Academics Blog Student-written entries about every major and minor offered at Johns Hopkins. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 18:32:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Philosophy Mon, 10 Feb 2014 20:16:53 +0000 Name: Edwina Picon

Year: Class of 2016

Hometown: Irvington, NY

Major: Philosophy and Psychology

Phi-lo-so-phy: The Love of Knowledge

People tend to underestimate just how much philosophy plays a part in the world around them. Many criticize philosophy, saying it’s the study of dead old men; however, while several of the authors do happen to be dead, philosophy couldn’t be more alive in the world around us.gblog4

Philosophy is prominent in politics and law – don’t we often criticize our politicians and lawyers for being immoral or illogical?

Philosophy is prominent in economics – don’t we wish that logic and decision theory played a larger role in fiscal policies?

Philosophy is prominent in biology, neuroscience, and medicine – it is because of ethics that we debate over abortion, eugenics, stem cell research, euthanasia, and countless other pertinent scientific issues.

Other students often ask me what I could possibly plan to do with my degree in philosophy. The answer? You can do anything.

Philosophy changes the way you look outwardly at the world and the way you look inwardly at yourself. I think at our age it is especially important to be introspective. Never do I feel as alive as when I leave one of my philosophy classes, my head full of new possibilities, of new thoughts, and of new ways of thinking entirely. Philosophy is universal and nonrestrictive; it has no limits because we are almost always thinking. You can be trapped on a desert island with no one and nothing and you can still practice philosophy (in fact that might be an ideal time to do it!). Philosophy is examining, it is questioning, and it is not taking things for granted or at face value. As Socrates famously said: “All I know is that I know nothing.” Philosophy might not make you rich, but it can make you more fortunate than money ever could by teaching you the meaning and value of happiness.

gblog2I applied to Johns Hopkins as a Classics major because of my interests in ancient Greece. However, after taking Introduction to Greek Philosophy taught by Professor Bett, I realized that it was the classical philosophical thinking I was most fascinated in. Even though Socrates, Plato and Aristotle thought over two millennia ago, their ideas are still the corner stones of modern thought and most people don’t even know it.

To be a philosophy major at Hopkins you need to complete at least one class in each of the three focal areas:

+ Logic, Philosophy of Science, or Philosophy of Mathematics

+ Philosophy of Mind, Theory of Knowledge, Philosophy of Language, or   Metaphysics

+ Ethics, Aesthetics, or Political Philosophy

This ensures that you will get a well-rounded philosophical education while also pursuing a concentration in the area you are most interested in. I am really glad that these requirements are in place because I might never have taken a metaphysics class such as Objectivity or a logic class like Decision, Games, and Social Choice, and these turned out to be two of my favorite courses at Hopkins.

gblog1 I also took a great class over the summer called Neuroethics. It analyzed the ethical implications that arise with advances in neuroscience, such as whether or not we should use lie detectors in criminal cases or judge the predisposition for crime or insanity using an MRI. And, in turn, whether or not philosophical reasoning can be attributed to chemical processes in the brain, raising questions about free-will and determinism.

What is great about the philosophy department at Hopkins is that it is intimate and supportive. Classes are small, sometimes only 5 or 10 students, and are often taught in seminar format. You have a chance to speak one-on-one with leading philosophers about what they are passionate. Instead of huge, anonymous lectures, many philosophy classes are taught using variations on the Socratic Method: prompting students with questions and allowing them to come to conclusions through critical thinking.

There is research in philosophy as well. It can be pursued as empirical/experimental philosophy (X-phi) or combined with fields such as sociology, psychology, and anthropology. So if you want to keep with the Hopkins research tradition you most certainly can! I am double majoring in psychology so that I can apply philosophical thinking to counseling and research, and to provide ethical grounding for psychological work. I am currently involved in psychology research on linguistic relativity: the idea that having [a] language crucially shapes one’s thoughts and world view.

While I am not pre-med, I have several philosophy major friends who are. The workload is manageable in tandem with pre-med requirements, plus the skills and outlook gained from studying philosophy are both useful in medical school and desirable for medical practice.gblog3

Prometheus is the name of both the philosophy club on campus and the undergraduate philosophy journal. The club meets every other week and we discuss topics chosen by popular demand.  Sometimes there is a presentation by a philosophy graduate student (and there is always great food!)  The journal accepts papers from students at Hopkins or other colleges, and you can get involved by being on the editorial board and evaluating the submissions. Even if you are not a philosophy major, it’s a great way to improve your critical reading and writing skills! There are also several philosophy colloquia throughout the year which allow undergraduates to hear renowned guest speakers and to participate in discussion. Johns Hopkins is even hosting its first ever philosophy conference this spring!

Philosophy isn’t superfluous. Personally it is what makes me feel most alive. Whether or not it’s your passion, philosophy will enrich your thinking and help you make sense of your experience on this planet. You won’t regret it while in school and you will be thankful later in life for having opened and exercised your mind.


Click here to access more information about the Philosophy Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and Philosophy question thread.

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East Asian Studies Fri, 31 Jan 2014 20:01:15 +0000 Name: Dennis (Chan Min) Hong

Year: Class of 2015

Hometown: Seoul, South Korea

High School: Westtown School, West Chester, PA

Majors: East Asian Studies & International Studies

East Asia and Johns Hopkins

Foreign affairs are my passion. Whether it is a news report on territorial disputes in Northeast Asia, an academic research on the rise of China as the world’s next superpower, or a political debate on U.S. foreign policy of rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific region, I have gb4enjoyed learning and discussing them since high school. I brought the same passion to Johns Hopkins University, intending to continue to pursue my love of international relations and deepen my interests in East Asia, thereby ultimately preparing myself for the challenges of working in U.S. and China-related fields in the future. Therefore, it was very clear from the first day of my freshman year that East Asian Studies and International Studies programs at Johns Hopkins would be a perfect match for my interests and aspirations. I am particularly grateful for these programs as they have given me both regional expertise and functional tools – economics, political science, history, and foreign language – to understand the complexity of today’s increasingly interconnected global affairs.

