Week 5

To the Class of 2017:

My last week has consisted, primarily, of reading all of your Summer Blogging Contest entries, scouring your class Facebook page for any helpful hints or bits of advice I can offer, and trying to get my own self ready to head back to Baltimore this Friday to get cracking on Pre-Orientation work.  To any rock climbers out there, I’ll be seeing you in just a few short weeks.

Heading into sophomore year, my mindset about moving into a new apartment, getting back together with friends, and starting up classes again is far different than that of July and August a year ago.  I’ve been wrapped up in my own mind: making lists, ordering textbooks, going through Pre-O gear inventory, and playing an awful lot of guitar.  With that said, however, your Blogging Contest entries have truly been a joy to read, and I think more importantly have caused me to go back to that mindset from a year ago, and really think about what perceptions I had of how college life was going to be, and how those perceptions were wrong, or in some cases right, and what last minute, pre-move-in advice I can offer all of you.

From your entries, it has become clear that many of you, and probably more of you than will admit, share some of the same fears and anxieties that I faced a year ago (and occasionally still find myself dwelling upon).  Many of you write about leaving home for the first time, or if not the first time at least being worried about being homesick.  You write about leaving your pets at home (by far the hardest part about leaving for college).  You write about spending hundreds of dollars at Bed Bath & Beyond and not knowing if you got any of the right stuff.  You write about second-guessing your decision to attend Hopkins.  You write about how people seem disappointed when they find out that no, you don’t want to become a doctor (small confession: in certain conversations with certain people I’ve given up entirely on trying to confront this common misconception…  As far as some people know, I’m studying to be a neurosurgeon… HA).  You write about being worried about the difficulty of classes.  You write about meeting new people.  You write about taking the right classes.  You write about expectations that you, and others, have for yourself.  You write about nerves and excitement, doubt and confidence.

The unfortunate thing is that some of your worries and fears will come to fruition.  You might fail a test or an assignment.  You might not love your roommate right away.  You might miss your parents (or more likely, your puppy).  You might have packed way too much stuff for your dorm room.  You might struggle with living in a dorm for the first time.  You might not eat as healthily as you’re used to.  You might forget to workout.  You might second-guess your major, your classes, or your abilities. You might begin to doubt that you’re really cut out for this school.

In fact, more than likely, every single one of you will have at least one of these happen to you.  Trust me.  I was the most overconfident pre-frosh you’ve (probably) never actually met.  Yeah, I knew it was going to be hard, but hey, I’m a tough guy, I was going to be able to handle it.  The worst part about it all, I think, is that just when you think that you’re getting the whole college thing figured out, whichever of these doubts, fears, and anxieties you experience, they will probably all hit you at the same time.  I don’t want to scare or warn you, or be that creepy guy at the gas station in the horror movie with that sign that says “You will die” that the eager teenagers ignore as they drive to their mysterious uncle’s lake house.  I just want to help try to prepare you.

The fifth week of college is the hardest one.  If I had to pinpoint it exactly, I would say that the Thursday of the fifth week of classes of your freshman year is the toughest day you’ll face in your college experience.  That week, you’ll probably get back your first midterm, and maybe you won’t do as well as you’d hoped.  You’ll be right in the thick of classes, and won’t have quite as much time to spend just hanging out with all of your new friends.  You’ll start to miss Mom’s lasagna, or pork roast, or whatever your favorite food from home is.  You won’t have had the chance to pet a dog since you left home, and you’ll notice it.  Your high school friends will be totally immersed in their own new lives at college, and won’t have quite as much time to stay in touch as they did right when you all first left home.  People will already be talking about second semester classes- YIKES.  You just got your first college B or C on a midterm in a class in your major, and you’re supposed to start thinking about next semester??  That doesn’t seem right.  You’ve got a paper due on Monday and a party you want to go to on Saturday, and on top of it all, you have laundry that you haven’t done for two weeks.

