Coursework at Columbia University: a beginning at top speed

We, the 10 GEM students at Columbia University, started our courses on the first week of September. We thought it would be quite the same as in GEM… but it happened to be quite more complicated!


On campus at Columbia University

Indeed, two realities showed up: first Columbia’s system to choose your courses; then the condensed schedule with GEM teachers in New York. We had a two-week period when we were offered to attend any courses we would like to (related to Geopolitics obviously) before choosing two eventually – by Sept. 16th at the latest. The fact is that there are so many different kinds of courses proposed by Columbia, you can feel confused since you don’t want to miss a thing! The other thing is that the schedule of these 2 courses taught by Columbia University’s teachers must match the schedule of the lectures GEM teachers come to give every two weeks on average!

At last, we have chosen courses as different as Economic Growth, Contemporary Moral Problems, Russia’s Gas Strategy, Politics of History & Reconciliation, Middle East Conflicts & Security, or International Trade for the Columbia courses. Each course is different, for sure; but one common point is that, like Americans in general, teachers are quite demonstrative in the way they teach, which is pretty nice. Many of them do not use any Power Point Presentation. You need to be very attentive in order to get everything in what is said!

Some lectures are virtually only a time of debate, a place where to think and question what you have read before the class – this is the “flipped class system”: you have to read (quite a lot of) articles given by the professor from one class to another. This is the way to learn what you need to know… but of course the teachers stay available for any question the students may have.

Thus, classes are expected to be a moment when everyone expresses their opinions. It does not matter if you agree or not with the teacher, as long as you have arguments to support your position! Classes are filled with people who have quite different profiles – not only about their countries of origin, but also about professional backgrounds and personal interests in the subject they study. It proves very enriching to rub shoulders with such varied students. Fortunately, many libraries – 22 we were said! – are destined to host our reading times… The campus is really impressive! It will be the subject of another article. One unexpected, nice class took place… in Central Park! New York is definitely full of resources! More classically, the courses taught by GEM teachers usually take place in Columbia Educational Campus in Time’s Square, whereas those taught by Columbia are on the huge Morningside campus (the main one).


Students having class in Central Park with Nathalie Belhoste, GEM professor

Toconclude, courses are a great part of our cultural integration… Both meeting amazing people and studying Geopolitics through American and international perspectives turn out to be a real adventure!


309 Haymeyer Hall, Columbia University’s “vintage” classroom

(By Claire Lemaire)


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