Senior Farewell: Class of 2016

Photo by Daniel Maxson

Photo by Daniel Maxson

 

This Wednesday Crown & Cross will say a bittersweet farewell to five of our most dedicated staff members. Joy Pai, Marcos Martinez, Momoh Osilama, Rachel Chung, and Anji Zhao have been faithful as members of our team, as students at Columbia, and as servants to our God throughout their four years. During the past few weeks our blog team sat down with these five seniors and interviewed them about their time here at Columbia. We hope you will enjoy reading their responses, as we know that their hardwork and dedication will continue with us for years to come.


 

Joy Pai CC ‘16

Pauline Morgan: Now that you’re transitioning into the real world, and nearing the end of your time at Columbia, what would you say what the hardest “last” you had to experience, and why was it difficult?

Joy Pai: I anticipate the last day when we’re all together—the last day before commencement. It’ll probably be the saddest or most bittersweet.

PM: Why?

JP: A lot of my friends are going different places and I don’t really know when the last time we’ll be together is going to be. And even if we’re together it won’t be the same—we all live together now and see each other everyday, so it’ll never quite be the same.

PM: Thinking, then, about the people you’ve met here and the experiences that you’ve had, would you say that Columbia was worth it? Was the time and energy you put into it what you expected and if so, how was God present?

JP: It definitely was worth it. It was tough at times, but… I gauge if something is worthwhile in my life based on how I come out. If I come out of it and I’m less happy, then it probably was not worth it. Of course it’s been hard, but after four years I definitely feel like a better version of myself, as corny as that is.

PM: Could you pinpoint how and why you feel like a better version of yourself?

JP: I think one part is that I’m better at dealing with people. I came from a town that’s very homogenous—most people were Asian and similar to me—but coming to Columbia was a totally different environment which brought many challenging situations that I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.

PM: How did Columbia inform your walk with God?

JP: I grew up a Christian; my parents were both Christians. And it was a routine—going to church every week, on Easter, on Christmas, etcetera. But after going to college, I had to make the decision by myself whether I wanted to keep pursuing my faith or let it slide. My first week I didn’t really get involved—I went to CFA events to keep an open mind but I wasn’t very serious about it. Later in the semester I decided that I did want to pursue my faith and keep walking in the Lord.

PM: What triggered that? Was there anything specific?

JP: During that first weekend, people in my NSOP group and people I knew before college —who aren’t Christians—went to parties and I tagged along. It looked like everyone was having fun and I probably seemed like that from the outside too, but I always left feeling empty. That was the main instigator that made me realize I wanted something more to my life- and that ‘something more’ was God.

PM: What kept you “on track” for the past four years? What kept you from shying away from your faith, or letting it fall away?

JP: Bible courses. I went to them my Freshman and Sophomore years, and they gave me the opportunity to talk to other sisters in Christ about Christ. After Sophomore year my schedule didn’t work with any bible course and I definitely felt a change—a sense of community that was missing even though I still had my Christian friends

PM: Last question—are you ready to graduate?

JP: I don’t think so; no, not yet. It kind of struck me when everyone was registering for classes and I wasn’t doing it anymore. If columbia had a 5-year extension program I would definitely do it.

PM: Do you think there’s anything that would ever signify that you are ready?

JP: No, I don’t think you can feel ready for something until you’re actually doing it. You don’t know if you can ride a bike until you actually do it—and it’s the same for graduation.

Following graduation Joy will be working as a Bioinformatic researcher at Rockefeller University in New York. There she will be using computational methods to analyze biological data as an intersection of her Biology and Computer Science majors.


 

Marcos Martinez Sugastti CC ‘16

Pauline Morgan: Which last was or will be the hardest last?

Marcos Martinez: [laughs] The last Ferris meal. It’s part of my routine and I appreciate the people who work there. It’s a place where I go and find comfort. I’ll very much miss the simple things.

PM: After four years, do you think Columbia was worth it? How did God show you whether or not it was?

MM: That’s a hard question—How do you measure worth? I’m happy I came here. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t expect and awoken to ways of thinking about the world that I didn’t see coming. Of course there is disappointment, no matter how much I accomplished I feel like I would always want more. But, I know God wanted me to be here. I can say I am closer to Him now than I was before.

PM: How exactly did Columbia inform your walk with God?

