Spotted Around JHU

I think it’s safe to say that the city of Baltimore skipped winter this year, which is not surprising – spend a day here and you’ll quickly learn that Baltimore weather is more bipolar than a polar bear…on vacation…in Cancun? (That was bad, I know. Strugz) It’s a beautiful 57 degrees outside today, and the abundance of sunshine these past couple of weeks has made spring midterms much more bearable. More and more students are venturing outside to study (see: tan) on the Beach or on the Quads, which provides endless entertainment in the form of people-watching.

In the spirit of all things totally non-creepy and normal, I’ve compiled a list of all the people/spring happenings that I’ve “spotted” around campus this semester:

1. Spotted: Flip flops, maxi skirts, clown noses, zebra-print pants, oh my! 

  • Where: All around campus
  • When: End of February/March
  • What: Okay, so maybe I’m the only one who’s remotely excited about getting to wear warm-weather outfits, but the bizarre spectrum of clothes that students are starting to wear around campus is definitely worth noting. Spring fashion aside, I’ve also recently seen a really aggressive pair of blue zebra-print pants (Leggings? For everyone’s sake I hope they were pants) at a Hopkins basketball game, fraternity pledges sporting red clown noses to class, someone in a green Spandex bodysuit in the FFC (casual), and Greek letters on Letter Wednesdays (“On Wednesdays we wear pink!”).
  • Completely irrelevant sidenote: This is probably completely uninteresting to anyone but myself, but I’m determined to bring the recent maxi dress and maxi skirt trend to Hopkins. I don’t care if I have to wear a down jacket with them because Baltimore weather is PMS-ing and I end up looking like my wardrobe’s having an identity crisis – it’s happening.

Springtime at Hopkins!

2. Spotted: Sorority Big/Little Profiles 

  • Where: Facebook
  • When: Leading up to Secret Week and Revelation, which are next week (!!!)
  • What: Each New Member joins a “family” composed of a sophomore (their “Big”), junior (their Big’s “Big”), and a senior (their Big^3). Everyone’s Big remains a secret, and they create fake Facebook profiles for their “Littles” (the New Members) to communicate with them throughout Secret Week, which is when they shower you with gifts and try to keep you guessing. The Littles find out who their Bigs are during Revelation, which happens on the last day of Secret Week.

Reason #102938090 why I love my Big

  • Completely irrelevant sidenote: I believe JHU_Nick also has a fake Big/Little profile…surprising? Not even a little bit.

3. Spotted: Krispy Kreme

  • Where: CharMar
  • When: Since the start of the semester
  • What: CharMar’s newest installation, a Krispy Kreme Donut station, which is SO GOOD but so bad for my arteries/planned maxi dress takeover/fitting into clothes in general.

A sunny day on the Beach!

4. Spotted: Glitter…lots of it

  • Where: Everywhere…no, really. Everywhere.
  • When: Now
  • What/Why: I’m currently in the process of making my costume for Alpha Phi’s “Under the Sea” themed mixer tonight, and am planning on going as The Rainbow Fish – yes, as in the children’s book. So, naturally, this entails making colorful construction paper/glittery scales and sticking them all over myself. Fun fact: University Market, or UniMini, actually sells old-school Elmer’s glue for arts and crafts – who knew?
  • Completely irrelevant sidenote: Julia ordered a plastic shark head online, and our friend/floormate Emma may or may not be going as a shark attack victim. (Themed parties are pretty much an excuse for us to do/wear completely ridiculous and fashion-forward things that society normally frowns upon. See: #1) Pictures to come!

5. Spotted: Super secret study/tanning spot

  • Where: Undisclosed location
  • When: All semester long
  • Who: Me, Julia, and Sonu
  • What/Why: Ask us no questions and we’ll tell you no lies.

A sneak peek...shhh

6. Spotted: Wolman Lobby re-opening

  • Where: Wolman Hall
  • When: Last Thursday, March 1
  • What: The Wolman renovations have been going on since November, and the latest “re-opening” has been the new lobby, complete with turnstiles that won’t amputate your knees, a new study area, and first-floor access to the mailroom, multi-purpose room, computer lab, and expanded workout room on Terrace Level downstairs!
7.  Spotted: New nomz at the FFC
  • Where: The FFC
  • When: Since the start of the semester
  • What: Made-to-order fruit smoothies (the smoothie lady’s name is Miss Ruthie – needless to say, we bonded), new flavored syrup pumps for coffee, a new orange juice machine, and more!
8. Spotted: Tours, tours, tours galore
  • Where: Around campus
  • When: Just in time for SOHOP and the Regular Decision release
  • What: I have to admit, I still get really excited when I meet prospies/pre-frosh. The Fall Open Houses were surprisingly fun last semester, and brainstorming for SOHOP in April with SAAB is reminding me of how crucial this time was last year in my decision-making. I love seeing the huge tour groups around campus, and always offer to point visitors in the right direction if they look like they’re lost, because I remember a current student doing the same for me when I visited for the first time.

SAABabies during the Fall Open House!

  • Completely irrelevant sidenote: The other day, Julia and I were in Mason Hall and saw a prospective student and her father trying to figure out the campus map in the lobby. After debating whether or not it was socially acceptable to offer to show them around, we boldly (awkwardly?) introduced ourselves and took them around to the Hut, the Freshman Quad, the Rec Center, and looped back around to Mason Hall. Looking back, I’m still not entirely sure how/why we were so overwhelmingly excited about showing them the campus and answering their questions…or if that was too forward of us. (True Life: I’m Addicted to Embarrassing Myself? MTV, take notes.)

Stay tuned for more spring events! (Passion Pit is coming to Spring Fair this year OMGAH FREAKING OUT EXCUSE ME WHILE I GO DIE OF HAPPINESS KBYE)

It’s All Greek To Me: Fashion Edition

Picture a typical Thursday night. I might be working out (I just got a Fitness Pass at the Rec Center for the semester – which means that I now have an excuse to dance around like a complete idiot twice a week in Zumba), nomming on some Freshii froyo with friends, swinging by the FFC, or, if I’m feeling really wild, doing homework in the library (it’s BYOB – bring your own books). Never would I have ever expected, though, to be huddled outside Shriver Hall with 48 other girls, freezing in all-white dresses and wearing heels that make me walk like a dying gazelle.

