Most Likely To Make a Hopkins Superlatives Blog

Exhibit A

One of my favorite parts of high school was Senior Superlatives, especially because my friend and I who were voted “Most Artistic” decided to take our newfound glory a little far (see: too far) and splatter-paint ourselves in the middle of the school day for our picture. In the same spirit, I thought I would finally announce my long-awaited Hopkins Superlatives. Seeing as I was the only one voting, it may be a little biased, but for all of you who are anxious to start your time at Hopkins, don’t worry — you’ll soon be able to formulate your own personal favorites that make Hopkins unique to you.

Best Dressed: Gilman Hall

The Gilman Atrium and Hut, or as I fondly refer to it, the “Hipster Library,” are without a doubt the best dressed spots on campus. Seeing as Gilman is the “home for humanities,” I must say that us humanitarians dress to impress. The extent to which people always seem so put together in their finest hipster apparel is actually quite laughable at times, and I’m unable to think of an occasion when I saw someone wearing sweatpants. So congratulations study-goers of Gilman — you always make the place so undeniably classy.

24/7 classiness

Most Likely to Change the World: JHU Tutorial Project

I did Tutorial Project first semester and it was great. I got to spend time with fellow SAABers JHU_Erica, JHU_Kevin, and JHU_Wafa, I worked with an awesome kid named Rickie, and I really got to see the impact that the whole group was having on the kids who we were tutoring. I would definitely encourage anyone to apply and get involved, and even though I had to give it up because of time conflicts, I think that it’s something that will continue to show how much Hopkins students care about the surrounding communities.

Most Changed: The Brody Learning Commons 

From its beginnings as a meek and humble construction site in the beginning of the year, the BLC is shaping up to be an invaluable space on campus. The BLC is adjacent to the MSE Library and will offer additional space for study and research; even better, it’s planned to open before the start of the school year! From watching the construction occur throughout the school year, the Brody Learning Commons is definitely the most changed at Hopkins.

From getting to school in the fall... leaving for the summer

Most Likely to Brighten Your Day: Spring Fair

Not only does Spring Fair brighten up your day, but it makes your entire weekend a whirlwind of fun. My first Spring Fair was amazing; the food, music, and relaxed vibe all makes for a fun-filled change of pace. It’s hard not to be happy during Spring Fair weekend.

Most Spirited: The Nest

The Nest is the section at lacrosse games dedicated to the most-spirited student fans. It’s always fun to join a sea of light blue as you scream until you lose your voice while cheering for your school.

Go Hop!

Worst Senioritis: The Baltimore crime stigma

I’m not sure whether I should attribute it to seniortis or (more accurately) to the fact that it’s simply over-hyped, but Baltimore’s stigma of being a dangerous place did not show up last year, and it’s not showing signs to come in the future. Hopkins’ security is crazy extensive, and I can truly say that I never once felt unsafe, including my way-post-midnight food runs and coming home from off-campus. (I mean what mom and dad? I’m always in bed by 8:30, don’t worry.)

Do you sense any worry in this picture? Neither do I.

Most Likely to Star in a Movie: Homewood Campus

If I ever felt the (unnecessary) urge to run from class to class, I would make sure to follow the footsteps of Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in the opening scene of The Social Network. I’ve never seen Harvard so I really can’t judge, but we must be doing something right if they decided to film on our campus. In the film crew’s defense, you can’t beat red brick and marble.

Yes, this is the Breezeway. No, there's not a violin player there every night. Although that would be pretty cool...

Most Likely to Succeed: Program in Museums & Society

I don’t think I’ll ever get over my love of my minor in Museums and Society. The minor is pretty new -- it was first offered in 2007 -- but they’ve already contributed so much to Hopkins. As one of the most interdisciplinary programs, Museums and Society has offered courses that range from curating a print exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art to exhibiting scientific discoveries to an Intersession class abroad in France looking at the role of museums in Paris. I would without-a-doubt recommend signing up for one of the classes they offer, because they only continue to get better.

The Walters Art Museum will become my classroom this fall -- I'm taking a practicum course looking at the installation of their East Asian art collection!

Class Clown(s): My friends

This superlative definitely goes out to my amazing friends who enjoy doing the same crazy things that I do…

...such as failing at velcro walls... through inflatable obstacle courses that randomly appear across campus...

...and even having hipster photoshoots so that we could make our very own stereotypical "instagrammed image with a vague quote" pictures.

Well, the superlatives are out and the suspense is over. Well, there’s still some suspense, as I’m sure the incoming freshmen are eager to start their own memories at Hopkins. Don’t be fooled though: we returning students are just as excited to get back to our school. Until then, continue making the most out of your summers and I’ll be back soon with my last post before the beginning of the school year!

Blue jays, Masala, and Chai, Oh My!

I am super excited right now because I will be going to India next week to visit all my relatives! I have a HUGE family…about 30 first cousins and 50 second cousins and a million uncles and aunts…and only two weeks to visit all of them; it’ll be like running a marathon! A majority of my family is from South India, so I will be spending a majority of my time there, speaking nothing but Kannada (one of the hundreds of national languages of India) each day. So if I come back to Hopkins in the fall and say something to you in a strange, bazaar foreign language, it’s because I would have forgotten how to speak English. (Just kidding, that won’t happen!)