MM: I grew up Catholic, and when I came here I joined a nondenominational group where God really showed me diversity in the ways that people approach Christ. By stripping away many of the practices I had while growing up, I was able to get to the core of Christianity and understand what it meant to follow God. Especially through the hard times; the times I didn’t really have the will to go on. I came to know that there is a God above all this, and His purpose for me goes beyond everything that may happen here.

PM: And how did the Christian community impact you?

MM: I enjoyed seeing so many different people worshipping the same God, which showed me how transcendent the spirit of Christ and the love of God is. I am still Catholic, and love my church, but it was amazing to see the way in which God can come into so many lives.

PM: So are you ready to graduate?

MM: Yes. I’ve worked hard these past four years and I’m ready for a change. I’ve invested a lot and I’m ready to invest in different things now.

PM: Even if you don’t know where those things are going?

MM: Yes, for sure. I’m confident that long-term where I’m going won’t matter as much as I originally expected. For those coming to Columbia, and those already here, this is the advice that I would give you in your journey:

  1. Be faithful even when it hurts or when you don’t want to. You need to trust the spirit, even if you don’t want to go to church because you’re tired or whatever. Go to bible study and find time to pray and read the Word.
  2. Invest in things. There is this line from a prayer I know which says: “Lord, teach me to give and not to count the cost.” It’s an idea against the culture here at Columbia. I’ve made investments maybe which weren’t as rewarding as I was expecting them to be. And maybe people won’t appreciate you how you want, or you may not get the job you wanted, or you may not leave Columbia having accomplished what you wanted. But, if you leave after trying to advance the world, it is worth it.
  3. Try different things. Coming to Crown & Cross was originally tough. I didn’t foresee that I’d run a journal, but it’s something I enjoyed so much. God makes beautiful things out of shortcomings, and I’m so proud of our published works. They come from imperfect and flawed people, showing that if a work is done in love then it really comes through. God has the power to transform something imperfect into something beautiful.

Marcos was our dedicated Managing Editor fall of 2014, then Editor-in-Chief all of 2015. Currently, Marcos plans to go home to Paraguay and will most likely be working at the Central Bank of Paraguay.


 

Momoh Osilama CC ‘16

Pauline Morgan: Now that this whole “college thing” is ending, what would you say was or will be the hardest last?

Momoh Osilama: The final Jubilation! Concert was my hardest last. I feel like Jube! has been something I’ve been part of for a really long time, and I’ve seen it grow and change so much in the past three and a half years. I won’t be able to see that anymore—I’m leaving—it’s weird. I don’t know how to describe it. The process of making music and performing is a lot of fun—and it’s a process I’ve gotten to experience over and over with a lot of people.

PM: But now that you’re done with the whole thing would you say Columbia was worth it?

MO: My initial response—or what I want to say—is that yes it was worth it. But I can’t say that my whole Columbia experience has been worth it. I don’t know how to describe it, but I’m not at a point in my life where I can say that every exam, every class, every club was worth it—I’m still in the process of figuring it out. In a year or two I might be able to figure it out and see the whole picture.

PM: And how did God inform that journey?

MO: Being in Jube! and the whole process of auditioning was a huge part in my journey. First semester of Freshman year I didn’t audition for Jube! just because I hadn’t known about it, so I auditioned for every other a capella group and I didn’t get into any of them. I’m not saying that I’m good enough to be in any of them—But then I joined CFA and heard about Jube! The next semester I auditioned and auditioned for all the other a capella groups too. I got a callback for Gospel Choir and Jube! Anyway, being part of Jube! and getting to know everyone—that whole experience—I can see how every part got me to where I am now. It’s little things like that—in those places you can trace what God is doing.

PM: Looking back on the past four years obviously Jube! was instrumental in your life, but what else could you tell me about Columbia? If you had to tell me about a moment—a little thing, something that happened all the time, or a huge event—what would you tell me?

MO: Last semester I participated in two musicals. The semester as a whole was a mess, because in addition to those musicals I was part of Jube!, I was doing design and writing for Crown & Cross, I was leadership for CFA, and taking a good percentage of my classes I needed for my major—so it was a mess. But it was also so much fun. With those musicals I got to do things that I had wanted to do for a really long time—even though it was at a time that wasn’t convenient. It was another moment in which I saw God working in my life.

I love music, learning more about my voice, singing, acting, being part of new communities, and making new friends. Being part of Christian communities with Christian friends, and surrounding yourself with all these Christians is a blessing in many ways—but it can also be straining. It’s not anything particular about Christians, but interacting with people in diverse communities is a really important part of the Columbia experience.

PM: Do you think you’re ready to graduate?

