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The subway system is extensive and avoids street traffic. It’s open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day! With a total of 656 miles of passenger tracks, it serves 4 of the 5 boroughs of NYC; Staten Island has its own rail service.
Buses are a great way to get around if you’re not in a hurry. It’s interesting to look out the window and observe the changing neighborhoods. The buses that run closest to Columbia Morningside campus are the M104, M4, M60, and the M5. Each borough has its own bus routes, map and schedule.
MetroCards are electronic fare cards for use on subways and buses in the five boroughs. Choose between refillable "debit" cards or unlimited weekly and monthly cards. MetroCards are available for purchase in all subway stops. As an alternative, avoid paper cards and pay for the MTA through your phone and digital wallet. Learn more on the OMNY website. MTA plans to transition to OMNY only in 2024.
Citi Bike is the nation's largest bike share program, with stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. Designed for quick trips with convenience in mind, it’s a fun and affordable way to get around town.
They are yellow or green with a medallion number on top of the roof. If it is lit up and says on-duty it is available to wave down. There is a metered fare that you may pay with credit card or cash. It is customary to tip 10-20%.
Do you need to get refreshed by leaving the urban environment and spend more time in nature? The Long Island Railroad and Metro-North offer one-day and overnight get-away packages to get out of the City. NYC Ferry travels to various locations around the city (and even some beaches). And some of the best beaches near NYC can be reached by subway!
BANKING AND PHONE SERVICE
Open a U.S. Bank Account
You will need:
You don't need:
Be sure the bank officer is aware that you are a non-resident. You will be asked to complete a form called W8-BEN for nonresidents so interest from your savings or checking account will not be taxed.
There are many bank locations in the Columbia neighborhoods. In addition, Santander has a branch on the Morningside campus in Alfred Lerner Hall, open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., and on the CUIMC campus in the Mailman School of Public Health (William Black Building on the first floor), open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with 24-hour ATM access.
Other commonly used banks are Chase, Bank of America, and Citibank. Chase Bank has multiple ATM machines located inside the buildings on the CUIMC campus.
Obtain a U.S. Credit Card
It is difficult for newcomers to get your first credit card because of lack of U.S. credit history (record of paying your bills). Ask the bank where you have an account about qualifying for one of their credit cards to help establish a credit history.
Get U.S. Mobile Phone Service
Some carriers may offer student discounts, but it is best to check with the stores owned by the mobile provider directly rather than "authorized dealers." Some students bring an “unlocked” phone from home and buy a U.S. SIM card at a US airport, from a mobile provider, or a prepaid card online. There are many phone service provider stores in the Columbia neighborhoods. Some top providers are: AT&T, T Mobile, Sprint, Verizon.
IDENTIFICATION CARDS AND SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
Columbia has one of the largest university collections in the United States (over 21 libraries with almost 12 million volumes). It is a fantastic resource for anyone studying, conducting research, or teaching at Columbia. Become familiar with all its services and research support. If you're a visiting scholar, see their policy for borrowing privileges.
CUIT for Morningside campus and CUIMC IT for CUIMC campus together provide Columbia with central computing and communications including telephones, email, web publishing, computer labs / electronic classrooms, course management and student information applications, office and administrative applications, high-speed campus Ethernet and wireless networks. For Morningside, visit PawPrint for printing instructions.
- American Language Program provides both full-time and part-time courses for different language goals.
- The Community Language Program (CLP) at Teachers College (TC) offers International Researchers Language Program (IRLP) as well as general English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.
- Center for International Foreign Language Teacher Education (CIFLTE) at Teachers College (TC) offers a high quality online foreign language learning program for those who wish to improve their second language skills.
- Chazen Language Program offers eight-week courses taught by professional instructors in small class sizes. It is held at Columbia Business School's Chazen Institute for Global Business.
- NY Public Libraries also offer free English classes.
PHYSICAL & MENTAL HEALTH
Services and Tips
Be well-informed about your personal safety. New York presents the same security concerns as any other large city worldwide. In case of an emergency, contact Public Safety. Put the number in your phone: 212 854-5555 (Morningside campus) or 212 305-7979 (Medical Campus).
If you encounter a situation that affects your well-being, please reach out to the ISSO to see how we may assist you. See how to Report a Serious Situation to the ISSO.
- Walking and vehicle patrols and guard booths in and around the Morningside, Manhattanville, and CUIMC campuses.
- Intercampus Shuttle and Manhattanville Loop Shuttle services.
- Walking Safety Escort Program.
- On-demand Evening Shuttle, powered by Via Rideshare.
- LionSafe smartphone app, neighborhood merchants serving as Safe Havens, and Blue Light Emergency Call Boxes.
- General safety and crime prevention tips.
- Additional crime prevention programs.
- A video on Safety and Security Tips for Public Transportation.
- Situational awareness training. Watch the video of the recent training session.
- Read more on the Public Safety website.
- At night, take the well-lit and well-traveled paths. Avoid shortcuts through dark or isolated areas.
- Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to utilize the Walking Safety Escort Program—your safety, well-being, and peace of mind are at stake.
- Be prepared and ready with your keys before you approach your residence hall, apartment, home, or automobile.
- If you think someone is following you, don’t lead him or her to your destination—instead, abruptly change directions and go into a store or restaurant that is open.
- Be aware of your valuables and belongings, such as your backpack, handbag, or wallet. Even if you’re in a “safe” place for a short time, take them with you rather than leave them behind.
- When taking the bus or subway, use well-lit, and preferably well-peopled, stations.
Beware of Scams and Phishing
Fraudulent phishing emails and imposter phone calls are a big problem. Scammers are very creative and skillful in seeking access to your money and/or personal information by either gaining your confidence (“con artist”) or threatening you. They pretend to be from a government agency and demand money for a variety of fake reasons, including taxes you owe or a problem with your immigration status.
The best way to avoid being a victim of a scam is to be aware that they exist and have some common characteristics:
- Always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls and emails. If it doesn’t sound right—just hang up!
- Be aware that a government agency would never ask you to send money a certain way or purchase gift cards. Just hang up!
- Resist their pressure to act immediately, before you have time to think or check their information. Contact Public Safety.
Learn more on our website where we have consolidated sample scenarios and videos and additional resources.