Take a deep breath.  If reading that just sent your blood pressure through the roof, and now your heart is beating so fast it just feels like a constant buzz in your wrist instead of individual pulses, then just take a deep breath.  I’m going to be real with you- college is hard.  And on days like the fifth Thursday of classes, that is when, more than any other time, you’re going to find yourself doubting your decision to attend Hopkins, to move away from home, and to challenge yourself in a way that many of your friends at home maybe are not doing.  But I have complete faith in every professor, parent, admissions counselor, high school guidance counselor, principal, coach, or friend that, along your journey to college, has told you that you are capable of excelling at a school like Johns Hopkins.  Each and every member of the JHU Class of 2017 has been given an amazing opportunity.  You’ve been given a chance to attend a great institution, to learn from fantastic experts in every field imaginable, and to surround yourself with some of the most brilliant and inspiring minds of our generation.  Each one of you deserves to be at this school, and each one of you is capable of doing unbelievably well at Johns Hopkins.  So when your Week 5 hits, be it the second, third, fourth, seventh, or twentieth week, take a deep breath.  Chill out.  Seriously.  You’re going to be fine.  You’re at Johns Hopkins for a reason; it is completely natural to feel scared and overwhelmed at times, but you can do this.  Just by your acceptance of your invitation to join the Johns Hopkins Class of 2017, I am confident that each one of you is in the right place.  And reading your blogs has only further solidified that in my mind.

So be aware.  College is going to be tough.  The fact that many of you are already expressing some of your fears and anxieties, though, gives me great confidence that when those fears are realized, or you start to become overwhelmed, you are perfectly capable of handling them and pushing through to the greatness which you have been given this opportunity to achieve.

In your last three and a half weeks at home, get packed for school.  Make your lists, go through your closets, throw out clothes that don’t fit anymore, make trips to Goodwill, do whatever you need to do.  But stay home for an extra dinner with your parents.  Stay out extra late with your friends.  Lay on the floor with your dog, or sleep in late with your cat.  Keep making fun of your little brother or sister, and keep annoying your older siblings.  Shamelessly buy a Taco Bell Taco 12-Pack for you and a couple good friends., and be sure to get 6 Doritos Locos Cool Ranch and 6 Doritos Locos Nacho tacos.



You’re growing up and moving away to college, but when times get tough at school, those memories of this summer at home are going to be what get you through to another day.  So hang in there, and I can’t wait to see you all at Orientation.


Conquering Mother Nature

My parents get frustrated with me on occasion (probably more frequently than I realize, but I digress).  Most of our conversations, via Skype or a phone call, begin by following more or less the same template.  “How’re you doing?”  “Good.”  “How are classes?”  “Fine.”  “Have you been doing laundry?”  “Yeah.”

(Clearly, I am always very talkative.)

“Well, what else have you been up to?”

And that’s where they make their mistake.

Yeah, sure, I can sit here and talk to them about Eigenvectors, Categorical Imperatives, recursive programming, and all of the other fascinating work I’m doing in all of my classes (or how last week I may have accidentally turned several of my white t-shirts blue…  Oops…).  And sometimes we do have those conversations.  More commonly though, I truly get excited to talk to them about what  I’m doing once the conversation transitions from my academic endeavors to “the other stuff.”  And that’s when I can talk their ears off.

I’ve been starting to realize lately, as obvious as it may sound, that I am in involved in a lot of stuff on campus.  Between Outdoor Pursuits, my on-campus job at the climbing wall, SAAB, the Cycling Club, Blue Key Society, and now Greek Life, I stay plenty busy.  Specifically, though, my work with Outdoor Pursuits and at the climbing wall are my two favorite activities at Johns Hopkins.

I am, and have been, an avid rock climber.  Outdoor Pursuits has given me an opportunity for personal growth as a climber, but also as a teacher and mentor.  It allows me to share one of my passions with all kinds of other people, ranging from other experienced climbers to complete beginners.  I’ll have the chance, next August, to meet some of you all (I’m talking to you, incoming freshman) as a Pre-Orientation climbing leader.  I’m excited to become more comfortable as a leader, and am excited to serve as a mentor for my Pre-O students once they move in and start to get acclimated to campus.  Being a rock climbing instructor allows me to participate in my favorite activity and share it with others, and also gave me an in to get my on-campus job at the rock climbing wall in the rec center.  I’ve since been promoted to be the Setting Co-Manager beginning this coming fall semester, which is just another step towards improving my rock climbing skills and abilities.

Rock climbing, and working with OP, has been my favorite non-academic activity at JHU this year, though participating in Greek Life and joining a fraternity this semester is a very, very close second, as I’m also incredibly excited about the many opportunities that are being made available to me.  That being said, there are a plethora of excellent activities for students to become involved with at Hopkins.  Conquering mother nature and scaling cliff faces just happens to fit my fancy (Spiderman-esque).