MO: I think so, but part of me does not think so. My experience at Columbia was not everything I thought it would be—which is not necessarily a bad thing. There will always be more that I would want from being here—there are more things that I want to do, more things that I wish I could’ve done. But a part of me also feels that I’ve gotten to do a lot of things and I should feel content with what I have done. No matter how long I am here there would always be something more—one more club, one more play—and I can’t satisfy this desire. Which lets me know that I am ready to leave. In that I am trying to find contentment in other things, but I need to find it in God.

Eshiemomoh Ikpeminoghena Osilama is currently in the process of applying for research and clinical positions, mostly in the Boston area. He looks forward to going home to Revere, Massachusetts, and spending time with his family there.


 

Rachel Chung BC ‘16

Pauline Morgan: Which last was or will be the hardest last and why?

Rachel Chung: The last Jubilation! concert.

PM: Why?

RC: Jube! was such an integral part of my college career, and for the past three years it has largely been the most important spiritual activity I’ve been doing here. Honestly, it’s a huge reason why I didn’t drop out of college. Jube! kept me grounded, and saying goodbye to the people I’ve sung with and worshipped with was just so hard.

It was a place where I could bring together my two biggest passions: music and God. Having that space where I could be obsessed with both was so important to me. And it was the first thing that made me feel spiritually connected to Columbia.

PM: You talked a bit about how you almost dropped out, and how you didn’t feel it was worth it to be here. Now being removed from that and about to graduate, was Columbia worth it?

[Here Rachel did strongly assert her identity as a confident Barnard woman, so we would like to inform our readers that Rachel will, indeed, be graduating from Barnard College]

RC: There’s no other way that something else was going to happen. God is sovereign and everything is according to his will, so I don’t believe that any other thing could have happened. It was absolutely worth it because somehow my four years have glorified Him.

PM: How did being at Barnard inform your walk with God?

RC: Four years ago there were a lot of things I understood only logically. For example, knowing that God is sovereign. But I did not tangibly believe it. After these four years I can truly say that God is good because I can see how much he’s done. This is not just seeing what Jesus did on the Cross, but experiencing his greatness and growing a greater testimony to show why God is good.

PM: What did you learn here? What were the experiences that really stuck out to you?

RC: In my first year I decided to take an upper-level Biology course for pre-med students, and I took it to challenge myself. The class before the midterm our professor said “if you’re late, you’re not going to be able to take the exam.” But the night before exam I studied until 4AM and overslept my 8AM exam. I woke up and felt oddly refreshed. I saw that the sun was shining and I looked at my phone to see it was 11:30AM. I thought it was going to be the first exam I failed, I was going to flunk the course, and get a 2.0 my first semester of college. Without brushing my teeth, in my pajamas, in 30 degree weather outside, I ran to my professor’s office. He opened the door and I began begging and pleading with him. I showed him all the alarms I had set on my phone and I said that I’ve never overslept an alarm before. I ask if it’s possible—and he’s known for being notoriously difficult—but he gestures for me to come in. Without speaking he points to an exam on the desk and I took the exam. Only by the grace of God was I able to take that exam.

PM: Are you ready to go into the real world.

RC: Kind of. I am so done with schoolwork, and I have been since sophomore year. I’m ready in the sense that I’m ready to never do schoolwork ever again. But in terms of work life, I don’t know. This past summer I had a full-time job and it was torture from nine to five. I distinctly remember standing at Penn station and thinking that this was the worst thing in the world. The only thing that kept me going was that I knew I wouldn’t be continuing to do this every day.

Spiritually, Jube! has been the best part of my experience at Columbia. That being gone, and not being constantly surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ is not going to be easy. Being surrounded by a place with people I don’t know socially terrifies me, but I’m also not very bold with my faith. I know that somehow God will use me as I am now, but I don’t feel like I’ve been actively living out my identity externally in front of nonbelievers. Being in a workplace that will probably be very secular is going to be very hard. But also, leaving college means I have more time to invest in my home church which I’ve been looking forward to. So now all my time won’t be devoted to Jube and Crown & Cross. I’m excited to see how God will use me to continue serving at my church in greater capacity.

I don’t have any concrete advice, but I do have two things:

First, I highly encourage anyone to write for Crown & Cross. This is not just something I’m say because I’m part of it, but writing is an awesome, creative, and tangible way to express faith on a campus where it’s often hard to do that. It really challenged me to pursue God. Secondly, four years goes by so fast so don’t live with regrets. If you feel like going out to do something, go do that thing. In everything just know that our God is a good good father, and He will pull you through to the end—especially if you don’t feel like that’s the case.

