Sum Ambulans in Sole

It’s been a little over a month since I left Hopkins and came home for the summer and I have exactly two more months of break to go before I’m back in Homewood for my sophomore year. Summer is going by way too fast. But I feel I have spent it wisely so far, making some memories that I will take with me for a long time!

I’ve been playing a lot of Scrabble. The other day I played a game with my family who are all Scrabble wizards. My little sister, who is 5 years younger than me, will always manage to beat out the whole family by at least 100 points. And then there’s me and my disastrous playing ability. For several rounds, my family would let me get away with playing words like “Ba” after I would spend several minutes convincing them that it is a word, for it is the sound a sheep makes. For years I would play small made-up words like that and be satisfied with the 4 points I would get each round. However, the other day when I played with my family, something amazing happened! After intently starting at my set of letters, I played a word that was not two, not three, but SIX letters long! The word was “Zealot” with a double letter score on the “z” and a triple word score for a total of 75 points for that one turn, which for me was the most ingenious play on the face of the planet. It was hands-down my greatest Scrabble moment ever and I will forever remember it even when I’m old.

Basically how I normally play... :P

I also played paintball for the first time. I know. I’m insanely crazy. I have no idea what propelled me to try it, but I did and I’ll be completely honest; It was a great experience and I’m glad I tried it, but I’m definitely not brave enough to do it again! For someone who can barely play laser tag, paintball is some scary stuff! I went with my friends who are incredible paintball enthusiasts, so naturally they were far more into it than I was, stealthily maneuvering their way through the course and aiming at the other team with complete accuracy. I, on the other hand, had a more fitting strategy. My plan was to hide behind a tree until it was safe to come out. Unfortunately, the other team seemed to spot me anyway and sent nearly 50 paintballs in my direction, each at about 200 mph. And those paintballs HURT! This continued for many rounds and the general trend was that I would always be one of the first ones out. But in my defense, I would get shot out having tried my absolute best! I even *almost* shot a player on the opposing team! Even though the experience was physically painful (leaving me with about six welts and bruises by the end of the day), it felt very fulfilling to have tried something so completely new and far off from what I would normally do. I have to thank my insane but amazing friends for that!

My friend (left) and I (right) with our paintball guns! We speak Latin.

A more recent obsession of mine that took place a few weeks ago is the BBC show Downton Abbey. I watched the ENTIRE series in a week. It is just too good to take a break from watching! As a Beatles fan, I naturally gravitate towards all things British such as Jane Austin novels, Cadbury’s chocolates, and of course BBC shows. To take my obsession to the next level, I’ve even started to learn how to play the Downton Abbey theme song on the piano. Don’t judge. Watch the video below! It’s the promo from when the first season came out and hopefully it entices you to start watching if you already haven’t:)

Lastly, I’m spending a majority of my summer taking a Differential Equations class at Rutgers University. Contrary to how I thought it would be, Diff Eq is turning out to be one of my favorite classes! The course material is incredibly interesting and seems to apply directly to everyday life, especially the modeling unit, which is one of the first units in the course. In modeling, we learn to write equations that represent certain situations, including population growth and decay, changes in solution concentration over time, and compound interest. From then on, we learn how to solve more complex differential equations. As tedious as they can be at times to compute, I feel a great appreciation for the material since I’ve realized its usefulness from the modeling unit!

That’s my summer so far! I have two more months to go and I can’t wait to see what else happens! So until then, feel free to ask me any questions about student life or Hopkins in general and I will answer them right away!

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.

A Day in the Life of JHU_Purna

I was just getting back from volunteering at this week’s SOHOP event when I remembered that I wanted to write an “A Day in the Life” blog. I was debating between my Mondays and my Fridays for the longest time, but then I decided to write about my Wednesdays instead. So here it goes!

8:00 AM: Wake up I know I know; it’s awesome because it’s so much later than waking up for high school! Looking back, I don’t know how I used to wake up every morning at 6:00AM, rush to get ready on time, and on some days wait outside in the cold and rain for the school bus to arrive. Now I get to wake up later, get ready, and leisurely walk two feet outside my dorm building to grab breakfast. I don’t even have to deal with beating an annoying younger sibling to the bathroom! (…although I do have that Alaskan roommate)

Hopkins waffle for breakfast!

9:00 AM: Gen Chem II My first class of the day is General Chemistry II in the ever so famous (or infamous…depending on the day!) Remsen 1. Remsen 1 is this humungous lecture hall that seats hundreds of students in classes like chemistry, biology, and other large lecture classes. Right now we’re learning about lasers and the chemistry of light! It’s pretty interesting:

Looking over the power point after class!