The Long and Winding Road

The story of my journey to Johns Hopkins is long and convoluted.  To be honest, when I first began applying to colleges, Hopkins was on my short list, but I did not think I would end up here.  For a long time, I thought I had already made my college decision.  I was actually committed to play baseball at another university, but this was pending my admission to the school.  I had applied early decision to this other school, and on December 15th of my senior year of high school, I expected to receive confirmation that this would in fact be where I would spend the next four years of my life.  On that day, I learned that I had actually been deferred to that particular school.  At the time this seemed quite unfortunate, and I no longer had any idea of what path my life would be taking during the next four years.  Looking back on it now though, getting deferred, and eventually rejected, from that school was one of the best things that happened to me.  I was no longer tied to some particular future, that of playing baseball and doing nothing else at a Division I university.  Getting rejected opened up so many more opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, the most important of which was allowing me to consider and eventually attend Johns Hopkins.  Now, I am no longer playing baseball, I’m at a different school than I thought I would be at, and I’m doing things here that had I followed that initial path would have never been possible.

And I’m ecstatic about it.

For a lot of people, Johns Hopkins is not necessarily their “first choice” school.  For some it is.  But for you regular decision admits who are now considering the option of attending Johns Hopkins, among the other opportunities you’ve now been granted, I encourage you to consider all of the possibilities and consequences of whatever school you do elect to attend.  You might be surprised by how things change from your initial perceptions of how choosing a college would be, but I feel that that is a good thing.  For me, it was the best case scenario, and I couldn’t be happier with where I’ve ended up and what I’m doing here.

Everyone’s path here is different.  Whatever your path is, if it ultimately leads to Johns Hopkins, then you’re in good shape.

To the Regular Decision Student

It is spring break season at high schools and colleges all across America; this means trips to Florida, California, Puerto Rico, Cancun, the Outer Banks, and plenty of other areas of warmer climate.  For many people, though, spring break is a chance to go, or stay, home and to sit back and relax, taking a break from the stresses of midterms and philosophy papers.  I fall, more or less, into this second category, electing to spend my spring break back home in Bloomington, Indiana listening to country music, watching March Madness (go Hoosiers!), letting life and time pass by just a little more slowly than usual, and most importantly spending time with my two big St. Bernard pups, Truman and Bentley.

Hey there, Truman.

My spring break, in its entirety, has not just consisted of lazy days on the couch in front of the TV watching basketball games.  In fact, the first half of my break was spent in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, just south of the Virginia border.  From the first Friday of break until Wednesday, I was sleeping in a tent with my fellow new Outdoor Pursuits rock climbing instructors on our Top Rope Instructor Course (TRIC), shivering through the night until each day would be spent learning and mastering the various hard skills necessary to lead rock climbing trips for Hopkins students.  All in all, it was a great trip; I was able to spend time climbing, which I love, and also getting to know my fellow instructors as we improve and expand our climbing skills and knowledge.  I bring up this trip in a post dedicated to all of you regular decision students anxiously awaiting admissions decisions because I believe my experience climbing/camping this past week exposed and illuminated some helpful advice that I am going to pass on.


Fair warning- this is about to get metaphorical.


The first day of climbing at Pilot Mountain was fantastic.  There was not a cloud in the sky, the sun was shining, it was warm enough for short sleeves and shorts, and everybody was excited to be there.  It reminded me of the early stages of applying to college.  I was excited, hopeful, and confident.  Yeah, filling out applications was a pain.  But in the end, I didn’t mind because I was moving in the direction of a major part of my future!  It was an exciting, happy, optimistic environment.


Our next two days were not nearly as nice.  The temperature dropped.  The weather consistently alternated between rain and snow throughout the day and night.  At this point, we were climbing above the cloud line and had been completely immersed in fog; you could not see more than 10-15 feet in any direction.  It was eery and confusing, and a bit frightening honestly.  If you, as an RD student, are anything like I was, that’s how you’re feeling now.  After submitting applications, I was living in a kind of foggy daze.  It’s the waiting game, and it stinks.  You’re anxious, nervous, and maybe a little bit scared.  Next week, you’re going to hear back from all of those schools you applied to in December and you’re going to face what is likely one of the biggest personal decisions you’ve had to make in your life thus far.  It’s hard to be immersed in that foggy, confusing state of mind for so long.  And now, with decision release so close, you might be feeling as overwhelmed as ever.  But there’s hope, I promise!


On our last day of climbing, we woke up, headed to the crag, and got our usual work and lessons in.  At the end of the day, we departed from Pilot Mountain with this sight.