In addition to visiting family, I am very much looking forward to all the delicious, traditional, culture-rich Indian food that I will be eating every day:

Like masala flavored french fries...

...and paneer pizza...

...and not to mention, CHAI !!

Although the above are great, I was really referring to something more like this:

An Indian appetizer called "Papdi Chaat"! It is incredibly delicious!

I think I have one more blog to go, so I will definitely share about my trip to India! But for now, something far more pressing has come up. I was scrolling through the files on my computer looking for pictures to use for this blog when I came across this little gem:

candy shaped like a heart (the organ) and brain pencils!

I thought it was really cute so I thought I’d share! Back at Hopkins, during orientation week last year, we had open houses for all the academic departments where faculty from each department spoke about the classes and what each major has to offer. I got the heart-shaped candy and pencils at the Neuroscience open house. If I remember correctly, they had a bunch of other organ-shaped candies you could choose from. They also give out a ton of other cute stuff like brain-shaped stress balls and a Neuro major’s lanyard. The information session is pretty neat as well, so go to the Neuroscience open house during orientation if you’re interested!

Lastly, I took my Differential Equations final exam last week at Rutgers University! It was a pretty sentimental moment for me since it was my last pure math class EVER (from this point forward, the math I will learn will be applied to my major). Luckily, the final exam went well and I feel like I owe it all to the blue jays that sat outside the building hall where I took my exam. Yes, actual blue jays! On the day of my exam, as I was walking towards the classroom, I saw blue jays chilling at Rugters.

Oh hey there!

In the eight weeks I had taken the class, not once had I seen a blue jay walking around the campus until of course, the very last day when I saw FOUR! I was beyond convinced they were there to cheer me on or something. I am not kidding; just the sight of the blue jays gave me a bigger boost of confidence than a Starbucks doubleshot would ever have. And along with all of that, I saw them again during the exam perched outside the classroom window. I swear, I am neither going crazy nor making up superstitious claims in my favor. Those blue jays were there and they were good luck!

Life As An English Major

Generally speaking, one of the first things people ask me when they find out that I go to Hopkins is, “Oh, so you want to be a doctor?” (Trust me – with my complete lack of tolerance for blood and needles and terrible hand-eye coordination, you don’t want me to be your doctor.) One of the first things people ask me when they find out I’m an English major is, “Oh, so you want to live off of Ramen and broken dreams for the rest of your life?”

Okay, so maybe that’s a gross exaggeration. It’s actually something more along the lines of, “I see…and what exactly are you going to do with that?” which is the politically correct way of expressing some combination of the following thoughts:

a) “I see…So you’re paying several grand a year to be a high school English teacher?” (Yes. You nailed it right on the head. My dream is to babysit a room full of hormonal, pimply teenagers and teach them how to cuss at each other using proper sentence structure.)

I'm actually embarrassed by how many times I've seen this movie

b) “I see…So you’re majoring in grammar Nazism with a minor in alcoholism?” (No, I’m double majoring in sarcastic one-liners and gold digging.)

c) “I see…So you want to write books?” (On a scale from one to the Westboro Baptist Church, this one actually isn’t as presumptuous as it could be. But in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t want to write books – I want to read them. And what better way to do that than work in the publishing industry as a senior book editor from Canada faced with deportation who gets to marry Ryan Reynolds in a comedic tale of love’s ups and downs? Oh wait.)

Needless to say, there’s definitely a certain stigma surrounding humanities majors, especially at a school as math- and science-oriented as Hopkins. But one of the main reasons why I chose Hopkins is because of its stellar humanities programs and, now, a year later, one of the main reasons why I love my classes is because the majority of them are humanities classes. And at a point where most of my friends are switching majors/going through existential crises, I’m perfectly happy with my chosen academic track. I feel challenged by professors who are not only brilliant in their own right but also more than willing to help me grow as a writer and a thinker. My writing and methods of analysis have become even more precise, my academic interests even more densely interconnected. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

At the same time, I’d like to consider myself a pragmatist. (I also kind of don’t want to live off of instant noodles seasoned with the salt from my own tears.) Realistically speaking, the career options for English majors who don’t want to pursue a Ph.D make for rather slim pickings. Granted, I have another three years to get my act together and find a job that will fund my ridiculous Starbucks addiction and general day-to-day gluttony. For a while, I considered print journalism because I had been on my high school newspaper staff. But after interning all last semester at a real newspaper, I realized that – despite my positive experience working there – it wasn’t for me.


You’d think that journalism and English would go hand in hand. And in a way, they do. If anything, my internship forced me out of the “Hopkins bubble,” if only because journalism is a field that pushes you outside of your natural borders and compels you to have your hand on the pulse of the city’s happenings as they unfold. Newspaper journalism, in particular, places a very heavy emphasis on timing and relevance – in a field intended to give a platform to the community’s stories, it also seems to trivialize them at the same time. A story is only as significant as the moment in which it happens, and thus news reporting is both a captain of and a victim to sheer timing.

The church in Mt. Vernon that I used to pass on my way to The Baltimore Sun!