10:00 AM: Free Hour I don’t have a class at 10:00 AM which is super nice. During this time I either take a nap or go to the library and catch up on my readings for my classes :)

11:00 AM: Gen Physics I Probably one of my favorite classes this semester. The class is taught through clicker questions, or multiple choice questions on a projector that students answer by using a CPS clicker. It’s like playing Jeopardy or Quizbowl! After each question, the professor reveals the right answer by doing a live demo using props to illustrate a mechanics concept. It’s very useful during exams since we don’t have to really memorize the concepts. All we have to do is remember what happens during the demos!

12:00 PM: Calculus III Class #3! I’m glad I took it in the afternoon when I’m mostly awake because this class requires a lot of focus!

1:00 PM: Silk Road Express Silk Road is an Asian food place located in the Mattin Center. I always go there before my art class and get iced chai bubble tea. My art teacher is super nice and allows food in the classroom, so sometimes I get spring rolls to eat while I paint!

Chai bubble tea!

1:30 PM: Painting I Best. Class. Ever. It’s four hours of painting and I kid you not, it’s the most relaxing class I’ve ever taken. Currently, my class is working on master copies of European paintings showcased at the BMA. I chose to do a Seurat painting, while my classmates have chosen works ranging from Picasso to Botticelli. I love chatting with my classmates while painting and listening to my ipod. It’s like recess!

I painted fruit! It was fun.

5:30 PM: Call home As soon as I get out of art class, like the minute I take one step out of the studio room, I pull out my phone and call my family. It’s the perfect time to call home since all my classes are done for the day. Plus, my family is guaranteed to catch me in a good mood since I would have just gotten done painting! The conversations can some days last 10 minutes and other days last 100 minutes. I’m especially excited because they’re coming to visit me this weekend!

6:00 PM: Grab dinner This is when I get to spend time with friends and eat (two of my favorite things) at the same time!

6:30 PM: HERTU I help out with the Hopkins Emergency Response Teaching Unit. Right now, we are working on teaching our fellow Hopkins students how to run emergency medical scenes, such as coming across patients with asthma attacks, allergic reactions, and drug misuse. The class is completely student run. I took the course over intersession and now I help out with the spring semester course as a TA. The classes are very informative and at the end of the course, each student receives an EMR certification.

10:00 PM: Library M level Homework time! My friends and I start off at M level for group study, but then we end up getting distracted from our work and talking to each other the whole time. So we eventually have to split up so we can focus and be productive. (Unless it’s studying for midterms, during which we are all very serious!)

2:00 AM: Sleep The best part of the day :)

Hope you enjoyed reading that! Feel free to ask me any questions about student life or Hopkins in general and I will answer them right away!



Those Pesky Little Things…

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

My semester’s courses!

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

Advanced Writing and Speaking in French

Unfortunately, this wasn’t like an actual class thing. I just got really jazzed about french one day and translated it as best I could. It rhymes!

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

Beginner Persian

من کِلاسِ فارسی دوست دارم

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

Contemporary African Political Economies in Historical Perspectives

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

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

Hot Topics in Education

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

Abraham Lincoln and His America

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

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

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

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

The Spring Semester Turnaround

Spring = Lacrosse

As any avid reader of my blog will remember, (hi mom, hi dad), by the time finals rolled around last fall, I was feeling pretty down on my luck. The stress that comes with attending a school as academically rigorous as Hopkins can sometimes be inevitable, but for the Spring semester, a time of amazing weather around Baltimore, I was determined to make a 180 from last semester. Spoiler alert: I did. How, you may ask? Well, it’s actually been pretty easy. Here’s how Hopkins and I have teamed up to make this semester so much better.


My schedule is AMAZING. Two 10 a.m. days, two 11 a.m. days, and one 1:30. Not only has my body thanked me for the excess of sleep, but my brain is just as happy with all of my beyond interesting classes this semester. Drumroll, please:

  • Intro to the History of European Art II: This class is the prime example of the spring semester turnaround. Professor Tuma is a much more engaging lecturer, while personally I’m much more interested in the material, covering Renaissance to modern art. Last section we walked around the BMA analyzing art, and in lecture the other day we laughed over the sayings Bruegel the Elder embedded in his work Netherlandish Proverbs. It’s been a lot more fun and I find myself paying a lot more attention in class.
  • Introduction to the Museum: Issues and Ideas: As much as I loved having Professor Rodini last semester, I’ve really been enjoying the more discussion-type style that this class offers. So far we’ve been looking at cases of cultural patrimony, museum stewardship, and museum display, all leading up to a white paper on a Baltimore museum, in my case the American Visionary Art Museum. Tomorrow Lonnie Bunch, the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, is coming to give a talk, and at the end of the month we’re taking a class trip to the Newseum in D.C!
  • High-Intermediate French II: We’ve been reading a lot of interesting texts this semester in French, ranging from Persepolis to Le Deuxième Sexe, and with the Tournées Festival, Hopkins’ french film festival, continuing into this week, we’ve been watching a lot of interesting and contemporary movies. Vio’s friend was here on break from Sciences Po in Paris last week and she came to class with me; needless to say there were a lot of laughs.
  • Fun in photo

    Intro to Digital Photography: I’m really happy to be taking an art class this semester. Professor Ehrenfeld, who also teaches at MICA, is really good at getting us looking at all aspects of shooting in digital, and he’s planned some awesome field trips and assignments. This week we’re supposed to imitate the style of a photographer of our choice, and we’ve had a field trip to shoot at the Peabody Library Tomorrow we’re going to his studio in Hampden to work with lighting which should be pretty cool.

  • Perspectives on the Evolution of Structures: I don’t know how to sum up this class besides “cool structures.” My professor’s enthusiasm for teaching about “cool structures” is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and the material is actually pretty interesting too. We look at structures from buildings to bridges and analyze them based on scientific/social/symbolic aspects. Even better, it’s a civil engineering course but counts as writing intensive. We also use a program called MASTAN that let’s us create our own structures to see how they withstand certain forces and loads, so although its a bit out of my comfort zone, it’s been pretty fun.


Like in the fall, this semester has been full of SAAB, Relay for Life meetings, and work at the BMA. This spring though, I’ve joined the Museums & Society Student Advisory Committee, and, since Tutorial Project didn’t fit in my schedule, I’ve also joined Art Brigade! The exclamation point is part of the name, but I think I would include it regardless; it’s my favorite club and the best part of my week. While some (JHU_Sydney) may look at us and think (via text), “Were you in a hipster club meeting today???” (direct quote), we have so much more to offer than just our hipster good looks. Once a week our group goes to the Carmelo Anthony Youth Development Center in East Baltimore and teach an art lesson to the kids. They’re all SO hilarious and you can really tell that they appreciate us coming. It’s been especially funny lately as the JHU Rugby Club has also been going to play sports with the kids at the same time we teach our class, so it’s been the artsy kids vs. the athletes trying to get kids to come do the projects. The other weekend we chaperoned them as they went to visit the Walters Art Museum, and trying to explain to a group of 1st grade boys why there’s nudity in art is quite honestly hilarious, aka I felt like a first grader myself and couldn’t stop laughing along with them.

On the roof of the New Museum

As the insightful Rebecca Black once said: Fun, fun, think about fun. As much as we may have ridiculed her before, I think she’s on to something. It’s pretty easy to get in the habit of spending the majority of your weekend in the library, but that’s not what college is about. For example, last week I had 3 papers and internship applications due, but I decided to go to New York for the weekend with my sister. Should I have stayed and done work for the weekend? Shmeh. But did I have an awesome time in New York? That’s an understatement, and I’m so glad I went. As Hopkins students we’re presented with the challenge of a strenuous workload, but it’s up to you to figure out how to handle that. I’ve figured out that if I can use my time a lot more efficiently, even if it means cutting back on Facebook, I can put in the same amount of time I did last semester but actually get everything I need to do done. This leaves time for – you guessed it – more fun, and I’m glad that I’ve been able to balance that and work a lot better this semester. The truth about Hopkins is that there are times when the work feels like too much, or there aren’t enough hours in the day, or maybe you just can’t do it all. However, if you fill your schedule with classes that work for you, which is easy when you don’t have a required set of foundation courses, consume yourself with clubs that you enjoy, and spend much-deserved time going out or staying in with friends, or even just sketching or watching a movie, you’ll find yourself a lot happier. Even though last semester brought me down, it’s more than easy to pick yourself up and turnaround your semester. No one’s going to hold your hand and help you have fun in college, but if you’re willing to make it a priority, you’ll definitely find it and be a lot more happier, too.

“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.”

