Thomas Nielson

The Facebook class pages are always a way for future students to introduce themselves, ask questions about what sort of bedding they should get and if the Canada Goose is actually worth the investment, and to form tentative friendships. Each year, there are a few students who are noticeably, perhaps aggressively, more active in the group. Such students become celebrated celebs even before the school year starts, eagerly awaited by hundreds to see if the man matches the myth. Thomas Nielsen, CC ’18, is one such student.

Before college, Thomas, from Baltimore, had never learned in a classroom. He was homeschooled from Kindergarten until eighth grade and then attended an online high school. While seemingly unusual for some, Thomas says his particular education played a huge role in his coming to Columbia. The small online classes that he took fostered a love for discussion and humanities-based classes such as the those offered by the Core.


Illustration by Jennifer Bi

However, considering that Thomas had never learned inside an actual classroom, he was understandably quite apprehensive about college. In order to relieve his anxieties he took to the class Facebook group as he hoped the online forum would help him foster connections that he could carry throughout his college experience. Thomas wanted to make sure that he could reach out to as many people and simultaneously collect as much information about the college experience as possible, and so he figured the class page would be the best location to do so.

Unfortunately, most of the acquaintances he made in the Facebook group did not last into his freshman year. “People form social groups that don’t correspond to the groups they made on the Facebook page,” he says. “Most of the acquaintances I made from that page have not stuck around and my best friends have come from the classes I have taken.” Additionally, he voiced a regret about being so active on the page. He discussed how “we are all on a learning curve here and we all do embarrassing things. But when people know you from the group there is less wiggle room to make mistakes.” He recommends reaching out to some people who have similar interests to you but not overdoing it and not being disappointed if those initial connections fall through.

Thomas’s advice to new students is simple: get off campus. Stress culture can be destructive at Columbia. Although he believes that his majors are not as taxing, he has seen many of his friends consumed by stress culture. The easiest way to avoid this, he believes, is to explore the city and see more of the amazing environment that Columbia is in. His dream is to become a soundtrack musician and work with Columbia and NYU students to score their films.

— Casey Davis

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