My Last Year as the Wicked Soundtrack

Hi everyone! As this is my last entry for the Class of 2015 Freshman Blog, I thought I would get a little reflective for this last post. I mean I could sputter on about all the changes, all the memories and friends and all nighters and mistakes, but come on. No. Instead, I’m going to re-cap my last year with the help of some wonderful music -- the Wicked soundtrack!

*I should warn you that because my life is not really like Wicked, some of the songs are chosen for their titles only and you should not read too much into the lyrics of the song… otherwise you might think I’m crazy. 

How I felt when I stepped onto the Hopkins campus for the first time as an actual STUDENT and thought of all the amazing things I was going to accomplish:

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=72A4VG_3aiI

How I felt when I was all unpacked, my parents had gone, and I was, for the first time in my life, completely independent. (Embarrassing secret time. I got overwhelmed that first night and a little scared so I watched old episodes of Glee until I felt good enough to go out and meet people! Don’t judge.)

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=W10IufttTsU&feature=related

How I felt going into all of my classes without knowing anyone. Luckily everyone was so nice and, well, desperate for friends that meeting people wasn’t very hard.

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=y_uM8bUnlGQ&feature=related

How I felt when I first tried the Carma’s Turkey/Cranberry/Brie (TCB) panini

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=z4tWBetHvsA&feature=related

How I felt when I learned last minute that in mock trial I would have to play Taylor Hopson (a hot mess of a character, and obviously written for a woman) on top of two other character witnesses that I actually liked playing

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=IlblHtqegcM&feature=related

How I felt at the start of winter break and looked back on my whirlwind of a first semester

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=of03sHr0O5I&feature=related

How I felt upon returning to Baltimore after such a long winter break!

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=uKJyURMuxds&feature=related

How I felt every time I picked classes! I approach course selection much in the same way as a rogue cop who has nothing to lose approaching a wanted criminal -- shoot first and ask questions later! I pick courses that look super interesting and fun (not a problem at Hopkins, let me tell you) and then realize in shock how all the classes I pick are either upper level, writing intensive, or have me as the only freshmen. But I go through with it anyways, and those courses have all been amazing experiences!

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=SmWiwh8Ap2M&feature=fvwrel

How I felt during finals season, when my amazing and interesting classes flooded me with papers and assignments. To this day I have no idea how I survived that week.

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=_vXF60wtCQU

How I felt when I left Hopkins and realized that I would never have to eat at the FFC again!

How I felt writing this blog and thinking about who I was a year ago almost to the day and who I am now, all because of Hopkins.

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=CQJaZO2nfGg

So that’s that! From here on out you’ll be able to find me on my soon-to-be new blog, For Cryan Out Loud (that’s my last name, for those who don’t get the pun.)

How I feel about leaving this blog and no longer writing alongside the eight other now-sophomore bloggers who I absolutely adore

httpv://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=iRhQHIqkTfw

*I totally get if you didn’t watch all the other videos, but you should watch this one. It’s hilarious.

Focus

I approach new skills and hobbies much in the same way, I assume, as a champion diver who doesn’t realize that he’s on the shallow side of the pool. I get all psyched up, I jump in gracefully with all my energy, and just as I get completely immersed – WHAM! I hit the wall. I then stumble out of the ‘pool’, make shifty eye contact to anyone who saw my embarrassing attempt, and then get the hell out of there.

It’s that second stage where I actually need to apply myself, when people switch from remarking “For a beginner, you’re doing remarkably!” (Pun ridiculously intended) to actually wanting to see solid improvement that I hit the wall. My track record speaks pretty profoundly for itself:

  • I’ve learned rudimentary phrases in Spanish, Italian, Wolof, Chinese, and Sign language, only to give them up later.
  • I’ve played guitar, viola, oboe, recorder, and even formed a band (“Kidz Only”) only to become the talentless performer I am today. That being said I still have a killer recorder rendition of Soft Kitty in my back pocket should the need arise.
  • I’ve played soccer, baseball and basketball at the little league level, was a ‘tumblebug’ young gymnast, finished a mini marathon and even captained my men’s foil fencing team – the most athletic thing I’ve done in the last year was race my friend Rob to a mini mart across the street from our hotel during a Mock Trial competition.

And if that’s just the major things that I can remember, just think of all the smaller hobbies that I can’t remember!

As a History buff, one of my favorite things to do is to look at the past, put together patterns, and apply it to the present. With data like this, it’s easy to do – I love to explore. I love to do it all, try it all, and just say “yes!” I actually really like this quality of mine, and the results from freshmen year – farsi, English country dance, chinese lion dancing, rushing (albeit half-heartedly) frats – have been amazing experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world. But there’s also a time to buckle down, to know what you want and to work hard to get it. My Sophomore year, I need to focus!

 

Okay maybe I won't scream but I can still make excited, happy faces!

I’ve already got this going in academics. Last year, my classes would give no possible indication of an intended major – there were multiple languages, Engineering, natural science, social science, and Humanities. But now, as a History major concentrating in America with a minor in French Cultural studies, I’m taking four classes in American History and one in French culture. I’m so excieted for this I could scream! I won’t, but I could.

I still don’t know what’s going to happen with my extracurriculars, but I know what I want. I want to figure out which activities make me really happy, which I look forward to doing and don’t feel like a drag on my life. I don’t volunteer with the Tutorial project for resume-padding or because they had the biggest signs at the Student activities Fair, but because the hours I spend reading with Robert and playing our math games are often the best parts of my day! I get the same feeling from Mock Trial and Admissions, and it’s in these areas that I want to really commit more and dig in my heels. That’s not to say that I’m going to throw everything else by the wayside, but if I’m participating in something and wondering, “Geez why am I here? I could be doing X right now!” …Well then, it’s time to cut out the fluff.