JHU_Tess and I being SUPA PHIERCE before our first date party of the semester.

I’m kidding about the dying gazelle thing, but in all honesty, if you had asked me in high school about joining a sorority, I probably would have laughed. As much as I love hanging out with my girlfriends, I’m no Elle Woods. In the interest of full disclosure, the thought of anything overly pink, sequined, or sparkly is a little nauseating. But, as my new Alpha Phi sisters (!!!!!!!!!!!!) JHU_Tess and JHU_Allysa have already posted about in their blogs (which you should check out here and here), Greek life at Hopkins, like many other aspects of campus that I’ve come to know and love, defies stereotypes.

Over the course of the past semester and during the week of official recruitment, I’ve gotten to know so many girls with such diverse interests and backgrounds that by Invitation Night (the last night of Recruitment Week), I was not only convinced that I wanted to be a part of Greek life, I had also ranked Alpha Phi as my top choice and haven’t looked back since. My floormates Maia, Julia, Alora, and Emma are all New Members in Alpha Phi, and two of my childhood best friends are actually in Alpha Phi at each of their colleges, as well (coincidence?!). Where else could I find a group of girls who look after each other with such automatic selflessness, who send me flowers on Valentine’s Day, who I can sing A-Teens and bond over my absurd cat obsession with? The more I find out about each sister, the more lucky I feel to be a part of a sisterhood of such hilarious, talented, and down-to-earth young women who I can look up to and who make me proud to be in Alpha Phi.

Do you sense a recurring theme here?

The week leading up to Invitation Night, however, is an entirely different story. Sorority recruitment is surreal and overwhelming and exhausting. With hundreds (no, literally hundreds – each sorority has around 150 sisters) of girls to meet and countless names to remember, it seems utterly impossible that anyone could know which sorority is best for them after just a week. But by some miracle from above (or just a highly organized computer ranking system…one of the two), you find that most girls do end up exactly where they belong. All the time spent replaying conversations, wondering if you’re allowed to eat the cupcakes they’ve set out (DO IT), and not-so secretly freaking out pays off.

Did we just join a sorority? I'm not sure.

Regardless, hours upon hours of girl flirting, visiting each sorority, narrowing down your top choices, waiting in alphabetical order, and dashing to the bathroom in between parties (or, in my case, stuffing my face with Poptarts and granola bars) means a tiring and stressful week. I found it extremely helpful/fun to plan my outfits for each round in advance with my friends (I have this thing that makes me get annoyingly excited about any and all fashion/shopping/clothing related activities…it’s called estrogen). It’s one less thing to stress about, and at the very least makes for a good conversation starter!

The dress code for Recruitment Week is pretty standard – it just gets more and more formal for each round (there are three total – Icewater, Theme, and Pref). Below I’ve listed some guidelines and helpful tips on how to dress for sorority events and probably life in general (Ha! Kidding, of course).

1. Icewater Round – Cute and Casual. Jeans, boots, and a nice shirt/top is a perfectly acceptable outfit for this round. Personally, I enjoy dressing up, even just to go to class, so I actually had to dress down a little for Icewater. The pamphlet we received at the Panhellenic Info Night said to dress like we normally would, but given that in college everyone’s idea of an outfit is Uggs, leggings/pajamas, and a Northface, I would say to dress like you’re going out to a semi-nice dinner with friends. Dress comfortable – trust me! You’ll be talking to girls and on your feet for at least five or six hours. I wore:

  • An emerald green V-neck (Urban Outfitters)
  • A grey blazer
  • American Eagle jeggings, Medium Wash (aka the best invention EVAR. They look like a normal pair of jeans, minus the whole uncomfortable feeling-like-you’ve-been-shoved-into-a-denim-inner-tube thing)
  • Leopard print bangle (Express)
  • Tan boots (Michael Kors)

2. Theme Round – Business Casual. Dress like you’re going to an interview and/or meeting your boyfriend’s parents, but since this round is also fairly long, it’s okay to bring shoes to change into. You can wear either a skirt and a blazer, or a dress and a cardigan. I wore:

  • White Oxford (Target)
  • Grey sweater-knit skirt ( – best place to find cute stuff! I’m obsessed)
  • Black tights (It’s cold outside, so be prepared!)
  • Green wedge booties (Target)
  • Turquoise bangle
  • Tan leather belt

With Maia and Julia before Theme!

3. Preference Round – Cocktail. This is the most formal night. Definitely wear heels with your cocktail dress, but bring shoes to change into as you’re walking from party to party! It rained the night of Preference Round, and I don’t care if I looked completely ridiculous trekking around campus in a cocktail dress and rainboots because it was the best decision ever. Just a word of advice – all of the sisters in the sororities wear dressed that are all black, so I would recommend something more colorful. I wore:

  • A yellow, black, and purple dress that I bought in Taiwan a couple of years ago for high school Homecoming. (I didn’t actually end up wearing it then, but it worked perfectly for Preference Round!)
  • Jeweled belt
  • Nude pumps (Jessica Simpson)

Pref Night outfits!

4. Invitation Night – White. This night is equally as formal as Preference Round, but (as the title says) all white! I just re-used the white bandage dress (Express) that I wore to my high school graduation and wore nude pumps (I’m in love with nude-colored heels, can you tell?). I accessorized with a white bracelet and dangly turquoise earrings. For a pop of color, bright heels also go well with white.


Heels = Dr. Scholl's gel inserts. Seriously.

5. Date Party – Young and Wild and Phi. Okay, so not really (although we did get some awesome shirts on Invitation Night) but date parties are a good opportunity to wear more nighttime dresses and, of course, heels. The older sisters organize “Bear Hugs,” or sister dinners, beforehand so that the new members can meet and socialize with different big/little families. Our first date party was last weekend, and luckily I had bought a dress from Forever21 that I could wear!

First bear hug! AΦ love.

Nineteen Candles

“All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.” (JRR Tolkien)

Well, guys – it’s official. I am now 19 years, 10 days, 58 minutes, and 32 seconds old (so I keep forgetting to reset the birthday

Julia went a little balloon crazy. There also may or may not have been a sash and tiara involved...

countdown on my desktop, so what?). My birthday conveniently fell during the last week of Intersession and during Baltimore Restaurant Week (restaurants around Baltimore offer 3-course meals for only $20 or $30!), and my friend Maia took party planning to a whole other level. My suitemates decorated my door and desk, and all of my girlfriends planned a surprise birthday dinner for me at McCormick & Schmick’s, an upscale seafood restaurant right by the harbor!

