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No Need to Take the Subway

From the Travel Desk: A jaunt to Manhattanville

Chaotically refined, delicately concrete, intimately enormous: the new Manhattanville campus fits each of these descriptions, and the journey to get there presents an invigorating opportunity for exploration of Morningside Heights. While the vibrancy of our neighborhood cannot be understated, every Monday and Wednesday, my endurance and stamina undergo the ultimate test. With only 15 minutes to get from Milbank on 119th street to the Lenfest Center, the new arts building on 125th street, part of the Manhattanville campus, I arrive consistently late and out of breath.

Upon mapping my journey, I learned that the Lenfest Center is approximately 0.7 miles, or roughly a 13 minute walk. Although one would think I have two minutes to spare, this estimation does not take into account the bustling hallways of Milbank that do not allow for a hasty departure, the phenomena of slow-paced walkers, and spontaneous sightings of cute dogs. On account of this, my delayed arrival to class usually means I have to awkwardly approach the professor after class in order to sign the attendance sheet. Is perpetually late really the legacy I want to leave behind at Manhattanville?

While overhearing (or rather eavesdropping) on a fellow, gray-hoodied classmate, in order to gain insight into the general perceptions of such a journey, I found that he also believed this trek was “pretty much the worst.” He further qualified that it is the expedition back to 116th, which involves a steady incline for almost the full nine blocks, that is “actually, most definitely, the worst.”

Illustration by Sahra Denner


So, how can Columbia students overcome the 0.7 mile walk while still making it to class on time? The answer is to simply embrace the moment, and accept the situation. This mindset is crucial in order to overcome the inevitable and repeated shame that arises from interrupting lecture. After weeks of disgracefully arriving to class seemingly decades into whatever my professor is lecturing about, I’ve decided that while swift pace is necessary, enjoying this commute ranks higher on my list of priorities. How am I supposed to appreciate the dozens of Manhattan School of Music students, trombones slung on their back, smoking their cigarettes on 122nd street? Or the man I have seen at least five times wearing a Phish t-shirt outside the Vape Shop? The hidden treasures from 116th street to 125th are abundant, and without a watchful eye, they can be easy to miss. For example, the toy store with fading barbie dolls in the front window also operates as a site for any copying needs. Had I not taken the time to welcome my environment, I would never have known I could buy my niece a present while simultaneously printing out flyers for my impending start-up business. Furthermore, the amount of quirky coffee shops are plentiful within this 0.7 mile expedition— and to think my options until now had been limited to Joe’s! Now I can impress all my friends by telling them I’m going to order my chai latte at Kuro Kuma, self-proclaimed “contemporary nook,” instead!

In addition, a sense of solidarity and community has emerged because of the large crowd of tardy students. Initially, I knew not a single soul in my class. But as each week went by, and I became familiar with the friendly faces of my fellow late arrivals, we learned we are stronger together. Now, aisle seats are thoughtfully left empty, or at least backpacks out of the walkway so sitting down can be as sly and speedy as possible. It’s the little things that count. And so while this trek may not be ideal for those who pride themselves off of their punctuality, it does offer a pretty stimulating and entertaining splash of exercise, for better or worse. I have been told the shuttle to the Medical School makes regular stops at Manhattanville, but at this point, I could not be paid to take a ride to class.

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