gb5Johns Hopkins is an excellent place to study both East Asia and International Relations. East Asian Studies, in particular, stands out among our many excellent interdisciplinary programs as an intellectual center of research and teaching as well as a socially vibrant community of students and professors. The program not only allows you to design your own course of studies but also deepens your interests and understanding on East Asia through our intensive language training and various course offerings related to East Asia. The requirements for the major are: at least three years of coursework in an East Asian language (i.e. Chinese, Japanese, or Korean) and eight East Asian Studies courses of your choice. Starting in fall 2013, the program has newly introduced a four discipline-based “Focus Area”: Political Science, History, Sociology or Individualized, all of which are designed to give you more structure in your study and help you identify your regional and discipline-based expertise. To learn more about requirements for the B.A. degree in East Asian Studies, please click HERE.

As an East Asian Studies and International Studies double major, I am also enrolled in the 5-Year BA/MA program with our School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). SAIS is an international relations graduate school of Johns Hopkins located in Washington DC,gb6 Bologna, and Nanjing. As part of the program, I will be spending my senior year at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in Nanjing, China and complete my Master’s in International Economics and China Studies in the following year. While this program is offered through our International Studies program, any prospective East Asian studies majors can take advantage of this well-respected academic opportunity by double majoring with International Studies. Our international campus located in Nanjing, China, more formally known as the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, allows you to pursue this option and is an asset to our undergraduate East Asian Studies program, particularly for those who want to study abroad in China and increase their global understanding on China. Our newly introduced Focus Area will also help you easily double major with other programs, including International Studies, Public Health Studies, History, Sociology, etc.

Some of the highlights of our program include numerous academic, research, and extracurricular opportunities available for East Asian Studies majors. Below are a list of some of the courses that have been offered in our program, and you will be amazed by the depth and breadth of our curriculum:

  • Ÿ   Monuments and Memory in Asian History
  • Ÿ   Society & Social Change in 18th Century China
  • Ÿ   Korean and Asian American Politics
  • Ÿ   Modern Japan: 1800 to the Present
  • Ÿ   Domestic Politics of Contemporary China
  • Ÿ   Southeast Asia & US Security
  • Ÿ   Comparison of Environmental Challenges and Governance between China and the U.S.
  • Ÿ   Classical Chinese, Chinese (I-V), Japanese (I-IV), Korean (I-III)

Some of my favorite classes during my years at Johns Hopkins were: Politics of East Asia (with Professor Erin Chung), Historiography of Modern China (with Professor William Rowe), and Problems in Chinese Urban History (with Professor William Rowe). They were small in terms of size (15 students), allowing me to interact with professors and engage in course readings and discussions more effectively. These classes not only taught me new insights into politics and history of China and a wider East Asia but also strengthened my oral presentation and writing skills, which I see critical to my future careers. As an East Asian Studies major, you will study with our distinguished faculty on topics related to the Cultural Revolution, Korean identity in Japan, U.S. foreign policy in Asia, history of Ming & Qing dynasties, political and economic development in China, Japan, and Korea, just to name a few. For a full list of courses offered now, please click HERE.

From intellectually stimulating classes with top-notch professors and research opportunities in any East Asian countries of your choice via our program’s generous research grants to well-received weekly East Asian Language Corners, annual Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, and increasingly popular Hopkins-sponsored study abroad programs in Nanjing (Hopkins-in-Nanjing and Hopkins China-STEM) and Tokyo (Hopkins-in-Tokyo), our program allows you to get fully immersed in the study of East Asia. Some of my friends who studied abroad in Nanjing, China in recent years have kept their blogs, and you can read about their eye-opening experiences HERE. In addition, our program has a strong sense of community, allowing for a very close interaction between students and faculty.

Outside the classroom, I am involved in Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship, East Asian Studies Student Advisory Council, Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium, and East Asian Forum & Review. The Student Advisory Council, in particular, is one of my favorite activities as an East Asian Studies major, as I help plan and organize many social activities for our program throughout the entire academic year. For example, we recently celebrated Korean Thanksgiving or otherwise known as “Chuseok” with Korea-related themes on campus, and we organize Chinese Lunar New Year Celebration annually. We also have many East Asia-specific student groups ranging from such cultural organizations as Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese Student Associations to more professional-oriented such as Global China Connection, Japan-America Student Conference, and Business in China Association. You will easily find your extracurricular interests among our student activities.

gb7My course of studies and education at Johns Hopkins have also taken me to Seoul, Korea for the past two summers to pursue two international internships at the United States Embassy and McKinsey & Company, respectively. Last spring, our Career Center has awarded me a $5,000 Charles Robins Alumni Internship Grant to pursue my internship at McKinsey, a global management consulting firm. This summer, I plan to travel to China to enhance my Chinese language skills and conduct my research on Sino-Korean relations as a recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship. This fellowship with monetary awards of $10,000 is annually awarded to incoming freshmen, and any prospective East Asian Studies majors are eligible to apply. The fellowship is unique to Johns Hopkins and allows you to design your own independent research project with a faculty member during your undergraduate career.

gb8The East Asian Studies program in conjunction with our Center for Language Education also offers a variety of language scholarships for those who wish to study abroad in China, Japan, or Korea during their time at Johns Hopkins. In addition, departmental research and conference grants are also available for prospective majors. Some of my friends have conducted research on problems of primary education system in Guizhou, China and environmental issues across Chinese cities, while others have travelled to Japan and Korea to attend conferences on East Asian affairs. These are some of the few examples of various opportunities available as an East Asian Studies major at Johns Hopkins, and you can certainly take advantage of all of these during your time here.