Picasso said that, by the way. I’m sitting in my room right now listening to my Alaskan roommate and neuron-obsessed floormate quote Noam Chomsky and discuss the birth of linguistics. They’re both surprisingly very calm and ironically enjoying themselves considering what they’re studying for is their Cognative Neuroscience midterm…yes, midterm…that they have tomorrow morning! But I guess what would be a freak out study sesh for me is nothing but the equivalent of a riveting book club meeting to two neuroscience majors here at Hopkins! And I’m sure they’ll do great on their midterm considering how interested and passionate about the subject they both are!

Me (left), my neuron-obsessed floormate (middle), and Alaskan roommate (right) showing our premed pride -_-

Earlier today I had my painting class, which is my absolute favorite class this semester, in the Mattin Center, which is my absolute favorite building at Hopkins! The Mattin Center is the arts center on campus, where students have various art/photography classes, music rehearsals, and dance practices. Mattin is also home to the Digital Media Center (DMC). The DMC is really cool. In the beginning of the year, they offer many free classes and tutorials on programs such as Photoshop and InDesign.

The Mattin Center

But back to my original point, Painting I is a studio oil painting course where our reference objects put on a table in the center of the classroom with one light source. Each student picks an angle at which they want to observe the image and then do their best to replicate it on canvas. So far, we’ve finished working on a gradient color grid and a still life project, which happens to be my very first college painting!

The still life reference objects!

Close to the angle I chose to paint

My first college painting:) Oil on canvas

After stalking their website last summer as a prospective student and visiting the studios for Student Art League once in a while during the first semester, I’m finally getting to take a class from the Homewood Art Workshops! In general, the art classes here are studio style and about 3-4 hours long for one day a week (the same as Chem Lab, but more fun). The classes are also really small (maximum of 15 students) which allows the professors to give each student specific feedback and help us improve right then and there. Just today, I was unable to mix the right shade of blue to paint the base surface and my professor caught my mistake and spent legitimately ten minutes helping me mix my paints. The art faculty here is very dedicated and incredibly talented! Anecdote #2: I was also having trouble getting the bottle in the still life look rounded and my professor did a quick demo to help me where she painted a cylinder in under two minutes. I was in awe.

Overall, my Homewood art experience has been really fun so far! I can’t wait to take more art classes in the following years! Feel free to ask me any questions about student life or about Hopkins in general and I will answer them right away!

Watching TV! (And how it ties into my education…)

What do this show and my academics have in common?

Life here at Hopkins is fast paced. My roommate just ran out of the room to her 3rd extra commitment of the day (after her first priority--her classes) saying, “Well, I just really wanted to sleep tonight. Oh well, I guess it’s college life!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. You will find many students at any college who are just so passionate about what they do outside of the classroom that they barely have time to breathe, and I am no exception either. So how do I find time to watch TV? Well, for once in my life, TV actually helps me do my homework.

If you’ve never seen ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank,” you are truly missing out on a spectacular and fun representation of the financial world. To briefly explain, five self-made entrepreneurs listen to pitches from people whose products/businesses they can invest in, and fight over the amount stake in the company, price,  etc… If you don’t get how I’m describing it, here’s a clip:

The best part about this show? The products and businesses pitched on the program are so diverse. In just the past few episodes I have watched, I have seen a “wine balloon” that inflates inside the bottle to keep your wine fresh for many days, to a special “shelf pillow” so women with very large breasts can lay on the their stomachs. You also get to see every type of deal made with “the sharks.” Sometimes the sharks completely reject the business and the hopeful entrepreneurs leave with nothing, or sometimes (in the case of the wine balloon in particular) a shark will buy out the entire company for $400,000! However, I have yet to say how this has anything to do with my academics…

The "wine balloon" product, as seen on Shark Tank

At Hopkins, we have a very cool opportunity called the Entrepreneurship and Management minor. Though it’s through the School of Engineering, any student in the School of Arts and Sciences can pursue it as well. To earn the minor, you have to take three core classes (Introduction to Business, Financial Accounting, and Principles of Marketing), statistics I and II, and three upper level speciality classes. I knew I have wanted to earn this minor since before coming to Hopkins, and I am currently on track by taking a class called Principles of Marketing.

The sharks watching a pitch (the middle one is Kevin O'Leary!)

You wouldn’t think there’s that much to learn about marketing (it’s only advertising, right?). But in fact, the world of marketing is multi-dimensional and complicated. Do you know what a business portfolio analysis is? That’s where you hear the words “dogs, stars, cash cows and question marks” describing the financial viability of a product now and in the future. Sometimes, you’ll hear the most controversial shark-- Kevin O’Leary-- say, “I’m not investing in it… that product is a dog!” Thanks to understanding what a business portfolio analysis is, I now know what he’s saying.