I’m an English major because I love stories. How it’s told and who’s telling it says just as much, if not more, than the story itself. There’s something so fascinating to me about the timelessness of writing, the possibility that a certain line or story can transcend generations. Fiction often poses the question of what kinds of stories human beings can tell, how, and for what purpose. Journalism tends to put a very specific filter on these questions.

Like, for example, the blind Argentine man who used to get on the JHMI every week with his seeing-eye dog. One day, I overheard him telling his new assistant about how his previous assistant left him in the middle of Baltimore and how he almost got assaulted because of it (cue me looking extremely horrified while clearly eavesdropping), how he lost his eyesight over time, how beautiful Argentina is and how he would like to return someday.

In journalism, this particular story would be – for lack of a better word – useless. The subject is too old. There’s no “peg.” But in fiction, this man’s life could be the beginnings of the next great story.

So what exactly am I going to do with my English major? Who knows. Ideally, I’ll be taking over the publishing world with JHU_Tess in ten years and (hopefully) looking as good as Sandra Bullock in a pencil skirt. At the very least I hope I’m not homeless (I know, I know – WOAH DREAM BIG). In the meantime, I’ll keep reading books like it’s my job (I’m currently reading The Other Wes Moore which was written by a Hopkins grad!) and defending my major til I die (see: consoling myself over some Cup of Noodles with this article).

To Be Honest

“I think for the most part, if you’re really honest with yourself about what you want out of life, life gives it to you”
– Ted Mosby

It’s been over three weeks since I left the beautiful Homewood campus behind- saying goodbye to my AMR single, to the FFC cookies (definitely for the best), to my C level cubicle, to the crazy Baltimore weather, to my freshmen status, to physics (FOREVER!!), to my friends, and…. to my ChemBE major. Wait, my major? I’ll back up.

This past semester, I was guilty of something that I feel like a lot of incoming freshmen are at risk of. It’s called overextending yourself, putting too much on your plate, thinking that you’re an amazing superhuman who can do absolutely anything and everything- you get the idea. In high school, I don’t think that I was really in danger of this at all. I knew what I was interested in, there were only a certain number of clubs to join, my parents were always there to keep me in check, and my classes were not exceptionally difficult.

Our season starts up in the spring!

Life at Hopkins is pretty different. There are literally over 300 clubs you can join, there’s always something going on, the classes can be pretty intense, and there’s no one to keep you in check but yourself. Given these circumstances, I spread myself way too thin this past year, especially second semester. After an entire year at Hopkins, I have finally acknowledged that I cannot balance engineering, pre-med, tennis (in season), a sorority, research, SAAB, and two additional clubs, all while maintaining a normal sleep schedule, plus extra time to see my friends.  And it’s okay that I can’t.

Looking back, I’ve realized that I was physically capable of doing it all, but the problem was that I wasn’t doing anything to the best of my ability. Everything got maybe 2/3 of my total effort because I felt as if I needed to move onto the next thing. As you can imagine, this did not bode well for my transcript, nor for my happiness. I decided that I needed to change something or give up at least one thing hanging in the balance, but I couldn’t decide what I should give up!

After re-evaluating my ultimate goal (medical school), I decided that I needed to switch out of engineering. Not only was I not giving my engineering classes as much time as they required, but I found that I was continually asking myself why I chose ChemBE in the first place. Engineering seemed like the right decision before arriving at Hopkins honestly because I was after job security if medical school didn’t work out. After a year of balancing engineering, pre-med, and everything else, I’ve recognized that it’s only possible to balance everything if you’re passionate about absolutely everything that you’re doing. Job security was (and still is) important to me, but in my circumstances, I felt that I needed to focus all of my energy on actually getting into medical school rather than spending the majority of my time working on a back-up plan.

So, what will I spend my next three years at Hopkins studying? Biology? Public Health? Chemistry? Nope! After my experience this year, I wanted to study something (along with pre-med courses) that I am really passionate about, so I’m switching over to International Studies! I know, for those that didn’t know me in high school (probably most of you), it might seem completely random, but I absolutely love history, politics, languages, and different cultures. Actually, I initially applied to Hopkins as an International Studies major, so it just feels like I’m finally being true to myself.

At a political conference in high school!


After my first jam-packed year at Hopkins, I’ve come to the conclusion that those who succeed do so by staying true to themselves. Through being honest with myself, I feel like I’m finally on the right track in that I can pursue my goal with full force!

A Summer of Experiential Education

Classic Experiential Ed-- Pre-O 2011

It was the end of classes yesterday, and in a short week and a half (after finals) my freshman year will be over. I debated for a while whether I should write a sappy reflection on my year, or stay positive and upbeat about what’s to come for me at JHU. I’ve decided to take the middle road by discussing my exciting summer and how what I’ve learned this year will affect it.

Experiential Education. What a strange phrase! Part of me thinks, isn’t all education experiential? But after this summer, I’m pretty sure I won’t be thinking that anymore. In the second round of interviews for a summer counselor position at Genesee Valley, an outdoor learning center 1.5 miles from my house, they asked me what I think experiential education is really about. I said it is learning about yourself in combination with others through group activities and challenges (which are usually outdoors). I’m excited to see whether my opinion of this changes over the next few months.