With my degrees in East Asian Studies and International Studies upon my graduation in May 2015, I plan to work in one of the fastest growing Chinese or Korea cities, be it Beijing, Shanghai or Seoul, to help connect South Korean people and firms launching a new business and receiving the first-hand insights on the inner workings of China. I also hope to ultimately work for the South Korean government, improving and contributing to the relations between the two countries.

It is an exciting time to be an East Asian Studies major at Johns Hopkins. As East Asia has drawn the world’s attention in recent years, I gb9think it is very timely and appropriate to pursue your potential career in Asia-related field. With our program’s unparalleled resources in Baltimore and abroad, you will find yourself in the midst of new discovery every day. As a 2015 Bachelor’s candidate in East Asian Studies and International Studies, I will be forever grateful for these programs. I invite you to further explore these programs and our university. Please feel free to contact me with any questions at


Click here to access more information about the East Asian Studies Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the East Asian Studies question thread.

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Philosophy Tue, 28 Jan 2014 17:56:44 +0000 Name: Matthew McCauley

Year: Class of 2014

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Major: Philosophy

“So What Are You Going to Do with That?”  

Who am I?

Hi, there!  My name is Matthew McCauley, and I am here to share my experiences as a 4th-year philosophy major at Johns Hopkins University.

(On a side note: I’ve never met anyone who knew before entering college that he or she was going to become a philosophy major. So, if you’ve read this far in the post without hitting the “go-back” button, I send you my sincerest thanks)

What is Philosophy?

As with many ordinary concepts – like ‘love’ and ‘beauty’ – philosophy is not easy to define. I heard one philosopher describe the discipline as the practice of thinking really hard about things. So, you might call philosophers ‘professional critical thinkers’.

“What do you do as a professional critical thinker?” Hey, I’m glad you asked! Most professional philosophers are university professors, and as such, they might do some of the following (beyond just teaching):

Socrates was a classical Greek philosopher who is famous for his influence on most of subsequent Western philosophy.  But as with most Greek philosophers, he is also famous for his beard.  Personally, I think his beard is the best.  Just look at those swirls.

Socrates was a classical Greek philosopher who is famous for his influence on most of subsequent Western philosophy. But as with most Greek philosophers, he is also famous for his beard. Personally, I think his beard is the best. Just look at those swirls.

  • Analyze concepts. Philosophers might ask some of the following questions: What is ‘freedom’? What is ‘consciousness’? And so forth.
  • Determine how a certain profession or academic discipline ought and ought not to be practiced. Philosophers might ask some of the following questions: Which domains of inquiry count as legitimate science? Is there a ‘scientific method’? What is ‘life’, and can we experiment on living things?
  • Think critically about life’s most important questions. Philosophers might ask some of the following questions: Who or what am I? How ought we to live? Is there a meaning to human life? – and if there is, what is it?
  • Address issues within the various subdomains of philosophy. These subdomains include ethics (the philosophical study of right and wrong motives, character, and so forth), metaphysics (very broadly, the philosophical study of the nature of reality), and epistemology (the study of knowledge, rationality, and justified/unjustified beliefs).

Many philosophers even get paid to study other philosophers.

There are additional subdomains within the field of philosophy, such as philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, ancient philosophy, and so forth. But there are far too many for me to list and describe in this blog post.


Why Should You Study Philosophy?

I would now like to offer a few reasons for studying philosophy. Bear in mind however that studying philosophy does not entail majoring in the field. One could always pursue a minor (or just take interesting classes)!

At any rate, the following are some of my top reasons to study philosophy:

  1. You use philosophical reasoning all the time. If philosophy is the practice of critical thinking, then – hopefully – you are using philosophy every day. You are constantly rationalizing your decisions and reflecting on the various choices you make in life. Sometimes, you have to explain and even debate other people about your beliefs. Studying philosophy will enable you to more adequately reflect upon and justify these decisions and beliefs.
  2. Studying philosophy will help you scrutinize the presuppositions of other disciplines. The ability to recognize and critique the presuppositions of another discipline gives you a conceptual advantage over the practitioners of that discipline. Let us suppose that you are a public health major, like many of the students here. If you can analyze the presuppositions of the various issues within public health debates, you will be able to 1) more accurately predict the repercussions of these issues, and 2) make informed decisions about them.
  3. Studying philosophy will help you understand yourself and why you believe the things you believe. Practicing philosophy will get you in the habit of subjecting your own worldview to critical analysis. Thus, you will better understand yourself and the reasons why you maintain your beliefs.
  4. Studying philosophy will teach you to think critically and clearly. As a philosophy major (or minor) you will constantly read, write, and argue about the ideas of some of the world’s greatest thinkers. Doing this will sharpen your ability to think critically and clearly.   
  5. Studying philosophy is interesting! At least I think it is. Most people advise undergraduates to pursue a major that will get them high-paying jobs. Unless you are extremely poor, or your family is depending on you to find a job, then I would not recommend following this advice. The unhealthy pursuit of money can very easily lead to misery and other undesirable consequences. Instead of pursuing a major that will make you rich, pursue a major that you enjoy. If you do your best in that major, and enjoy college, then I can guarantee that you will be wealthy in multiple respects (perhaps even monetarily). If philosophy interests you, then guiltlessly enroll in a few philosophy courses.

What Is It Like to Study Philosophy at Johns Hopkins?

In a word: rewarding. I am really going to miss some of the professors when I graduate. Some of them are funny, some are incredibly brilliant, and others are really kind. In fact, there is at least one professor here who fits all three of these descriptions. I remember a day when I was unable to attend his class. I did not inform him beforehand that I was not going to make his lecture, but when I checked my email later that evening, I saw that he had sent me a message asking if I was feeling alright. I was very touched that he would email me to ask how I was doing; – I have never had a teacher do that before, especially for having missed class.

The philosophy department is pretty small, so if you decide to pursue the major, you can very easily get to know the faculty (I recommend that you go to your professor’s office hours!). The class sizes are also typically small, and the professors here take their work very seriously.