I’m not sure what career I will eventually pursue, but for right now I know I spend way too much time taking notes on my marketing reading (just from pure interest) and watching shows that nail down what I’ve learned. Shark Tank and my marketing class overlap in many ways, so I’m actually able to study and watch some quality television at the same time. How many college students can say they do that? I highly recommend watching the show and thinking about the minor (additional info on the latter is here: As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! Have a great weekend!

The Big Switch: Biophysics to English

It has been just shy of three weeks since I have felt my feet on the pavement of campus, tasted the cottage cheese in the FFC, or happily joked with my friends in the AMR 2 common room. Skype and mass-text threads have done their duty and I still feel connected to my friends, and today I find myself on a train to Connecticut reflecting on the fall semester. To those of you who keep up with my Hopkins Interactive profile page or my life, I feel that I owe an explanation: changing my major from Biophysics to English? What the heck happened?

My closest friends will tell you that Physics I for Biological Science Majors was the culprit. And they will be mostly correct. Physics was the first class I ever attended in college, and from the moment I sat down in the lecture hall and my professor started talking, I had an ominous feeling wash over me: “…what is going on?” I excelled in Biology and Chemistry in high school (and even tested out of the intro classes with my AP scores), but there was something about Physics that refused to click.

My fall 2011 class schedule

For the first midterm I decided to adopt the handy-dandy “let’s hope osmosis absorbed this information” theory, and I was rewarded with an extremely low grade. It is at that point that I began lugging around the 10-pound Physics textbook and reading it like the Bible. My friends noticed a dramatic shift whenever I had to do my Physics homework: there was the Zoe before confusion and agony, and the Zoe trying to understand anything Newton theorized.

Before your assumptions lead you down this path, I would caution you that it is not the fear of hard work which led me to consider a different major. In fact, all majors at Hopkins are demanding in their own right. I took a Philosophy class in the fall and found myself reading many pages of dense material each night and writing papers every two weeks. I also found myself more inspired to do this kind of work, and even a little gleeful when comparing Descartes to the allegory of the cave. Adults always told me that you can only find what you want to do by finding what you like to do, and I guess that journey has proven more complicated than expected.

When I decided to switch to a humanities-oriented major in November-ish, JHU_Ian posted an interesting article to my Facebook wall explaining how a very high percentage of students in top-tier universities do exactly what I am doing; that is, switch from a science major to a humanities major. At the same time, I don’t really consider it a switch anymore. I think I was always meant to pursue English, and I just got distracted and consequently knocked out some distribution credits. College is an interesting time because you finally get to see your life as YOUR life, and I have learned that a large part of what I am passionate about resides in reading and writing.

A typical day in the lab at Bayview

I have worked in a lab at Hopkins Bayview the past two summers, and one of my colleagues would always tell me the same thing: “Zoe, you’re just too bubbly for science. I see you more as a… party planner!” Though I do plan many events with my group of friends, I do not see that as my eventual career path. But, you get the gist. I have not completely checked off anything having to do with science, in fact I am perusing a Psychology double major at the moment as well. It is just that sometimes you have to learn to trust yourself, and when vectors make you want to stick your head in the toilet, maybe it is time to reconsider.

If you would like to look at the requirements for the different majors and minors at Hopkins, the link is here: . The academics blog on the Hopkins Interactive site is also very helpful in getting a feel for all of your options. Happy new year everyone!

Spring 2012 class schedule


Art as Applied to Medicine

I’ve never realized how quiet my hometown is until now.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent the past few months exploring and learning my way around a whole other city: browsing the farmer’s market, thrifting at Hampden and Fells Point, listening to live music at Towson Square, etc. I’ve even learned how to take shuttles and public transport! After spending an entire semester in Baltimore, “The Greatest City in America” (where there’s always something going on!), coming back home to the quaint little town of Flemington, NJ for winter break amusingly almost seems like a new experience rather than returning to something familiar! But nevertheless, it is great to be home where I can enjoy home-cooked meals and sleeping in every day! And after catching up with all my old friends, it’s exciting to know that they have all had similar college experiences!

The Flemington Train Station...

...versus the Baltimore Penn Station!

One of my favorite things to do is draw, and during winter break, I have had a lot of free time to do just that! While browsing for inspiration, I came across something really interesting that I just had to share with you guys: JHU’s Art as Applied to Medicine department for graduate students! The department teaches students interested in fields such as medical illustration, medical animation, and even prosthetic design. The Art as Applied to Medicine department is the first in the country of its kind and is a very competitive program, accepting as little as four graduate students per year!

