the life a a Columbia University graduate student.

Let’s take a look at what life is like through the eye of my camera… in invite you into a week in the life of Daniel Yeow.

It all begins here, in my studio apartment on 86th Street. People often say that the state of one’s apartment is a reflection of the state of one’s mind or life. I’d have to say that I wholeheartedly agree on this particular saying. (do you like the panoramic shot? do ya? do ya?)

After a healthy breakfast of specially-imported Weet-Bix (do you KNOW how difficult it is to find cereal in the US with no added sugar?) my day starts with a subway ride into university on the 1 train. I ride from 86th street to 116th. The subway is a curious thing in that the stations are invariably warmer than the ambient outside temperature.

If you’re lucky enough to get to Uni at 7am due to an inexplicable bout of insomnia (that’s not technically true, I know full-well why it happened), you may witness the sundial without any sun actually touching it. Once upon a time, there was a huge granite ball on the very spot where I was crouching to take this photo… but it has somehow been ‘lost’ in the sands of time.

Turning around, I am greeted by this funny looking statue which sits in front of the Low Library… which hasn’t been used as a library since the 30s but must confuse many people because it has, written in stone, on the outside of the building “Library of Columbia University”.

Walking up the stairs and doing an about-face, we get an expansive view over Low plaza and towards the actual main library of Columbia University – Butler. It isn’t quite as impressive as Low, but functions well as a library. The Low library is home to the largest granite dome in the United States apparently… lets see if we can find it.

I journeyed into the Low Library in search of the dome, but could not find it. Instead, there is this lovely area in the middle called the “rotunda”.

Walking around uni at 7am isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… there aren’t many people around to talk to. The grounds are kept very well-manicured. On the left, through the trees, you can see Earl Hall… which is where many student meetings take place because there are lots of meeting room… which are good places to have meetings.

But life isn’t all about classes and study here at Columbia, it will probably come as a surprise that I have joined the well-known neo-conservative group on campus – Amnesty International. In fact, I am it’s webmaster (any title with ‘master’ in it isn’t likely to keep me at bay for long). Occasionally we have board meetings, sometime they turn into bored meetings, other times, we eat cake and write letters.

In amongst the many lovely old buildings on campus, there exists this oddity – Lerner Hall. A decidedly modern construction, this is the hub of student life… sort of. There are auditoriums, meeting rooms, various eateries and a ‘piano lounge’ where anyone can just come along and play. Technically, at any given time, there are probably many more people in the Butler Library than there are here.

Just across the road, is the School of International and Public Affairs – SIPA. They occasionally hold very poorly-organised events with high profile speakers where the object is to study the game-theoretic behavioural patterns of the students when several hundred students try to fit into a lecture hall which only seats a tiny fraction of that number.

Columbia is an odd place to be at night. Mostly because there are lots of people, not a common occurrence at Melbourne University at night. Perhaps this is just a follow-on effect from being in New York… where there are generally more people about at night.

And sometimes, there are even night markets to go to… yes, there is always “life” (whatever that is) on campus.

Those who have been paying attention to this website will know that my MA is in “Climate and Society”. So what of the climate science, you ask youselves (or perhaps I do, on your behalf). A short (free) bus ride away is the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory which is located upstate, away from the earthquake-observation-wrecking woes of the subway.

They’ve recently become big on recycling here. This year, we won an annual competition among American Universities to be big and efficient recyclers. The trophy is probably about the ugliest thing on this whole campus. But we’re very proud of if, of course.

As much as I like the hypermodern surroundings of Lerner Hall, the cafeteria at Lamont is simply a picture. The entire complex used to be the country estate of some really rich guy, who donated it to the university when he died. As a result of this, many of the buildings look like old manor houses… because that is exactly what they were. The cafeteria building used to be a swimming pool.

The food here is nice, and some of the ‘specials’ have interesting names. The seismology sampler is one of my favourites.

The building I work in is called the “Monell Building” and is one of the newer additions. It is the home of the IRI – International Research Institute for Climate and Society, which is where I do my research. Incidentally, they are also the reason that my course exists. My MA is not a SIPA course, but a GSAS (graduate school of arts and sciences) one which is centred around the department of earth and environmental science (DEES) which started when the IRI thought it would be a good idea to have climate scientists who knew other stuff as well. Possibly with the view that these interdisciplinary people would be able to more effectively implement good policy regarding the environment.

A short walk down from the Monell building is an area where some of us play soccer at lunchtime. The attitude here is very relaxed and the people here are pretty chill, despite some of them having very intimidating academic reputations. If I had to pick the perfect workplace, this would be it. Absolutely postcard-picturesque environment, good company, stimulating work, free shuttle bus to and from manhattan.

On weekends, I meet up with some of my Climate and Society buddies to study together (I’m such a geek). In true New Yorker style, we don’t meet at someone’s apartment (we wouldn’t all fit anyway), we meet at a trendy cafe somewhere and eat pancakes for breakfast.

…and occasionally we let our hair down and hang out and try to forget about all the reading and work that we haven’t gotten around to doing.

Well… there you have it. A week in my life… other things occasionally pop up, like trips to the UN and other such trivial matters, but this is the typical grind…

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