Now as I stated earlier, one need not pursue the major in order to study philosophy. One could also pursue a philosophy minor or a bioethics minor. Broadly speaking, bioethics is the study of the ethical and philosophical issues that arise in the practice of medicine, public health, and other biomedical sciences. Anyone who chooses to study public health or any other medically-related field, should, I think, study bioethics. Detailed information on the degree requirements in the philosophy department can be found at this link:

There is an undergraduate philosophy journal and club at Johns Hopkins, called Prometheus. In the fall semester, we meet every other Monday night to discuss philosophical issues that are not addressed in the classroom. In the spring, we host a seminar series in which we invite graduate students to deliver talks and lead discussion on a common theme (again, every other Monday night). We accept philosophy paper submissions to our journal from any undergraduate at any university. So, when you get into college, write a paper and submit it to us! Here is the link to our website:

Why am I a Philosophy Major?

If you are interested, I would like to share my own story on why I decided to become a philosophy major.

(This is actually the final section of my blog post. So, if you are not interested in hearing my story, then you do not need to continue reading. Thank you for visiting!)

I actually did not enter Johns Hopkins as a philosophy major. In fact, when I applied I was accepted to the biomedical engineering department. Moreover, since I was determined to become a medical doctor, I took a bunch of pre-med classes my freshman year, such as chemistry, calculus, and physics.  

Now, you might be wondering how I managed to switch from biomedical engineering to philosophy. It’s a big change, I know. But you have to understand that I had received my middle and high school education from a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics)-oriented charter institution in Southern California. Until my 11th-grade year, I was only good at mathematics. So, I pursued engineering when I got to college.

My interests changed in the middle of my freshman year of college, when I had started rigorously studying a theology textbook that I picked up and (sort of) read when I was in 12th grade. After several months of reading this book on my spare time, I gradually lost my initial enthusiasm for the STEM education track, and realized that I enjoyed theology more than I enjoyed medicine and engineering.

Alvin Plantinga is a contemporary philosopher who is famous for his contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion. He is also one of my favorite Christian thinkers!

Alvin Plantinga is a contemporary philosopher who is famous for his contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of religion. He is also one of my favorite Christian thinkers!

Unfortunately (for me) there is not a theology department at Johns Hopkins. So, while my peers were looking to join design teams (design teams are groups of engineering students who design and create machines), I was looking for people with whom I could discuss some of the theological issues I encountered in my textbook. To make a long story short, some of the people I encountered were willing to talk to me about God, but only if I answered a few of their penetrating questions: How could someone like God exist? How is omniscience or omnipotence possible? How do you reconcile the existence of God with all the evil in the world? And so forth. After a while of receiving their questions (and skepticism), I realized that I was in no position to discuss theology with my friends. They were very smart and did not take my interests seriously.

Nonetheless, I respected my friends’ skepticism, and began to search for writers who had addressed their questions. Over the course of my searches, I encountered philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne. As I read more and more of their works, I began to realize that I could use philosophy to articulate a number of issues in theology and religion. My desire to articulate various issues in theology sparked my initial interest in philosophy: I enrolled in my first two philosophy courses the second semester of my freshman year (Introduction to Modern Philosophy, taught by Professor Michael Williams; and Philosophy of Science, taught by Professor Peter Achinstein – take these classes by these same professors if you get a chance!), and enjoyed the classes so much that I dropped my biomedical engineering major to pursue philosophy.

So, that is pretty much my story.  If you would like more detail on this story, or anything else from this post, feel free to contact me at the following email address: <mmccaul4>(AT)<jhu>(DOT)<edu>

I hope this blog post has been useful to some of you students and parents out there. Best of luck with your college decisions, thank you for reading!


Click here to access more information about the Philosophy Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and Philosophy question thread.

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East Asian Studies Mon, 27 Jan 2014 20:37:02 +0000 Name: Xiange Zeng

Year: Class of 2016

Hometown: Wuhan, China

Majors: East Asian Studies and Public Health

Why I Love Hopkins’ East Asian Studies

Hello everyone! My name is Xiange Zeng.  Yes, X-i-a-n-g-e is my first name. Want to know how to pronounce it correctly? Well, you can take Chinese with Hopkins’ very best East Asian Studies department, and I promise that you will be able to pronounce my name without fail!

All jokes aside, there are more than enough reasons to be part of the EAS community at Hopkins, and I am here to tell you a few of them.

I came in as an East Asian Studies major. Back then, I was not very sure if that was what I wanted to major in, especially when almost everyone around me was a science major of some kind. In the midst of my hesitation and doubt, I fell in love with a class called International Relations in East Asia. This class opened my eyes to the many sensitive (historical) issues in East Asia, the perspectives of different countries on those issues, and the central question of what it means to have “sovereignty.” Through this class, I was able to learn the roots to current conflicts such as the Senkaku/Diaoyu Island dispute, the American military presence in Okinawa, the “Comfort Women” in Korea, and many more. I became especially interested in learning Japanese history and Sino-Japanese relations. This interest complemented my Japanese language study very well. I have to say that Japanese is one of my all-time favorite classes at Hopkins. The class is fun, relaxing, and you learn so much in one semester without even realizing it. The senseis are also extremely nice and funny. I would recommend this class to anyone!

First Year Japanese Dinner at Niwana with Yuki-Sensei

First Year Japanese Dinner at Niwana with Yuki-Sensei

Once I discovered my interest in learning more about Japan, I got the opportunity to apply for the 65th Japan-America Student Conference through an email from my Japanese Professor Yuki Johnson, who also wrote a recommendation letter for me. I was accepted and had the chance to go to Japan this past August as an American delegate. During this conference, I traveled with the delegation to Kyoto, Nagasaki, Iwate, and Tokyo. I had the chance to participate in the Nagasaki Peace Ceremony, visit Fukushima and the shore where the 2011 tsunami hit, network with prominent individuals such as Senator John McCain, Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission Kurt Tong, Diet Member Shinjiro Koizumi, and other governors and standing businessmen. I also was immersed in the Japanese culture by visiting different World Heritage sites, going to the local farmer’s market, and doing homestay with a fellow Japanese delegate. My favorite part of the entire conference, however, was spending time with the Japanese and American delegates I got to meet. They were truly student leaders from all across both countries. Because we got to spend an entire month doing almost everything together, all of us grew very close and keep in touch regularly even now.