Then of course if I want to pursue teaching American History in High School, I need to do more (read: something) pertaining to education.  Hopefully I’ll be able to shadow teachers, find mentors, and start to understand with better precision just what I’m about to jump into! No more floating around, it’s time to throw down the anchor and focus.

Hopkins is the kind of place where it’s easy to over-commit. Hopkins has over 380 clubs and each one has such enthusiastic people in them that the pull to join in is incredibly strong. I mean I, the guy with barely any background in Chinese culture ended up dancing in a chinese lion because I thought it looked cool and the people were all really nice and friendly! Then by branching out to Baltimore and DC, you can get caught up in hundreds (thousands? Millions?) of different opportunities – Hopkins gave me the keys to do practically whatever I wanted, and the exploration of Freshman year was perfect for me. But now, as I enter Sophomore year, the time has come to Focus.

You Know What I Did Last Summer? …Good, ‘Cuz I Don’t

Hi Guys! As the title suggests, this summer is all about one thing – doing nothing. It’s weird because I’ve always had a tendency to live my life in a constant state of alarm – if I’m not running around, tearing my hair out and downing expresso shots like it’s nobody’s business then I feel like I’m doing something wrong. So in my gigantic break between finals (where I was that person times 10) and when I get to move back at the end of august, I’m trying to learn to enjoy a slower-paced life. So in this blog, I’d like to clarify exactly what my “doing nothing” entails:

Becoming More Artsy!

Want to guess which one is mine? Nope, not the creative insect... Not the beautiful ballerina... It's the ugly and disproportional Magician! ding ding ding!

I’ve never thought of myself as creative. I know that not coloring within the lines is supposed to be a badge of honor for being different and all, but for me it’s really just been a mark of shame. Therefore I thought I would make strides to fix that this summer and do some crafting! Thus far some of my bigger projects have been an infinity scarf, a self-tiled serving tray and one of those crayon-drip paintings. Enjoy the pictures –

Traveling the Northeastern Seaboard

When you look at a calendar and see a big chunk of blank space, it’s pretty easy to justify making trips to places a few hours away at the drop of a hat. So far I’ve gone down to Baltimore (as you may have read in my joint blog with JHU_Miranda) and made some trips to New York and Boston! I’ve got more planned to see friends in Long Island, back in B’more, and who knows where else before the summer is up.

My Dad's book, a really interesting interpretation of the series that explains a hell of a lot

Reading Books for Fun

I absolutely loved every moment I had during my Freshman year at Hopkins, but there just weren’t enough of them! I brought a lot of books to Hopkins, but didn’t end up reading any of them. I mean, my dad actually WROTE a book about the mythology and meaning of the TV series “Lost” in February and I didn’t even get to reading it until my finals were over in May! That’s pathetic. So this summer I’ve made my way through some great books, like Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (A JHU alum!) and the book of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, with the intention of seeing the movie really soon.

Beautification

I don't make the reveal until I have a final product to present

I’ve got the time and the resources finally to do a little work on me. We’ve got a good amount of exercise equipment in my basement that I’ve been working out on almost every day, I’ve developed a regimen of green tea bags, aloe, cucumber slices and moisturizer to get rid of the dark under-eye circles that have plagued me since before I can remember, and I’ve been hitting up the beach a lot for a bit of a tan! I know that when I plug back into Hopkins life a lot of this will fall by the wayside, so I’m taking advantage of my time while I can!

Exploring Guilty Pleasure Television

My favorite contestant who (spoiler) just got kicked off! I was so upset you couldn't even imagine. Now I'm Team Aylin

My summer shows are Drop Dead Diva, The Glee Project, and Supernatural. DDD Because this Grayson/Jane rollercoaster is turning me into an emotional wreck, TGP because I am and forever will be a gigantic gleek no matter how far downhill the writing goes, and while it’s objectively a terrible show, anybody who has ever watched Supernatural knows exactly why I love it.

Chicken bites and cucumber/tuna/jalapeno snacks

Cooking

Next year I will have a kitchenette! Hooray! Cue the fanfare! Seriously, I am really excited about this fact and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking up little recipes I can do quickly and easily. I’ve experimented making different iced teas and got a pretty great replica of Chocolatea’s Ginger Hibiscus tea, I’ve got chicken bites (my secret is cayenne pepper in the bread crumbs), quinoa salad, and killer vegetarian fajitas. I can’t wait to show these recipes off!

Then of course I’ll throw in the whole “seeing friends, sleeping forever, constantly snacking” thing just for good measure. I’m enjoying this summer immensely and all the time I have to relax, but there’s still a part of me just itching to get back to Hopkins and dive headfirst into my sophomore year.

Overlooked and Over-hyped

Hi everyone! So a few days ago I was talking to one of my recently graduated, college-bound friends and she asked me what was the best dorm item I brought to college that you wouldn’t normally think of bringing, and what I thought I needed to bring but never actually used. Now that’s a really great question, but unfortunately at the time I had a really bad answer… mainly a collection of “Umm…”s. Whoops. Therefore, I’d like to dedicate this blog to her and to a legitimate answer which hopefully will be enlightening to all you Hopkins 2016ers who are just now (or soon to be) in the midst of getting things for college!

Decorating your dorm is HARD. I mean, the room is small, you’re sharing it with a person who has a completely different idea for decoration, and to top it all off, you’ve never even seen the room you’re supposed to decorate! That’s why I don’t want to be too specific when I’m writing this blog -- dorms can be big or small, some roommates like to get on facebook and talk decorating strategy until they’re blue in the face, and apart from at least one window, an armoire, a dresser, a desk and a bed there’s really nothing that every dorm shares in common. So, for me to tell you that putting my drawers next to the teeny hallway between my bed and my door as a nice “ready to leave” action station was a good idea will have NO use for you. So by sticking to those items that are either overlooked or over-hyped, this can remain applicable to everyone, and not just the future resident of AMR 1 Wood house #123.

Overlooked

So comfortable!