Even after spending days immersed in fog and confusion, when the time came, the sky opened up and this miraculous view was made available.  That is what you have to look forward to for next week.  Decisions will come out, whether or not you are nervous or anxious to receive them.  It’s going to happen in a week.  And chances are, you won’t be admitted to every single school you applied to.  For a lot of you, it might be one of the first times you deal with rejection.  But, in the end, you will have a lot of excellent options and opportunities made available to you at whatever schools do admit you.  There is a glimmering light at the end of the tunnel, and after next week, you’ll have a lot of time to sift through all of your options to find the right school for you.  As confusing and overwhelming as the waiting period might be, hang tight!  Next week is going to be incredibly exciting in a lot of ways.  I promise that no matter what happens, things will work out.  This is a stressful time for regular decision students, but you’ll be fine.  Stay strong, find something to help you relax this week, and good luck!  There is a light at the end of the tunnel and a view at the top of the mountain.  Get through this storm and you’ll be just fine!


In the words of one of my favorite country artists, Gary Allan, “Every storm runs out of rain.”  I promise that you will survive this week.


Get excited, and good luck!

Caleb B.


Hop Five for Hopkins

DID YOU KNOW: The U.S. News college rankings place Johns Hopkins at the #13 spot on the list of top universities.  I didn’t know that.  I just learned that from a Google search, actually.  To be totally honest, I don’t entirely care what Hopkins is “ranked” (Excuse my lack of faith in rankings systems, but until someone can clearly and explicitly explain the drastic difference between, say, a fifth-ranked school and a sixth-ranked school, I can tell you the real difference: one place.)


Fog during the fall semester

To be fair though, I’m sure my parents will enjoy the fact that their son is now attending a top-25 university when I share that little tidbit of info with them.  It will make great fodder for their dinner parties, too. Little known fact actually: once you have children, “dinner party” is synonymous with “stand-around-and-brag-about-my-kid-to-make-him-seem-better-than-everybody-else’s-kids party.”  That’s a real thing.  It’s hyphenated.  Believe it.  Own it.  Live it.


If attending the 13th ranked university is reason for you to choose Hopkins, then great.  Go for it.  But, that wasn’t it for me.  So let me give you the REAL answer to, “Why Hopkins?”  A, shall we say, Top Five Reasons to Attend Hopkins list.  Or better yet, a “Hop Five for Hopkins” list.  See what I did there?  I’m going to go ahead and apologize for that terrible pun.  But the name stays.


Hey JHU_Trisha!

Okay, here we go.


Hop Five for Hopkins

  1. Hopkins is the 13th ranked university in the country.  Just kidding.  Well, no, actually, it is a very highly ranked university.  The “just kidding” part referred to that being my #1 reason for choosing Hopkins.  The REAL top reason for attending Hopkins: Hopkins wants you.  It sounds stupid, but the biggest reason I chose Hopkins over every other school I considered was because it felt like a place that wanted me there as much as I wanted to be there.  The Hopkins community is very tight-knit, but is always looking to grow.
  2. This one doesn’t apply to many of you, probably, but the mathematics department has a program where you can get your bachelor’s and master’s degrees during your time as an undergrad at Hopkins.  As a math major, that was a big deal for me.  If playing with numbers and patterns doesn’t fit your fancy, the real point of the #2 reason is that every department at Hopkins provides amazing opportunities, programs, and flexibility for students that not many other schools do.  Literally, the best thing ever if you are a mathematics guru.
  3. The Brody Learning Commons.  Or, as I like to call it, Caleb’s Personal Hang Out Spot.  Honestly, the BLC (CPHOS, actually) is B.A. (I’m on an acronym kick here).  The building is awesome.  At this point, I’m very seriously considering just taking my sleeping bag and moving in there instead of my dorm.  Whether I am spending my time at the BLC actually being productive and finishing school work, or merely browsing Facebook, talking to friends, and sipping on a chocolate chunk iced coffee from the café, it is the place to be.  Absolutely one of my favorite buildings on campuses.  And I’m considering moving in.
  4. What a beautiful segue into my fourth: housing and dining.  Social butterfly? AMR’s.  Quiet, study-hard book worm?  Buildings A and B.  Suite-style apartment living?  Wolman and McCoy.  SO MANY AWESOME OPTIONS FOR FRESHMAN.  All the residence halls are awesome, and you have an option for whatever your personal preference might be.  But the meat of this point: the Hopkins meal plans (har har, another punny line there.  Get it: meat-> food?  Light bulbs are turning on!)  It’s a little something called the unlimited meal plan.  Much to my surprise, none of the other schools my high school friends chose to attend offer an unlimited plan such as this.  I might have to switch this to reason number one, actually…  The bottom line is, I love food. And now my meals are unlimited.  I don’t have to break the bank for Mom and Dad anymore with $200 a week in groceries.  And it’s awesome.  Did I mention how much I love food?
  5. The final reason is a classic: Baltimore.  What a great city.  Best crab cakes in America.  (Should this be included in reason number four?  Ermmm…….)  You’ve got the Orioles, the Ravens, the aquarium, the Inner Harbor.  You’d be hard pressed to find another wonderful place in as wonderful a location as Baltimore.  And Hopkins is completely immersed and integrated into the city.  Not to mention the close proximity to D.C. and other major east coast cities.  Attending a school in a big city just adds such a cool, unique element to the entire college experience.  Already I’ve come to know this City of Neighborhoods as if I’ve been here for years.  Whether it be attending concerts downtown, splurging for dinner in Little Italy, or finding different gems closer to campus in and around Charles Village, Baltimore is an incredibly diverse and enjoyable city.


