Acclimating to Life at Columbia as a Dual Degree Student
Columbia GS’s International Dual BA Programs provide a one-of-a-kind international education. On top of having access to the resources and network of not one but two world-renowned colleges, Dual BA students have the opportunity to immerse themselves in two distinct cultures and campus communities in Dublin and New York City during their undergraduate careers, opening up an unprecedented treasure trove of unique traditions, priceless connections, and life-changing experiences.
Along with the excitement of this distinctive collegiate path, there can be some apprehension. After all, adjusting as a young student to one college campus is a daunting task, much less two, and this is precisely what Dual BA students do, acclimating to their international campus as a first-year before coming to Columbia as a rising junior and acclimating all over again! Furthermore, many Dual BA students aren’t just leaving home for college, they are traveling thousands of miles from their families to one or both of their campuses. Nonetheless, Dual BA students who seize this challenge are more than rewarded for their efforts, crafting a college experience for themselves defined by adventure and innovation.
As our newest third-year Dual BA students arrive at Columbia, we asked two rising Dual BA seniors, who went through the transition to the Columbia campus in the fall of 2021, to share their stories. Tadhg Maloney ‘23GS and Liam Grugan ‘23GS reflect on why they chose the Dual BA program, how they found community at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Columbia University, and share advice for their fellow Dual BA students.
What is your major?
Tadhg: At TCD, I majored in European Studies. At Columbia, I am majoring in Political Science.
Liam: My major at Trinity is Middle Eastern and European Languages and Culture (specializing in the German and Arabic languages) and my major at Columbia is Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (continuing Arabic as part of my Columbia Degree and German as an elective)
Why did you choose your program?
Tadhg: I was made aware of the program when I was first exploring European Studies at TCD. However, it was only in my second year when I received an offer to apply that I began to look into the opportunity with fresh eyes.
Liam: I chose the Dual BA because of the holistic, challenging perspective it offers for global-minded students. Through my majors—Middle Eastern and European Languages and Culture at Trinity and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia—I have enjoyed the unique opportunity to study languages, politics, history, economics, religion, and intercultural interaction, all while experiencing an intercultural exchange of my own.
What were the best and most challenging parts of traveling to and navigating life at your university as a first-year?
Tadhg: Coming to TCD as a first- year was relatively easy for me as a Dublin native. However, I had been living in Australia for a while before class started, so trying to wrap my head around attending a new university and coming back home to live with my family was challenging. The best thing about Trinity was the culture of the school itself. The ability to join societies is a huge part of what makes Trinity what it is. I got heavily involved in two societies that really suited me, which helped me find a great balance academically and socially.
Liam: The amazing friends I made in Trinity were both the best and most challenging aspect of my time in Trinity. Having spent much of my first term in Trinity feeling very lost socially, I will forever be grateful to my wonderful Irish friends for patiently teaching me how to navigate the social scene in Dublin.
What was it like coming to Columbia as a junior? What were the best and most challenging parts of the transition?
Tadhg: Columbia as Junior for me was scary, it was a big move across the pond. The U.S. was a far bigger culture shock for me than anywhere I had been previously, but once I came to terms with my new life, the best thing about it was the fresh start. I had the opportunity to have all new experiences and partake in a very different university in a completely new culture. The most challenging thing was trying to navigate this new crazy world all over again, it was very different from anything I had experienced before and wasn't as smooth a process as I would've liked, but as with everything in life, the things that matter always sort themselves out.
Liam: Again, I found the social side of college to be the most anxiety-inducing. Coming to Columbia as a junior was daunting—having spent the last two years away, I found myself with more friends back in Ireland than here at home—but the friends I made in the Dual BA (as well as the new friends I had gained from the Dual BA with Sciences Po) made the transition significantly easier. Though I have forged wonderful friendships with peers from Barnard and Columbia College, I find that so many of my closest friends are still from the Dual BA.
What groups/clubs/activities have you gotten involved with at Columbia? How did you go about finding them and joining?
Tadhg: I played rugby at Trinity and I knew I needed that outlet while at Columbia, so I’ve gotten heavily involved with the rugby club here on campus. The rugby team is always a very welcoming bunch (especially the Columbia rugby team) and joining the team was a great way to make friends. I also got involved with the white water kayak club as I have a long history with this sport too. The clubs at Columbia are so welcoming. I found them all at the club fair during one of the first weeks of the fall semester. I cannot stress how important it is to attend the equivalent of the club fair at any university that you attend.
Liam: The primary activity I am currently involved with at Columbia is GS Student Council, where I happily serve as Senior Class Vice President. As a recipient of Trinity's 2021 Laidlaw Scholarship, I also find myself returning to Dublin for leadership seminars about once a month. In spite of the jetlag, I feel lucky to be so active on both campuses.
What advice would you have for third-year Dual BA students who are about to start at Columbia?
Tadhg: For those entering into third year at Columbia I would say: chill. Honestly, everyone I've ever met goes on about how intense Columbia is and, in fairness, the workload is heavy but it's not ridiculous...You're living in New York, not just in the Columbia bubble, so get out.
I would also advise incoming third years to just do you. At Columbia—and generally in New York—everyone talks about what they think is the best way to do things, how great their life is, and all the stuff they're doing...Trust in who you are and how you do things. Do the things that you like in the way you like to do them and trust that this is the best way for you to live your life. Block out all the background noise, heaven knows there is plenty of it in NYC.
Liam: I would tell third years coming into Columbia not to be afraid to ask your peers from Columbia College and Barnard (or Dual BA’ers above you) for help! In my experience, the challenge of moving to New York and readjusting to the American education system will be enough: asking questions will only save you the headache of answering them on your own.