  1. YOUR OWN CHAIR. There is little reason whatsoever for you to be forced into one of those old wooden university sponsored chairs provided to you. Sure they scoot right under your desk, but please. Try sitting on those for a couple hours while you bang out homework assignments and a certain part of your body will start raising hell. So instead I decided to buy a rolly-executive massage chair, and I could not have been happier with the result! If you quarter loft your bed (which I recommend) then the university chair slides perfectly underneath.
  2. THROW PILLOWS. So maybe all my friends poked fun at the massive amount of pillows, throw and otherwise, that I brought into my room, but you know what? It was worth it. Granted I totally went overboard (grand total- 16…) but I think 4-6 throw pillows are essential to a comfortable, versatile room. They’re great when you want to decorate your bed, make the back of your seat a little more comfy, or have people over for movie nights and things!
  3. KEURIG MACHINE. So you’re not allowed to have appliances with “external heating elements”…whatever that means. But Keurigs are okay! So yes there are about 5345346 places to get coffee within 10 minutes of your room, but if you’re the kind of person who needs coffee in the morning but doesn’t want to walk out to get it, this is perfect. Literally you can load it up with a K cup the night before, and when you wake up all you have to do is turn it on. Then you can rest your eyes for like 2 minutes while it heats up, then it flashes blue and you’re ready to get out of bed with a fresh cup of coffee! This appliance was sent from Heaven.
  4. GARBAGE BAGS. It took me forever to realize this, but these are vitally important. Because garbage is gross. So if you just put it in the pail, and empty the entire pail into the large hallway ones then it’s just… well gross. These bags make everything a million times easier, promise.
  5. THUMB TACKS. Many dorm rooms at Hopkins have walls that are completely covered in painted corkboard, which means that all you have to do to put up pictures or anything is tack them up! Here’s a look at some tacked up designs:

This was my little "inspiration corner"

My "Tack up random things I find around Hopkins" wall

In December my mom sent me the fixings for an Advent calendar and I tacked them up to my wall!

I used tacks to hold up my homemade scarves, framed photos, and important papers I was afraid of losing!

Over-Hyped

  1. BED CADDIES. I don’t know what diabolical genius invented these things, but they are nothing more than a source of frustration. They get in the way, they never sit still, they slip, they just plain don’t work. Sure, they look all cool and space efficient, and you can easily see them becoming the most important decorating purchase you’ll ever make. Here is my response: 
  2. A PRINTER. As a freshman, you will never live more than 5 minutes away from the library, where printing is 7 measly cents a page. Factor ink, the purchase price, and paper, and I promise it won’t save money. They are big space wasters as well. If you really need something printed at the moment and don’t have time to make it to the library, well then I’m sure one of your friends/suitemates has one you can borrow.
  3. DISHWARE. While important for you people with kitchenettes, for those of you in the AMRs or Buildings, there’s little use. Yes, a travel mug for Keurig coffee and a water bottle for the gym are nice, but plates, forks, spoons, bowls, glasses and the like are not suitable for dorm life. I don’t know how bed bath and beyond convinced me they were a good idea, but I never ever used them. Having utensils is nice, but they give out relatively nice plastic ones for free at CharMar which is much better. Also I know like environment-wise disposable plastic utensils, paper plates and Styrofoam cups (all useful) are the moral equivalent of murdering fish, but there’s no better option. Have you tried cleaning out dishware in the dorm bathrooms? I have. Not a good look.
  4. BIKES. I know there are some who disagree with me, but our campus is small, Baltimore has fine public transportation, and the number of hills and inclines around Hopkins means that biking is relatively useless and harder than walking. Also you know that thing where two people walk toward each other but when they go to pass they both step to the same side, then to the other same side, and over and over and it’s super awkward? Yeah well when one of those people is on a bike, it’s not only awkward, but terrifying.
  5. YOUR ENTIRE WARDROBE. First off, you don’t need a winter parka when you all move in at the end of August. I recommend you leave cold weather clothes at home, and phase bringing them back through parents weekend in October, thanksgiving, and Christmas break, as you phase out your summer clothes at the same rate. Furthermore, be picky about which clothes you bring to college -- if you haven’t worn a shirt in a long time, chances are you won’t start back up at Hopkins. Also, you will get more T-shirts than you know what to do with in the first few weeks, so don’t bring a lot to begin with.

I hope these two lists help you all streamline the process of packing for Hopkins! I mean it when I say that I can’t wait to meet all of you!

PS. I’m shamelessly plugging for all you 2016ers to enter the Hopkins Interactive Summer Blogging Contest -- it’s a wonderful opportunity to write something meaningful about coming to Hopkins, get it published, and make a name for yourself before you get here: http://www.hopkins-interactive.com/blogging-contest

PPS. I was about to publish this when I realized that JHU_Purna wrote a very similar blog! Well we reached different conclusions and stuff so check hers out too: http://blogs.hopkins-interactive.com/2015/2012/07/what-planning-for-school-already/

I Will Survive!

It helps if you sing it, just sayin’… Here’s the tune (But you really should know it already)

 

At first I was afraid, I was petrified

My new home

Kept thinking I could never live without home by my side

But then I spent so many nights thinking how us two were wrong

And I chose Hopkins, so I could finally get along!

 

But now I’m back from Freshman year,

I just drove in to find you here with the same look, where’s engineers?

Should I have done a summer course?

Is Baltimore the place for me?

Whatever folks, now I’ve got time to watch old reruns of Glee!

Brunch! Yummmm

 

My friends said “Go!” I walked out the door,

I took the train down for a fun weekend in B’more!

It was like Hop and I had never said goodbye,

We made apple crumble, it tasted just like pie!

 

Oh, well I, I will survive!

As long as I’ve got Horcruxes I know I’ll stay alive

I’ve got best friends here who care, I’ve still got amazing hair

And I’ll survive, I will survive! (hey hey!)