In the midst of the production that was my birthday, however, the nice and mildly alarmed waiter at dinner (the plastic tiara might have been a little aggressive) forgot to bring out a candle with the dessert I ordered as per my friend Sonu’s request. While I can safely say that I wasn’t too torn up about it (let’s be real – having a group of people serenade you while the entire restaurant stares is awkward and weird for everyone), I realized the other day that because I never technically blew out a candle, I didn’t get to make a birthday wish. First world problems, anyone?

But in all seriousness, with a week of spring semester under my belt, I can already feel things starting to revert back to the familiar bustle and grind. Intersession was fun and relaxing in so many ways, but the disgusting amount of free time that I’ve gotten used to having has made adjusting to the new semester harder than I anticipated. To be honest, I’m a little apprehensive. I feel like there are so many things to do and not enough hours in the day to do them, and without the safety of covered grades this semester, I’m taking all of the birthday wishes I can get.

Although I am tempted to wish for something completely ridiculous and unnecessary like superhuman powers (fun fact: if I could have a superpower, it would be to be able to read people’s minds!) or my cat, I can’t really complain about my life as it is right now. I’m plopped on Sonu’s bed with Julia, resting up after the first day of Rush Week (officially known as “Sorority Recruitment”) and warming up Pepperidge Farms Soft-Baked Snickerdoodle cookies in the microwave – what can I say, we’re culinary masters in the making.

All of us in the restaurant! I tried blowing out the candle on the table, but it was an electric candle...awk.

What I’m most worried about is the future, and the kinds of changes that this coming semester will bring:

We're normal.

1. Recruitment  Official recruitment started today (!!!) and a few of my friends and I are bracing ourselves for the next week. Sorority recruitment is a weeklong process that occurs in the Spring (other schools sometimes have it during the Fall), and Hopkins girls go to all four of the Panhellenic sororities (Phi Mu, Alpha Phi, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Pi Beta Phi) during the first of four rounds. Even though it’s only just begun, I can tell that this experience will be both overwhelming and unforgettable. More to come!

2. Interning – Over winter break I sent out some resumes and cover letters to different companies for a spring and/or summer internship position. Just a word of advice for prospective and admitted students: if you thought applying to colleges was hard, think again! Applying to internships is a frustrating and long process; start as early as possible! I started looking around for potential opportunities around November/December, and many places will either never contact you at all, or tell you that you’re too young/don’t have enough experience. If you score an interview, sometimes you don’t hear from them again, even if you follow up with a thank-you card or an email. As for me, I’m currently in the process of filling out the necessary paperwork to start a spring internship off-campus, and can’t wait to get started!

3. Spring Events – I am SO excited for everything that’s going to be happening on campus this semester! Spring Fair (the largest student-run fair in the country!), Homecoming (yes, we structure our Homecoming around lacrosse season), and lacrosse games (hopefully I’ll be going to Charlottesville for the Hopkins vs. UVA game to see all of my Virginia friends) are all coming up soon. Julia and I are training for a half marathon in May, and Vision Xchange is planning Date Auction this semester also. For admitted students, SOHOP (Spring Open House and Overnight Program) happens in April, so I hope to see you guys around campus as well!

With a jam-packed semester ahead, my only birthday wish is to find a good balance between all of the highs and lows that are bound to come. This is just the calm before the storm, I guess – it hasn’t really hit me yet that in three short months, I’ll have finished my freshman year, be half a year closer to being 20 (?!), and be a quarter of the way through my Hopkins experience. While that thought is absolutely terrifying, I’m also determined to find some sort of middle ground between the craziness and the quiet Saturday nights like these. Keeping my sanity is a tall order for a birthday wish, but as the quote says, all I have to do is figure out how to fill the days, hours, and minutes that are given to me, right? We can only hope – or, in my case, wish!

The perfect gag gift!

Talking to Strangers

The thought of public transportation scares the living daylights out of me. No – the thought of getting lost using public transportation scares me. Given both my impressive navigational abilities (see: sarcasm) and the fact that I’m small and therefore easily mistaken for a child, I’m an easy target for kidnappers, drug dealers, pick-pocketers, and all other sorts of loonies that ride on public transportation. Right?


But to be fair, in Virginia – where I’m from – I’m used to driving everywhere, and the only thing to be afraid of is the occasional deer and/or small Asian driver (I’m kind of a bad driver, don’t worry about it). Regardless, I spent the better half of this past Thursday facing my fear of the Maryland Transit Administration. I had an interview for a potential design internship for spring semester in Towson, and figured that I might as well learn the MTA routes and explore Baltimore outside of the Hopkins bubble.

A sneak peek into my portfolio for my internship application! This was a self-portrait done with a blue ink pen.

For those of you who don’t know, there are several options for students looking to get off campus. Cabs are the easiest way to get around, but can also be expensive. The JHMI Shuttle is free for Hopkins students (there’s a stop on St. Paul outside of the Barnes and Noble), and will take you to the Med School campus, Peabody, or Penn Station. The Blue Jay Shuttle is more like a van service and runs after 5:45 p.m. at certain routes around campus. After 11:15 p.m., it reverts to an on-demand, point-to-point service and students can call the number to be picked up/dropped off anywhere around campus.

To get to Towson, however, you can use the Collegetown Shuttle, which is free, but doesn’t come as often, or the MTA, which is $1.60 each way but stops more frequently. Since the mall in Towson is only 15 minutes away, driving is the most ideal mode of transportation, but with a few exceptions, freshmen typically aren’t allowed to bring cars.

So on Thursday morning, I found myself on the corner of 33rd and N Charles, huddled against the freezing cold

Another part of my portfolio. The piece, which I did senior year of high school, is acrylic and Sharpie on floppy disks.

with my friend Julia, who I bribed to  agreed to come with me to Towson. After a few false starts (Google Maps will try to tell you that the 11 Bus Stop, which is the one to Towson, is on 34th and Charles. It’s a filthy liar), we made our way to the bus stop right in front of Charles Commons and decided to wait. Luckily, I had gotten up aggressively early just to be safe, so even if the bus was a little late, I’d still make it to the interview on time.