So there you have it.  My Hop Five for Hopkins list.  This is actually just an abridged version of the Hop One Hundred list.  There are countless reasons to choose Hopkins.  You just have to figure out what does it for you.


Johns Hopkins: #13 in our program, but #1 in our hearts.

You Make Me Want to Roll My Windows Down and Cruise

With the new semester now in full swing, an update from Homewood seems fairly appropriate.  What does second semester freshman year entail for a typical Hopkins student?  I like to think that perhaps I’m atypical, but we can only lie to ourselves for so long, right?  Regardless, here is a brief summary of what is going on this spring at JHU, or at least, what is going on in my life.  Oh, also, the Ravens won the Super Bowl!!!

Oh and by the way, the Ravens won the Super Bowl!

CLASSES- Hopkins wouldn’t remain the pinnacle of higher education for long if it wasn’t for these guys.  The good news is that while classes keep me busy, I’m also very excited about the way my schedule is lining up this semester.  Briefly, I am taking 14 credits (Arts & Sciences WOO!) dispersed throughout Linear Algebra, Intro to Moral Philosophy, Intro to Java Programming, and German Elements II.  All four of my classes meet Mondays and Wednesdays, so that makes for long days at times, but the rest of my week is pretty light in terms of my course load.  That being said, I am still spending plenty of time outside of class working on intellectual, class-related endeavors (a.k.a. problem sets).


Blue Key Society- In addition to being a member of SAAB, I am currently undergoing training to work for the admissions office via the Blue Key Society.  This is the group responsible for giving campus tours for prospective students.  As such, you’re looking at a future JHU tour guide!  I am pretty excited about being selected for this organization and am excited to start giving tours later this spring.


Outdoor Pursuits- I also begin leading rock climbing trips for JHU Outdoor Pursuits this semester!  I am currently slotted to lead on three climbing trips this semester to locations throughout Maryland and the surrounding areas.  Climbing is one of my passions, and so I’m ecstatic to get to now share that with other JHU students and affiliates.


Beta Theta Pi– I didn’t expect to get involved with Greek life here at Hopkins, but after arriving and meeting lots of different guys, I have elected to pledge to become a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.  This is keeping me plenty busy, but I am grateful and excited about the opportunities that lie ahead as a result of this organization.


All of these things, on top of the various different groups I’m already involved with including my campus job, SAAB, and my Woodrow Wilson Fellowship are shaping up to keep me plenty busy on campus this semester.  It is definitely going to take some serious organizational skills to maintain all of these different activities, but I am incredibly pleased with the different opportunities that lie ahead this semester.  You’ll be hearing from me more as the semester progresses, so be on the lookout to see how all of these activities play out.  Until next time!

Celebrating the start of the semester with a fancy dinner and friends during Baltimore Restaurant Week!



Caleb B.



Will Petersen Throws Mark Wahlberg Out of a Window

Will Petersen’s monstrous display of raw strength as he throws Mark Wahlberg out of a second story window and onto the seaside rocks of his Seattle home in one final effort to protect his family in the closing scene of Fear (1996) is analogous to my first semester of college.  “How?” you may, or more than likely may not, ask- I’ll attempt to explain.  Fear is a film starring Will Petersen (you probably know him as Dr. Grissom from CSI), Reese Witherspoon, and Mark Wahlberg (as in ________ and the Funky Bunch).

