NEW YORK, NY - Two separate admissions processes. Two unique board of trustees. Two different endowments. One combined athletics program. The Barnard-Columbia relationship is confusing from outside looking outside in, but even so to students at the colleges themselves.

When I arrived at Barnard college, I found it hard to navigate the complicated Columbia University dynamics. I am a student at Barnard College, and I row on the Columbia University Women’s Crew. My situation is often met with furrowed brows from confused individuals. I get to compete as a division one athlete on an Ivy League Team because of the Columbia-Barnard athletic consortium established in 1983.

Here’s a quick overview. The university has four different undergraduate colleges: CC, SEAS, GS, and Barnard. Being at Columbia, you get used to the ridiculous amount of acronyms thrown around on campus. Each undergraduate college has its own unique and defining characteristics. Columbia College (CC) is defined by its intensive core curriculum, SEAS is the engineering school, the School of General Studies (GS) is for non-traditional students that have taken more than two years between high school and college, and Barnard is an all-girls, liberal arts college. Each college is united under the umbrella of Columbia University, which provides complete cross-registration for all classes, clubs, and varsity athletic teams.

The degree to which students identify with their respective colleges varies entirely on a case-by-case basis, and the relationships between colleges aren’t always amicable. When I first got on campus I encountered a lot of disrespect from my peers at the other colleges. As soon as I said I went to Barnard, Columbia students would scoff or make a remark about how I must wish I was at Columbia instead. If I wore a Columbia hat or logo people would call me a fake student or a wannabe. I was shocked that people who cared so much about receiving higher education would put down people who were only just trying to do the same for themselves. I noticed one area of campus life, however, where school-affiliation didn’t matter at all, and that was in athletics.

Columbia athletics hails athletes from every undergraduate college, and gives the exact same opportunities. When you compete on a sports team at Columbia, everyone is a Columbia Lion. I remember my first regatta vividly. I stepped off the bus at the Princeton University Boathouse in my pantone-292 uniform with nerves running up and down my body. Every single piece of clothing I was wearing said Columbia on it and for the first time I didn’t feel like an intruder. Stepping into a boat with a CC student in front of me and a GS student behind, I felt a special bond with my teammates that can only come from waking up at 6am every morning to put ourselves through excruciating pain. When the officials called Columbia up to the starting line, I hesitated for a second before I realized that they were calling me. I was Columbia.

The rest of my year continued on like this. Each regatta I went to I felt more and more apart of the Columbia community. I learned the Columbia fight song and send off cheer. I raced in the Ivy League Championships. I went to Columbia networking events, awards ceremonies, and banquets because of my status as a Columbia student-athlete. I had finally found the supportive, community environment I had imagined in my senior year of college. My Columbia Athletics experience gave me the confidence to call both Barnard and Columbia my home. Athletics isn’t the only platform for students to unite, regardless of school affiliation. A lot of my friends found their fit through Greek Life or writing for a Columbia newspaper, but for me it was the opportunity to put on that uniform and compete as a lion.

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