The 65th JASC Delegation

The 65th JASC Delegation

At the end of the conference, I along with seven other American delegates and eight other Japanese delegates were elected to be the executive committee for the 66th conference. We are now in charge of planning and leading the next conference, which will be held in America. With this huge responsibility, the EAS department has given me plenty of support! Before coming to Hopkins, I had never dreamed of having a close-knit community of students and professors who are willing to help you with your studies and extracurriculars, but the EAS department has exceeded my expectations in every way! Without the support of various professors, I would not have been able to attend the conference in the first place. Without their help now, I would not have been able to tell Hopkins students about the next conference. I am truly grateful for all of their advice and help.

Outside opportunities like this are not the only ones that the EAS department offers, however. In fact, we have many study abroad options such as spending a year in Tokyo University (the top university in Japan), a semester in Nanjing University in China, and other summer/semester-long programs in China, Japan, and South Korea. In order to accommodate the growing interest in China and students who are interested in the science field, the EAS department has a STEM program in China. The China STEM program is an eight-week long program during the summer where students are immersed in rigorous Chinese language training to increase their Chinese proficiency in the STEM fields. Students have the choice of studying either health sciences or engineering, both of which offer hands-on experiences in laboratories and research trips. Needless to say, the EAS department offers many opportunities for students here.

Hopkins STEM Class in China

Hopkins STEM Class in China

Another way that EAS supports its students is by providing conference travel and research funds. I attended the Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies Conference this past semester and was able to receive enough conference funds from the department to cover all of my expenses! Furthermore, the EAS department has updated the major requirement to make EAS students even more competitive in the field while keeping its major flexibility. For example, I am able to double major in EAS and Public Health Studies, an unlikely combination, but nevertheless doable. The EAS department is also expanding its presence on campus by doing semester student-faculty dinners as well as New Year celebrations. Last spring, we had a very successful Chinese New Year celebration, inviting all students to join with EAS faculty to have delicious Chinese food and to watch several student performances. This semester, we hosted a Korean Fall Harvest celebration, carrying on the newly established EAS tradition. We can’t wait to have more interactive events in the semesters to come!

Dr. Chung and Yuki-Sensei with the EAS Student Advisory Board after the Korean Fall Harvest Dinner

Dr. Chung and Yuki-Sensei with the EAS Student Advisory Board after the Korean Fall Harvest Dinner

All in all, being part of the EAS community has definitely enriched my experience as a student here at Hopkins in many ways. I love this close-knit community, the support it offers, and the opportunities it presents. I hope that the few reasons I have shown you here have given you an idea of what the EAS department is all about. If you are interested in finding out more about us, it wouldn’t hurt to join us!


Click here to access more information about the East Asian Studies Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the East Asian Studies question thread.

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Spanish Mon, 11 Nov 2013 14:11:09 +0000 Name: Ali Browder

Year: 2015

Hometown: Wilmington, DE

Major: Spanish

No hay nada mejor que el castellano  

When I tell people that I’m a Spanish major, the usual response is “but don’t you already speak Spanish?” Yes, I do. But the Spanish major here at Johns Hopkins is so much more than learning the language.

Spanish majors at Johns Hopkins have the opportunity to take politics, history, literature, cultural seminars, and film classes all within the department. Most of the classes are taught in Spanish, but a few of the upper-level courses are taught in English. I have studied everything from vampires to dictatorships to Santa Theresa de Ávila all in these upper-level classes. Although language is not the main focus of these courses, the papers are still written in Spanish and professors always take the time to give students corrections on their writing. Spanish majors first take an introduction to literature course, a broad survey of Spanish and Latin American literature, and then they can study literature from any time period or country in the Spanish-speaking world. Beyond the introductory literature class, students are required to take seven upper-level courses. Given the variety of classes offered, Spanish majors have the flexibility to specialize in what interests them. Spanish majors also have the unique opportunity of joining the National Spanish Honor Society after taking these upper-level courses.

One of the courses that I am currently taking is Professor Sieber’s Teatro español del Siglo de Oro, or Spanish Theater of the Golden Age. In this class, we read a play a week and then in class we discuss the play. I had studied some of the plays in previous classes, but what makes this class so interesting is how in-depth Professor Sieber explains the historical background and the themes of the plays. He often argues something that no one in the class noticed while reading the play, and by the end of his explanation we are all convinced that manos do not mean manos or that don Juan is gay. He always adds quite a bit of humor to his lectures, especially chistes verdes.

Studying for the teatro del siglo de oro class

Studying for the teatro del siglo de oro class

Beyond that, mastery of the Spanish language remains an integral part of the Spanish major’s time at Hopkins. Spanish majors must take six semester-long language courses, but this requirement is not as demanding as it seems, as many students can test out of the first four or five language classes. In fact, some students finish the language requirement in their first semester at Hopkins. While continued language study is not required, there are many excellent classes for students who have finished the six levels. Students can take an advanced writing class, a conversational Spanish class, or advanced grammar classes, such as Perfeccionamiento (Perfecting). The courses in the Spanish for the Professions series also include a heavy grammatical component, so they are also excellent choices for the student who wants to continue mastering the language. Business Spanish, Medical Spanish, Translation, and the like all heavily emphasize grammatical concepts. I highly recommend that anyone who has time in their schedule take advantage of all of these classes.