As we were waiting, we started chatting with an eccentric middle-aged Baltimorean man who was waiting for the same bus. If it sounds sketchy, don’t worry – I thought the same thing too, at first. Julia and I listened and nodded politely, exchanging quick side glances and raised eyebrows as he filled the space between us with his life stories and advice. A part-time cab driver originally from New York, he told us about how he makes the most money when the Weather Channel predicts snow, which stop we should get off at in Towson, how to get back (the 11 drops you back off in front of Commons, and the 08 will drop you off at Greenmount, which is a few blocks away and less safe). He told us how to avoid getting ripped off by cab drivers, the cheapest places in Fell’s Point. Even as we all got onto the bus, he never stopped talking.

He has a car, but chooses to take the bus on his days off when he goes to the library in Towson to read. He still visits his sister in New York, and once won $7,000 betting on horses at the racetrack using their birthdays as numbers. The next day at the train station, his sister randomly bought a scratcher while they were waiting and cried when they won another $10,000. He said he hated his sister’s husband for leaving her and then coming back, that even though he can afford not to, he takes the bus because he wants to. He told us to do things in life because we wanted to, not just to spite other people.

A few days after my interview, my friends and I used the MTA to go ice-skating in Mt. Pleasant!

When he said that, I felt bad for my initial skepticism, however brief. A huge part of Hopkins is that it’s in the middle of Baltimore, and up until that point I had viewed the city with the guarded curiosity of a tourist, not realizing that the Hopkins community and the Baltimore community are – whether we acknowledge this or not – oftentimes interchangeable.

In my Intersession class, “The US-Latino Experience in Fiction,” we talk about borders – whether or not they exist, and how we define them. For some Hopkins students (myself included), there seems to be a clearly defined border between Homewood and the rest of Baltimore. Granted, there are several parts of Baltimore that you wouldn’t want to wander through alone at night, but that’s all part of getting to know the city in which you live. Borders, my professor said, are largely idealized spaces – mental, moral, and sometimes physical constructs that are nonetheless porous and fluctuating.

As we bumped and lurched towards Towson, the strange and nice man went up to the bus driver and arranged for him to drop us off in front of the mall so we wouldn’t get lost. Then, he said goodbye and got off at his stop. The moral of this story isn’t to talk to strangers, or that I’m now a master at using public transportation (I’m not saying it’s a big deal, but it’s kind of a big deal). It’s just that these interesting and genuine moments are just as likely to happen during an Intersession class as in the middle of Baltimore, with friends or strangers (or, in my case, both), in a setting as foreign and unlikely as a bus stop.

Semester Obsession: Playlists

So I’m sitting in my local Barnes and Noble, thinking of what to write about for my very first blog post from good ole’ Virginia (!!!), and

Post-Kwanzaa shenanigans. Happy Holidays from Richmond, Virginia!

trying (see: failing) not to dribble my latte all over myself. Clearly, winter break has done wonders for me. Now that I’m back home, I’ve enjoyed eating (my brother actually convinced my mom that we should have a Turducken for Christmas Eve dinner…needless to say, we’re still eating leftovers), sleeping in til noon everyday (I blame finals week), planning extravagant Kwanzaa dinners with my friends as an excuse to eat even more food, cuddling with my cat, and spending an ungodly amount of time catching up on trashy reality TV. While all of these things make me a very happy camper, they’re not exactly conducive to writing interesting or  jealousy-inducing blog posts.

What they say is true: there really is no place like home, and as much as I’ve loved my first semester in college, sometimes I feel like I have two lives, like I’m a part of two completely separate spheres. I live in a small, quiet suburb where everything closes by 10 p.m. – a stark contrast to the frenetic and constant hubbub that is Baltimore. In my American Lit class last semester, we talked about the Latin American push to industrialize before and during the literature boom of the 70’s, and what it must have been like for people living in those societies to be visited by facets of modernity with little to no previous context. In much the same way, it’s always a little shocking to discover parts of one home in the other. Whether it’s the collection of high school photos arranged on the windowsill by my Twin XL bed in Wolman or the “GO HOP!” sunglasses on the dashboard of my old car, these small points of reference have helped me find some semblance of continuity as I pass between two parallels of home.

While it may sometimes seem like those two worlds have nothing in common aside from my coming and going, my obsession with creating playlists (study playlists, workout playlists, playlists for my friend Julia…the list goes on and on) has provided me with a semester-long soundtrack that encapsulates the old, the new, and everything in between. Below I’ve compiled the highlights of all of the playlists I’ve made this semester, and each song links the best of both of my worlds together in a way that I can’t.

My semester obsession: playlists, playlists, playlists!

Track 1: Memories (feat. Kid Cudi) – David Guetta. In the last few days of August before Move-In, this song followed me from Charlottesville, VA (where I was visiting all of my friends and my brother at UVA when the earthquake hit!) all the way to Salty Balty. Straight off of my “Summa Summatime” playlist (and yes, it’s actually titled that in my iTunes), this was actually playing on my iPod as our minivan pulled into the “Student Drop-Off” line in front of Wolman on Move-In Day!

UVA game! Shout out to all my favorite Wahoos!

Track 2: Someone Like You – Adele. No matter how overplayed this song was on the radio over the summer, it never got old. Even now, I may or may not frequently grace Wolman 6 West with my beautiful rendition of Adele as I attempt to hit notes that only dogs can hear.

Track 3: Judas – Lady Gaga. Turn my floormates into Lady Gaga fans by blasting this song (along pretty much every single song off of “The Fame”) during any and all study sessions and forcing them to dance with me? Check. Listen to awesome Lady Gaga acapella covers by the JHU Sirens and the JHU Octopodes at their fall concerts? Check. Dedicate an entire Spanish paper to my love for Lady Gaga? Check. Drive around Richmond with my friends singing Lady Gaga at the top of our lungs? Check.

Track 4: Cinema (Skrillex Remix) [feat. Gary Go] – Benny Benassi. From frat house basements to Fall Break in Atlanta with my floormates Maia and Julia, this Skrillex remix (which was on a dubstep playlist that Julia made for me!) was on constant repeat during the first part of the semester, and on the plane ride to/from A-Town.

Fall Break in Atlanta!

