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Columbia Summer Session: A Time to Learn and Explore

Mingjie Du, a mathematics and computer science double major at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, chose the Columbia University Summer Session not only to earn extra credit toward his degree but also to pursue his passion for film photography and explore New York City’s cultural scene. Here he shares some details from his summer experience.

What courses did you choose, and why?

As a mathematics major, I had to take math classes to fulfill credit requirements at my home institution. I chose Calculus 3 and Calculus 4, as they are preliminary requirements for advanced math courses I intend to take in my sophomore year. While I also had offers from Yale and Berkeley for summer school, I chose Columbia because it was the only school that offered a class in film photography. This allowed me both to be productive and to pursue a long-standing passion. 

What was your favorite part of the Summer Session?

Film photography was my favorite class. Every aspect of it was awesome. Given the small class size, everyone got to know each other well, and this contributed to a very welcoming and casual classroom environment. It made the weekly peer-review sessions of our photographs constructive and encouraging. Júlia Pontés, our instructor, also played a big part in making the class special with her infectious energy. I felt she would go out of her way to support us in our creative endeavors. 

Tell us about your postgraduate plans. Has the Columbia Summer Session experience helped you refine your interests or goals?

The plan is to perhaps enroll for a postgraduate degree in robotics, as it will be a field of great importance in the near future. I must admit, however, that the Columbia Summer Session has underscored the importance of pursuing your hobbies. To this end, I shall look to enroll in a photography certificate program. This was something Júlia encouraged me to do!

What were your favorite things to do on campus and in New York City?

I really enjoyed studying at Butler Library. It is such a beautiful and awe-inspiring place. As for how I spent my time in New York City, I would frequent Carnegie Hall often, as they featured wonderful classical musical performances. 

What advice would you give to students who may be considering the College Edge Program?

Your time at Columbia is limited, so take advantage of it and explore the campus. Instead of studying in the same place every day, check out the numerous other libraries and workspaces. Most importantly, make time to meet and converse with the people around you. It’s rare to find people with such diverse backgrounds and experiences in one place!

Explore options for visiting students during the Columbia University Summer Session.