Spanish majors at Hopkins have many opportunities to improve their language skills outside of the classroom. The department hosts many lectures by important international authors. Last spring, the Chilean author and professor Antonio Ostornol visited Hopkins and gave a reading of his latest book. This spring, my favorite author, Argentine Andrés Neuman, will be visiting Hopkins.  While the department brings these wonderful authors to students, Spanish majors also have the opportunity to learn more about the Spanish-speaking world by taking classes abroad (and having the credits count towards the major!). Many students spend a semester or two in Spain, Argentina, and Chile. I will be spending next semester in Logroño, Spain.

I am a Spanish major because the department is so fantastic. Some of my favorite classes so far have been Modern Spanish Culture, Advanced Composition, Perfeccionamiento, Traducción, Senior Seminar: Literaturas y culturas del Cono Sur, and Don Quijote. Actually, it was in that senior seminar that I learned a lot about vampires. The professors in the department are so knowledgable, and they teach far more than what is specified on the syllabus. Once I graduate from the program, I plan to study for my doctorate in Spanish literature. I eventually want to be a professor, and my time here has given me the confidence to want to pursue graduate studies in the discipline. I can’t say enough about how wonderful the Spanish program at Hopkins really is.

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Computer Engineering Thu, 07 Nov 2013 16:40:49 +0000 Name: Rose Wall

Year: Class of 2016

Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI

Plan of Study: Computer Engineering

 Playing with Wires and Stuff

I like to think of Computer Engineering as the best of both worlds, that is Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. And it really is the best! The Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department and the Computer Science (CS) are both very tightknit, interesting, friendly, awesome departments and I love that I get to be a part of both of them. As a Computer Engineer half of your major credits are in ECE and the other half are in CS, so you really do get to spend half you time in each.


Reasons why I love the CS department:

-Really nice lounge with comfy chairs and big tables for group projects

-Many of the professors go by their first names

-Great sense of camaraderie

-Sometimes there is free pizza in the lounge

-Almost 50% girls!

-They are currently building a new CS building


Reasons why I love the ECE department:


ECE girls!

-Lounge with couches!

-Free Coffee

-Free Printing

-There is always a bowl of candy in the front office

-It is really easy to get to know the professors

-There are always events going on with free food and we get emails about any event with food

-We have the da Vinci Surgical System in our building!

-Extremely diverse interests and research

-ECE lives in two connected buildings, one of which is newly built and is really fancy

-It is not too hard to double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering

-Lots of teamwork between EEs and CEs


But essentially, I chose Computer Engineering because, as much as I love computers, I also love to play around with wires and robots.


A Little Bit About Requirements

Like I mentioned earlier, half my classes are in ECE and half in CS. For each of those there are two or three classes you must take and then after that it is really up to you. There are many different concentrations you can do such as medical imaging, optics, signal processing, speech processing, information theory, computer architecture, nanoengineering, and lots of other things I don’t understand. Concentrations are not an official thing, but more just the area of study that you took your advanced ECE classes in. You also have to take some humanities and writing intensives. The cool thing about our humanities requirements is that you must take a certain number of courses (including advanced courses) in one particular area. So it is like having a mini-minor, you about to learn a decent amount about something other than your major.

Classes Within CE I Have Really Enjoyed:

-Intro to ECE: This course covers basic circuits, binary logic, how computers work, and other digital system stuff. It helps you to determine if CE is really for you. Professor Tran is really nice and office hours are really helpful and you can get to know him. Tran likes to call this class “How your iPhone works.”

-Digital Systems Fundamentals: This class is on finite state machines and binary logic problems. Professor Gerard Meyer is a really interesting European guy, with a great accent, who likes to talk about life, and make funny comparisons between digital systems and life.

photo (16)

-Intermediate Programming: Good programming class that covers all the basics. The assignments are very difficult especially if you have Professor Peter Frolich, but you learn SO MUCH.

-ECE Team Project: OK I am going to rant a little bit here.  Last semester in ECE Team Project I helped to build an autonomous arducopter (miniature helicopter), and this semester I am making a hydrogen fuel cell (from scratch!) to work with some solar panels and some electrolysis to make an outdoor phone and computer recharging station. ECE Team Project is great since you really get to know the department chair, Dr. Kang, and you get closer with other students in different grades. There are also a really wide variety of projects you can choose. This semester some of the other projects are an implantable insulin regulating device, a body scanner, and a space elevator. Also the teams have really generous budgets for supplies, so you really are unlimited in what you can make.

Capture (1)

Extracurricular ECE and CS Stuff

IEEE is the professional association for electrical and computer engineers. They host lots of seminars and events to mix with faculty. This year, Hopkins had its first Hackathon where you program all weekend in teams, win cool stuff, and meet representatives and recruiters for tech companies. Recruiters also come and give presentations periodically; this semester so far Facebook and Google, among others, have visited the department.


After I graduate I am hoping to work for a car company, but it really depends on what you are interested in. Two of my friends who graduated last year now work for facebook, quite a few work for medical tech companies, and many people choose to go to Graduate school.


Other Fun Facts About My Major

-All ECE Team Project Teams get posters on the walls of the ECE building with everybody’s names, which is pretty cool.

-I once coincidentally met an ECE professor at Hopkins while kayaking a river in West Virginia.

-Hackerman (one of the ECE buildings) has mini kitchens and comfy arm chairs on every floor.

-I’ve met two of my best friends in ECE (one is EE one is CE), and now I am a member of South Asian Students at Hopkins because they are both involved and bring me to events.