Track 5: Me and You – NERO. Getting to see NERO live at Baltimore Soundstage with Anne and Sonu in October was definitely an unforgettable experience. One of the great things about living in Baltimore is the amount of concerts and fun venues that are just a cab ride away!

Me and Sonu trying to get some air in the bathroom at the NERO concert. Ignore the ridiculous fluorescent face paint!

Track 6: Princess of China (feat. Rihanna) – Coldplay. Fact: I once listened to this song over 60 times in the row while I was working on a paper on M-Level. I had the entire “Mylo Xyloto” album on repeat during the second round of midterms, and half of the songs are on my study playlist, which has only grown since August!

Track 7: I Can’t Make You Love Me/Nick of Time – Bon Iver. I. Love. Bon Iver. And this beautiful, sad, and soothing cover just makes me love Bon Iver even more than I already do.

Track 8: Lose Yourself – Eminem. Is it more embarrassing that I can rap every single word of this song, or that I do so on a regular basis? Or that I just openly admitted that? Or that I once beat one of my floormates in an Eminem rap battle with this?

Track 9: Radical Face – Ghost Towns. If you’ve never heard of this song, stop what you’re doing immediately and go listen to it. It’s the perfect song to play in the background while you’re studying or just hanging out.

Track 10: Levels – Avicii. This is the number one song on my workout playlist, and I’ll listen to it when I’m going for a run or using the bike in the McCoy workout room (the new workout room in Wolman re-opens in February!).

Track 11: The First Single (You Know Me) – The Format. I’ve been a fan of The Format since high school, and this song was playing as I waited in Penn Station for over an hour for my train to Richmond after my last final, and as the train (finally) pulled into the Staples Mill station much, much later!

Reunited and it feels so good! Me, Matt, and Stephan at Emilio's, a tapas restaurant/bar.

Track 12: The Edge of Glory (Live from “A Very Gaga Thanksgiving”) – Lady Gaga. The most recent addition to my Winter Break playlist. I listen to it as I’m reading, wasting time on Facebook, or just driving to and from places (one thing I forgot about Virginia–you have to drive everywhere!). Straight off of her Holiday EP, it features Lady Gaga’s talent as both a pianist and a singer and is the perfect song to listen to as I transition from Christmas to me and my friends’ pseudo-Kwanzaa, from 2011 to 2012, from M-Level to Barnes and Noble, and from one home to another and back.

See you in 2012!


Dear Younger Me

At this particular moment in my life, I sort of want to stay and I sort of want to go home and I sort of don’t know what I want. Finals have placed me in this strange limbo of expectation. I can’t wait to

Me and my parents at graduation!

be home to see my family (and my cat), but I also can’t really fathom spending the next month without all of the pseudo “families” that are such an important part of my home here at Hopkins. I’m excited to sleep in, nom on some good food (my mom’s cooking, Chik-fil-A, frozen yogurt, the list goes on and on…), and read all of the books that I’ve been meaning to read (I just started The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje!), but I also find myself already looking forward to coming back to Baltimore for Intersession. I’m taking two classes, “The US-Latino Experience in Fiction” and “Short Fiction of David Foster Wallace.” Yes, they’re both humanities classes (…typical, I know), and YES OF COURSE I’m geeking out because this means I get to read a bunch of authors that I love and get credit for it.

Part of my SAAB family at the SAAB Holiday Party!

To be honest, though, I think my abnormal and possibly unhealthy tendency to think ahead, paired with my uncanny ability to over-analyze almost everything, tends to land me in the same place–this limbo of expectation. In a final paper for American Lit that I wrote last week on Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, I centered my argument around this blurb:

“…the habit of waiting and expectation which makes any present moment most significant for what it does not contain.”

I find this to be true in so many ways. I’m constantly moving forward or looking back, caught between two frontiers of old and new, and now, at the end of my first semester, I realize that I’ve

My IB family at my high school's annual charity cooking competition. We won with our Harry-Potter themed food and costumes! It was my idea...of course.

been here before. Even though so much has changed between now and then, at this time last year as a high school senior, I was caught in the same sort of limbo. Instead of the last stretch of finals, though, I was in the last stretch of college essays and supplements. I was battling the same cycle of emotions–stress, fatigue, strange moments of calm, repeat.

Looking back, there are a million different things I want to tell my high school senior self, and there are probably a trillion more things that I wish I had known at that point in my life.

So–inspired by the recent witty and heartbreaking posts on Hopkins Interactive, and by the random jumble of emotions and moments that I’m feeling in this last week before winter break, I want to end this post by dedicating it to my younger self and all of the other first-semester seniors who are probably freaking out like I was. If you haven’t heard of Dear Young Me,  it’s a website where anyone can post a short letter to their younger self, telling themselves things they wish they knew. Some are sad, some are funny, and some are just plain weird, but without further ado…

Dear Younger Me,

Stop freaking out. Most, if not all, of the stress you’re feeling is due to situations that are out of your control. You can’t control what a college will think about your extracurriculars or your SAT score. You can’t control your family’s financial situation. You can’t control your friends and classmates who are also freaking out about getting into college. Whatever happens, happens.

Junior year with my best friends Matt and Megi–before the craziness started!

Your graduation will be bittersweet. At this point, your best friend will have already moved away. You’ll struggle through your senior year without her just because you had always expected that all of your last memories in high school would be together. You’ll skip class to go to McDonald’s without her, you’ll go to Prom without her, you’ll get your IB Diploma without her, and you’ll walk across the stage in June without her. You’ll grow closer to some friends, and discover that others are not who you think they are. And before graduation in June, you’ll be advised to stop, at some moment in the middle of the chaos, and just take in everything around you. Be glad that you do, because this is probably the last time that you’ll ever be in the same room at the same time with the same group of people.

Senior Prom with Matt and Taylor!

It pays off. People will try to tell you that the standard you strive for is unattainable, and you’ll start to question why you work so hard and care so much. Don’t. You work hard so that you can deserve the things that you want. You might not get into all of the colleges you applied to, but in the end, trust me – it all evens out!

Me and my Hopkins family at Fogo de Chao. Shout-out to my floormates Sonu and Julia for always letting me steal their food and distract them while they study.

Smile more. Life only gets crazier from here. If you think this is the end, it’s really only the beginning. It gets more stressful, and you will have more and more responsibilities and obligations as you get older. But it also gets more fun and more ridiculous, so embrace the moments as they come. And last but not least…

Keep on keepin’ on. 