 

It took all the strength I had to ace every class,

The hours I spent reading, Oh! my tired a**!

Me at a SAAB photo shoot! (this was *almost* my hopkins profile pic but the face is just too goofy...)

But I lovingly look back on nights I felt sorry for myself

Because with that work, I can now hold my head up high!

 

And you see me, somebody new

I’m not that dorky little person (ish) who’s still missin’ you.

I’m setting goals, I’m having fun, I feel completely free,

And I’m saving all my calories for the FFC!

 

Why can’t I go, around campus?

Being a tour guide, man that’s something that I miss!

What should I do these next two months, with no dorm and no things?

Guess I’ll keep blogging, I’ll just give advice and sing!

 

Because I, I will survive!

As long as I know I’ll return, I know I’ll stay alive

‘Cuz I’ve got three more years to live, and I’ve got so much more to give

And I’ll survive, I will survive, oh!

36 Hours in Baltimore, Part 1

Kevin: Hi guys! I know that it’s been a long time since my last post, and I never really got to say a proper wrap up and goodbye, but goodbyes are sappy and whatever so maybe it’s for the best. Freshman year is o…wait for it…VER! Oh by the way I’ve been watching a lot of TV, including How I Met Your Mother, since I’ve been home. Whoops.

Back to the point of this post, after being away from the beautiful Hopkins campus for like two and a half weeks, I couldn’t take it anymore, and impulsively hopped on a train to come down and spend the weekend with my friends! They’re all doing cool things – one of them is doing some kind of genetic-y programming-y thing I don’t completely understand, another is working for Hopkins alumni relations, and the third is working for a program to increase college awareness within a local Baltimore middle school! I’m in pretty great company.

It’s been really great to come back to Hopkins without the stress of the year hanging over me. Don’t get me wrong – being here in the year exceeded every expectation I put forth and it was the greatest year of my life, but there’s really just a different feeling to be back and free. It’s fun.

So now I’m sitting down to co-write a blog with JHU_Miranda in her apartment to reflect upon a whirlwind 36 hours of food, sun, and friends!

Miranda: Hi everyone! It’s also been a while since I last wrote. In that time, I’ve written more pages than I care to count, moved out of my apartment and into my summer sublet in Homewood, and spent an amazingly wonderful 2.5 weeks visiting friends and family in England (which I’ll probably post about soon). After a 35 hour travel debacle involving pieces of planes falling off over the mid-Atlantic and getting stranded in Toronto, I’m back in Baltimore for the next eight weeks for my internship through the CSC internship program. Since finishing training Friday afternoon, I’ve been having fun enjoying Baltimore and seeing some of my Hopkins friends. Since this post focuses on the 36 hours in Baltimore from Saturday noon to Sunday at midnight, here are a few more things I did before that (which you could probably also fit into 36 hours if you tried!).

The Food Truck Gathering–Baltimore has a growing number of food trucks, and all of them descended on Hampden on Friday evening, forming a food truck food court! I went with my roommate from this past year and friend Jenny, and between us we got a tostada, a bulgogi bento box, and two cupcakes (strawberries and champagne flavored and French toast!), all of which was quite delicious. It was also during a tornado watch for Balitmore, and we ended up completely soaked from sharing my umbrella in a downpour. My shoes are still drying.

Farmer’s Market–I hadn’t been to the Farmer’s Market since last summer, but I was glad I went! Jenny and I had brunch there (chicken empanada and chocolate croissant for her and vegetable emapanada and Caribbean samosa for me), and I also stocked up on other food (and was promised a free Ethiopian samosa next week since they ran out right before I could try to get one!)

Saturday

12:00 pm

Gaah I'm still dying over how good that food was!

Kevin: Wake up after getting in Friday night, decide what to do… hmm… brunch? I’m a classy guy, and I prepare to go out with my friends. Over an hour later…(No apologies no regrets)

1:15

Kevin: One World Cafe for brunch! French toast, omelets, coffee, …more coffee… This was the greatest decision of my life. I’m here with my Mock Trial family, Emily and Rob, but we’re missing Miranda, my big-big!

Miranda: I’m at the mall trying to locate my friend inside H&M. I open my phone to text her, and find 3 missed calls and 11 texts. Clearly, they miss me.

There was a lot more where this came from...

3:30

Miranda: The mall has one of my favorite stores, Trader Joe’s, so I’d suggested to Kevin/Rob that we make dinner at home so that we could eat good food without spending the money needed for eating out. After some discussion, we settled on homemade pizza, so we divided ingredient shopping. I also picked up other things to eat for the next few weeks, and went to wait for the (perennially late) bus home.

Kevin: Miranda texts from the mall for my friends and I to pick up ingredients at Eddies, a local supermarket, so we can all cook dinner together! Side note: Eddies donates food to the Tutorial Project for snack time, so I love to support the business.

5:30

Kevin: Chilling out at home base, my friend’s apartment, waiting for Miranda. She finally shows up and we make pineapple pizza. It was amazing! But let’s be real for a second – I made it, so success was always in the cards.

Words alone cannot do this show justice!

Miranda:Even though Kevin didn’t believe that my dough choice (garlic and herb) would work with pineapple, and dismissed my claim of eating this combination for the last seven years, he ended up a believer. Delicious pizza, made even better by the 8th floor view from Rob’s apartment!

6:15

Miranda: Rob and I are now being initiated to Kevin’s favorite show…

Kevin: BAGGAGE! Singles tell all their secrets for a chance for love, hosted by Jerry Springer. Bad TV has never been better.

6:45

Kevin: Miranda knows a playground down the road – plans made! We start walking over, but when we got there a bunch of like 6 year olds were on my turf — the swings. Not okay. So anyways we walked down to around Mrs. Shirley’s, a Baltimore favorite. Miranda and I also shared a moment with a crab.