-Professor Frolich who I have had for two CS courses wrote all the code for the “Visualization Wall” in Brody Learning Commons

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History Wed, 30 Oct 2013 16:50:14 +0000 Name: Tess Thomas

Year: Class of 2014

Majors: History

Hometown: Ridgewood, NJ

Ever since I decided to pursue a degree in history, I have suffered my fair share of insults from narrow-minded friends and acquaintances who don’t understand the merits of studying such a rewarding subject. I’m subjected to jokes like if you’re looking for a history major, the best place to look is on the unemployment line. Prospective students I meet through my work at the Johns Hopkins Admission office are often eager to discuss the specifics of pre-med requirements and seem crestfallen to discover I’ve never set foot in a lab and that the only science class I’ve taken at JHU is “Oceans and Atmospheres.” So after three years of being a part of the fabulous history department at JHU and the wonderfully vibrant humanities community, I have officially had enough, and am writing this piece to assert the supremacy of history as a subject of study (not that I’m biased or anything).

One of my favorite aspects of the history program is the flexibility with my schedule. I have taken history classes in a wide variety of subjects and periods, including the Rise of Early Modern Japan, Ancient Egyptian Civilizations, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe, the Victorians, the United States since 1929, 20th Century China and Conflict and Co-existence: Early Modern Mediterranean. As you can see I’ve had the opportunity to really expand my global history horizons!


But the other great thing about the program is that you can study other subjects too. A course load with five history classes is pretty much impossible when you get upwards of a hundred pages of reading per week per class, so I’ve balanced my schedule with other great classes like Intro to Sociology, 19th Century Bestsellers, Oceans and Atmospheres, Intro to Film and the Archaeology of Ancient Greece. Being able to take other subjects has been a really enriching part of my Hopkins education, and I’m so lucky my departmental requirements are so flexible.


Another great aspect of the program is how it prepares you to write your senior honors thesis if/when the time comes. One of the major requirements is a class taken your sophomore year called the “Undergraduate Seminar in History.” This full-year course is designed to teach history majors how to write a research paper of publishable quality. The entire second half of the class is devoted to personal research, concluding in a thirty-page thesis. The awesome part about this is that it teaches you how to follow through with a yearlong research project, and acts as kind of a baby step towards your senior thesis. Now that I’m a senior and researching for my thesis, which is actually a continuation of my sophomore paper and is studying the ways in which the 1948 London Olympics directly built and consciously diverged from the foundations built by the 1908 London Games. I wouldn’t feel this prepared writing/researching my thesis without the guidance I received from my Undergraduate Seminar.


One of the major flaws people tend to find with history, or really any subject in the humanities is that they don’t lead directly to one career path. Pre-med, business, engineering, the logical career step is set the moment you choose the major. Sure, many people do deviate from this “expected” employment path, but it’s always there as an option. For history, this is not the case. There is no typical path for someone with a history degree, and some can view that prospect as being quite scary. I prefer to think of it as having a world of opportunities.

In studying this subject, I have not closed any doors for myself (except perhaps the door to being a doctor, but let’s face it, that door closed on itself when I chose to draw cats instead of molecules on the AP Chem exam). I have had three whole years to pursue my academic interests, while at the same time discovering what interests me in a professional setting through extra curricular activities, on campus jobs and internships. College is the time for academic exploration, not professional training. Presenting myself as a history major has allowed me internships at Teen Vogue, an academic publishing house in London and Penguin USA.


Another question often asked from the history-haters is how will what I’m studying help me in my post-graduate life? This is true. I don’t need to know how the Venetians interacted with the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. I won’t ever be at a job interview and be asked to list defining features of Japan’s Tokugawa period. Real life doesn’t require an intimate knowledge of the differences between the 1908 and 1948 Olympics (the subject of my senior honors thesis). But real life does require you to articulate your ideas in a clear and concise manner, a skill I now possess from hundreds of marked up research papers telling me to get to the “so what” of my argument. Interviewers look for an ability to follow through on long-term projects, which having written a sophomore and now a senior thesis I feel well equip to handle. The time management required to sift through hundreds of pages of readings a week will surely help me when I enter the work force. So while the content of my classes is not necessary for my future profession, the experiences, habits and skills I have developed from my rigorous Hopkins studies are.

In conclusion, I can’t say enough positive things about the history major here at Johns Hopkins. The program has guided me into the student who sits before you today, and the senior who is prepared and excited to enter the real world.

Check out some other blogs I’ve written on my life as a Hopkins History Major here:

Click here to access more information about the History Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins ForumsAcademics: The Insider Perspective and the History questions thread.

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General Engineering Mon, 28 Oct 2013 13:46:42 +0000 Name: Geneva Augustin

Year: Class of 2016

Hometown: Hudson, Ohio

Major: General Engineering & German

 General is Great!! 

Why General Engineering

Coming to Hopkins, I was convinced I would be the thriving lab-dwelling engineering student often associated with the cutting edge studies of JHU. I enrolled in the mechanical engineering program, and quickly realized that while I enjoyed many aspects of the engineering life, I was no genius in the lab. Having interests that span from patent law to public policy to possibly medicine, I wanted a major that was broad enough to leave my future options open, yet also structured enough that I could build a marketable skill set appealing to many different employers. I chose general engineering because it has a curriculum that builds an engineering foundation full of math and science, while also allowing for flexibility with concentrations in the humanities. This provided me with an opportunity to include the German classes I love with the math and science requirements. To me, general engineering is the perfect major for someone wanting to become a connecting person between the engineering and business worlds.


Requirements of the General Engineering program are similar to many of the engineering majors, but also includes a number of humanities courses. This is a huge benefit for students who may be considering majoring in a specific engineering after some exposure to engineering courses. However, if one does choose to ultimately major in general engineering, the degree is composed of an engineering concentration as well as a humanities concentration. This makes the opportunity to study abroad much more available than in other engineering majors.

The complete list of course requirements can be found:


There are a number of ways to get involved within general engineering. While the major isn’t necessarily driven toward research, once a concentration is chosen, it is possible to get research positions within specific departments. I personally have chosen to take more of a business approach, and spent this past summer interning at a mergers and acquisitions firm in Germany.

This upcoming summer I would like to dabble in a completely different industry, and have been pleasantly surprised by the industries interested in general engineering majors: Department of Labor, State Department, and Engineers Without Borders to name a few.

