Email is the primary official form of communication at Columbia. All students, including Barnard College students, are issued an email address @columbia.edu. Students at some schools are issued an additional email @barnard.edu, @gsb.columbia.edu, etc. All email addresses come with 250 MB of storage.
Most students check their email using CubMail. A small number of people still regularly use Pine to check their email.
The smarter method is to use Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. Outlook has more features, but it costs money, you probably won't use the extra features, and you'll come to hate the program after a few years in the real world. So you should consider using Thunderbird. Configuration instructions are here.