Your Older, Hopkins-attending, Student-blogging, Cat-loving, Final exam-taking, Freshman 15-gaining (haha) Self!

Give Thanks

I’m grateful for anything that reminds me of what’s possible in this life. Books can do that. Films can do that. School can do that. It’s so easy to allow one day to simply follow into the next, but every once in a while we encounter something that shows us that anything is possible, that dramatic change is possible, that something new can be made, that laughter can be shared. (Jonathan Safran Foer)

Happy (late) Thanksgiving everyone! As I type this, I’m sitting in my aunt’s living room in New Jersey while my nine-year-old

Oh hey, freshman 15.

cousin Kyle jumps around sporadically with his new Kindle Fire (one of many of our Black Friday purchases!) and my cat attacks my toes. Although I live in Virginia, we alternate Thanksgivings with my aunt’s family, so this year, my family and I made the drive up to Jersey. My mom decided at the last minute to bring my cat with us, and needless to say, I could barely contain myself (I love cats…can you tell? I’ve even tried videochatting with my cat because I miss her, but that was a giant fail…for obvious reasons).

The last couple of days before Thanksgiving were a whirlwind of last-minute cleaning, packing, and temporary goodbyes. Because I wasn’t leaving until Wednesday night, I was the one seeing all of my friends and suitemates off. Even though I know I’ll see everyone again on Sunday, it was still strangely offputting and even a little sad. Hugging two of my floormates goodbye, I had a sudden glimpse of what it’s going to be like in four years when we’ll all be forced to leave Hopkins for the last time, when all of the experiences and traditions that are so new and exciting to us now as freshmen will become bittersweet. Right now, my life at Hopkins is a string of firsts – Orientation, exploring the Inner Harbor, Fall Break in Atlanta, Halloweekend, CharMar’s Chicken Parmesan Subs, dubstep concerts, going to office hours, date parties, acapella concerts, sweet potato fries at Donna’s – and I can’t believe that first semester is almost over.

Me and my friends outside Wolman on Halloween!

I know, I know – these things are too far ahead to be thinking about as a freshman. But aside from food and family, one of the main reasons why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is that it’s also a moment to turn back. Giving thanks is also a way of resolving the things that matter to us most.

Me, Anna (right), and another one of my best friends, Matt (left)!

On Wednesday, I met up with one of my close friends from home, Anna. Her grandparents live in Baltimore, and since she was in town visiting them, we all went to dinner together before I left for New Jersey. Afterwards, we went to a Thanksgiving service at her grandparents’ church near Towson, and in the middle of his sermon, the pastor asked members of the congregation to share what they were thankful for. One by one, various members stood up and told stories that were simple but deeply moving – they were cancer survivors, widows and widowers. It was one of those moments that makes you become acutely aware of all that you’ve taken for granted.

A few hours later, crammed into my family’s Toyota Sienna with my parents, Caleb and Daniel (my two brothers), April (Caleb’s girlfriend, who is also a junior here at Hopkins!), too much luggage, and a cranky cat, it struck me that the things that we’re most thankful for and the things that we’re most afraid to lose are one and the same.

Even if we go to schools on opposite coasts, I'm so thankful for my best friend, Megi!

And now, sitting in the middle of the chaos and comfort that encompasses all that I have to be grateful for, it goes without saying that this post will be one of many over the next four years, that this will be one of many Thanksgivings and one of many fleeting moments that I may or may not remember when I look back on my freshman year at Hopkins.

Regardless, I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the sacrifices that my parents have made for me to go to Hopkins, and for the people and classes that have made those sacrifices worth it. I’m thankful for meeting new friends and keeping old ones, and all the experiences that I’ve had in between.



All Work and No Play?

You may have noticed the various “A Day in the Life of…” themed microblogs that have popped up in the past several days on Hopkins Interactive. I was planning on doing one for this post as well, but after reflecting on this past week, I had the slightly embarrassing realization that any attempt at documenting my day would have resulted in the most boring and repetitive post ever. To say that I studied from sun up to sundown every single day would only be a slight overestimation.

Post-It Note Uses #1: Making lists and schedules for myself to preserve my sanity!

With minimal to no sleep, a hellacious workload, and an unhealthy amount of caffeine, it has been quite the week. The second wave of midterm madness has officially hit Hopkins, and to be honest, I’m a little shocked that I’m still capable of forming complete sentences after the Spanish paper, 17-page research paper for Political Sociology of Latin America, Spanish midterm, Calc midterm, and 20-minute Oral Presentation that I’ve had in the span of four days.

If it sounds insane and impossible, well – it was.

A few SAAB meetings ago, Admissions_Daniel encouraged us to go read a post written by Roxi, a past SAAB member, entitled “No Joke“, and I’m so glad I did. In it, she details the seriousness of the academic life at Hopkins with no holds barred, candidly discussing the reality check that a lot of students get after coming here. She’s right in warning incoming students that “Hopkins is NO JOKE,” because it’s not.

I know that, in some ways, what I’m saying right now reinforces a lot of the negative stereotypes that people have about Hopkins. The fact that I spent all day, every day this week in the library probably doesn’t help, either. As a freshman with covered grades, I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I should take advantage of this “free pass” not to do work. My upperclassmen friends are appalled that I’m actually trying in my classes this semester. Admittedly, there are times when I question why I’m putting forth so much effort when I know countless of freshmen who are partying their little hearts out almost every night of the week. I know that it’s just my first semester of many in college. I know that I don’t have to do all of the readings and that I don’t have show up to class if I don’t feel like it.

Calc and I have a love/hate relationship.

The truth is, though, I still want to do well, even if it’s not going to show up on my transcript. And why wouldn’t I? The complete lack of core requirements at Hopkins means that I can take literally almost anything I want (with the exception of classes that have pre-requisites). Instead of taking “Worthless 101” or “Intro to Never Using This In Real Life Ever,” we get to take classes that are actually relevant to whatever it is we want to do in the future. As a result, my schedule has multiple sophomore- and junior-level courses, which are all insanely interesting and overlap with each other in unexpected  and really thought-provoking ways (…I’m such a nerd, I know).

Post-It Note Uses #2: In the middle of the week, I came back from class to find this cute message on my desk from my roommate Jane!