To start out my summer, I will be going on a ten day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail for HOLT (Hopkins Outdoor Leadership Training). If you’ve been following my blogs, you know I’m part of Outdoor Pursuits as a hiking leader, and part of being a leader is to go on this trip preferably at the end of your freshman year. I’m not going to lie–  I’m really nervous. I don’t think I’ve ever not showered or not been in contact with my family and friends for ten days in a row, so it will be a challenge. At the same time, something tells me that I will really appreciate this trip for my own personal growth. Ringing any bells? :)

When I get back, I’ll have a few days off before starting my training as a summer camp counselor for Genesee Valley. I’m so psyched to have gotten this position! I used to be a camper at the Valley and always thought the counselors were amazingly cool. It’ll be fun to work with those kids and be outside all day, not to mention I can run or bike to work every morning.

Enjoying the outdoors with a buddy from high school

Finally, I’ll end the summer by leading a pre-orientation trip for the class of 2016! I have no doubt I will love getting to know the incoming freshman while enjoying the last few weeks of summer.

As you can see, I will essentially be outdoors for the next three months! And what does this have to do with my freshman  year at JHU? Well, this past year has opened my eyes to many things that make me happy. For example, I love getting to know new people and pushing my limits (I learned this through the many great students already at JHU, and the fact that I worked really hard in my academics this past semester). I also love training my body by exercising (I learned this from the past few weeks before finals, where my exercise and diet have kept me calm in the face of a heavy academic load). In lieu of this, I have decided to train for the Baltimore Marathon during the summer. (It’s October 13 2012, so come cheer me on!) This summer will be fantastic in so many ways, and I can’t wait to see how far I can push myself and what I will learn.

In conclusion, thanks to JHU for a great freshman year, and thanks to Hopkins Interactive for giving me the opportunity to chronicle it! Be sure to check out my blog next year, where I will talk about my adventures as a sophomore. (Literally meaning, “wise fool.”) I can’t wait to see how wise and foolish I will be! Have a great summer everyone!


Let’s Write a Paper!

No matter what major you pick or college you end up at, the reality is that you’ll have to write a paper. In high school, the idea of a three page essay was horrifying and often led to unorganized, unfocused results, but since coming to Hopkins I’ve been able to write some papers that I’ve personally been impressed by, both in quantity of pages and in quality. How is this possible? Well, for just three easy payments of $19.99…okay just kidding. The truth is, Hopkins has beyond incredible resources for research, not just in the labs, but in the museums and libraries. Follow along with my latest paper — a research paper for my Intro to Art History class — to see just how great these resources are.

The Prompt:

Step One: Pick a Piece

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do a paper that would focus on the ideas of modernity and artistic expression in modern art. Since the BMA’s contemporary collection doesn’t reopen until November of this year – I will add that the Contemporary Curator came and talked about the reinstallation to my museums class, and it’s going to be amazing – I decided that I would pick a work from the National Gallery in DC. So, one $7 train ticket later, I was en route to DC for the day in search of what would become my focus for the next few weeks. I departed the train an hour later and walked over to the National Gallery for the first time, only to find myself overwhelmed with choices. The conversation in my head was essentially a series of “Oh, I like that! Oh, but I also like that!” and on and on and on.

The East building with huge works by Calder and Kelly

Andy Goldsworthy's installation in the lobby

Leo Villareal's light installation connecting the East and West buildings

Cherry blossoms in DC


"Field Painting"

After wandering the galleries for a few hours, I somehow narrowed myself to one work: Jasper Johns’s Field Painting. Something about its undeniable presence and visual evidence of the artist hammering out ideas of mark-making and the artist/studio relationship, a sense not evident in his earlier, less introspective works, really connected with me.

Step Two: Research, Research, and, oh yeah, Research

Books about Johns

If you’re pursuing a major where writing papers will be a prominent part of your education, it’s important that the college you choose have the resources to help you on your way. What’s great about Hopkins is that the librarians have set up individual pages to guide you in your research with resources specific to your field. For example, the art history research guide provides access to search through the library catalogue as well as articles in various arts magazines. To start, I run “Jasper Johns” through the library catalogue search engine and discover a section full of books on the artist on campus at the MSE Library. I feel inclined to add that the entire D-Level of the library is made up of art history books. I locate the area on Johns and find everything from exhibition catalogues to books outlining his career. Then I see them: jackpot. First, I find a book that includes copies from Johns’s own sketchbook, which gives me unique insight into his thought process. Second, I find a very specific book on Johns’s use of lightbulbs, and since the work includes a bright red light that I wasn’t sure how to address, this will definitely help me as I approach my ideas on his work. I also find several journals talking about the work at the time of its exhibition, including a work in a French. I check out my dozen books and spend that night going through them, finding everything from a visual analysis to what could be seen as Johns’s manifesto towards the treatment of objects.

My partners-in-crime for the past few weeks

Step Three: Write

After spending a lot of time in front of a blank document on my computer, having random ideas come to me as I walk around campus and as I’m falling asleep, I work on a first draft of the work. I try to introduce the piece using a book of essays from Alfred Barr Jr. (that I conveniently got from the library) and work through a visual analysis, finally consulting my massive pile of books that have been hanging out in my room. 10+ pages later, I’m ready to refine.

