A Day in the Life: Fordham vs. Barnard



What do the days of two college freshmen in New York City look like?


Living in New York City, I spend much of my time exploring; I love going down to SoHo for sales, Midtown for rush tickets or up to Morningside Heights to visit my best friend from home, Emily, at Barnard College. When we discovered we were both going to school in New York, we were both so excited because it meant that we would only be a few subway stops away from each other. 

Barnard is an all-girls, private liberal arts college, and Fordham is a co-ed, private Jesuit university. I had always thought of the two being systematically very different, but I wanted to know if Emily and I truly did have drastically different days as college freshmen in New York so I hopped on the 1-train to find out. 

I immediately noticed that there is a huge environmental difference between 62nd Street and 120th Street. When I got out of the subway, the first thing I noticed was the silence. There was no one shouting at you to buy their mix-tape, no taxis honking at people who decide to walk when the red hand is up and no flood of people pushing and shoving their way out of the subway station like there is at Columbus Circle. All I saw were college students with their heads in books, elderly people going for a walk and runners minding their own business. Morningside Heights appeared to be much calmer than Lincoln Center on this weekday. 

Emily is a freshman psychology major minoring in Spanish, so she takes classes that fulfill her brief general education curriculum (which is called “foundations” at Barnard) and major/minor requirements. On Tuesdays, she takes Global Health and Ecology, First Year Writing: The Americas, Statistics for Psychology Students and Statistics Recitation. “Classes are pretty difficult, but professors make it a point to know the names of all their students and build a sense of community. Professors are very accommodating and eager to answer any questions during office hours,” Emily said.

Comparatively, I am a journalism major taking solely core classes, a common first semester course load for Fordham freshmen. Although a lot of Fordham students complain about taking classes that they have no interest in, I like learning about things that are way outside of specific interests — like Baroque musical concertos or binomial distribution. 

Mondays are my busiest day because I have three of my classes. Both Fordham and Barnard cap their classes at a very small size. The average class size at Fordham is 22 students, and at Barnard the average class size is around 25 students. Being in close contact with the same people everyday helps forge new friendships — my Composition class feels more like hanging out with friends than a strict professional environment. We have in depth lively discussions because we’ve all gotten to know each other so well. Emily said the same about her First Year Writing: The Americas class; some of her best friends on campus have been made there. 

Studying is a necessary evil of college life. A great piece of advice I received was to try to find a study spot outside of your dorm room. I find that this helps me focus more; I go to my floor study lounge or Hearst Park, a small tree covered sitting area next to the reflection pool at Lincoln Center. At Barnard, Emily mostly studies in her room or the Weber Living Room in her building. She said it’s very quiet place to focus and study; plus, it has a great view of Broadway. 

The residency situation is quite different at Barnard than at Fordham. Emily lives in a six floor building, Reid Hall, with one roommate and a communal floor bathroom. Unlike Fordham, Reid Hall is not the only freshman dorm available at Barnard. Freshmen can be placed into Reid, Brooks, Sultzberger or Hewitt Hall. Here at Fordham, I live in a 22-story building, McKeon Hall. This building is strictly for freshman residents, with the exception of RAs and RFMs. Some freshmen are placed in the apartment-style McMahon Hall with upperclassmen. I live with one roommate in a suite-style dorm connected to two other roommates. I find that having my own bathroom instead of a communal one calls for responsibility. If there’s no toilet paper, it’s not going to magically appear. I know my suite group chat will be constantly buzzing with who’s fault it is and who’s going to fix it. 

I asked Emily about what students typically wear at Barnard. She said the fashion scene is very relaxed most girls wear sweatshirts and leggings and no one really gets dressed up for class. At Fordham, there’s a mix between “I have an 8:30 a.m. class and I’m my wearing pajamas” and “every week is New York Fashion Week.” 

The social scene at Fordham Lincoln Center and Barnard College seems to happen off-campus. In both schools, students make friends in their classes or clubs and then go out into the city to party and explore. “It is very common to find Barnard students enjoying concerts on the weekend, going thrift shopping or restaurant exploring,” Emily said. Being enveloped in a city with so many opportunities, students stalk social media to catch the newest pop up shops, concerts, Broadway or late-night tickets, or even restaurants. Since everything in the city is a mere subway ride away, there’s no boundary on where you can go for an event.

Both schools have restaurants in their areas that feel like they should be an extension of the meal plan. For Barnard, it’s either Wu & Nussbaum, a restaurant that specializes in Chinese cuisine and classic New York-style bagels, or Tom’s Diner that rose to fame in the iconic sitcom “Seinfeld.” At Fordham, I personally would eat every meal at Burrito Box if I could — but I am on a college budget, after all. The Flame Diner, where Lorde sat and wrote the Melodrama album, is also a great place for a quick bite at any hour of the day. The Flame versus the Olympic Flame is a Fordham diner feud that will never die.

Not every NYC college is exactly the same. Neighborhoods are so diverse you can have a completely different experience just 60 blocks away. One thing has proven true no matter what college in Manhattan you attend: your life isn’t constricted to the walls of your campus.