In the film, Marky Mark is this creepy guy who starts stalking Reese Witherspoon, who is Will Petersen’s daughter.  Turns out Marky Mark’s a complete psychopath and comes, with his bunch of goons, to Will and Reese’s house, proceeding to torment the family until, as the title of this post suggests, he gets thrown out of a window.  My best friends from Indiana and I are part of an unofficial Will Petersen fan club, though we refer to him as Will Graham, his character in the 1986 classic Manhunter.  If you haven’t seen both of these films, then you’re just doing it wrong.  My point, by the way, is that I am Will Petersen, and my first semester was Mark Wahlberg.  I threw it out the window.  But in a good way…  It was a good semester.  We’ll leave the analogy at that.

The point is, I am now back at Homewood and am prepping to begin my second semester in just a couple of weeks.  Until then, though, I am experiencing my first intersession, or winter term, if you are unfamiliar with it.  While many students are on campus taking up to three credits, I am not.  I am here because tomorrow I begin my Wilderness First Responder (WFR) training as part of my role as a rock climbing instructor for JHU Outdoor Pursuits.  This will be an eight day, intense course, at the end of which I will (hopefully) be a certified WFR.  Consequently, most of my intersession is consisting of WFR, working at the climbing wall, bumming around, and finding new and exciting restaurants to eat at around campus, like Miss Shirley’s Cafe.

Blackberry pancakes at Miss Shirley's

The next time that you are in Baltimore, make sure that you go to Miss Shirley’s for brunch.  I promise you that it is the best breakfast you will ever eat.  End of story.  That’s where I will be spending most of my intersession when I’m not completely swamped by WFR.  Wish me luck as I begin training tomorrow!

All my best, and enjoy those two movies.  I expect detailed critiques from all of you.


Caleb B.



Playing the Waiting Game

Attention high school seniors: congratulations, you are done applying to college.  Well, hopefully.  The Regular Decision deadline at basically every school in America is approaching, so congrats to you for finishing your college applications.  If you are at all like how I was during winter break of my senior year and are still trying to finish those bad boys up, then let me give you some advice.  Lock the door, pop open a Mountain Dew, turn on the Nickelback, and crank those applications out.  Get it done.  You’ll feel a million times more at ease as we welcome in the New Year.

In the ideal world, you will feel a lot better and less stressed about the course your life will soon take once all those pesky applications are finished.  Sadly, this is not necessarily the case.  For once applications have all been submitted begin the worst, most anxious time period of the entire college process.  The waiting period.  It seems as though somewhere along the way some wordmaster in the blogosphere should have come up with a clever name for those three months (January through March) during which high school students across America find themselves, nightly, waking up in a cold sweat from dreams of 500 word essays and resumés.  But, if such a name exists, I am unfamiliar with it.  So for our purposes, I am deeming that time period “purgatory.”

If the direction that this post is taking is stressing you out, here are some puppies to help keep you sane.

I am trying to think of another life event that might be comparable to purgatory and that will be familiar to a high school student.  The most universal example I can think of is the Friday night before the first time you took the SAT, the night when high schoolers across America lay nervously in bed awaiting that dreadful test.  If this sounds at all like your past, then get prepared for the most tumultuous waiting game you will ever play.  That, my friends, is purgatory.

In all seriousness, purgatory isn’t all that bad.  I mean, yeah, you’re done with college applications!  This is certainly a relief.  You’re still going to school, but let’s face it, at this point the only thing keeping you even remotely engaged in your high school classes is that perpetual fear that “if I don’t do well enough this last semester my college acceptance will get revoked” combined with the AP Calculus exam.  At this point I am torn.  Part of me wants to tell you that you should stay focused and engaged in your schoolwork and keep working hard, but the other part of me knows just how good I became at slacking off the last half of my senior year.  So, to avoid being hypocritical, I am just going to say enjoy and appreciate this last little bit of high school.  That is all.  In the meantime, you’ll be awaiting those college decisions.  And that can be tough.