Step Four: The Unexpected

I approach my professor one day after lecture to talk about some of the concepts of pop and bring up that I’m writing my paper on Johns. She asks if I’ve looked at an exhibition catalogue put out by the National Gallery about Johns, which I had, and then adds that her friend curated that exhibit. What? She then adds that I should look at one of the essays in there…that she wrote. What?? Lastly, she casually mentions the few times when she met Jasper Johns. What??? Hopkins professors, if that doesn’t explain clearly enough, are really at the top of their fields and are incredible resources to have at your disposal.

Step Five: The Home Stretch

I make an appointment with the JHU Writing Center, which provides students with one-on-one meetings with their trained tutors to go over writing assignments. The person helping me gives me some really valuable insight as to how to improve my paper and really takes the time to establish my strengths and weaknesses. After taking those edits into consideration, I approach the final step which involves listing the images which I’ve referenced in my essay. This, however, is extremely easy since Hopkins students get free accounts to ArtSTOR where I can download high quality files of my images.


…and the rest, as they say, is (art) history. Cue “We Are The Champions.” Except that actually happened…Anyway, maybe it’s the fact that Jasper Johns and Johns Hopkins share the word “Johns” in their name, but it’s more likely Hopkins’s amazing resources that really made this paper possible. The resources at Hopkins really do make a difference, and it’s really made research not only accessible but enjoyable as well.

What Are We Busy About? The Classes Blog

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
--Henry David Thoreau


As I frantically try to finish my last major paper of the semester other than my research paper, it’s finally hit me that I have two weeks of classes left in my freshman year of college.  All my finals are either in the form of essays or final presentations, so I could hypothetically fly home the weekend of May 3rd and finish my research paper at home.  I decided to stay a bit longer, though, for reasons that will be discussed in-depth in my next blog.  I’m hoping to be more productive in writing my paper here than at home, perhaps finish up some video projects, and maybe relax a bit before heading home for a week or so break before flying back to DC to meet with all the other participants in my summer program in Oman.  Things are happening very fast and at times it’s been absolutely insane to think of what I’ve done this past year, but that, again, is for my next blog.

I will also reveal why the videographers put a camera on a tripod on a table during Spring Fair.


During SOHOP I had the chance to meet with a lot of perspective students and their parents, and a question I was asked numerous times was what classes freshman take at Hopkins.  Since we don’t have either a core curriculum or a department containing the vast majority of students, this is a question that’s impossible to answer except on an individual basis.


First-Year Arabic

This class is a continuation of the class I had last semester, so for an in-depth description you can check out my classes blog for last semester.  Arabic is definitely getting harder as we go along and get away from simplistic vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure, but my perceptions about this class have changed rapidly since I found out that I’ll have to speak nothing but this language for two months this summer.  In the meantime, I’m taking advantage of the language lab to practice and talking with past students from Hopkins who have traveled to Oman.  Here’s the obligatory dubbed Disney song in Arabic!

American animated movie about Greek mythology dubbed in Arabic.  It almost beats the American animated movie about a Chinese legend from my older blog….

Beginning Farsi I

I was a little hesitant about taking two languages concurrently, especially two languages written in a totally different alphabet than English and Spanish, but this class has been an absolute blast,  The twelve or so people in my class (including JHU_Kevin) all talk a lot and we get to carry on conversations in Farsi, eat Perisan sweets, and watch Persian movies.  Our professor is really sweet and always willing to stop class to answer questions about the language.  Coming in knowing the Arabic alphabet was a big help in the beginning of the class, but now at the end of the semester people are pretty much on an even playing field.  It’s also interesting to see Arabic loanwords in Farsi and vice-versa, like when you see Spanish influences on English.  Here’s a video showing one of my favorite movies, The Emperor’s New Groove, dubbed over in Farsi.

Freshman Seminar: US-USSR Cold War

I wanted to take full advantage of the Freshman Seminars offered at Hopkins, so this is my second and last one.  When I first signed up for the class I thought it was going to be a basic class about the history or politics of the Cold War, but this class has been very interesting in that we’re much more focused on the cultural aspects of the Cold War, like movies, books, newspaper articles, etc.  We’ve watched spy movies like From Russia with Love and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, we’ve read books examining the role of Holywood in American pop culture, and we’ve listened to Russian protest songs.  The class has been totally unexpected, but it’s been fascinating seeing the Cold War in this light.  Everyone in the class can also pretend to be super hipster by saying things like, “Well I find the American remake of Solaris to be severely lacking.”   Here’s a clip from the 1979 BBC miniseries based of John Le Carre’s novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. 

Zionism, post-Zionism, and Modern Hebrew Literature

I signed up for this class because one of my friends took a class with the same professor in the fall and absolutely loved it.  This class has been very useful in giving me a different perspective on Middle Eastern politics as seen through various works of Hebrew literature.  I’ve always had a soft spot for Hebrew poetry since having to give a presentation on Yehuda Amachai my sophomore year of high school, and we’ve been able to look at politics through some great works (including a vampire story!)  This class also has an abundance of guest lecturers coming to speak to our class, which has been a great experience because it’s allowed me to hear a lot of interesting lectures on modern Israel.  Some of the guest lecturers have come in to talk about the politics of creating the modern Hebrew language and the shifting meaning of the binding of Isaac in Israeli politics.

