Mehta (second from right) and swim team members on their annual early-January training trip to Key Largo, Florida

Aastha Mehta ’25 has three things to which she must give her attention every day: the swimming pool, the chemistry and biology lab, and her food blog, “Not Just Paastha.” 

But as busy as she is — being a competitive swimmer and diver, a cellular and molecular biology major, and a food writer — this sophomore finds gratitude in the smallest things. “Whether it’s a sunny day on campus, locker room chatter, or working with my friends in the biology lab, it’s rewarding to find at least one thing to be grateful for every day,” said Mehta.

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The Women's Swimming and Diving team in October 2022

Through the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, Mehta competes with Columbia undergraduates in NCAA Division 1 Athletics and the Ivy League Athletic Conference. This partnership makes Barnard the only women’s college to offer this opportunity.

Stay in the Flow

When Mehta is not exploring ramen around the city or cooking post-practice meals with her roommates, she serves as a representative of the swimming team on Columbia’s Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and Voice In Sport — organizations that work to destigmatize conversations surrounding mental health. Mehta collaborates with student-athletes, coaches, and athletics administrations to raise awareness about the high rates of anxiety and depression among female athletes. 

With a lot to wade through, Mehta turned to the support of her team while competing in the Ivy League Championships and ECAC Championships, February 22-26. “[The] milestone moments of my athletic experience are when my teammates and I defended our team’s title and put up university records together,” said Mehta.

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The team at the ECAC Championship in December 2022

Although the training for these competitions can be challenging, Mehta looks forward to team bonding after practice. “Training trips are such a wonderful way to bond with teammates while also working hard in the pool,” said Mehta. “It makes me appreciate how the sport of swimming has been able to bring me to meet some of my closest friends.”

When she thinks about what’s next, Mehta said she’s grateful for what she has today. 

“It is so refreshing to have a community in an academic setting that is built on helping each other, rather than on competing against each other,” said Mehta. “Through time spent with my teammates, coaches, and in classes, I am constantly reminded that — even when things are tough — finding support around me, and looking at the bigger picture, can help immensely.”

An Inside Look

Below, Mehta shares an inside look at her life as a student-athlete, mental health activist, and food writer.

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At the end of the 2022 ECAC Championships, Mehta and her team took a picture under the tree lights on Columbia’s College Walk.

My favorite part about being a Barnard student-athlete is … “the friendships I can make through the sport. My teammates are my family and I wouldn’t be who I am without them.” 

The most challenging part I find of being a student-athlete is … “the balancing act of my sport and academics. However, having amazing support from my teammates, coaches, and friends has allowed me to find ways to navigate the balance.”

I would never go anywhere without … “my swimmer’s ear drops.” 

When I’m not competing, I can often be found … “at Wu and Nussbaum. I love a good everything bagel with scallion cream cheese.” 

My favorite spot on campus is … “Liz’s Place because [of] the comfy red chairs, and [I can] get coffee from there after class.” 

After a difficult practice or workout, I like to … “go to Hewitt with my teammates!” 

The best advice that anyone has ever given me … “is that luck comes from hard work. The one thing I wish I had known before my first year at Barnard year is that it is okay to take time to adjust. You don’t have to be and do everything all at once. Take some time to know yourself and get accustomed to life away from home.”

A goal I want to achieve this year is … “to keep exploring New York City and to try at least one new restaurant every two weeks in order to nourish my food blog!”