Falling in Love with NYC: Yet Another Reason to Come to Columbia’s Mailman School

By Mariko Rasmussen, MPH ’13 in Department of Population and Family Health

Sure, it’s the world-class faculty, the talented and diverse student body, research opportunities, strong alumni network, and school-sponsored practicum sites that draw students to Mailman. And it’s also the great student-run events: screenings of award-winning films, seeing friends perform in the Vagina Monologues, decorating cupcakes with the Sexual and Reproductive Health Action Group (SHAG).

cupcake for Vday event

cupcake for Vday event

But I’d like to focus on the other big draw – New York City! – as I prepare to leave it for the summer (practicum destination to be determined). Whether you’re considering an accelerated program, a master’s, or a doctorate, spending one, two, or more years in any city is a commitment that will shape your life as a public health student. For a lot of us at Mailman, the Big Apple is the big magnet.

On Campus or Off?

I chose living off campus, so I can’t speak to those that chose to live nearby (though I can imagine the argument goes something like… “it’s so great to roll out of bed and walk to class/work/the library/etc.”). Instead, I can tell you that a long commute isn’t so bad, and you should even consider living in boroughs other than Manhattan. I live in Brooklyn, but have met Mailman students that live in every one of the five boroughs, as well as the states of New Jersey and Connecticut.



Take the Subway!

If you live off campus, chances are you’ll become well acquainted with the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). The main two subway lines serving the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) campus are the 1 and the A, C. I recommend getting a monthly pass for $104, so that you won’t be doing mental math every single time you ride. (A single ride is $2.50.) If you live, work, and study in different neighborhoods, you’ll get more than enough use out of it to make it worth the cost. A long commute means you can actually find a seat and get some reading done for class. Unless you prefer reading things like this:

Study Off Campus

New York is filled with coffee shops, cafes, bookstores, and other nice spots to study and work. Also, don’t forget about “downtown” – the main Columbia campus. Head to the undergraduate campus libraries and talk to students at SIPA (School of International and Public Affairs) and other graduate schools to find out where the best spots are. I’d tell you mine, but then you’d take them. 😉

Williamsburg Bridge, benches

Williamsburg Bridge, benches

Take Advantage of the City

There are tons of free things to do in NYC. I like checking out newyork.timeout.com and nymag.com to get ideas and cuarts.com for free museums to visit and other discounts available to Columbia students.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Stay Active

It’s easy to lose track of staying healthy and active as a busy grad student, which is ironic when you’re studying public health. If the gym doesn’t do it for you, I recommend finding a recreational league to play in. I’ve been doing nycoedsoccer.com for a few years; it’s a great way to meet people outside of the school sphere. I also ran a half-marathon last year with nyrr.org and plan to run another soon.

me post race

me post race

That’s all for now. While I heart NY, I am so excited to be going abroad this summer. I hope to check in next time with more of an idea of where I’ll be doing my practicum.



  1. To prove that NY is such a great city all of the New Yorkers who came to California form associations of NY Schools and just in Los Angeles 600 people showed up the last time they had such a get together

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