Comparative Sociology of Religious Fundamentalism

This is hands-down the absolute hardest class I’ve taken in my life, and it’s also been the class I’ve learned the most in.  I’m the only freshman in this upper-level class, and one of the few non-Sociology majors.  The class can be daunting at times: our professor assigns hundres of pages of reading a week and encourages us to look at even more perspectives outside the required reading, and I have a 25 page research paper due at the end of the semester.  Even if the amount of work is scary at times, I’ve learned so much about various fundamentalist movements around the world.  Although some fundamentalist groups, like Al-Qaeda, are very well known, there have been so many others we’ve studied over the semester by having a new “case study” every week.  So far we’ve studied  Israeli fundamentalist groups, Indian fundamentalists, the Pakistani Jamiat-i-Islami, the Muslim Brotherhood, American Protestant fundamentalists, and so many others.  I’ve been able to do extensive research for a research paper in the class, and 7,000 pages of reading later (I counted) I finally settled on writing a paper on the influence of Pan-Arab Movements on the Second Sudanese Civil War.

The semester  has gone by so fast.  It’s definitely felt more overwhelming than my first semester, but I mean overwhelming in the best possible sense of the word.  I’ve had to many amazing opportunities this semester and have lined up incredible opportunities in the future, and as my freshman year winds down I’ve begun to realize that several goals I had in mind when I came to college have already been achieved, while I’ve added goals that I never even knew existed before this year.

Welcome to the Fray

I don’t want to grow up. And I know that now is not the time for me to be having any sort of existential crisis, but I think I’m finally starting to understand what adults mean when they talk about The Real World. I used to think that The Real World was some distant horizon, a term dangled in front of jaded teenagers as if to say, “You don’t know anything.”

Now, I’m not so sure.

Waiting at bus stop by the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon on my way back to campus.

This semester has been different in a lot of ways – my courseload is a lot lighter (especially in comparison to all of the upper-level courses I took in the fall), my caffeine intake much less frightening (see: above), my extracurricular involvement higher (I was recently accepted onto the publicity board for the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium – so go to our speaker events in the fall! Okay, shameless plug over), and my days much busier.

I’ve been interning at The Baltimore Sun downtown this entire semester, so I take the bus to Mt. Vernon three times a week after I get out of class. So far, I’ve worked on compiling online photo galleries, pitching story ideas, and contacting interesting locals (such as the executive chef of Charm City Cakes!) for the Reader Essay section. I’ve even interviewed a pirate (Yes, a pirate – did you know that Fell’s Point has an incredibly rich pirate and privateer history? Don’t worry, neither did I), and my first published piece is set to run next week (!!!).

Tanning/studying at our top-secret study spot! Maturity at its finest.

So this is the Real World: the clickety-clack of fingers typing frantically away at their respective keyboards, piles of paper stacked into neat perpendiculars, an afternoon bus packed with sleeping, waiting, breathing masses – a balmy Saturday on the Beach, date parties, a Relay for Life moonbounce filled with laughter and air. And as the end of freshman year draws nearer and nearer, I’m finding that – for the first time in my life – I just want things to stay as they are. The Real World is like a reel of images that change as they repeat themselves, and I’m not ready to give up all of the carefree mishaps and sense of possibility that come with being a freshman. The thought of moving out of Wolman in a month is overwhelming (it also doesn’t help that I could probably fill an Olympic-sized pool with the sheer amount of stuff I’ve accumulated over the year).As much as I look forward to the perks of being another year older  and another year closer to taking over the publishing world with my big, JHU_Tess (I’m only half-joking), it’s also a little daunting.

At RA Sushi with my favorites for Sonu's 19th! Another year older, but none the wiser. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SONU!

At my internship the other week, I happened to overhear a conversation a few cubicles over (I work at my own half-cubicle – can I get a woop woop?!). A newly hired staff member was being introduced to one of the editors, and there was the usual hand-shaking and making of references that I’m too young to get as the seasoned editor gave the new writer a rundown of the newsroom. As they parted ways, the editor said, “Well – welcome to the fray.” For some reason, that phrase has stuck with me since.

I am by no means a seasoned Hopkins veteran, and in a lot of respects you probably shouldn’t be taking advice from me. But from what I’ve experienced so far at Hopkins, I can tell you that the one thing that will never change is how fast the time goes.

So, for all you Class of 2016ers reading this – you have so many fun experiences ahead of you, so embrace being at the bottom of the pack for as long as you can. Most of you will probably be corralled/coerced into going to PlayFair during Orientation, you’ll complain about the FFC, and you’ll quickly learn to have a separate pair of frat shoes when you go out on the weekends. You’ll idolize any upperclassman who talks to you, wonder how people can automatically tell that you’re a freshman (heads up: it’s the Johns Hopkins lanyard).  You’ll feel like a champ after surviving your first college all-nighter, even if you only had to pull one because you procrastinated for so long (guilty as charged). You’ll change your major, your group of friends, your favorite hangouts, what level you study on in the library.

Allow me to introduce you to my big.