But on the flip side, taking higher level courses also translates to working at a much more intense level, with juniors and seniors who already know the ropes. In Roxi’s post, she mentions that a lot of Hopkins students are used to being big fish in small ponds. They more or less coasted through high school at the top of their class, and weren’t accustomed to having to work for their grades. Obviously this observation doesn’t apply to every single student here, but a lot of my friends now are facing the exact same reality check that Roxi experienced. They always talk about how they never had to study in high school, how they got straight A’s with minimal effort.

Personally, I didn’t have that experience. As an International Baccalaureate Diploma student, my classes and teachers were incredibly challenging and I was forced to develop good study habits during high school. On one hand, I think I can safely say that no amount of AP or IB classes in high school could have truly prepared me for Hopkins. But on the other hand, I’m glad that I was already used to working for my grades, otherwise my transition to Hopkins would have been a million times harder.

Don’t get me wrong – with the exception of this past week, I don’t typically hole up in the library 24/7. But that doesn’t mean that I – and everyone else here – don’t have a heavy workload on a normal week. The academic arena at Hopkins is by far the toughest I’ve encountered, but the good thing about the schoolwork is that, as difficult as it may be, it remains fairly consistent. I remember in my first few weeks here, the amount of work went from utterly impossible to overwhelming to stressful, but manageable. In other words, you get used to it.

I’m not writing this to scare anyone or portray Hopkins in a negative light, because to say that Hopkins is all work and no play would also be a lie. Just last weekend, I went to a NERO concert at Baltimore Soundstage with my friends, and even ran into JHU_Erica and JHU_Ian! The social scene at Hopkins is crazy, and there are more than plenty of opportunities for students to go out and have a good time, whether it’s on a weekend or a weeknight.

Nero at Baltimore Soundstage!

Yes, Hopkins does work its students a little too hard sometimes. Yes, there will be weeks (especially during midterms) where the library is packed so full of students that you can’t find an empty seat on ANY level. And yes, whether it’s during covered grades or not, everyone will get some sort of reality check. Hopkins is no joke. But if this past week has taught me anything, it’s that even at my most stressed out, over-caffeinated, Post It Note-ed self, I still love Hopkins. I love the fact that I’m being challenged to work harder and think more broadly than I ever have before. And most of all, I love that in the midst of midterm madness, there are still so many things that make it worth it, from my roommate’s inspirational Post It Notes (Love ya, Jane!) to this hilarious email I got from my Spanish professor about my paper that I wrote about Lady GaGa (for those of you who don’t know…I LOVE LADY GAGA!!)…

Best. Email. EVER.


Open Houses and SAAB Shenanigans

My past two Saturdays, which I spent working the Fall Open House Programs for prospective students, have made me realize a few important (see: random) things about myself and my experience thus far at Hopkins:

1. I love talking to prospies! Okay, I’m not going to lie, nobody wants to be awake at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. That aside, I (not so) secretly really enjoy meeting all the potential pre-frosh and their parents. So the small, over-enthusiastic Asian girl bounding up to you and bombarding you and your friends/fellow overnighters/parents with facts and anecdotes about Hopkins? That was me. As I was answering questions and meeting so many new people, I found myself relating a lot to the prospies and the often frustrating college search and application process. Trust me, we’ve all been there. We know what it’s like. And while it’s refreshing to see the process from the admissions side, I remember at exactly this time last year when I was going through the exact same thing, it was one of the most mystifying and difficult four months of my life.

2. I love free stuff. One of the pros of working Open Houses is the free breakfast in Shriver Hall! I definitely ate a disgusting amount of breakfast scones, muffins, and bagels and had so many cups of tea and coffee. One of the things you learn pretty quickly in college is to take advantage of any and all free things, especially when it comes to food.

3. I wish I had attended more Open Houses when I was applying to colleges. I think I told just about every student that I met to “college shop” as much as possible before deciding which schools they were actually going to apply to. Last fall, I think I visited only two or three out of the 10 colleges I ended up applying to. As a first-semester senior in high school, I felt so overwhelmed by the sheer technicalities of applying (CommonApp, FAFSA, CSS, W2’s, SAT’s, ACT’s…) that I didn’t want to visit any schools. At the time, campus location and size weren’t deciding factors for me at all. I seriously underestimated how important student life and campus atmosphere are to the kind of experience you end up having as an undergrad. Plus, my worst fear was that I would visit a school, fall completely in love with it, and either a) not get in or, even worse, b) get in but not be able to afford to go.

My friends and I enjoying a sunny day on the Beach in front of the library!

By the time I had narrowed down my choices to two schools in the spring, it only took one campus visit for me to decide where I wanted to be. As I visited some of the schools I had gotten into, it dawned on me that I could never see myself there. Literally the first time I stepped onto Homewood during SOHOP (an overnight program held for admitted students in the spring), I knew it was the perfect fit. As horribly cliche as that sounds, it’s true. And, looking back, I know that if I had gone to some of the Open House programs held by various colleges in the fall, I would have been able to narrow down my choices much earlier in the process and save a lot of time and money applying to four or five schools instead of ten.

4. I suck at giving directions. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the poor man that I may or may not have mis-directed this past Saturday…Sorry! In my defense, I give the most vague and unhelpful directions in the world. Unless people asked me how to find something blatantly obvious like Gilman or the library (and even then my directions were questionable), my responses to questions generally tended to sound something like: “Uh…I think it’s somewhere over there…in that direction?” This was more often than not accompanied by me pointing to nothing in particular while said parent/prospie stared at me in confusion. Luckily, my fellow SAABers are much better than I am at guiding people to where they’re supposed to be, so after my first few failed attempts, I either deflected to whichever SAAB member was closest to me, or just repeated the same thing that everyone else was saying.

Gilman Hall in the fall, one of hallmark buildings on campus...and also one of the only places I was able to successfully guide people! (Kidding...sort of.)

5. SAABonding is the SAABest (…I’ll stop.) Seriously though, in the downtime in between the different scheduled events, I got to know so much more about my fellow SAAB members! From listening to JHU_Sydney rap to Nicki Minaj or JHU_Noah and JHU_Lucie’s attempt at harmonizing to the Dixie Chicks, to bonding with JHU_Tess over our love for cats, the Open Houses have been surprisingly fun in more ways than one. I think my favorite moment was yesterday, when we had 30 minutes of free time and all the SAABers were lounging on the couches in Pura Vida Cafe in Levering. I was freezing, and I learned the hard way that my boots, unfortunately, were not water resistant. Despite the freezing rain and hail, our bonding time was still fun, especially when “bonding time” quickly turned into “nap time.”