Miranda: Baltimore has all of these crab sculptures around the city. They were part of an art installation, and have since been placed around the city (check out the Hopkins one by CharMar!). We found this one in a parking lot on Cold Spring Lane, and took several pictures, one of which Rob kindly instagrammed.

7:45

Miranda: It’s late enough that the playground has cleared out. We take over the swings, and discover that this playground is cool enough to have a mini rock climbing wall, as well as a big slide. We persuade Kevin to try out the climbing wall, and with encouragement he makes it down the slide too!

Kevin: Terror at the playground as I’m goaded into the rock climbing wall. I know that children can do this all the time but I’m pretty sure I almost died. The slide did make me feel better, though.

8:30

Miranda: We take a scenic route home, and enjoy the sunset on our way back. When we returned, we did karaoke to some fabulous selections, including the French version of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” and “Accidentally in Love.”

Kevin: I’m a musical genius. My off-key and pitchy “Somebody that I used to know” is Idol-worthy. Get at me, world.

Kevin: That was just the first half, with a gigantic introduction. Check back very soon to Hopkins Interactive to see the rest of our Sunday shenanigans! Until then I expect all my millions of readers to sit anxiously at the edges of their seats checking furiously for part 2 to be released.

Miranda: But wait! There’s more! Check back soon for the rest of our adventures, including adopting a puppy, some more awesome food, and weddings.

Too Much Junk in the Trunk

Hi guys!

So, for what is likely to be my penultimate blog of the year (!!!!!), I’ve decided to start winding down. Or winding up, to use the ever-positive JHU_Zoe’s terminology!  Anyways, I’ll save all the mushy reflection-y stuff for later. For now, I want to talk about junk.

I’ve always been fascinated by the way things got to the places they are. Why is the word for “Bus” the same in Farsi as it is in French? Why is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so ridiculously complicated? Why are there sugar packets placed neatly on the floor?!

 

 As I looked around my room, I got to thinking along these lines -- I’ve accumulated so. much. junk. A lot of it I throw away or lose or whatever, but I’m also really sentimental, and will save the oddest things for literally no reason. They say you can learn everything you need to know about a person by looking through their trash — with that idea in mind, just think about what we could discover about my year through my entire room? I’m ready to dive right in!

A bunch of weird stuff

The part of my room that really exemplifies this idea is my colorful wall of junk. This is just stuff that I picked up, thought was too cool to throw away, and tacked up instead! Now this is a lot of stuff, so I’m going to break it down a little:

So what do we see?

The right side of the wall

2 booklets from each of the symposiums on campus: We have the Milton S. Eisenhower symposium in the fall, and Foreign Affairs Symposium in the spring, and they bring really cool people to come speak! This year I went to a few of their events, such as when they brought Aziz Ansari, David Axelrod, Karl Rove, John Ashcroft, and a panel from different Occupy groups around America. They were awesome!

The heart from a Valentines day candygram: Thanks Kathleen! I wuv you too buddy!

An “I <3 JHU” button: I wear that on Open House days so prospective students (That’s you!) know they can come up to me and ask questions.

A letter from my Tutorial Project Organizer: It was tutor appreciation day, and so my absolutely wonderful organizer wrote me a letter of appreciation on a green piece of construction paper with a picture of me and my tutee on it. I love the Tutorial Project!

Some yarn: Over my winter break I had a ton of time on my hands and not that much to fill it with! So, I took up knitting! That’s just some extra that I had that wasn’t enough to make something out of, so up on the board it went!

A name tag: This I got during my intersession class, Dancing like Jane Austen, because you should probably know the names of the people you’re dancing with, I guess.

A bumper sticker: Because I don’t have a car to put it on and it was handed out for free!

A flyer from the Witness theater winter showcase: My best friend was in it so a bunch of my friends went out to support her and see the show. She was really good in it!

The other part of the wall!

A Hopkins tag that says “Liquenchifaction”: This I peeled off a water bottle I was given after doing an admissions panel with prospective parents, I thought it was cool.

A flyer from “A Piece of my Heart”: This was a very professionally done Barnstormers play about women in Vietnam. Brava!

My business card: It’s the dorkiest thing ever, but sometimes I like to give them out on tours, just so people know there are places for them to ask me questions about Hopkins. Like my FORUMS PAGE.

A JHope sticker: These were being handed out on the breezeway to raise breast cancer awareness, and I wanted to tack it up!

A train ticket back home: There’s a direct train from Baltimore to my town, so it’s a useful way to travel back for breaks and stuff. I actually have a bunch of train ticket stubs around (I just can’t throw them out for some reason) from trips to DC. They’re super cheap on the MARC train!

A “Make it Rain!” poster: From my successful and unopposed campaign for fundraising chair of Mock Trial team! I had a hilarious speech, lots of great posters, and some great friends to help with the audio-visual effects! That election was a great night and I love having the posters to remember it by.

A letter from my sister: Up in the top corner is one of her letters -- we’ve been doing this CD sharing thing where we send each other songs we like in the mail along with letters and such. It’s been really fun and brought us closer together now that we hardly get to see one another anymore.

A blogging spreadsheet: One thing that I’ve been doing is taking the lead on the Admitted Student Blog! This spreadsheet was all part of the planning stages, but now I encourage all of you to check out the finished product

2 Dr. Who posters: I got into this show over winter break and I LOVE IT. I now watch lots of episodes by streaming them via netflix through my ipad which I put on the magazine holders on top of the ellipticals. Perfection has been realized.


Memorabilia from home:
A poster of a shark from fencing senior night, my high school mock trial superlative poster and a glass painting from italy! Each holds a special place in my heart, full of inside jokes and fun memories.

Lamp decorations: During my first all-nighter of the year, at one point I was so wired on caffeine (around 4am) that I literally couldn’t work, and so spent about a half an hour obsessively braiding some pipe cleaners and arranging them in artistic ways. Most were thrown out, but I liked the way this one looked.