After graduation Rachel will be spending more time with her family in Long Island, New York. She’s excited to be done with college, but will miss all those she met and loved here!


 

Anji Zhao SEAS’ 16

Pauline Morgan: Finishing college brings a good amount of “lasts,” so which one was or will be the hardest and why?

Anji Zhao: The last time I see my friends. I’m really excited to leave but I’ll miss the people. People go places and you don’t see them again, so it’ll be very sad.

PM: After these four years, do you think it was worth it? Moving away from home, living in Manhattan, experiencing all the stress?

AZ: Absolutely. I learned a lot here, I met a lot of cool people, and I it was a good growing experience. Though Columbia was difficult, for fours years it was a great environment to have grown in.

PM: How did God inform your time here at Columbia? Or how did Columbia inform your walk with God?

AZ: Columbia beats you down. I especially remember in the lowest points of my freshman year, I was like, “I have nothing and God I need you.” I had never needed to rely on God like that. And over the next few years I continued to struggle. When you go through rough times you are become able to understand other people’s struggles and empathize with them, and it also opens your eyes to appreciate the little things in life, and all the beautiful things that God has created.

PM: And how did the Christian community fit into that?

AZ: It was really good for me when I first came to Columbia my freshman year. I had friends but I still felt lonely, and I thought “those people in CFA are really cool, I want to get to know them,” It took me a while because it’s hard to trust and be open with people immediately, but now the people in CFA are my closest friends. Having a loving and accepting community in Christ is really important. It’s also cool to see what people are accomplishing here—Crown and Cross, the initiatives of CFA and IV, and more. It’s inspiring to see people living out their lives for God—especially when I personally don’t feel close to God. Even though we are weak God still works through us, and it’s really good to be reminded of that.

PM: What are some of the highlights of your time with your friends at Columbia?

AZ: The times when we were supposed to be studying but just goofed off instead. We did silly things together and had so many ridiculous conversations late at night. But there were also a lot of lowlights.

PM: What were the lowlights?

AZ: Freshman year was really bad for me. I was depressed, I had anxiety, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I remember having panic attacks and not knowing why I felt so bad or what to do about it. Even now, it’s something I struggle with, and it’s frustrating because I know that scientifically it’s a bunch of stupid chemicals in my brain making me think I should feel bad. On top of that, Columbia can be a really toxic environment at times, so that also factors in. So many people here deal with these kinds of things and consider leaving at some point, which is really sad.

PM: So are you ready to leave now?

AZ: I think I am. I’ll be a lot more free with my time and the things I have to do. I’m excited to really be able to make my own choices, to have new room to grow spiritually, to read, make art, get enough rest, and hopefully bless others. I’m excited, change is good.

Now that I’m leaving, my advice is to love yourself. The worst things is forcing yourself to do all this stuff that you think you should do, even if you’re physically or emotionally incapable of doing them. Cut yourself some slack. I don’t mean being selfish, I mean being aware of how you’re doing and not pushing yourself beyond what is healthy.

I had a friend who was struggling with a lot of things and I was so sure that as a Christian it was my responsibility to help him. I tried to love him but I was also dealing with my own problems at the time, and it’s hard to love people well when you yourself are in a bad place emotionally and spiritually. I think it ended up doing more harm than good to both of us, and that’s why I say that it’s important to pray and ask God for wisdom and step back when you need to, rather than just blindly making decisions based on black and white “Sunday school” principles.

God loves us more than we can imagine, and He wants us to grow and prosper, but when life is overwhelming it’s easy to forget that. I personally got caught up a lot in the constant stream of responsibilities and would function on autopilot to get things done without considering how I was doing physically and emotionally. Take care of yourself, even if it means skipping a problem set or flaking on dinner plans because you just need a break from it all. We know we are imperfect, and yet somehow in the Columbia bubble we still expect perfection from ourselves and feel guilty when we inevitably fail, whether in academics, relationships, spirituality, or any other aspect of life. It’s okay to fail! God loves you unconditionally, and you should love you too.

After leaving Columbia Anji will be working at a startup called Poncho, where she has been interning since last summer. The company designs a weather app, where the goal is to make weather fun by sending gifs and jokes to their users.


 

We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to these five soon-to-be graduates, and the love they have shown all of us. Thank you, also, to our readers who have supported and prayed for us throughout this—and every—season at Columbia. Have a great summer!