The face of Hopkins? JHU_Zoe, JHU_Cate, and JHU_Greco dozing off together in the middle of Levering.

Being cuddle buddies with JHU_Lucie in between shifts. (Thanks to JHU_Marina for taking this while we were sleeping!)


Keys to Success

On any given day, I can be found running in and out of classes, club meetings, impromptu lunches with friends, the library, and/or the workout room located downstairs in Wolman (which will actually be completely re-vamped by next semester as a part of the Wolman Renovation Project!). On this particular day, however, if you were to have come looking for me around 1 p.m. EST, you would have found me dashing from door to door in Wolman asking to see everybody’s keys.

No, I didn’t lose my keys (knock on wood). Actually, after another jam-packed week, I just got to thinking. While I feel like I’m finally becoming adjusted to my hectic schedule here at Hopkins, I know that it’s probably nothing compared to some of my peers. Hopkins hosts almost every type of student imaginable; both aspiring physicists and stellar athletes call Homewood home, and while their day-to-day schedules may be completely different, the one thing that everyone has in common is that they’re always on the move and they’re always busy.

So, you might ask, how does everyone manage to stay afloat? What does it take to be successful at Hopkins? With these questions in mind, I went around asking to photograph the keychains of various freshmen in my building. By asking them about their keys (something that students carry with them everywhere they go), I also found out about the students themselves–who they are, why they’re here, and how they stay busy–that is, how they’re successful at Hopkins. So without further ado, I present to you…

JHU_Ruthie’s Keys to Success!

Matt's keys

1. Matt’s keys. Matt’s Army ROTC keychain demonstrates his heavy involvement in Hopkins’ Reserves Officers Training Corp (ROTC) Program, which is essentially a way for students to go to college and become officers after graduation in whichever military service branch they choose. Matt, like all Army ROTC cadets, has Physical Training sessions every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning from 6-7 a.m. where he runs and does pushups and situps. His Thursdays include a class on basic military leadership and management, and he’s also required to do a three hour lab each week which covers all aspects of military life, including anything from drill ceremony to combat medic training. At Hopkins, there are around 15 ROTC freshmen and approximately 100 cadets pulling from Hopkins, UMBC, Stevenson, MICA, etc.

However, his involvement in ROTC is not limited just to weekly requirements. Matt says, “It’s not just a class or a lecture, it’s basically a brotherhood. There’s a big sense of camaraderie among the cadets. We go out together on the weekends, create intramural sports teams, and we’ve even gone on hiking trips across Maryland and Northern Virginia. It’s a great support group.” Matt was also recently elected president of the Hopkins ROTC Club, as well!

2. Lara’s keys. Lara’s silver keychain is from a company that makes musical instruments.

Lara's keys

At Hopkins, she’s continued to pursue her love of music (she’s been taking singing lessons for five years!) as a part of the Sirens, our only all-female acapella group here on campus.(Make sure you check out the link–the video from their Spring 2011 concert features my RA, Sarah!) This semester, they will be performing a mashup of Halo by Beyonce and Secrets by OneRepublic, among other covers of popular songs. Lara signed up for auditions in the first couple weeks of school, and says that “…the auditions were really fun. We got to do fun warm-ups, then I had to sing a song that they assigned to me, and they asked you to sing by yourself a lot. It was the most fun out of all of the auditions I went to!” (Lara also auditioned for the Vocal Chords and the Octopodes.) The Sirens practice for six hours a week (two hours three times a week), and even though they only have one official performance each semester, they also travel to different universities in Maryland to perform at their concerts as guests. Lara says that being in the Sirens is definitely a huge part of her involvement on campus and loves it so far!

Miguel's keys

3. Miguel’s keys. Miguel is an international student from Mexico, and is planning on majoring in Neuroscience. His classes take up the majority of his time, but he says that he loves learning how the brain works. Miguel’s favorite class is Intro to Cognitive Neuropsychology, taught by Professor McCloskey, where he says he learns about how the brain processes reading and spelling and how brain damage affects that in order to understand how a healthy brain works. Underclassmen interested in Neuroscience can join a number of related groups on campus, such as NeuroJAYS, headed by our very own JHU_Noah!

4. Julia’s keys. I hit the jackpot with my friend Julia’s mess of keychains! Her Montreal Canadiens keychain and Atlanta Thrashers lanyard show her love for ice hockey. Julia played

Julia's keys

on an ice hockey team for two years, but now she’s trying something new on the club field hockey team, which she says is “low key but really fun.” They practice around twice a week, where the older girls coach the younger players, and also plan team-bonding activities. So far, the team has won their first game which took place a few weekends ago, and are looking forward to their upcoming tournament next weekend at UMD!

Julia’s Africa keychain, which was a gift from a South African friend, reflects her academic interests; she plans to major in International Studies with a focus on Security Studies. Outside of classes, she stays busy as a writer for JHU Politik, a weekly political publication on campus. With a passion for world affairs and international security, Julia says that “Politik is a way to work on [my] writing and get to know more about global issues that [I] ordinarily wouldn’t have the time to research as deeply.” Her latest story on the Coptic Christian uprising in Egypt ties directly into her Africa keychain, and can be read in Politik’s latest issue tomorrow, Sunday 10/16!

And, last but not least…

My keys

5. My keys. Okay, okay, so nothing on my keychain is actually related to anything I do on campus. But I do love Starbucks–or any coffee, for that matter! Caffeine is essential for staying energized and focused throughout my day. My MyPanera Card has sadly been out of use since coming to Baltimore–the closest Panera (that I know of, at least) is in the Inner Harbor, but my friend Marina recently introduced me to Carma’s Cafe, located on 32nd St, which has all the salad, sandwiches, and coffee I could ever possibly want! The 2011 Student Discount Card, which was handed out at Convocation, is good at a variety of places around campus. The logo on the card says “Students Now, Alumni Forever” which brings this blog post to a close: The keys to being successful at Hopkins? Get involved. Network. Make friends, pursue what you’re passionate about, work hard, and make connections past your four years here at Hopkins!

Hopkins students hard at work!