I sincerely hope for each and every one of you that purgatory is not accompanied by perpetual anxiety and stress.  Personally, I did stress myself out.  I became pretty disillusioned with the entire college application process.  Doesn’t seem very fair that you send off a couple of pieces of paper that somebody you don’t even know is going to use to judge whether or not you’re good enough for a certain school, right?  The thing I realized however, is that isn’t really how it works.  As you sit around waiting for regular decision announcements, nobody else is sitting around judging whether or not you’re good enough. If you’re the kind of student who is applying to Johns Hopkins, I think I have a pretty good idea what other kinds of schools you are also applying to.  My guess then, and I could be wrong here but I think I’m on the right track, is that you’re the kind of student who hasn’t had to deal with failure or rejection very many times in your academic career.  And I sincerely hope that as your time in purgatory comes to a close, you don’t have to deal with any kind of rejection from any school.  But, the reality is that when you’re applying to high-caliber universities, the likelihood that you get accepted to all of the schools you apply to is fairly low.  Consequentially, I cannot stress this enough: REJECTION FROM A SCHOOL DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR SAID SCHOOL.  I think too frequently people take college rejection as a judgment that they are not good enough, but this could be the farthest thing from the truth.  And the possibility that this result lies ahead for some people is the reason that purgatory can be such a stressful time.  It was for me.

The bottom line is that this time period, while you sit around playing the waiting game, really stinks.  But at this point, you’ve done all that you can do, and the application process is really out of your hands.  Schools have lots of different reasons why one student is accepted while another is rejected, but never is it because a student is simply not good enough.  So keep an open mind, now more than ever.  And congratulations for wrapping up the application process!  I promise, the waiting will be worth it in the end.

In the meantime, distract yourself by checking out some photos from my winter break back in Indiana.

Shoveling snow. The best.

My best friends/brothers Dan and Drew

Dominating my family in Risk

Annual Christmas gathering with all of the townies

Talk to you all soon.


Caleb B.






How to Lose at Scrabble (and Other Lessons Learned)

I finished my first fall at Hopkins and expected things to be different when I arrived back in good old Bloomington, Indiana for winter break.  The last thing I anticipated having to to adapt to was that I would return home to a family full of avid Words With Friends players, and yet that is exactly what happened.  My parents have adopted WWF (not wrestling) as their nightly ritual before going to bed.  They sit around every evening, silently, as the television plays in the background, wirelessly words-with-friends-ing each other.  I have, upon returning home, inevitably fallen into this same routine, and consequentially my Scrabble proficiency has increased dramatically.  This evening, we had the grand idea to bring our wireless practice to the real world- the Mecca of vocabulary competition.  We played kitchen-table Scrabble.

Naturally, I won.  But I learned a very valuable lesson while watching my father struggle to keep up with my ever-increasing point total.  Namely, it is impossible to win at Scrabble when your tiles suck this bad.

UQUX? Ouch, Dad.

I realized that I’ve learned a lot more since returning home from my first semester at JHU than just how to be the perennial Scrabble badass of my house.  That statement might not be entirely accurate- I’ve simply REALIZED how much I learned while at school, now that I’m back at home and have some time to reflect on this first semester.  I had an excellent semester- met lots of great people, did well in my classes, got involved in lots of activities, and pretty easily adjusted to being away from home long-term.  So, with the JHU Class of 2017 early decision notifications being sent out last week, I thought I’d offer three helpful hints to an incoming Hopkins freshman, about to begin his or her first semester of college.

#1 Work hard, but not too hard.

College is hard.  For some reason, I was under the impression that the schoolwork wouldn’t be.  So, if you are at all like me, let me go ahead and tell you that you’re wrong.  It is tough.  It is a lot of work.  However, the work that you will have to do as a Hopkins freshman is fulfilling, incredibly interesting, motivating, and intellectually stimulating.  If you’re the kind of student who is considering Johns Hopkins (and for you ED students, the kind of student who will be attending Hopkins), then this should be a positive sign, and I can promise that you will be fully capable of handling the Hopkins workload.  But it is going to be difficult; you’re going to have to work hard.  And that is a good thing, and everyone should make a point to work hard their first semester.  It will set you up to be even more successful as you progress through the years at JHU.  That being said, you don’t want to end up like this the day before your philosophy final.

What's up, Plato? Just taking a nap.

So don’t work yourself too hard.  There is so much to do in your first semester on campus, and take the time to explore everything that you possibly can.  Yes, you are at Hopkins to be a student, but more importantly you are at Hopkins to grow as an individual and experience the world on your own terms.  So do it, and don’t let yourself get bogged down in schoolwork.

#2 Make new friends, maintain old ones.

It is amazing how many people you will meet in your first three months at Hopkins, through your dorm, mutual friends, clubs, classes, in the FFC, and a million other ways.  You will come to love your friends at Hopkins, and you’ll be amazed how quickly these friends begin to feel like family.  But at the same time, maintain those connections you have to your friends at home.  It is always wonderful to know that when you come back to Hopkins after a break, your new family will be waiting for you.  But it is also incredibly nice to know that, each time you leave Homewood, you are also going to have an additional family and your old friends to be with.  I think both of these groups are important; they certainly have been for me.  It makes me excited for not only each time I get to come home to Bloomington over break, but also for when I get to go back to my new home in Baltimore.