Although there is no similar program for undergraduate students, they can prepare for the medical illustration field by majoring in the natural sciences, taking courses from the pre-medical track, and taking various visual arts classes that focus on enhancing basic drawing and painting skills!

Definitely check out the department’s gallery featuring works by both students and faculty! It was a great source of inspiration for me! Here are some drawings I did over break:



Anyways, I hope the Art as Applied to Medicine department intrigued you as it did me! Feel free to post any questions about student life or about Hopkins in general and I will answer them right away!


Intersession Registration!

Yesterday, I was delighted to walk down the steps from Buildings A and B to find this:

An ice sculpture of the letters "JHU"!

I then proceeded to walk into the FFC to find this:

An ice sculpture of a snowman! (sorry, it's blurry)

And when I left the FFC after a delicious sterling brunch, I found this:

The sculptor sculpting a blue jay!

I have seen ice sculptures before, but I’ve never actually watched a sculptor at his work! It was totally random and unexpected–I mean, I wouldn’t think to find such a show in a walk path between a college dorm and a dining hall–but hey, Hopkins never ceases to surprise me!

And now for our feature presentation:

Registration for intersession classes begin tomorrow at 7:00AM so I have my alarm set for me to wake up, get ready, and have my mouse cursor on the “register” button by 6:59AM. Intersession is a three-week period in January during winter break where students are allowed to take up to three credits of classes. A majority of the courses are for enrichment purposes and do not count towards major/minor requirements (with a few exceptions); however, intersession courses are strongly encouraged since students can take a variety of classes that are not normally offered during the Fall and Spring semesters.

At Hopkins, we use an online registration system called ISIS to register for our classes every semester, including intersession. Every class has its own times and days of the week that it is offered along with an associated number of credits. Each class also has a  maximum amount of available seats and as a result, are first-come-first-serve at the start of registration. ISIS allows you to track the availability of different classes during the registration period to help you finalize your schedule. If you are not able to get a seat, you are automatically put on a waitlist for the course and are notified if a seat becomes available.

In addition, ISIS lets you view the course description of each class to give you a better insight on what the class has to offer. For example, here are the descriptions of some intersession courses I am deciding amongst for this year:

Classical Etymologies

Greek and Latin give origin not only to medical and scientific terms, but also to many of the words we use every day. This course will explore the connection between the English vocabulary and its classical origin. Terms derived from Greek and Latin will be analyzed, improving your understanding of the words you already know and expanding your vocabulary.

Biology of Neurodegenerative Diseases

What happens at the cellular level as a disease like Alzheimer’s develops? This course focuses attention on the mechanistic molecular causes of neurodegenerative diseases, from the misfolding of proteins to prion formation. To stimulate critical thinking, the course will be structured around student discussion of historic and current scientific literature. Students will then deepen their understanding of the issues by preparing a presentation on an outstanding question in the field of neurodegenerative disease.

Fitzgerald in Baltimore

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, received psychiatric treatment in Baltimore from 1932-1936. We’ll review the transcript of a therapeutic session in which the Fitzgeralds analyzed the deterioration of their marriage with brutal honesty. We will examine Zelda’s depiction of their marriage in “Save Me the Waltz” and Fitzgerald’s counter depiction in “Tender is the Night.” Having scrutinized their marriage in his two previous novels, Fitzgerald felt responsible for contributing to Zelda’s mental instability, and yet Fitzgerald continued to dissect their marriage in fiction, regardless of the consequences to Zelda. To compensate for his refusal to help cure Zelda, Fitzgerald depicted his fictional double (a doctor/husband) curing Zelda’s fictional double (a patient/wife). How does Fitzgerald explore the ethics of balancing one’s professional and personal commitments? The course includes a tour of Fitzgerald sites such as Fort McHenry.


What is a delusion? Are delusions just irrational beliefs? Can delusions be true? Are some religious and political beliefs delusions? If so, which ones? Are overly optimistic people simply deluded? In this course we will attempt to answer some of these questions by reading and discussing contemporary work from philosophy, psychology, and the neurosciences. Part of the goal will be to get a clearer understanding of the relationship between false beliefs, irrational beliefs, and delusions.

Hopefully I won’t be waitlisted in any of those classes! I hope this gave you a look into how intersession works here at Hopkins! Feel free to post any questions about student life or about Hopkins in general and I will answer them right away!