Glee poster: Say what you will about some of the recent episodes and new characters (i want to punch Rory in the mouth and where in the world did Karofsky go?) I love that show to pieces. So for a secret santa gift my friend got me this huge poster! I adore it and her. 

And finally, that thing that will tell you a lot about a person, My trash: As you can see, to-go-boxes GALORE. There are a few reasons for this -- first, I’m super busy and rarely have time to eat at the FFC. Fact of life. Second, my friends and I like sometimes to have dinner in my dorm when we do have time, because it’s just a nicer atmosphere. Third, I’ve been looking for jobs as a waiter this summer because I’m oddly enamored with the food service industry, so to-go-boxes offer great practice for carrying trays. Also the contents of these boxes would be the remnants of really healthy meals, as I’m trying to recuperate from all the funnel cakes, twister fries, sodas, and “chicken-on-a-stick”s that I gluttonously ate at Spring Fair!

Now that’s just the tip of the iceberg for all the junk stuffed in my room, and all that junk is just the tip of the iceberg  of the stuff I received over the course of my year. It’s weird to think about in specific terms, but these are the kinds of things that make a place a home. I guess I haven’t really thought about it until now, but it is going to be really, really hard to say goodbye to this home in just 3 weeks.

 

Why Hopkins? Because I Go Here!

Hello all!

You’ve indubitably noticed the distinct increase of posts both on our student blogs and more poignantly on our Admitted Student Blog which seek to answer that age-old question of “Why Hopkins?”

Certainly, our academics are excellent. We have tons of different clubs, sports, and things to do around campus. The people are great, and come from around the world. The city is nice and its location is convenient. Research opportunities abound. These are all very, very good reasons to choose Hopkins.

I mean like a lot of colleges have pretty brick buildings. I would argue that we have the prettiest, but it's totally subjective! Well, except at sunset, of course.

But just about any college can boast about these things. Sure, on a lot of counts Hopkins is stronger in Academics/student life/Research than University X, but that’s all measured on a really subjective scale. Colleges will all try to obfuscate and claim some sort of advantage in these departments until decisions for you are just a murky mess of rhetoric. But what is one thing that no other college in the entire world has? What thing sets Hopkins indisputably apart?

Me! I go here!

I mean, I’m really funny, smart, pretty, modest… the whole package! Just think – if you choose anywhere else in the world to go to college, you go there knowing that the chances of us meeting and being best friends for ever grow infinitely smaller. Think of the missed opportunities for us to chill on the beach, go to parties, and hold study sessions! Do you really want to live in a world devoid of JHU_Kevin? Frankly I don’t understand how the rest of the world does it.

But that’s like five sentences more than enough ego-stroking. There’s actually a second level to this post, something a little more real.

When I think about the negative stereotypes surrounding Hopkins, I should be miserable here. Really, I should hate this place! I’ll go into this with a little more detail in a moment, but seriously, the Humanities suburbanite who doesn’t like studying in libraries, doesn’t have a cutthroat bone in his body (okay, so maybe I’m not done ego-boosting) and wants a social life should be Hopkins’ rarest and most miserable variety of student.

So why is it that I’m so happy here? I actually really do love this school, so much so in fact that I volunteer my time to write these blogs for all of you! How can this be? Well, maybe all those critics are just plain wrong. So let’s take some of these on, using myself as a case study.

A Hopkins Pre-med Engineer.

1. We’re all Engineering and Pre-med Nerds. Okay well the only part of this that I fit is that I am, in fact, a gigantic nerd. I like to work, I get super-excited about what I’m learning in class, and I will swear by the amazingness that is Dr. Who until the day I die. As for the rest, that’s easy enough to refute. I am, as of a few days ago, an officially declared History major with a minor in French Cultural Studies! Both our History and French departments are some of the best in the nation, along with many other Humanities departments. Academics here are strong everywhere, and I will keep saying that until the day the whole world accepts it.

2. Everyone is Cutthroat. All right, first I’d like to start off by saying that never in my time here have I torn pages out of books or notebooks, fed peers wrong answers, or done anything mean like that. I’ve also never heard anyone say that happened to them. Full disclosure, I once borrowed a book out of the library and didn’t give it back for a really long time, which I guess could be construed as me trying to hoard it so nobody else could read it and absorb it’s knowledge, but that would be giving me way too much credit. I just lost it is all. Whoops!

3. It’s the weekend! Party in the Library! BYOBookwork! So there are two parts here that I would like to address. The first is that I personally never study in the library. A lot of kids do, a lot of kids do a lot of the time, but I know that I don’t, and there are many people like me. So if you’re like me and the library isn’t your scene, there are other places, I promise. Check out my review of the best campus areas to study!

Then, of course, there’s social life. So I don’t particularly love the frat party scene. I enjoy having fun and doing things with a bunch of my friends instead! I mean sometimes I go, there are students who go a lot more often than me, and students who go out a lot less. To tell you the truth there have been some nights on weekends where I was so swamped with work that I stayed in to finish it all, but we’re talking like 1-2 times a semester for me. Social life is what you make of it – social people do more social things than non-social people, it’s kind of inherently embedded in the definition.

 

4. You’re going to school in Baltimore? Prepare to get caught up in a gang war and die. I refer you to the hilarious GIF to the right. The Hopkins campus is incredibly safe, and I’ve always felt well protected while on it. With the surrounding area, the few blocks in each direction are safe and actually quite fun and prettyneighborhoods! Walking a bit further out, yeah, I don’t feel very safe, especially in the dark and whatever – Baltimore’s a city, what can you expect? That’s why I always walk with people and exercise common sense. I have not been mugged or killed, so I think my system works. And this is coming from the guy who lived in the middle of suburbia his whole life!

So why Hopkins? Because if I, the kind of person who apparently should hate Hopkins, can be so utterly, blissfully happy here, then really anybody can!

Also I set the featured image as that GIF because I laughed for like 3 minutes straight when I first saw it and also I thought it would be ironic when juxtaposed with such a self-confident-to-the-point-of-cocky title. See? I’m really funny! And smart!