Always love coming home, but always love going Home(wood). JHU_Noah can appreciate this.

#3 Make yourself uncomfortable.

You’re wasting your time if you stay locked up in your little bubble of comfort once you get to JHU.  I mean, yeah, you can do it.  But why would you?  There are so many amazing opportunities to explore at JHU if you just make yourself uncomfortable and try something new.  And yeah, you might make a mistake, but I feel that that is okay every once in a while.  So be uncomfortable.  Try something new.  You’ll be better for it.

And with that, I leave you.  It is my turn in Scrabble, and there is some of Mom’s apple crisp waiting for me at the table.  Congratulations to the class of 2017 applicants who were admitted in the Early Decision pool.  Welcome to the Blue Jay family!

Happy holidays!

Caleb B.

Statistics and Probability

My friend, Adrian, lives down the hall from me in Adams 302 (my roommate and I live in Adams 304, which is clearly the best room on campus).  As all of you must already know, the PowerBall is worth $550 million this week (yes, I’m talking about the lottery).  Shockingly, my hall-mates and I are now sitting, eagerly awaiting 11:00 p.m., at which time we will discover if we will make the seamless transition from broke college students to multi-millionaires.  Adrian sits more eagerly than the rest of us with twelve PowerBall tickets in hand.  This moment could change our lives forever.  I calculated a 1 in 1 chance that I win tonight, so I’m not sweating  it.  Adrian on the other hand, has about a 12 in 1203958723895602198472893156013924871250986231948721389478921623 chance of actually winning, and yet he remains convinced that he will be in possession of $231 million later this evening (after taxes, of course).  Tonight could conceivably shape the rest of our lives.

What Adrian's face will look like after he doesn't win the lottery tonight.

All of this lottery business got me thinking, though, about other moments that have shaped my life thus far.  Call it cheesy if you’d like, but I’m about to drizzle some seriously emotional queso on this website.  That may not have come across as eloquently as I planned, but I digress.

Choosing Hopkins was one of those moments, thus far, that has defined my life.  That decision put meaning into all of the blood, sweat, and tears that accompanied the first 18 years of my life, and will play a large role in the many years to come.  April 2, 2012 was a stressful, exciting, and wonderful day for my family and me, and I am continuously reassured that that decision could not have been a more perfect one.

On April 2nd, I don’t think I entirely realized what I was getting myself into.  I mean that in a good way, trust me.  I hadn’t considered the entirely new friend group I would be thrown into, the new living arrangements I would grow accustomed to, and the new routines I would be forced to adjust to, all while being almost 12 hours away from home.

It was wonderful getting to see all of these beautiful people again last week over Thanksgiving break, back home again in Indiana.

It seems appropriate to reflect back upon this first semester at Hopkins as it comes to a close and I begin mentally preparing for the finals-cramming that will inevitably take place in the coming weeks.  The impossibility of accurately describing everything about this new period in my life can be frustrating; I’d love to be able to eloquently tell you about all of the great times, difficult times, and “interesting” times I’ve had thus far at Hopkins, but what I have realized is that it is impossible to do so.  What I do know is that I’ve changed as a person- in a lot of different ways.  Every experience I’ve had, with the new people, new classes, new city, has somehow shaped the person I am.  And I will continue to change; I do still have seven semesters here, after all.  At times, school seems a little daunting; being home seems like it would be so much easier; I want to be with my old high school friends; it would be so nice just to lay on the couch with my brother’s puppy, Luna.

Perks of going home for Thanksgiving. The puppy alarm clock.

And yet, I know without a doubt that Hopkins is 100% the place I am supposed to be.  Each and every day just reaffirms that fact for me.

So, while my financial future hangs in the balance and I remain a slave to the probability and statistics of the lottery, I can find comfort in knowing that, if tonight goes to hell and by some miracle I don’t win $550 million, I am in the perfect place for me to be this broke college student.  I am with the perfect people, I’m taking the perfect classes, and I’m having the perfect freshman experience.  That is something special that I know all of my friends at other schools can’t say for themselves.  In that respect, I am lucky.  Every Blue Jay is lucky.  Hopkins is a truly special place, and I wholeheartedly feel that my April 2nd decision could not have been made any more perfectly.

All my best,

Caleb B.