You’ll slowly start to see aspects of The Real World  seep into the world that you’ve created for yourself – a world that is, in its own way, much more real than anything I or anyone else can explain to you. You’ll get internships, jobs, research opportunities – all stepping stones to the bold and brilliant things you’re bound to accomplish, because that’s why you’re here. And, a year from now, you might face the same quasi-crisis that I’m facing now, wanting everything to freeze just for a moment because you’re not ready to take on The Real World without training wheels.

Growing up seems ultra-fabulous until you realize that college might be the last time that you can take classes solely because you’re interested in them, dress up as a sea creature/cowgirl/furry animal/viking/all of the above for a party without looking like a complete idiot, and get more excited over a moonbounce (or anything else intended for small children) than a preschooler would.

So slow down, Class of 2016. There’s plenty of time to grow up and act responsibly. I’m enjoying every date party, mixer, tailgate, birthday dinner, and low-key study sesh that I can as I learn how to format my resume, apply to internships, and cook something other than Easy Mac and Ramen.

The Real World can wait. In the meantime, welcome to Hopkins.

Welcome to the fray.



Why Hopkins: the Challenge

The challenge of being apart from your family

Because I live so close to home (about 25 minutes away to be exact…), I have the luxury of being home for Easter this weekend. This also means I have the luxury of going grocery shopping, which in my family means aimlessly wandering aisles and stopping at every (I mean every) free sample station. So, whilst I was getting my free lunch today at Sam’s club (composed of a sample of ham, blood-red oranges, and four different assortments of cheesecake) I ran into a familiar face: my high school college counselor. After briefly catching up on my life at Hopkins and how I am now volunteering for admissions, she asked me if I would visit my high school and talk to the current seniors about my experience in college. I have decided to center this post around what I would say to those seniors, and hopefully you will walk away with a firmer grasp of “Why Hopkins?”

The first thing I want to say about college is that it is exactly what you expect and exactly the opposite of what you expect at the same time. Do you plan to stay up late with your friends in your dorm hallway or cafeteria and make inappropriate jokes? Probably. And that will most likely happen. Do you expect to completely change your life and academic plan? Probably not. But, there is a good chance this might happen also. However, in both the expected and the unexpected, Hopkins is the ideal undergraduate institution for your studies.

The challenge of being a nerd

But I guess no matter what I say about college as a broad topic, the question of the hour is why Hopkins? I’ve been struggling with how to answer this question all week (and I promise it’s not cause I secretly hate Hopkins!). Instead, I feel like all the convincing reasons for you prospective students are right there as facts: we are ranked highly, we have many activities on campus, we have the support necessary to succeed… But I guess all of those facts culminate into one essential element I have found students needing as undergraduates: challenge.

I will be honest, when I look back on my past semester and 3/4 of a semester, the biggest theme that sticks out for me is challenge. If you follow my blogs over the past six months, you will see a load of subtle questions that are asking: “what am I supposed to do with my life?” (These questions generally stem from my debate over what to study academically.) You also can see the amount of commitments I have outside of schoolwork, and how I was challenged to balance exercise with everything else I was doing. College brings a waterfall of unexpected challenges, and Hopkins is the best place to provide you with them. But before you freak out, let me tell you this is not a bad thing.

The challenge of having too many new amazing friends to hang out with

When you go to a school like Hopkins, the institution will look you square in the eyes, provide you with many opportunities, and expect the best from you. It is your choice whether to take this sentiment and run with it, or to be overwhelmed or scared of what you can accomplish. I think many philosophers have said something along the lines of “without challenge, there is no true success,” and I completely believe this. If you are looking to find your limits and find out your limits are completely arbitrary, there is no better place to do that than JHU.

My first year in college, I was challenged to spend less time with my family and friends from high school. But I soon become challenged to distribute my time evenly among all of the new students whom I found so fascinating. Because of our diverse student body from different geographical areas and backgrounds, each new person will express a different view of the world to you and push you to grow. You will find many fellow nerds and find yourself making jokes about neurons or syntax. Also, you will find yourself working harder than you ever did in high school and pushing yourself to achieve the grades which used to come easily. No matter what your specific challenge is when you arrive in the fall, just remember two things: 1) there is help for you around every corner if you need it and 2) the struggle is making you a better person.

The challenge of leaving your friends from high school

So, to you seniors at my high school and those all around the country considering Hopkins, I will leave you with an extended metaphor: stroll down the aisles of the grocery store, test out the sample trail mix, and be ready to make some tough choices. But always remember, at some point you will walk out of the store with a new bag of groceries. Just make sure you tried the cheesecake. :)




“Art History? Why’d You Come To Hopkins For That?”

Rauschenberg, National Museum of American Art, 2011

I was thinking about where I was just one year ago, a high school senior beyond anxious while awaiting college decisions, and realized that it’s probably best to just explain it as you’re all probably feeling right now: I just want to know already!! Well, very soon, you’ll have received all of your decisions and be faced with an even bigger dilemma: Where do I want to go? While I may not have the answer, although I do have a suggestion (see: Hopkins), and while we’re on the theme of “just wanting to know,” I thought I’d explain “all you need to know” about one of the best parts about Hopkins: art history. Since coming to Hopkins in the fall with the expectation that being an art history major here is so out-of-the-ordinary, and now feeling completely the opposite, I thought that I should write a blog solely about what it’s like studying the history of art at a school like Hopkins for those of you who may have the same doubts that I had.