Career Aspirations: 

Although I had always imagined myself as a climber of the corporate ladder, a few months spent in a corporate internship position made me re-think my objectives. Even though the work itself was interesting, I found that days spent indoors sitting behind a desk in a tiny cubicle were not for me. I realized that I am perhaps better suited to a more hands-on job before settling into a business position. Upon graduation I would like to directly work on an engineering project to gain experience in that process and then someday transfer into consulting or developing my own business in a field of engineering.

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Visual Arts Tue, 01 Oct 2013 15:47:28 +0000 Name: Rachel Riegelhaupt

Year: 2015

Hometown: New Rochelle, NY

Plan of Study:  International Studies and Sociology, Global Social Change and Development track

Visual Arts at Hopkins 

When I came to Hopkins, I promised myself that I would fit one art course into my schedule every semester. I consider art to be an important outlet in my life and I wanted to ensure that I wouldn’t neglect my passion for art by becoming too preoccupied with my other academic studies. Considering I was going to be taking the courses anyway, I decided to look into earning a formal minor in the visual arts.

Yet to my surprise, Johns Hopkins University did not offer such a minor. After a few moments of shock and frustration, I decided to address a petition to the University’s administration asking them to implement an official minor in the visual arts. I then designed a course curriculum with the head of the Homewood Arts Workshops, which I later presented to several deans. Now, one year and many board-meetings later, I am able to pursue an official minor in the Visual Arts.


My experience studying art at Hopkins has been only positive. I have studied under Craig Hankin, the director of the art department, for the last two years and he is forever encouraging. My class sizes have remained around 15 students per class, the perfect size for creating an environment conducive to comfortable and constructive critiques.

a typical arts class

a typical visual arts class

All of my courses have included a trip to the Baltimore Museum of Art for extra inspiration – the museum is conveniently a few steps away and accessible whenever I need motivation. MICA is equally accessible, and has an arrangement with Hopkins; I hope to take a course there my senior year. Overall, the art department at Hopkins may be small, but it is run by a passionate staff that wants nothing but to see it thrive. I look forward to working with them for another two years.

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Cognitive Science Mon, 16 Sep 2013 13:26:54 +0000 Name: Tyler Knowlton

Year: Class of 2015

Hometown: Cinnaminson, NJ

Major: Cognitive Science

Cognitive Science: Theory, Siri, and Everything In-Between 

When I mention I’m studying Cognitive Science, people usually respond in one of two ways: “oh so you’re a neuro major” or “oh so you’re a psych major”. Not exactly. While aspects of Psychology and Neuroscience are both important to Cognitive Science, the field seeks to answer slightly different questions.



I think it’s useful to consider an analogy. Cognitive Scientists look the mind as an information processing device implemented in the brain. Your computer is also an information processing device, albeit a lot different from your brain (if only mental math were that easy). Consider a computer program, say Microsoft Word. We can ask questions about Word at different levels. At the surface level, someone in charge of Microsoft’s marketing would want to ask questions about the purpose of the program – what does Word allow you to do? What different functions can it preform for the user? A bit deeper, a Computer Scientist might want to ask questions about how Word works at an algorithmic level – what does the code look like? How does the program actually get text to appear when you type? Deeper still, an Electrical Engineer would want to know how Word is implemented in your physical computer – what are the circuits doing? Can it run on all types of computers or does it need specific hardware?

Analogous questions can be asked about the mind. For any cognitive capacity (depth perception, for example) we can ask about that system’s goals, about what mental operations are used to carry out those goals, and about how that system is neurally implemented. CogSci majors learn to explore all three of these levels to gain a full understanding of the mind/brain. To do so, Cognitive Science incorporates methods from various fields. At Hopkins, we take courses in Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology and Neuropsychology, Computational Approaches to Cognition (Computer Science), Linguistics (see also, the linguistics minor), and Philosophy of Mind.

Not many other majors incorporate natural science, humanities, and engineering classes into their core requirements. This wide variety is probably my favorite part of being a CogSci major at JHU: each course not only has different content, but a different ‘culture.’ Instead of having a lot of the same kind of work, you’ll likely have a variety. For example, in Psycholinguistics (an upper-level Linguistics class that I’m taking this semester) the majority of our grade consists of collecting our own data replicating important studies. At the same time, you’ll also find yourself learning to code, decipher philosophical texts, and critically evaluate scientific journal articles in the same semester.

Moreover, students learn a variety of skills because CogSci draws from such a broad base of information: neuroimaging, behavioral experiments on normally functioning adults, developmental studies on children, case studies of patients with deficits, linguistic analysis, and artificial intelligence.

If you check out the course requirements on the department website, you’ll notice that there’s only one required class! Everything else – even the math requirements – students get to decide for themselves. You have to take one class from each of the academic areas mentioned above, three of whatever upper levels you’d like, and then you get to pick two areas as concentrations. I’m concentrating in Computational Approaches and Linguistics, but I’ve changed my focal areas a few times since I officially declared the major.

Outside of the classroom, there are a lot of opportunities for students to get research experience. I started working in the Vision and Cognition Lab at the beginning of sophomore year and was immediately involved in a project testing my peers’ numerical estimation abilities under different conditions. Labs are constantly looking for new research assistants and finding a position isn’t hard for anyone who wants one.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

But what about after graduation? Many students enjoy what they learned so much, they decide to continue on to Graduate school in CogSci or one of their focal areas. From there, they might go onto work in speech pathology or working on natural language processing systems like Apple’s Siri or IBM’s Watson. Additionally, the major leaves plenty of time to also complete the pre-med requirements, so Medical school is another option (most of my CogSci friends are also pre-med). If continuing school isn’t your plan though, the major still prepares you well for a variety of other careers, especially those that involve technical writing. And according to Harvard Business Review, every information company should employ a cognitive scientist.

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