Those Pesky Little Things…

Come one, come all to the staple post of Hopkins Interactive — the classes blog!

My semester's courses!

This semester has been absolutely crazy. There have been days when I’ve been so excited about the material I’m learning that I run back home and annoy my friends to death with it (“Did you know Lincoln’s dad sold a house for 20 bucks and a couple barrels of whiskey?!” ” Waiiit let me tell you about structural adjustment program effects on African agriculture!” “I learned how to sing the entirety of “Forget you” in French! Want to hear??”)  and there have been days when i’ve been so stressed with the workload that I…I… I wore sweatpants! Nothing says “My life is a mess and I’ve been reduced to a soulless blob of work” more clearly. But through it all, I’m so happy with my course choices for the semester and I’m now to share them all with you!

Advanced Writing and Speaking in French

Once again, it’s French! This is the continuation of the class that I had last semester and it’s as fun as ever. I have the same TA teaching the class and while some of the other students were in my class last semester, it’s mostly a new mix. There are the same 4 basic assignments due every week – Vocabulaire, Dossier (a little packet with articles in French), Grammaire, and a 1/1.5 page Commentaire where I just write whatever comes to mind about the theme of the week. Some themes we’ve covered were violence/war, traveling, beauty, Paris, and technology. I know some people initially feel that the teaching in romance language grammar classes are inherently inferior because they are taught by TAs and not professors, but that disappears almost instantly once class starts. The TAs are all grad students from francophone countries and because of that, they are easy to talk to, very enthusiastic, know their material, and can teach culture really well because it’s their culture and they are just a few years older than us! Plus, considering that the French Government considers the Hopkins department to be one of the best in America, we’re doing something right. It’s certainly a wonderful class and I can’t wait to keep taking it!

Beginner Persian

من کِلاسِ فارسی دوست دارم

(Translated: I like persian class) This class is just fun. I saw it on the lists, and thought to myself that if there is ever going to be a time in my life when I would pick up a whole new language just for fun, it would be right now! The professor for this class is very smart and really funny – he has just a feel of self-actualization that teaching is what he was meant to do. This translated to very interesting classes on grammar, alphabet work, and vocabulary work, but also interesting (and often) tangents about Iranian culture and his particularly enthusiastic points of view. He’s also a very accomplished professor of the Farsi language and actually wrote the book on teaching Persian! The class is very small, and JHU_Jacqueline is in it as well!

Contemporary African Political Economies in Historical Perspectives

This is the gigantic academic book looking at the historical context for the practice of Islam in Mali which i had to critique. It was scary.

God I love saying that name, it makes me feel so smart. Which is actually quite interesting, considering how much this one class opens my eyes to just how much I have left to learn. Covering current major issues in Africa by looking closely at how they developed over time, this class is by far the most “Academic” class that I’ve ever taken. There are veritable mountains of academic studies that we read for each class and then discuss and debate. I’ve learned what an abstract is, how to write like a scholar, how to critique “literature”, and that social science is a whole lot bigger and in depth than I ever imagined possible. It’s been daunting, to be sure, and I feel like the training wheels just came off the bike. But that excitement is there too, and this class I know is going to be one that I look back on fondly — all nighters and everything.

Hot Topics in Education

This class is probably the most “fun” class that I’m taking. The parentheses are to show that this means nerd fun, the kind where you study and hotly debate different issues in educational policy being batted around right now, like charter schools, year-round schooling, and tracking. Right now, we’re doing the “Great debates” for a month, where everyone in our 10-person class pairs up and debates an issue in front of the class. It’s like my version of the WWF… “Wow that’s quite an indictment against tracking! Is she pulling out a statistic? OH MY GOD she is! SMACKDOWN! KOOOOOOO” It’s really a wonder I have friends.

Abraham Lincoln and His America

 Finally, it’s my class in American History! You know, that thing that I want to, like, do with my life? I really like this class – the professor is nice and again, wrote the book on Lincoln. (Isn’t it funny how that keeps happening?) This class is very fun because of the “And His America” approach to Lincoln. You can talk about his life a lot, and we do, but where this class really places emphasis is on the context around Lincoln. We read newspapers from the time period for homework, (greatest. homework. ever.) we look at the lives of his contemporaries as well, such as Stephen Douglas, Frederic Douglass, and Mary Todd, as well as look less at what he did, but rather how and why he did so. It’s a cool approach and a nice fun class to introduce me to the American History department.

And that’s that! I hope that you all enjoyed this quick look into the life and times of JHU_Kevin!

Before you go, however, I have a few reminders for all you readers out there:

  • Starting April 1st and continuing every day for the entire month we will have an Admitted Students blog! For all of you who will receive RD acceptances from Hopkins tomorrow I expect you to wait for it with baited breath and anticipation. It is going to be (don’t say it) AMAZING.
  • Being the kind and giving person I am, I have a special forums page dedicated solely towards answering any and all questions you have about Hopkins and whatever. It has been a constant thorn in my side that I have by far the least number of views! How can this be?! So I am going to provide a super big really gigantic you could not possibly miss it oh my look how big it is jeez louise that’s really huge link to my forums page to hopefully so you will see it and ask me questions which I will enthusiastically answer out of sheer gratitude from getting a question.
  • For all you admitted students, Come to SOHOP! It’s the Student Open House and Overnight Program and you can learn all about Hopkins, search me out on campus, and stay overnight in a real Hopkins dorm room with real Hopkins students!

The Right Chair for You

Hi everyone!

…It’s midterms week.

I’m just going to let that hang there for a moment so you can understand the gravity of that statement. For pretty much every student over the last week or so, the workload has really piled on, and stress levels have been hitting the ceiling. But there have been some great blogs on what that’s like, and surviving it – so I’ll pass up writing about that.