So I may have just lost at least half of my readers – I mean art history, who wants to study that, let alone read a blog about it? – so if you’re one the valiant readers continuing, you’re most likely my hero. Why? Because you’re interested in art history! And even better than that, you’ve realized that Hopkins is one of the best places to do that. Why, you may ask? Well, here we go:

And P.S., as added incentive, we’re going to go delve back in time to my awkward teenage days taking pictures with art.

Pollock, Met, 2010

Unique Opportunities

Whether your interest is in research, art theory, or museology, Hopkins lets us art history majors take the classes that match our ambitions in the field. At the end of this semester after having taken just the two introductory art history courses, I’ll have written four papers – two visual analyses and two academic research papers – which is not only necessary when applying to internships but exposes you to the more research-focused side of art history. A lot of the art history classes are labeled as “writing intensive,” so if you enjoy digging deep into certain issues in the history of art, something I’ve found to be surprisingly rewarding, you can focus your curriculum around such courses. If you’re more intrigued by the ideas surrounding art in a more culturally-focused context, there are courses that will expose you to those ideas, while if you’re interested in art museums and how to deal with issues of exhibition and interpreting art for the public, the Museums & Society minor cross-lists many courses with the art history department to combine such topics. For example, one of the classes next year gives students the opportunity to reconsider the exhibition and installation of the East Asian art collection at the Walters Museum of Art – that’s pretty cool if you ask me. And speaking of museums, who could forget about Hopkins’ ideal…

Duchamp, MoMA, 2010


It’s no surprise that Baltimore is thriving with the arts, and the numerous museums play a large role in that. If you’ve ever taken an art history class before, you know that slides only get you so far; actually experiencing the work, seeing it in the flesh, brings entirely new interpretations and new levels of learning to an art history education. So let’s start with the closest museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, which is literally right next to campus. The museum boasts the largest collection of works by Matisse, which compliments its impressive collection of other European Impressionist works. There is also a great collection of European master works, American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, (the department in which I currently work), non-western works, as well as modern and contemporary art in a smart and inventive way. The modern wing is currently undergoing a reinstallation, and the curator of the collection came to talk to our Intro to the Museum class and explain the exhibition; all I can say is it’s going to be amazing and open the public up to new ideas in contemporary art. In Mount Vernon, just a 15-minute, free bus ride away, is the Walters Art Museum, which houses ancient to Impressionist works, often displaying them in ways that give a better understanding of their original context. If for some reason this isn’t enough, DC is just a $7 train ride away, while it’s just as easy to take a bus to New York to experience the renowned collections there; I recently took a trip to see the New Museum’s exhibit The Ungovernables, so there’s really nothing keeping you away from the art scene there in the city. My Intro to Art History professor actually commutes from NYC, which reminds me that I should definitely talk about all of the amazing…

Pollock, Art Institute of Chicago, 2010 (Getting more awkward...)


The art history professors at Hopkins never cease to astound me in terms of their reputations and passion for the material. Even better is that no matter your focus in art history, there’s bound to be at least one professor who has specialized in that field and can guide you in your studies. From as general of concentrations from Modern to Early Christian and as specific as Early Modern Spanish to Northern Renaissance, the faculty not only knows their stuff, and knows it pretty darn well, but knows how to teach it in engaging and insightful ways. In the Fall, Dean Newman, the Dean of Arts & Sciences, invited art history students and the professors to her house for dinner and a lecture. It was a really great opportunity, and I got to talking with Professor Merback about how our loves for art history were both fostered by first practicing the visual arts. It’s incredible being around such intelligent (admittedly an understatement) professors who are also approachable and insightful about the field, which is especially helpful in discovering your…

Pollock, Art Institute of Chicago, 2008 (What a punk)

Focus and Secondary Field

As an art history major, the requirements involve taking two introductory survey courses, four courses focusing on four different time periods (ancient, medieval, Renaissance/Baroque, modern), and finally (but not limited to) three additional courses of your choosing. My interests revolve around modern and contemporary art, with a bit of French post-Impressionist thrown in, so the way that Hopkins sets up the major will let me get a focused education in the entire history of art while letting me get especially in depth with what interests me most. In addition to these major requirements, students choose a secondary field which shows specialized studies in an outside department, which can be anything from a language to museum studies to cultural studies, really whatever you like. By giving us the freedom to focus on our interests but framing that in an education that exposes us to many areas, Hopkins art history students are definitely a step above the rest, and we’re constantly being ranked with the top schools offering art history programs.

So, where do you go from here? Feel free to take my word that art history at Hopkins is incredible. Even at a school known for its sciences, Hopkins art history offers an education unlike any other that I encountered when visiting other schools, not only for the reasons above but also from the high level of academic excellence that comes from a school like Hopkins. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to do your research, either. Visit the art history website, ask a question about the major on the forums, or sit in on a class if you get the chance to visit. I can honestly say that I have no regrets in choosing to study art history, and Hopkins has only helped me maintain my love of the material while pushing me to new levels of understanding.

Good luck to everyone awaiting decisions! Keep a clear head and know that everything will soon be done!