But as I moved around campus with my extremely dense book about Islam in Mali (essay on it due tomorrow… eek!), trying to concentrate, I came up with a blog idea! I found that the study spots I liked weren’t doing it for me for some reason or another, and some that I used to dismiss suddenly became incredibly attractive options. What gives? Well, I decided to try and figure that out.

So, without further ado, I present to you the JHU_Kevin official review of Campus Chairs!

The Atrium

“The crown jewel of the Gilman renovation”

Comfiness: Unusual shape of the chair takes some getting used to, but it grows on you. Fabric is a bit scratchy.

Fatigue Factor (TM): High. This means that it becomes hard to sit there for a long duration of time.

Ambiance: Special Engineering magic drastically reduces echoing, which is nice. Low murmur constantly present as this is a big meeting place as well. High chance of interruption when you inevitably see friends as they pass through.

Optimal Study Material: Academic article. Chairs with tables in close proximity lend themselves nicely to sitting back and reading, then sitting up to mark up the document at important points. Furthermore, if your article has a cool title you can leave it conspicuously on the table and pretend to check your phone to see if any passerbys notice it and look impressed. (I’ve never… done that…)

The Levering Lounge

“Like sort of an unofficial student union”

Comfiness: The couches and armchairs are firm, with average softness cloth. Don’t expect to nap on them, but they can be great when sitting up straight in them.

Fatigue Factor: Medium-low. If you can find the right position (and you can) you can easily study there for hours. As I have.

Ambiance: Fireplaces which occasionally run give the lounge a nice “armchairs and firplace study” vibe, likely because it is made up of armchairs and fireplaces. But you know what I mean. In the center of the lounge is Pura Vida, a fair trade coffeeshop which makes an incredible mocha. However this adds foot traffic and the associated noise.

Optimal Study Material: Language work. The small 1/2 person size tables are great for doing language worksheets, and the ambience of the room plus the couches make it great for meeting with a friend to practice, and the conversations emanating from pura vida provide sound cover for your practicing pronunciation or conversations.

The Library

“Um duh”

Comfiness: It’s a chair and a desk. Pretty standard.

Fatigue Factor: Low. While most Hopkins students (myself included) choose not to, it is very possible to spend long hours at these cubicles, banging out homework assignments.

Ambiance: You’re sitting around a bunch of other people who are also working hard, probably with headphones in, focused on getting your work done quickly. There really isn’t an ambiance — and that’s the appeal.

Optimal Study Material: Math/Science problem sets. From my limited experience with Engineering last semester, I concluded that the best way to do that kind of work is where there are no distractions and you can focus solely on the numbers in front of you. The library does that.

Outside

It’s 80 degrees, sunny, with a nice breeze – why would you spend any time indoors?”

Comfiness: Infinity. However outside is a broad term, and in terms of comfiness for the most popular places, I’ve come up with this list: Beach>Quad>Bench>low-lying wide ledge.

Fatigue Factor: Variable. Sitting on grass, it can be quite low, but often too low, and you end up napping/tanning. Which is not exactly a bad thing. As for benches and ledges, it can hurt your back after about a half hour.

Ambiance: In nice weather, amazing. However you are likely to run into a bunch of people you know (getting distracted) and also if you hate bugs that can be a problem.

Optimal Study Material: Light reading. Nothing too intense, that ruins the experience, but maybe a biography you need to read, or some poems. Now that sounds perfect.

The Hut

“Super pretty. Like… SUPER pretty.”

Comfiness: High. The armchairs are the kind that you can just sink right into, and those which look through the stained glass windows soak the people in them in sunlight, keeping you warm.

Fatigue Factor: Low. The comfiness just lends itself to staying there forever, and most people who go there bring work with them that necessitates working for a while.

Ambiance: Quiet whispering, and a very powerful “Humanities workstation” feel. You really have to go there to understand, but trust me, you will.

I tend to ruin my bed when I study on it and turn it into a mess of papers, pillows, and blankets... it looks a lot less comfy than it actually is.

Optimal Study Material: Heavy reading. This is where you sink into a chair with your some-hundred page book that uses big words that all seem to end in -iological and work your way through it. The more academic the book, the smarter you’ll look to all the people around you who I promise have glanced over at least for a second with judgmental eyes, and the better you’ll feel.

Your Bed

“Whoever said that studying and falling asleep were mutually exclusive?”

Comfiness: Incredibly high. It’s a bed, after all. Really the only reason I listed it among these other chairs is because with enough pillows it can be shaped like a super comfy chair. Currently I have 18 pillows total in my room, for very complex reasons I’d rather not go into.

Fatigue Factor: Incredibly low. In fact, so low that it’s a struggle to stay awake, hence the quote above.

Ambiance: Whatever you want it to be – super quiet, music blaring, friends over, whatever.

Optimal Study Material: All forms of reading, as well as general Ipad/laptop work.

Your Desk Chair

“Rumor has it these were designed for students to do work on”

Comfiness: With the Hopkins provided chair, meh. With my brought-from-home leather executive massage chair, it’s pretty great.

Fatigue Factor: medium low. Desks were made for students to do work on, and so it’s possible to stay at one for a long time until that work is completed. But of course, this varies from person to person.

Ambience: Pretty much the same as your bed, seeing as they are right next to each other.

Optimal Study Material: Writing essays. Sit me in my chair in front of my computer, and writing assignments fall like dominoes.

So what did I do about reading my book? Well I tried the Hut for a while, but after an hour or so and I had sufficiently shown it off, I ended up going back to my bed, declaring a “no distractions” rule, and after about 2 days and numerous refills of my Keurig, Bilius, I finished it amid many small naps.

Now midterms are almost over, and I’m so thankful for these many different spots, all of which (save the library) I frequented. Especially outside, on the quads. With weather this incredible in Baltimore, it’s hard to pass that opportunity up.

Okay so I’ll see you all later, once I get back from a well-deserved spring break!